Actors dream of starring in shows that will be dubbed as “classics”. 24-year-old actress, Imani Nia Robinson, has dreamed that very dream since she was five. Unlike many dreamers, however, the Baltimore native is striving to make her big screen dreams a reality, even if that means working behind the scenes.
With stints in wardrobe, gigs as a set PA, and even a seat in HBO’s writing room, Robinson has taken every opportunity available to her in an effort to make her dreams of being a comedic actress and writer her reality. With a name that literally means “Faith” and “Purpose”, it’s no surprise that she already has her Emmy acceptance speech ready for the masses. Blossom sat down with Robinson to talk acting, dreaming, doing and Emmy speech edits.
Blossom: When did you start acting?
Robinson: I first got into acting when I was in the third grade. I’ve always been shy and overly self aware, to the point where it became crippling. I find that when on stage and embodying a character, I feel the most confident and free. It’s also an escape from reality, which brings me comfort.
Blossom: How do you feel your time at the California Institute of the Arts prepared you for pursuing acting full-time?
Robinson: CalArts prepared me the most by instilling and demanding confidence. Lacking confidence in the field that [you’ve] chosen can make one fearful of following their dreams. Being able to center yourself, maintaining good mental health and learning to not take things personally are all essential to your success. CalArts also taught me to keep exercising my craft [and] to never loose sight of why I started and the joy it brings me.
Blossom: What piece of advice do you have for new actors?
Robinson: My advice is to stay focused and to know it’s achievable. If you decide not to get your degree in acting, I strongly suggest taking as many classes as you can. Networking is so very important, because a lot of opportunities happen based off of whom you know. Don’t burn bridges and don’t only contact people when you want something! Build and maintain relationships. Stay grounded, remain humble, have fun and always believe you will achieve.
Blossom: You appeared on HBO’s “The Wire” and now on HBO’s new show “The Deuce”. Tell us about these roles.
Robinson: I appeared on season 4 of “The Wire” in the scenes that take place in Mr. Prezbo’s class. My name on the show is Myisha, and she was a snooty student who had a lot of questions. On HBO’s “The Deuce”, my character is Alice. To find out what Alice’s character is like, you’ll have to watch the show! It airs September 10th on HBO.
Blossom: Tell us about the process of getting a role on The Deuce. How did you get in the writing room and how did you end up on screen?
Robinson: My mentor has executive produced many HBO projects including “The Wire” and “The Deuce”. She’s encouraged and helped guide me through my career since I was fourteen. I was the Writers’ Office Production Assistant for the entire first season of “The Deuce”. I asked many questions, took notes and had the opportunity to help edit each script. I’ve been able to apply all that I’ve learned to my own written projects. I was blessed to have the opportunity to audition for a role. I wasn’t given the part merely because I knew the writers and producers, I had to earn it.
Blossom: You interned at HBO. Tell us about this experience and how it may or may not have led to your role on “The Deuce”.
Robinson: I’ve interned with the writers on the HBO show “Treme” as well as at the HBO office in California in the Programming Department. Both experiences helped me with my writing technique and trained me to know and understand the HBO brand. I built many relationships during both experiences [that] still help me career wise. My internships helped me more so in my writing career rather than my acting career.
Blossom: Would you recommend an actor get writing experience or work for a network?
Robinson: Yes. In fact, I recommend familiarizing yourself with all facets of the industry. I’ve worked with writers, been an on set PA and worked in the wardrobe department. It is important to know how each department comes together to make a final product. It is so beneficial to have the knowledge of how to create your own content from all angles.
Blossom: Would you say you are an actor that writes or a writer that acts?
Robinson: I am an actor who writes. I first began writing to create roles and opportunities for myself. I’ve been blessed to have substantial writing opportunities along the way.
Blossom: What’s next for you?
Robinson: I am currently a series regular on a comedic web series that is being filmed in New York. I am writing a TV pilot and a one-woman show. Thankfully I just signed with an agent and will be moving to California tomorrow to pursue my dreams.