Interview Jamaican-born actress Raina Simone Moore

Raina Simone Moore is the Jamaican-born actress who recently guest starred on ABC’s Boston Legal (Tuesday, February 13th). She played a young Haitian girl who is sold into Haiti’s ‘modern-day slave trade’ and ends up being charged for the murder of her owner. She has also co-starred on “All of Us” the CW 11 sitcom, which is produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett. She has appeared in over a dozen-theatre ensemble as well as national commercials for McDonald’s and Wendy’s. Raina earned a MFA from the University of San Diego in California (UCSD) and is also a graduate of Brooklyn College at the City University of New York.

Raina was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica and moved to Brooklyn New York as a child. She was bitten by the “acting bug” while attending Stony Brook University.

She lived in Paris, France for a year and then moved to San Diego, California where she studied Theatre and Dance at UCSD. She now resides in Los Angeles, California.

Where in Jamaica are you from and how long have you lived in the US?

I was born in Montego Bay, and grew up on Piggott Street, Mount Salem. My mom brought me to America when I was ten years old

How did you get into acting?

I did a Frederico Garcia Lorca play called Blood Wedding at Stony Brook University. I played Beggarwoman/Death, this was my very first play. I loved doing that play. My costume was basically a one piece bathing suit and a cape, and I worked the mess out of that cape! I was like Zorro with that cape.

Have you come across other Jamaican actors/actress in LA?

Not as many as I’d like to in LA, which is unfortunate. I worked with Cess Silvera, the director of Shottas, on “The Life He Chose,” and Sheryl Lee Ralph also does a lot of work out of LA.

You recently appeared in Boston Legal. Tell us what the experience was like being on an Emmy awarding winning show with some of the best actors/actresses?

It was a fantastic experience, everyone on that set was so cool! I love David E Kelley’s productions because they are innovative; he uses the best actors and tackles some pretty touchy subjects. Subjects that others may avoid because of their political overtones, he explores head on in a “what if?” or a “lets look into this for a moment” kind of a way. I really appreciate the work that is being done over there. The cast was very supportive of the demands of playing Ania Gadios. An eighteen year old Haitian restavek who is on trial for murdering her owner/baby’s father after he threatened to sell her baby into slavery. When I read the script and found out that I had to play this role, I was so grateful to the writers, Janet Leahy and Micheal Reisz, for giving voice to this girl. The director of the episode, Steve Robin, was very complete, gentle and challenged me to go beyond where I thought I could go. I worked very closely with Gary Anthony Williams, Rene Auberjonois and Meredith Eaton-Gilden and they were a joy to work with. That set is devoid of egos but full of respect and love. Even though they are an Emmy award winning cast they are still very down to earth people. Watching William Shatner and James Spader work off of each other is pure genius magic.

Did your experience living in France help you land the role as a Haitian girl in Boston Legal”?

Absolutely and in a few different ways. I definitely learned to speak French in Paris. I had studied French in the States for a few years before that, but being surrounded by french daily in France and having to conduct everyday business in the language put it in more of a need based place for me. And if you’ve ever been in a foreign country trying to find an apartment, get directions or go to the post office you know what I mean. The friends that I made in Paris also helped me prepare for this role, when I booked the job I called up a few Paris friends to run my pronunciation by them. French people are very loyal friends, my Paris friends are my homies for life.

Apart from “Boston Legal” what projects are you working on now, done recently or may do in the near future?

Please see resume… no!:-) (That was an attempt at a joke). Recently, I shot an episode of All of Us on the CW network. I’m coming off of a stint of four plays to back (Huck and Holden, Sex and Work, Fools in Love and Gentle of Verona). I’m working on Shakespeare, testing for Pilots (Television shows) and staying happy and purposeful. I also recently auditioned for a role in the film “The Express”. It’s about the first black football player to win the Heisman Trophy.

Explain the process you go through to try out and then get a part for a movie/television show/commercial?

Auditions are simple, you go in to a room with prepared material of some kind and perform it, and you might chit chat a bit then leave. Actually, my friends laugh at my audition preparation process they think that it is way too elaborate, but I can’t go into details…it’s a secret. TV has a very short preparation time. Sometimes I’ll get an audition for TV the morning of and there will be 10 pages of sides. Commercials, usually my agent will tell me what to wear and I’ll get the words when I show up. My film preparation is like being on stage – a lot of imagination at work,

Do you have a mentor or role model is helping you along the way in your acting career?

I am looking for a mentor. But I have plenty of role models, Ann Marie Fuller, Audrey Reid, Alfre Woodard, Sophie Okenedo, Naomie Harris, Lady Saw, Cate Blanchett, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and etc…etc. I can’t wait to work with Don Letts, I love the movie “One Love”.

Many beautiful actresses of color, like you, are finding careers in Hip-hip videos that many see as degrading women. Did you make a conscious decision not to go that route? Why?

That’s not a career path for me at this stage. I am focused mainly on acting and the creation and exploration of characters. If the role was something like Terrence Howard’s in Mary J. Blidge’s “Be without you” video then I’d do it.

What do you enjoy doing the most television, commercial, live theater, or films?

I enjoy two things equally, Shakespeare and Film. Shakespeare because I come alive as an actor and a human being when I am doing this work. Performing Shakespeare forces an actor to get on a characters breath pattern, the words force you to BREATHE like a different person. It doesn’t get more visceral than that. In Shakespeare if you stay with the words you are speaking, they will tell you exactly how the character is feeling. When I really started to understand this work, it changed me completely as an actor. Now I’m a monster on stage. I go after what I want so ferociously! (I’m tickled). Film I love as well because of the intimacy and collaboration. The camera gets very close and it’s almost like not acting. You kind of never know how a film will turn out.

How would you describe yourself?

I am an observer, I hate injustice (especially when inflicted on poor people), I am sensitive, I am very private, I love to dance. I am a traveler and perpetual student of the world.

What occupation would you has chosen had you not chosen an acting career?

I would still love to be an interior decorator, stylist or an Ambassador.

What kind of books, music and movies do you enjoy?

I love poetic writers like Toni Morrison, I recently read a book called Cane River which is to be made into a film. Stacked next to my bed (meaning I am in the middle of reading all of them) are: “Alice Walker: a life”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, “The Complete Works of Shakespeare”, “Breathe Eyes and Memory” and something from Giaconda Belli …etc… As for music, in my car: I’ve been jamming to Amy Winehouse’s new album. In my stereo, I have Baby Shams’ Ghetto Story on loop.

Do you have any pet peeves?

Stupidity…It sounds funny but the so-called “third world” is suffering because of people in Western countries who don’t or aren’t taught to think critically. Actually, I have another… Black people who assume a “blacker-than-thou” attitude towards other Black people! I don’t know how many times I’m been told I’m not really black because of how I speak or dress or that I’m not exactly a “sistuh” I’m more of a “woman who happens to be black”. This annoys me because I’ve met so many different kinds of black people around the world and we share one same thing; and that is oppression because of the color of our skin. From buttermilk biscuit hues to indigo, our color runs the gamut. I believe in order to move forward as a people, we must learn to accept ourselves and not be afraid of our differences. Why are we to be held hostage by narrow stereotypical ideas of what Black people are and how we should behave? We have enough things trying to divide us in the world we don’t need to turn against ourselves.

Thanks for granting us this interview and we wish you all the best in Your future endeavors. Do you have any final thoughts for the audience?

Thank you. Just I love you. I love everything about Jamaicans and being Jamaican. We have a warrior-like spirit, we are innovative and unstoppable. We produce great prophets, musicians, food and we have a great sense of humour!