Temple University graduate Anisa Nyell Johnson says she was born to be a performer. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, the Philadelphia native says she’s tried her hand at quite a few jobs, but none have panned out or fulfilled her like acting. Read what else she has to say. –yvette caslin
I’m currently working on Studio 11 Films’ The Promise [as part of the 11Eleven11 Project], TV One’s “My Momma Throws Down,” and The Return to Brimsleys Walk, which is a fantasy adventure film.
I am a lioness. Pure Leo.
Why did you take this role?
I accepted the role as Crack Head Sunshine in The Promise because I wanted to do something that was outside of the norm. It’s a role that I knew would stretch my creative thinking as well test my creative expression. In preparing for the role, I used references like the role of Gary Bell on TV’s “Alphas,” Thandie Newton in the film Beloved, Dave Chapelle’s character Tyrone Biggums, and Halle Berry as a crack head in Jungle Fever.
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations as a young actor?
Just those people I saw on TV and in movies. I grew up on Denzel [Washington] who is a class act to follow. He was one of my teachers and he didn’t even know it. Then when I was afforded the opportunity to be on the set of Flight. I learned from him to stay committed to the role and in the moment at all times. I also loved Ruby Dee because she was always believable and authentic. And Johnny Depp because he was just weird, yet extremely compelling.
The one movie you attended that you will never forget:
Sunset Park. It was my first date with my husband, Andrew. I knew then he was the one. Thirteen years of marriage and three boys later, we are stronger than ever.
Your personal acting idols:
Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep
Last good movie you saw:
Some films you consider classics:
Color Purple; Coolie High; Last Dragon; Purple Rain; Godfather; Fame; The Great Debaters; and Love and Basketball
Performer you would drop everything to go see:
Sade. She is a true performer who believes in triple encores. She’s steadily committed to her craft.
Pop culture guilty pleasure:
I am definitely guilty of being Twi-Hard Fan of Twilight and love, love, love the old TV favorite “Gidget.”
My hometown, Philly; New York and Atlanta
First CD, tape or LP you owned:
“Think About It” by Special Ed
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:
At birth … when I came out my mom’s womb and said “Wazzup!”
Worst flubbed line, missed cue or onstage mishap:
Walking down the runway and my boob almost fell out.
Most challenging role you have played:
Chante Rice in The Return to Brimsleys Walk. It was an emotional roller-coaster with many highs to lows. As a mother of three boys in real life, it was emotionally challenging to watch my child in the film go through serious health issues that I had absolutely no control over.
Worst job you ever had:
I worked at a movie theater in Philadelphia where the boss was a high school student who loved lording over me. It was the worst.
Three things you can’t live without:
God, husband, Gmom and family, best friend Kimmy in Philadelphia and crew — my hit squad, [can't live] without ‘em.