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Actress Jessica McPhail Goes From Real-Life Sista Girl to Damsel in Distress

Full given name: Jessica Alaina McPhail

Where you were born/where you were raised: I was born at the hospital on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus. I was raised in Norcross, Ga. by way of Atlanta (once I knew had a ride (the bus) I was never home, but Norcross was where I slept, Atlanta was well played,and metro was where I work)

Zodiac Sign: I am an Aquarius, born Jan. 25

Current Project: Studio 11 Films’ Crossroads, an 11Eleven11 Project

Why did you take this role? The story, this project gave me an opportunity to be taken and be rescued. In real life, I’m bad sista girl and I always have my own back, so it was fun to play the damsel in distress.

Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations as a young actor?
I believe I am still young acting now, but I didn’t really make the complete switch to performer until I got into college. High school was all about basketball, softball, track and leadership programs. But after I made my commitment to the craft, God has brought different people in my life to inspire me and to mentor me. Mr. Greg Alan, Ms. Jasmine Guy. One of my biggest inspirations is one of my college professors, Henry Scott.

The one movie — attended — that you will never forget:
I would say The Mummy. It is an action-packed romance. I can see myself doing those movies

Your personal acting idols:
Jasmine Guy, she is so real and she gives herself full permission to be human. Will Smith, he is a storyteller hands down. He transforms to give you the most venerable aspects of human life lived. And my daddy, he told stories almost every Sunday and Wednesday for 18 years. Seeing him teach and lead applying Biblical principles to dry-humor illustrated the power of stories on making changes.

Last good movie you saw:
Safe House. I loved it! It was real from beginning to end. I believed and was in the story. Think Like a Man showcased some really good acting and a good storyline.

Some films you consider classics:
Tap. Chicago. The Wiz. Happy Feet.

Performer you would drop everything to go see:
Savion Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah, Denzel Washington

Pop culture guilty pleasure:
“Suits” and “Necessary Roughness” on USA and “Gossip Girl” and “America’s Next Top Model” on CW

Favorite cities:
Norcross, Ga. is my favorite city. I love it. I love its people.

FirstCD/Tape/LP you owned:
The Odyssey books on tape

Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:
To be honest, there have been several moments that gave me the overwhelming comfort that performing was my life. To me, it’s not the moments, it’s the feeling I get as I am performing. During opening night of my college play, the high I got from being able to take the whole audience through the story, they are given an opportunity to change through watching the true display of human vulnerability. I knew this is what I was supposed to do. This is what I do

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:
The play I did at Kennesaw State University was Everything That Rises Must Converge. It was a chamber-style literary performance. I had the role of the lead narrator and I had to give every single word verbatim. There was one night I found myself unable to remember all the lines in the order that they were given to me. I had a transitional chunk of dialogue and I gave it almost backwards. Inside, I wanted to cry but at the end of that show I got the loudest standing ovation. I just wanted to give people the opportunity to be taken and captured by stories and be changed from them.

Most challenging role you have played:
Being Jessica, so many other people have their opinions about how and who she can be. Now that I have graduated from Kennesaw State University, and I am now responsible for [myself], being me is challenging. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had doing exactly what I want to, showing exactly who I am and giving fully to who I want to be is my one charge. And, knowing that being me is not being attached to the outward things. Being me is letting my insides glow and shine through full expression.

Worst job you ever had:
Every job to me is a learning opportunity. There’s no worst, there’s no best, they just are.

Career you would want if not a performer:
That’s not even an option, I am a performer.

Three things you can’t live without:
My faith, my family and true creative expression of me