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I definitely look up to Halle Berry. And Angela Bassett is my role model. And Viola Davis is another actress who

I love and adore. For me, Iíve gotten away from feeling Iím too dark. Weíre all women of color



 Rutina Wesley

 The How She Move Interview

with Kam Williams


After studying at the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts, Rutina Wesley attended the University of Evansville where she received her BFA in Theatre Performance. Next, the attractive, Las Vegas native matriculated in the prestigious Juilliard Schoolís Drama Division, performing in productions of Macbeth, Richard III and The Winter's Tale to The Marriage of Figaro, Rebel Armies Deep into Chad and In the Blood, among others. 

Rutina also spent a summer studying Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she landed the title role in a production of Romeo and Juliet. And since graduating from Juilliard in May of 2005, sheís exhibited such an impressive emotional range that Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes cast her opposite Julianne Moore in the Broadway production of The Vertical Hour.

 So, itís no surprise that the charismatic young actress was tapped to make her screen debut in the lead role of Raya Green in How She Move. Here, the promising young star of tomorrow talks about this inspirational, inner-city saga where she plays a prep student who has to return to her crime-infested ghetto neighborhood when her parents can no longer afford the tuition.

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Kam Williams: Thanks for the opportunity, Rutina.

Rutina Wesley: Not a problem. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Kam Williams: Given your classical training, what interested you in this script?

Rutina Wesley:  Honestly, when I read one of the first lines, which was, ďChocolate-stained skin,Ē I was immediately drawn to that, because Iím a dark-skinned female, and itís something that Iíve, my whole life, struggled with, being considered too dark by some, and all that stuff. But I also just related to Raya because sheís very driven, sheís passionate, she sets goals for herself, and she goes after them on her own terms. I think that as a young lady, you start off not knowing what you want to do, and then you kinda arrive at yourself by the time youíre 17 or 18, hopefully. And thatís what I did. In high school I was figuring out what I wanted to do, and by the time I was 18, I settled on being an actress, and began seriously pursuing that goal.

Kam Williams:Where are you from originally?

Rutina Wesley:  I grew up in Las Vegas, born and raised.

Kam Williams: Soon after Juilliard, you landed a role on Broadway as one of the five original cast members in The Vertical Hour. How was that experience?

Rutina Wesley: That was one of the most amazing experiences of my career, because a young actor could not ask for anything more than to work with people of the caliber of Sam Mendes, Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy. Theyíre so good at what they do, I learned so much just by watching them. And they treated me like family. I was very, very, very lucky to have that opportunity. It was one of the greatest experiences Iíve had.  

Kam Williams: Now youíre in How She Move which is so much more than just a dance movie. It has a richness and depth which reminded me of Love Jones.

Rutina Wesley:  Thatís how I feel about it, too. The dancing is great, but there is this beautiful little story behind it thatís positive and hopeful for our community. 

KW: I was very pleasantly surprised by the movie. It even made me cry. And you did a great job.

Rutina Wesley: Wow! Thank you. Iím really glad you enjoyed it. Wow! Thanks.

Kam Williams: Did you identify with your character, Raya?

Rutina Wesley:  Definitely. I had definitely made sure that I got out of Las Vegas after high school. I knew that if I stayed there, I wouldnít have been able to pursue my dreams as an actor or dancer. My family always told me to dream big, so I made sure that I got out of there and explored new places, because the world is huge. And Iím still learning new things every day in this business and in my life.   

Kam Williams: Now, this is your screen debut. How much pressure did you feel in the lead role?

Rutina Wesley: It was a lot of pressure. Your nerves can get the better of you, especially when itís your first film. But Ian [director Ian Iqbal Rashid], from the beginning, made me feel right at home, and reassured me that the part was mine, and that I didnít need to worry about whether I was going to have the part the next week. So, I was able to relax, enjoy myself, and live in the moment.

Kam Williams: In the movie, your character has an accent since her family is from Jamaica. Do you really have a West Indian background?

Rutina Wesley:  No I donít. I had to work on the accent with a dialect coach. Raya, remember, went to a prep school, so her dialect had to be a bit more proper than her parents. But when she came back home, we threw a little more of her roots back in there to make her a little more tangible, and to contrast how she is at home versus how she is at school, because that really happens.  

Kam Williams: Do you think Halle Berryís Oscar win opened up roles for all black actresses, or just for lighter-skinned actresses?

Rutina Wesley: I think Halle opened the door for all of us. As black women, we should all stick together, and if someone gets there first, youíre setting an example for those behind you. So, I definitely look up to Halle Berry. And Angela Bassett is my role model. And Viola Davis is another actress who I love and adore. For me, Iíve gotten away from feeling Iím too dark. Weíre all women of color, and a lot of us are doing some great things. I think itís important the great things that we all do instead of asking, ďWhy didnít I get this?Ē or ďWhy did the light-skinned girl get that?Ē instead of focusing on the positive. That what I and some girlfriends of mine are doing, celebrating all colors and all ethnicities of women of color. Thatís a better way to go, rather than bringing all the negativities into it. It so much easier to smile and have fun than it is to hold grudges.    

Kam Williams: I hope that your powerful performance here will open things up further in terms of colorblind casting.

Rutina Wesley:  Thank you very much. The reason I trained so hard in school was so that I could be versatile and play any character. With all these in my bag, Iím like a chameleon. I always tell other young actors to go to school, or at least watch movies to learn as much as you can.  

Kam Williams: Do you think you will still be able to go to the mall after this movie opens?

Rutina Wesley:  My grandmother thinks I wonít be able to, but of course I will. I donít know what it will be like, but itís exciting.

Kam Williams: What message do you want the audience to get from How She Move?

Rutina Wesley:  I would like for the young generation to walk away from this movie inspired about their lives and about the possibilities that are out there for them.

Kam Williams: Would you describe yourself as happy?

Rutina Wesley: [Laughs] Yes. I feel incredibly blessed.  Iím happy, but all of this movie business, and working as an actress is really hard. When youíre not working is when you have to stay positive and remind yourself that youíre talented. Whatís due for you is due for you, and you donít know when thatís going to come. Thatís something I struggled with after I got out of school, wondering how long I was going to have to wait. Then beautiful jobs started coming to me. Now, I feel that my path is going to be what itís going to be, and as long as I relax and breathe, I can enjoy it. I think that an actor shouldnít work from a place of fear, because itíll show  in your work. You should work from a place of contentment, relaxation, and coming from your heart, and from the truth of yourself.      

Kam Williams: Columbus Short gave me that ďAre you happy?Ē question when I asked him what would be a good question to ask him.

Rutina Wesley: Yeah, some people assume youíre happy, because you just did a movie. And youíre like, ďMaybe not.Ē

Kam Williams: The Jimmy Bayan question. Where in L.A. do you live?

Rutina Wesley: Iím in the Hollywood area.

Kam Williams: Whatís up next for you, career-wise?

Rutina Wesley:  I have an upcoming HBO television series starring Anna Paquin called True Blood.  

Kam Williams: Youíre very intelligent. Do you think youíll write and direct someday?

Rutina Wesley:  Iíve thought about producing, maybe way, way, way down the line, because I do have a lot of friends who are amazing writers. Iíd love to have a production company where I can produce more black films, period pieces, for instance, like Shakespeare, with an all-black cast. There are lots of ideas that I have, but all in due time.  

Kam Williams: Well, best of luck with everything, and thanks for the time.

Rutina Wesley: Thank you.

Kam Williams  is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications around the country. He is a member of both the African-American Film Critics Association and The New York Film Critics Online. In addition to a BA in Black Studies from Cornell, he has an MA in English from Brown, an MBA from The Wharton School, and a JD from Boston University. Mr.  Williams lives in Princeton, NJ with his wife and son.

posted 23 January 2008

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura AgustŪn makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."óLisa Adkins, University of London

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

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In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Boisí Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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