Haitian Canadian Actress Melissa Toussaint is fast becoming one of Canada`s emerging stars.
Born in Canada, raised in Port-au-Prince and New York City Melissa journey has been one of turmoil, deportation and isolation. Never one to back down, she has been able to overcome her challenges
She can be seen Hallmark Channel`s Love Locks starring opposite Rebecca Romjin, The upcoming Darren Arronvsky film Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence and the upcoming HBO miniseries Bad Blood starring Anthony Lapaglia.
CEM got the chance to have a Q & A with this talented actress
Melissa, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello everyone. My name is Mélissa Toussaint, theme artist. Actress, singer and enthusiast of all creative pursuits.
You are of Caribbean heritage. What was it like growing up in a Caribbean household?
Well, it was the root of all my beginning. Being of Haitian descent, growing up in a Caribbean household was chaotic, loud and crowded. Lots of cousins, aunties and family all under one roof. There was never a dull moment.
How did you get into acting?
Where do I start? I suppose it all began once upon a time in high school. I had a wonderful music teacher, who understood me very well. I was very shy during my teen years, and she pushed me to audition for that year`s musical, West Side Story. I landed the role of Rosalia, one of Shark`s girlfriends; and being a timid, awkward immigrant myself, I was amazed at how I identified and connected with the role. I`ve been hooked creatively ever since.
What were some of the challenges you faced and are still facing as an Actress?
My biggest challenge was definitely overcoming the negative perception of being an actress. Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding in my community regarding a career as an artist. There were no Haitians on television or in the movies. It was considered a fantasy. That, combined with my anxiety, made it extremely hard for me at the beginning. I had to come to a decision that this was worth me fighting for.
You will be in the film Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence. What role do you play?
Yes! I play an uninvited and extremely unwelcomed house guest.
How did you first become aware of Mother?
I received a request to audition from my agent. It was quite an honor to be considered.
What was it like to work with Jennifer Lawrence?
Most of my scenes were with Javier Bardem, who is incredibly kind and professional. I was very fortunate to be a part of the production.
You also have a principal role on FX’s Bad Blood, tell us about that?
Bad Blood is a gripping six-part drama series, based on the book, Business & Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War, by Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards. I play Detective Andrea, one of the detectives responsible for arresting Canada`s legendary godfather.
How do you prepare in advance for a role in a movie?
I do an extensive amount of reading and I research everything and that has to do with the story and character. Once I have all my facts, that`s when I start doing the inner work. I see what is similar and dissimilar between me and the character, to figure out what would motivate the character to make the choices she makes.
Who has been a mentor to you in your acting career?
I have been blessed in the last few years, in surrounding myself with great men and women, who have created great careers for themselves. To name a few: my agent Constantine Kourtidis, who helps me stay focused on the business side of things, my friend Carolyn Fe, who reinvented herself as one of Canada`s Blues Divas, after years of being a successful businesswoman. She gave it all up to pursue her true passion. And Tammy Wilson, my voice teacher and guru. We would need another article to express the gratitude I have for the knowledge I gained!
What has been your favorite role to date?
All of them have been an incredible experience. It is too soon to choose a favorite.
What’s the best thing about acting?
I love how it helps bring me to a better understanding of who I am and how I relate to others. I spent much of my life confused, always feeling apart, and unable to fit in. Acting helps me to connect by focusing on the similarities and not the differences.
What was your worst audition ever?
My worst ever would have to have been at the beginning of my career. I knew nothing about auditioning and I was sent in by my former agent to audition for a music video. I`ll never forget it. It was for the R&B group, “Next”, and at the audition, they asked me to have a conversation with the girl next to me. Simple enough you would think, except once they yelled action, I mimed the whole thing. Every music video I`d seen had no dialogue. I will never forget how they all stared at me for what seemed an eternity. I like to call it “my learning experience”.
In reality, are you similar to any of those characters you have portrayed?
In some ways I would have to say yes. I`m a lot more happy than most of the characters I play.
If you were not an actress, what would you want to be and why?
I don`t know. I`ve tried many other things and this is the one I seem to be a little good at. ☺. Maybe, a teacher, I love sharing what I learn and discover.
What’s next for Melissa?
La-La Land of course!
What advice would you give kids that would like to get into acting?
My advice is to be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Know who you are, be extremely passionate, and be proud to call yourself a working actor. Take classes, practice every hour of every day, and just when you think you know it all, practice some more, because there is never enough of what you can learn.
Photo Credit: Karin Benedict