Interview with Ciera Payton of "She's Gotta Have It" on Netflix - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Krista

Ciera Payton

Interview with Ciera Payton of "She's Gotta Have It" on Netflix 4/5/19

I apologize for how long this took. I was very sick for the past few months.

Here's the audio of the interview.

Krista: Thank you for speaking with me today. I sure do appreciate it.  My name is Krista, and I'm interviewing for The TV MegaSite.  I just wanted to ask you some questions so that the fans can get to know you better.

Ciera: Sure.

Krista: So, first of all, I see that you were born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and raised in New Orleans. I just went to New Orleans for the first time last year, and it was very eye-opening. Then, one day from my window, I saw two young boys who were out on the streets playing drums on buckets for money, and I know that people there have a lot of creativity and a lot of ambition [in New Orleans] and so, I was just wondering, how did growing up in an atmosphere like that inspire you to become an actress?

Ciera: The arts are such an integral part of New Orleans... and not only just our music, but our food. It's just very creative with so many different forms, and... you know, I think, for me, seeing that, and being around all that creativity -- it just sparked something in me from a very young age. I've wanted to be creatively expressive ever since I was a little girl. I can remember I had those children's books, like The Golden Books, like The Poky Little Puppy Finds His Way Home or the Tawny Scrawny Lion. I used to just love reading those books, and I went beyond reading them. I wanted to re-enact them. I used to sit out with my nana and my dad and my mom, my grandmother who I called Nana, and I would re-enact those books to her. I'd pretend to be the characters and also, like, direct my stuffed animals.

I think New Orleans just really honors and harbors an environment to just be creatively expressive, and it's also a means of survival down there. Those street musicians that you see, those young boys, I mean... I remember seeing those kids when they were probably like 5 or 6 years old out there, playing the drums on the buckets. Those are ways for them to make money and bring it back home, and there's nothing bad about it, no shame around it. It's just if you have a talent and make money off of it -- that's awesome. That's the beauty of New Orleans. It's just how we are as people. We're creative, and we use our craft to make money. We enjoy it, and we savor it. Yeah.

Krista: Right. I thought the same thing. I thought it was very inspiring to see them out there trying to use their talents... and some of them were really talented, to be able to do that and make money out in the streets.

Ciera: Yeah, those boys are so amazing. I've been seeing them for years, as they grew up. Like, "Wow, they have talent, you know?"

Krista: They sure did. I see you moved to North Carolina and received your BFA, and that while you were still in school, you landed your first role in Flight of Fury. Tell me more about how you landed that role.

Ciera: Well, I was enrolled in college in my sophomore year, and basically, Hurricane Katrina had happened in 2005, which [is when] I was in my sophomore year. I was in New Orleans during the time, and I had to evacuate and go to Baton Rouge. I was out there about 10 days till I hopped in the car and drove back to North Carolina. It was just a really challenging time for me, to try to go back to school and try to pursue a career in acting after experiencing something so devastating as Katrina. Because our family, we had lost our home, and my grandmother had passed away during all of it. So I just started thinking about a different career path where I felt like I could help more people, you know... make a bigger splash in the world. So I was seriously considering going into the medical field. I decided to take a little bit of time off school, and I started looking at different universities like Tulane or (inaudible.) I wanted to go back home to New Orleans. I went back home during Mardi Gras which was in 2006 and (inaudible), and we were just living in a restaurant.

I get a call from an agent that I'd known down in New Orleans, and she was telling me about a movie that Steven Seagal had. He was coming to New Orleans, and he was casting for it. She was like, "You really should go. It would be a great role for you." I just told her, like, " Lee, I don't know if it's something I want to do anymore, and she was like, "Yeah, you got it. Go." So I put the phone down and continued hanging out with my brother. An hour went by, and she called, and she goes, "They're not going to wait for you. Please go. " I was like, "Ok, cool, so I go to (inaudible), and I read for the audition (inaudible). I mean, in the audition, nothing really happened. I don't know how you react. He was a really serious guy. I was just like, I don't know what to think of any of this, but whatever. I just go about my day. Then I decided to go back to school to kind of, just, complete out the rest of my year at school.

And about a couple of weeks later, I get a call from production, and the first question there is if I have a passport. I say, " Yes." Then they say, "Ok, well, you are booked in this movie, and we're going to be flying you out to Romania." I was like, "What? This is crazy." So I end up booking a movie, so I go out to Romania and shoot it. I mean, it was a blast. I mean, I really think that everything else, going through during that time, was just what I needed to just kind of build my strength back up. I was just in a really low state, and to go and do a movie where I'm a female lead with Steven Seagall, and I'm learning how to fight and shoot guns, and do knife fights and stuff.... It was really awesome and really such a true blessing. I mean, I just enjoyed every moment of it, and it kind of gave me my mojo back, you know. From there I kind of figured that it was, pursuing this career and being an actor was something that God had really ordained upon me. He kind of gave me a sign to keep going with it, and that I can use it in so many ways to influence and empower and help people. You know, that's how that came about, and I really enjoyed working on it. Big time.

Krista: Well, good. Ok, after that first role, you played in movies such as -- with actors such as Steven Seagal, Kevin Hart, Viola Davis, Nicholas Cage. Who was your favorite actor or actress that you've played in a movie with so far?

Ciera: So far? Hmm... I'd have to say hands down that working with Tyler Perry has been my favorite experience so far. I mean, he's just such a giving person, so funny, and you can learn so much from sitting back and watching him... just how great he is, and the crew and the actors and everything. When he's doing the movie, acting as the other characters, he's so funny. So far he's been my favorite person to work with and just learn from. He's such a man of integrity. I just really enjoy working with him, and I'll work with him again.

Krista: That was one of my other questions, What was it like to play in a movie with Tyler Perry? Had you ever met him before, before the movie?

Ciera: Yes, it was actually 2 years before we shot the movie. I was an extra in "Madea Goes to Jail." He briefed me, (inaudible), he was in the background. (Inaudible). It was kismet. I was just like, "Wow, I couldn't say enough good things about him." He's just, what he stands for, where he comes from. Literally, (inaudible) in his car, driving around in Atlanta, writing plays, trying to get them made and produced. Now you know, being the first black man to own a movie studio in Atlanta, (inaudible) in the country. It's very inspiring and through it all, he is very grounded and very humble. He didn't treat anyone differently than any other person. On set, I saw how he interacted with the janitor versus his producer. Everybody was just treated with the utmost respect and dignity throughout the whole time working with him. He's so much fun too. That's what I find so amazing about him... he doesn't lose his spark. He is laughing and joking with the cast and dancing. He's a really, really great person to work with, and I'm so just so inspired by him all around.

Krista: I've thought that when I've seen interviews and things he's done, that he seems to be a very humble and inspiring type person.

Ciera: Yeah, he is. He is.

Krista: To build on that, [what about] the part of Sylvia in "Madea's Family Funeral"? How did you get the part of Sylvia?

Ciera: I, um... what was that.... when we shot that, was it 2016?  No, 2017. It was during the pilot season out here in L.A., which is the time of year where all the networks were casting their newest TV shows that will be released probably in the fall, or sometime in the summer. I was bombarded with all these auditions that are gonna come through, and it was like super top secret. All I knew was that it was Tyler Perry. I was asked to put myself on tape for it, and I did. I put myself on tape, and I just kind of improved a couple of lines. I sent it off, and I didn't really think much of it afterward because there were just so many auditions coming in. I did think to myself, "Oh, that would be nice to get it." Then a couple of weeks go by, and I get the phone call from my agent, saying, " You got it. " I was like, "What? That's just crazy." I had to quickly pack up and get flown up to Atlanta. It was cool. I think it was the perfect role, too, because, like, Sylvia is just the voice of reason for the family, and I'm the one who is always trying to keep everybody together; keep it light, and keep it fun. It was really cool to get to play a role like that, and be, like, just the big sister who is keeping the brothers in line. It was fun. I enjoyed it, and I really like playing roles like that.

Krista: Good. What was the most challenging thing about playing Sylvia, and what was the most fun?

Ciera: It was one and the same for me. I mean, the most challenging thing was just keeping a straight face at times.

Krista: [Laughs]

Ciera: There were so many funny moments in the movie. I mean, Tyler had us dying laughing, and Cassi Davis and Patrice Lovely -- they both were just so funny with their improv and their jokes. That was the hardest, hardest thing, especially during the funeral scene that we shot. I mean, it was supposed to be a funeral, it was supposed to be sad. I am trying my hardest to keep a straight face, and there were times when I just couldn't hold it together, and I'm kinda just like breaking character and stuff. I'm scrunching my face up to try to not look like I'm laughing. That was the hardest - and also the best - part of it, just to laugh. I would say one of the other best parts of it was that Tyler Perry gave us the freedom to improv and say different lines if we wanted to. I liked having that freedom, it was (inaudible.) It's very important... the words are always important, but it's fun to kinda put your own spin on it sometimes and say things how you would say it as the character. It was really fun. I enjoyed that.

Krista: I've always thought it would be fun to be in a movie like that. I bet.... do ya'll have to do a lot of re-takes on that, I guess?

Ciera: Yeah, sometimes, yeah. I mean, where we sort of lost character and were laughing. We had to definitely cut the cameras and start over again.

Krista: Yeah, on different movies I've watched I've said: " I bet they had to do that part several times before they could do it with a straight face."

Ciera: Yeah, that's how it was on the set with "Madea's Family Funeral." We had moments where we were like, "Ok, start over, Everybody take it serious."

Krista: Yeah, it seems like it would be that way, especially on a comedy movie, especially playing with Tyler Perry.

Ciera: Yeah, yeah.

Krista: Now, is this... I heard that this is the last Madea movie. Is that true?

Ciera: That's true.

Krista: Awwww...

Ciera: He is easing off Madea. There's gonna be no more Madea. He's outgrown the character, he said. So, yeah, he's ending it.

Krista: I'm so sad. (Laughs)

Ciera: I know, right? There might, I mean, people have been speculating, and... I don't know, I have no insight, but there might be something with like showing the younger Madea, as a high schooler, I guess, which I think would be pretty funny.

Krista: Yeah, yeah. A different kind of take on Madea, I guess.

Ciera: Uh-huh, yeah.

Krista: Now this is just going back. I read about your one-woman show called Michael's Daughter. Can you tell more about what inspired you to create that, and a little bit about what it's about?

Ciera: Yeah, I wrote the one-woman show because when I first came out to L.A., I was just trying to get on my feet, and I didn't really know a lot of people out here. I was living in my little tiny studio apartment. And during that time, my father was incarcerated. I just started reading his prison letters he'd written to me, and they were very inspiring and very motivating. Some of them were just about his life story, how he was raised, the type of things that influenced his decision that ultimately led to his drug addiction... that apparently led to him being incarcerated. I just saw my father as such a fascinating story, and I wanted to honor it. I started writing this play, using these prison letters, and I started incorporating myself in that because his upbringing and his choices and decisions he made in his life definitely influenced me, and motivated me to not become another statistic, and not to explore drugs or anything of that matter. I wanted to write this play, this one-woman show, to kinda just honor his story, and I guess, kind of honor my story, too. It's about forgiveness... the story of a father and a daughter. It's historical. It's my family's history... It's about New Orleans as well, where I come from and how I grew up.

It sounds serious as I describe it, but it's such a funny show. I mean, so many people that have seen it, they end up saying, "Oh man, I love your dad. He's so funny." People are just like "Oh my gosh, I gotta go to New Orleans now." It's um, yeah, it's just about my life, and my dad's life, and how I've had to come to terms with some of the challenges he faced in his life, and how I had to forgive him. So yeah, I wrote that one-woman show, and then I kinda took it a step further and created an annual summer camp, which is a nonprofit organization called Michael's Daughter foundation, and I have a summer camp that I actually call Michael's Daughter Project, where I work with a lot of at-risk youth who have been impacted by incarceration. And they use art as a healing tool where they write their own plays.  We do movies, and they just share about their life experiences through theatrical performance element.

Krista: I think that's really inspiring, and I commend you for doing that, and working with those at-risk youth.

Ciera: Thank you.

Krista: That was actually one of my questions. When you created the Michael's Daughter Project, what's your... I guess, what's your favorite part, or what do you enjoy most about working with those children?

Ciera: You know, I learn a lot from them. I mean, I would say more so than anything, they definitely keep me grounded. I could be rushing around and going crazy from audition to audition, or working on different projects and everything, and getting so stressed out over smaller things, and I get around these kids, and they have such a different perspective on life. It's funny that the things I get stressed out over, and the things they get stressed out over. They kind of remind me that there's so much more to life at times. What I love more than anything... I love when they get to see themselves on the big screen, or they get to see themselves on stage. It's always such a huge moment for them. I love watching them watch themselves. It's like "Oh, my gosh, that's me." It's really beautiful... such a beautiful experience.

Krista: I'm sure it gives them a lot of... a lot of pride, and a lot of pride in themselves to be able to do that, and to be able to look and, like you said, to say "That's me. I did that." And to be able to do things they enjoy and have a passion for.

Ciera: Yeah, it 's so beautiful. I love it.

Krista: My last question: I saw that you designed your own skincare line called Sincerely Cosmetics, an all-natural, mineral-based cosmetics line. What inspired you to create the skincare line?

Ciera: I had some issues in the past with skin allergies, and being an actor, and getting in the make up chair, when they start putting all the different foundations and lipsticks and stuff, my skin wouldn't be able to handle that. Mainly it was lipsticks for me. I mean, I couldn't wear a lot of mainstream cosmetics, primarily any red lipstick pigments, or my lips literally puffed up, would blow up, you know? I just started playing around with different natural products like crushed beet powder, or crushed roses and hibiscus flowers, and mixing it up with coconut oil. I mean, just all different kinds of stuff. I did a lot of research as well. I started making my own and giving it away to my mom, her friends, some of my friends. People were like "Cierra, this stuff is amazing. You could like to sell it or something." I started just selling out of my apartment, then I got a manufacturer to help package it for me. Yeah, that's how that all started. It's been a really great adventure because people love the lipsticks and the lip glosses. I definitely hope to expand it even more. I want to do more stuff like eyeshadows and mascaras and foundation, and those sorts of things. So yeah, to be continued with that.

Krista: So if someone wanted to purchase some of your skincare line, is there a website they go to, or are they sold in stores, or how would they get their hands on some?

Ciera: It's all available online. If you go to That's what people (inaudible).

Krista: Ok, great. I look forward to looking into that. I think anything you can do for sensitive skin, or for people who have problems like that, that can't use the regular makeup stuff -- I think it's a great idea. My mom is one of those. She has problems with using some different types of makeup.

Ciera: Yeah, well, bring her on over to Sincerely Cosmetics. Hopefully, I'll have something on there for her.

Krista: I sure will. I'll let her know about it. I thank you so much for taking your time out today to speak with me and answer my questions, and it was just a pleasure to talk to you today.

Ciera: Yes, you too. Thank you for having me.

Krista: Good luck in the rest of your career. Do you have anything coming up that you can tell us about?

Ciera: Yeah, I'll be on the season finale of Being Mary Jane which is a show on BET. And then I'll also be on She's Gotta Have It on Netflix.

Krista: Ok, Alright... well, great, we'll look forward to seeing those, and thank you again so much for talking to me today, and you have a great day!

Ciera: You, too, thank you.

Krista: Thank you! Bye-bye.


Radiant actress, writer, social activist and entrepreneur, CIERA PAYTON has returned to television in the highly received second season of Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It," now streaming on Netflix. The show, based on the popular 1986 film of the same name, follows the saga of a young woman struggling to stay true to herself as she juggles three potential lovers. This comes on the heels of Ciera's breakout performance as 'Sylvia,' opposite Tyler Perry in the eleventh installment of the MADEA/Lionsgate movie franchise, A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL, now available for streaming and purchase on DVD/Blu-Ray.
Ciera grew up surrounded by street performers, artists, scholars and the amazing cuisine that only the vibrant city of New Orleans could offer. This eclectic environment allowed her to embrace every form of creativity and shaped her to become a creative powerhouse. After Hurricane Katrina, Ciera and her family relocated to North Carolina where she graduated with a B.F.A. from the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts. During this time she landed first film, not only as female lead BUT opposite Steven Seagal in the action-thriller, FLIGHT OF FURY. Since her breakout role, she has shared the screen with:
Viola Davis, Nicholas Cage, Kevin Hart and Josh Brolin to name a few. This modern Wonder Woman shows no signs of slowing down as she managed to master: Boxing, Muay Thai, Sword & Dagger Fighting and Rifle training along the way!
Ciera always finds time to engage with her local community and youth organizations. As an avid speaker and teacher, Ciera seeks to empower at risk youth by teaching them to channel their stories through creative writing, theater performance and short film production. Her dedication to arts education in under-served communities led her to create the Michael's Daughter Project, an annual theater and media arts summer camp for youth in Panorama City. In addition to her creative endeavors, Ciera is the owner of Sincerely Cosmetics, an all-natural mineral-based, vegan cosmetic company which caters to health-conscious women who have sensitive skin.
In the little free time she has, Ciera enjoys sewing, painting, dancing (enthusiastic belly dancer) cooking (Creole & Southern cuisine) and most importantly giving back to the community. She continues to have an unwavering commitment to always be her best while always remaining true to her creative motivations.

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