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Interview with Ciera Payton of "She's
Gotta Have It" on
I apologize for how long this took. I
was very sick for the past few months.
audio of the interview.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Ciera: It was one and the same for me. I mean,
the most challenging thing was just keeping a straight face
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
Ciera: Yeah, it 's so beautiful. I love
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.
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?
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.
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,
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!
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