“Girl, my mind was so far from school, I was just trying to figure out ways to get to LA.”
Just one of a few quotes that stuck out to me when interviewing this strong, passionate young starlet by the name of Erica Michelle. The first day I met her, after discovering her sass, and realizing what a tough cookie she was, I knew she’d make it. I was silent while peeping her out – here and there, but I knew she had big dreams. I knew she’d be one of the few chosen to begin a life in the entertainment industry. Years later, she successfully lands a supporting role on the latest new thriller, The Last Exorcism Part 2, releasing in theaters this Friday, March 1. After all these years, we got a chance to catch up and boy did we have some things to talk about. Though she was nervous, she talked to me in a way a starving, deeply passionate artist would; you’d almost think she was my best friend. All her words began to flow freely as she opened up to me. From her inspiration, background hardships, moving to the West Coast of Los Angeles at the age of 19, finishing school with Magna Cum Laude honors, to her very first movie audition for The Last Exorcism — yeah, we talked about it all. Let’s see what she had to say.
Charli >> Hi Erica! How are you?
Erica >> Absolutely wonderful Charli, how are you?
Charli >> All is well & ready to talk about this new movie! Let’s jump right in..
Erica >> Great, I’m excited!
Charli >> So of course, we’ve crossed paths plenty of times before, and I know a tad bit about your background, but for those that don’t know, can you talk about what inspired you to get into acting and pursue it on a professional level?
Erica >> For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be an actress. Like when I was a child, I always use to tell my mom, “When I grow up, I’m not going to have a TV because I’ll be entertaining myself.” [laughter] So I’ve always been like that. For my inspiration growing up.. it was Brandy. I used to watch “Moesha” every single day; and whatever she wore, I would try to wear it the next day. I loved that — it was my fascination. I don’t know why it started, but it’s always been in me. I’ve always wanted to be an actress. In high school, I started taking drama freshman year, but my professor kicked me out at the end of the school year and didn’t recommend me back; so I couldn’t take Drama II. Which is okay, cause I mean, that wasn’t going to stop me. After high school, I wanted to move to LA. I was only 17 when I graduated high school, so my mom was like “absolutely not.” She didn’t give me her blessing to go. So one week after high school graduation, I went to Jackson State to do my 3 – 4 years. Girl, my mind was so far from school, I was just trying to figure out ways to get to LA. So I started working for Saks Fifth Avenue Incorporated; and I knew that they did transfers. My plans were to do well for a year so that I could be transferred or promoted somewhere. 11 months later, they asked me where I wanted to go and I told them Beverly Hills. My mom was actually out of the country, so when she came back and called me, she was like, “What you doing?” And I told her I was in California and she was like “What?!” [laughter] Right… so at 19 I packed my U-haul and went out there.
Charli >> Wow…. and I guess that kind of leads into my next question — I’m sure that was one of your bigger challenges, but what other difficulties were you faced with along the way?
Erica >> Well one, coming from a small town. It’s like when you grow up in a small town, you only see to a certain horizon, you don’t see above it. And so it was kind of like, you’d watch TV and left wondering how those people got there and what they had to do. So I necessarily didn’t have the tools growing up, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me either because I know the tools were out there. So eventually when I moved to California that’s when I grew up. I always like to say, I was born in Mississippi, raised in Arkansas, but I grew up in California. California taught me everything about life, about who I am, about people. And the challenge I faced out there was knowing that it ain’t easy. It’s hard and nobody said it was going to be easy. But they did say it would be worth it. When I say it’s about 10,000 girls going up for the same category and breakdown — and y’all all got the same dream, it’s hard, it’s tough. So I was working the 9-5 corporate job, but I had the dream of being an actress. And going on all these auditions, it was hard keeping a job. And at one point, I almost lost sight of my dream; I was still determined, but my focus went elsewhere.
Charli >> Yes in so many other avenues, I can definitely relate. But now you’ve landed a role in the next big film, “The Last Exorcism” Part 2. So in general, especially for thriller lovers, what can we expect from this movie?
Erica >> It’s a little different from the first one because everyone was being introduced as their character, like the main character Nell. Now you see her trying to be a real, a more grown up girl. She’s trying to be human, but still facing these demons. So in this film, we kind of see what everything stemmed from. It goes a bit more in-depth in where she is at this point of her life. It actually picks right back up from where the last film ended. So we’re seeing how she’s tried to live life as a normal person. And I actually play this character named Daphne. It’s 4 main girls and we all live in a halfway house. We’re all there for some reason; it’s not really revealed why we’re there, but we’re all messed up in our own head. My character has an attitude, not really pleasant to be around — she’s crazy and like “whatever”. To be 16 and living in a halfway house, it was not hard to connect at all.
Charli >> Yeah actually that was my next question. I know you were cast for the role of Daphne, so could you add on to that? What attracted you to that role?
Erica >> [laughter] You know what? Nothing — I remember seeing in on the breakdown and I was like, “Oh my God, I hope I don’t have to audition for that.” [laughter] And lo and behold, my agent called me.. yes. Of course I’m excited, but girl my momma don’t even want to see this. [laughter] She doesn’t like scary films. So I remember when my agent called me and was like, “You have an audition for this.” I had to send my audition tape via email and I didn’t want to be apart of that — I didn’t even send my tape in right. It was last-minute. My agent kept reminding me to send it in. So I sent it in, and 2 weeks later they called me and said that the casting director wanted to see me in Louisiana. I was trying to finish up my last semester of school and was casted in a Shakespearean play; so I had to figure out how to fit that in. I went down there and I remember when I walked in the building, the casting assistant asked me if I knew what I was reading for. And I told her yes. Then she asked, “Well you know the girls live in a halfway house, you probably should have worn something not as nice.” And I wasn’t dressed nice. I had on little make-up, a peach shirt, and some jeans — like a 16-year-old living in a halfway house. So I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m not going to get this part.” I felt like I’d already messed up. So I went in and read, did a couple of takes; and when I left, I remember calling one of my friends and started crying about how it was so bad. That was my first movie audition. I was glad it was over but I felt so disgusted. Then my agent called me a couple of weeks later, “May I speak to Daphne?” And I’m like, “Uhhh this is Erica.” And she said, “No I’m looking for Daphne.” So I asked her what she was talking about and she that we’d just got booked for “Exorcism”. All I could do was say “Thank you God.”
Charli >> Right and see that’s what happen when we try to plan our own lives when it’s really already laid out. [laughter] Of course you know I’m a film enthusiast, always talking about film; and I like to talk character and character development. You kind of dabbed on it a little bit, but being that this is a thriller, how did you get into character? Do you have a specific process or what?
Erica >> Well no, not for Daphne. The character doesn’t have that much depth to her. I didn’t have to develop anything because I’d already kind of been through that. Jail is equivalent to a halfway house for a 16-year-old, so I already know that feeling, those emotions, and anger. You being mad at the world.. I already had that in me. It wasn’t hard to pull from. It was there. I know what it was like. So no, for that particular role, I didn’t have to do much development.
Charli >> Okay got you! Very understandable. And some characters don’t require a lot of development, it’s just always interesting to me in learning a particular actor’s process. I think it’s pretty neat. Like mental creativity. But anyway! What’s next for you?
Erica >> Exactly. Right now, I’m finishing up my modeling contract with Chevrolet as a car model. So I travel the country doing that. The contract will be up in May, but I’ll be done in April. At the end of March, I’m directing my first project, and it’s going to my hometown first in Arkansas. It’s called “2400”, a play that I wrote, and I’m directing it. I will be in it, but it’s about 6 women, 6 inmates. Every character is different from the next. But they’re all somebody I’ve met from my own personal experience, whose story has affected me in some way. So yeah, “2400”, that’ s my baby. Once I’m done with traveling for a while, I’ll get back into auditioning. But this is my baby right now.
Charli >> Nice! Well I’m really excited for you Erica. You have a lot coming up! And I’m glad you could talk about your new movie. It’s quite exciting. Is there anything else you want to add?
Erica >> Well no, unless you have anything else to ask, [laughter] I think you pretty much covered everything. I’m proud of you!
Charli >> Thanks girl! You’ve got so much coming up, I’m sure we’ll talk again [laughter]. But I’m really excited for this movie! I will definitely be sitting in the theater. I’m not really your die-hard thriller lover, but I’m down for these type of movies like “Paranormal Activity”, “The Ring”… yeah I can get with those. So how can fans and future fans connect with you?
Charli >> Well you got it girl! Keep pushing.
Erica >> Right and I’m proud of you! It’s just amazing. I remember when I first met you and just to see where you are now. I remember when you came back to talk to Dr. Wynn’s class and you talked about your experiences. I’m very, very proud of you! I love to see people who are passionate and go after their dream. I love it!
Charli >> Wow, thank you so much! Yes I remember that. But you know, and I don’t know if people fail to realize this, but I love to see people make it. Any little thing that I can help with, I’m there. I feel like one of my avenues in this entire art form, is to recognize talent, especially if they have an inspirational background — like you! You struggled and achieved and in the end, that’s all that matters. That’s always amazing to me. So if my dream also consists of helping others in any way that I can, then so be it. I’m happy, we all happy. [laughter] Thanks a lot Erica.
Erica >> No, thank you, and thanks for having me! Talk soon.