Vixen Chat: Robinne Lee Talks ‘Being Mary Jane’



Robinne Lee2012 Pan African Film Festival - "The Under Shepherd" PremiereI know that you and Gabrielle Union worked on Deliver us From Eva, how is it working with her again?

It’s wonderful. We’ve been close friends since Eva so it’s been over 10 years. She’s like a sister to me and when you get to work on great material plus with someone you know and love, it’s a better set up and such an incredible experience. We have our own language, we go into the scene having a common short hand and we don’t have to discuss like ‘how do you want to play this’ or ‘how do you see this’, we’re not testing each other out. It’s easy like playing dress up with your sister like, ‘let’s pretend you’re sleeping with my husband, okay go.’ But it’s that enjoyable, that good because we allow each other the space to be in it emotionally and take the ride. We can throw these punches at one another and take them. I think it’s something actors do, yes, but it’s a little bit more enjoyable and easy because we are friends first.

With your educational background, what made you go off your corporate path onto a creative one?

I knew I always wanted to pursue a career in the arts whether it be a writer or an actress. They both always appealed to me but my parents were immigrants from Jamaica and were very vocal about me not pursing acting professionally until I was done getting my degrees, they were all about education. I went to Yale and on the car ride up my dad said to me “don’t think we’re sending you to Yale to study drama” so I ended up majoring in Psychology. When I graduated, I moved to New York and I felt like it was my chance to pursue my dream professionally and they said you can but we made a deal, I applied to law school while pursuing acting. I got in [to school] the same time my career was taking off and the first one, this little film I did called Hav Plenty got picked up by Miramax film festival and I felt myself thrown into both head first.

Isn’t that usually how it happens?

Yeah exactly! My first year of law school was notoriously the most difficult year the first semester. It’s very different from undergrad but I really felt lucky because I felt I had a balance. My friends who were in law school were consumed with everything going on in school and my friends in the acting world were consumed with themselves, their auditions, and their work and I felt like I had balance because I had other things I had to focus on in both directions. For me it was really good because I had two things going on at once and I never became that crazy neurotic law student who’s pulling her hair out and I didn’t beat myself up after every single audition. It was a nice balance.

Are you conscious over what role you’ll take because of your kids?

I am and I’m not. I’m in a point now where I want to do things for me so I’m looking for roles that will stretch me, stimulate me, and excite me. I don’t want to do roles that won’t push my career forward at this point or stretch me as an actor unless I’m doing a favor for a friend. Because time working is time away from my kids, I have to be more selective of the roles that I take. I’m not worried because I’m hoping their friends aren’t watching it either. My sons in second grade and my daughter’s in pre-school so I don’t worry about that. I’m aware of what they’re watching and consuming and if something’s adult, they can’t watch it.

Do you have a dream role you’d want to play and dream person to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?

I love Cate Balanchett, I love everything she does. I would love to work with her. I love to watch Matt Damon’s work, I love that he makes such varied choices and he’s happy doing comedy or an ensemble, he can do action, or drama; he can carry a film. I love Viola Davis’ work I would love to be across from her in a scene.

What advice do you have to someone wanting to follow his or her dreams?

In general it’s important to have patience and be determined and know it may not happen over night but it is. First and foremost get your education. Finish high school and if you can go to college, go to college. If you want to act, study it. Don’t go to LA or NY thinking you have a pretty face and you did that play in high school because there are so many out there like you who have done the work. Know the work, study it, and do your homework.

Photo Credit: Getty