Actress Rochelle Aytes On Pulling Double Duty For ‘Mistresses’ And ‘Criminal Minds’

Rochelle Aytes came out of the womb with a love for performing. As April Malloy on ABC’s Mistresses (which is currently in its third season), show writers have infused bits and pieces of Aytes’ personality into her character. But the biggest role actress faces? Being herself.

Before Aytes played Lucy’s widowed mother on small screens, she started out dancing. The Harlem native sashayed her way into LaGuardia High School in Queens and went on to perform with Ballet Hispanico. After being cast in Aida on Broadway, Aytes’ career took a two-step in a different direction. Not only did she have to show off her fancy footwork, her role required her to sing and act, as well. After saving up bread for acting lessons and a year of touring, she came back to New York to study a new craft.

“I ended up at a studio. I just wanted to see if it was something I could do, if I was good at it, if I really liked it,” said Aytes. “I ended up loving it.”

Now, her acting portfolio is stacked with TV and film gigs including My Favorite Five, Tyler Perry’s Family Reunion, NCIS, Drive, Trick of Treat, and Crazy, Sexy, Cool. In addition to her Mistresses role, she also holds down double duty by starring in CBS’ Criminal Minds. Aytes recently took a break from her packed schedule to explain her love for drama and what she’d tell the on-screen women of Mistresses IRL.—Kathryn Jones

VIBE: You’ve starred in a lot of drama shows and films. Why that specific genre?
Rochelle Aytes: I definitely love the dramas because I get to deeper places than I want to go to in life. I feel like we’re allowed to really let go and express ourselves without judgment because we’re just acting. It’s like therapy for me. I may be working out some of my own issues via another character.

Mistresses has all these twists and turns. How do you keep up with the storylines?
It’s hard enough to keep up with my own storyline. I don’t even realize how much drama it is until I actually sit down and watch the show in its entirety. I was just on the edge of my seat because I just think it is so exciting.

How has portraying April changed since season one?
In the beginning, a lot of stuff was happening to her and she appeared kind of fragile, weak, and confused. She’s been able to show so much strength and build upon that throughout the season. This year, she’s still got some trouble going on with her daughter. She’s still feeling stressed out. However, she’s handling it in a very different way. She definitely starts to put her foot down.

Not every woman can say they’ve gone through what April has. Why do you think she’s still relatable?
Women in this culture [are] so focused on building a career, being a parent, trying to find love. We juggle these all pretty well. It’s challenging. It’s exhausting because we’re forced to be pulled in so many directions. That’s the beauty and essence of being a female. We can do it all. We can multitask. The struggle with April is trying to be perfect at everything. You can’t be. There’s going to be some mistakes along the way.

SEE ALSO: Rochelle Aytes: Role Play

What has April taught you?
It forces me to ask the question, ‘Do I want children?’ I love children. I know I do. That age where they start to get sassy, challenge you… I can imagine it can get very hard. So I definitely learned that it’s not going to be perfect, having a child. She also helped me to be a little bit more open and vulnerable with expressing myself.

How do you balance being April Malloy and being Savannah Hayes on Criminal Minds at the same time?
They are very different. [Savannah’s] a doctor. She’s very smart, and she’s very driven and focused. She’s looking for a relationship as well. I try not to bring my April characteristics to Savannah. Sometimes you can’t help it because it’s still Rochelle.

What would advice would Rochelle give to the women of Mistresses?
I would tell Joss that it’s the worst idea in the world to fall in love with your sister’s ex-husband, no matter whether she cheated or not. I would tell Karen she needs to stay away from men for awhile and put on a condom. I would tell Savi, who’s not here anymore, she just needs to be alone and figure out who she is, find herself without the comfort of a man. What would I tell April? How ’bout that! I don’t know what I would tell April.

What can viewers expect this season?
They will see April break some hearts this season instead of April’s heart being broken. Lucy will be even more rebellious than she already is. You get to see more of [April’s history] and find out why she is the way she is. Her mom comes into one of the episodes. Lynn Whitfield plays April’s mother and she’s just a diva in the best sense of the word.

Any chance your Criminal Minds’ love interest could appear on Mistresses?
A Shemar Moore cameo on Mistresses? Aww, that would be awesome, right? No, he’s not gonna be on Mistresses—at least this season. Maybe we can get Twitter trending and have him on season four.

Keep up with Mistresses on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.