As some of you may know, I graduated from Baltimore City College High School. (City Forever!) While at City, I met a lot of people. Some of whom are making or have made some pretty big waves in their fields. One of these individuals, Trae Harris, recently starred in the film Newlyweeds, which has gotten a lot of indie and mainstream buzz in the past few months. Less Half-Baked and more Eternal Sunshine in its approach to relationships and the like, the film, in its honesty, has gotten rave reviews from international critics. I had a chance to catch up with Trae recently and got to ask her about her role, her thoughts on some of the films out there, and a bevy of other topics.
Speed on the Beat: Trae, I’ll be honest. Growing up with you at City, this was a side of you that I thought existed but never knew for certain. Where did the desire to go into acting come from?
Trae Harris: Well, I began acting in junior high school. I started writing plays and performing them as one woman shows. The first play I wrote was about Ruby Bridges and the Desegregation of New Orleans schools. I won a young playwright completion, and from that moment, I knew I wanted to perform in that capacity more often! I joined the Arena Players youth theater and was able to incorporate my dance background, vocal training and a musical theater element. In high school, I took IB Theater and had the opportunity to direct, act, write and really grow as a theatrical performer. (Interviewer’s Note: If I’m not mistaken, Trae also makes a brief appearance in season four of The Wire, alongside fellow Arena Players—and City College alumni—Rashad Orange, his sister Rakiya and others.) I knew that I wanted to go to college and continue pursuing that path, and I did. I went to New School in Manhattan and studied theater there. So, to be honest this is not a new part of myself, it’s just that I am now getting recognition from others who don’t know me or my path personally and it’s awesome!
SOTB: I notice you also do photography. Did the photography lead to your film work or are they mutually exclusive?
TH: Actually, I’m not a photographer and never have been. You’re not the first person to think that, but I have no idea why. (Laughs) I have been shot by numerous photographers from all over the world, but I myself am not a photographer. I do not even own a camera! (Interviewer’s Note: While Trae does not do photography, she has made music, some of which is available for your listening pleasure on her homepage.)
SOTB: Well, at least I’m not the only one. I feel a bit less silly for asking. (Laughs) Now, for those that don’t know, Newlyweeds was shown at Sundance in early 2013. How’d it feel for your first film entry to be mentioned in the same breath as, for instance, Fruitvale Station?
TH: Well, it wasn’t really being mentioned in the same breath as Fruitvale. That was the honor for me. But, rather just that, my first feature film that I had a starring role in was being received so well and that people really loved our story!
SOTB: Did you get to meet Michael B. Jordan? Sorry, I have to ask. I’ve been following that kid since his “Wallace” days on The Wire (Laughs).
TH: (Laughs) No.
SOTB: Darn it.
TH: But, I met the screenwriter and producers from Fruitvale and they were amazing!
SOTB: But, back to Newlyweeds. I’ve read some of Shaka King’s interviews, specifically the one he did with Gawker. What was it about this film that made you pretty much jump up and say “hey, this is a project I want to be attached to?”
TH: I was excited to see a New York story being told in an honest, truthful way. I want to associate myself with work that is meaningful and honest. Newlyweeds is that on so many levels!!
SOTB: Would you say that there is a political element to the movie? I’m rehashing the Gawker question to Shaka to get your own take on it.
TH: Political? Hmmm, not really in my opinion. But, I’m sure that some folks can pull out certain social commentary about class and coming of age in an urban environment.
SOTB: What’s your take about the “uproar” concerning Miley Cyrus and “white” people “stealing” what’s perceived as black culture?
TH: Well, “blackness” as a cultural identity and “black art” as a legitimate art form historically, have always been appropriated and that obvious. Miley is only following her roots; her southern roots are deep and her family is very big in the country music world. Country music historically—just as jazz, classical, and various other musical genres—have very blatantly done the work to suppress and outright “steal” songs, musical styling and nuances that were created by black people whom were never credited. Now, with that said, Miley is not reinventing the wheel, nor is she doing anything that her family and friends in the industry have not done! This whole appropriation of blackness is not new, it’s always fashionable. I’m just not sure why now it’s a national discussion. No one is saying the same things about Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke. Why have those white males been given the “appropriation card?” (Interviewer’s Note: This will be discussed in a future post to a degree)
SOTB: What’s your opinion on the upcoming 12 Years a Slave versus last year’s Django Unchained? While both movies are completely different in tone, they have similar topics—to a degree. (Interviewer’s Note: Trae’s Newlyweeds costar, Amari Cheatom, appears in Django)
TH: I have not seen 12 Years a Slave yet, so I do not have much to offer, but Django was an action film and a bit of a comedy. 12 Years is a drama so slavery is being addressed in very different ways!! I do believe or hope that 12 Years will finally bring a sense of humanity to enslaved people and their experience, as opposed to simply sensationalizing it.
SOTB: What’s next on the horizon for you?
TH: More work, writing, and performing. I just want to release more poetry and share my work on a global scale. I have new projects coming up and I am very excited!!
SOTB: Should we expect a sequel? (Laughs) Silly question I know, considering how the film ends and what it deals with. But, I mean, we know how Hollywood gets when they find a good property, independent or not.
TH: (Laughs) Not to my knowledge!
SOTB: Would you be open to working more “mainstream” films or is independent where your heart’s at?
TH: I just want to do progressive work. I don’t really care what the medium is. Do I long to be an indie artist without mainstream success? NO! But I am not willing to comprise my integrity for the industry.
For those even more interested, here’s the trailer for Newlyweeds. Be sure to check it out when it comes to your city.
Trae can be reached through the following social media sites:
Facebook: Search “Trae Harris” or gypsybruja