ASM: How intimidating (if it was), was it for you as you learned along the way taking on a craft that may have been new to you?
AB: I cannot say that I ever felt intimidated by the prospect of becoming an actor even pursuing an acting career. If I did, I ignored it in the way that only an eighteen-year-old can do. I believed in me, wholeheartedly. Moving to New York City after I graduated from high school was one of the most exciting times that I have ever experienced in my life. Obviously, there was some fear that comes with relocating to a new city, especially a city as prolific and inspiring and difficult as New York City. But when I decide to do something, I go for it.
ASM: To take on a new role and character requires one to lose oneself to get into and connect with the heart and soul of the character. How do you prepare yourself to take on a role? Is it challenging when moving in between characters? If it is challenging, how do you handle it?
AB: I cannot say I agree that an actor is required to lose oneself in order to get into and connect to the character. The character that you are playing is merely an extension of yourself. At least that is how I have always approached the craft and how I have always been trained in the craft. Of course, that does not mean that someone who does approach their work that way is wrong. There is no one size fits all approach to creating a character. I do not see the character as someone who is completely separate from me. Every character has a characteristic or trait or nuance that is present somewhere inside of you. It may be a big part of your personality or maybe a tiny little part of your subconscious. As an actor, what I try to do is find that large or little tiny piece of me and I amplify it in a way that is more reflective of the character I am playing and will tone down the parts that are not. With episodic television, it can be difficult because you only get snippets of your character each week in the script and it takes time to establish an identity for you character. It is important for me to create my own backstory and subtext for the things that are not written on the page. If Harley is saying or doing something, I have to find the justification for it, the ‘why.’
ASM: What attracted you to the role of Special Agent Harley Hidoko on NCIS: Los Angeles, and was it a role that required you teaming up with real Special Agents to understand their ways to integrate into your acting? Are there surprising things you learned about the NCIS that you did not know or we as a community may take for granted?
AB: Before auditioning, the only thing that I knew for sure about the character was that she was a new special agent being brought into Los Angeles to shake up the existing team. She was described as smart, capable, and a bit quirky. I was immediately drawn to the potential for conflict within the storytelling. I love seeing new characters on shows and how that affects the dynamics of the already established characters. I felt that it would be interesting to portray a woman who takes a new job in a new city and is immediately forced to learn and adapt to all of these new personalities and situations. I once had the honor and pleasure of meeting with real NCIS agents! They were incredible and all had such a great sense of humor and joked about how we make their job look sexier on television than it is in real life! I thought it was funny to hear them talk about it. I also loved that the group we met had a diverse mix of men women and various ethnicities.
ASM: Although you play a character, what would you say you have learned from Harley Hidoko about self and life? As you play in each episode, you get to dive in further into Harley Hidoko, so if she was to spend some time with you, what would you teach or show her about self and life that you may think she would need to know?
AB: I love Harley’s eagerness to learn. She is always looking for the lesson or teaching moment in the situations that she finds herself in. I have definitely learned this from Harley. Being on the show has opened me up to all kinds of experiences and situations so I am making sure to see what kind of wisdom I can pull from them. I think Harley could use a lesson or two in just kicking back and relaxing. She is so present and always on alert. I think she needs to find more balance between discipline and fun. I would love to see her do something silly like karaoke.
ASM: What should we expect from you as you continue to create and build on your path within and outside the industry?
AB: That is such a hard question because I feel like I am at the beginning of a new phase in my journey right now. My main plan is to take everything that I have learned from this incredible experience and parlay that into something bigger. I have been itching to get back into writing and blogging. I have also been brainstorming with other amazing black women that I know about creating art, spaces and resources for other black women and girls. I am going to keep doing things that scare me.