Michelle Shaay

by Sherif Awad

Michelle Shaay


-My background is a fairly simple one, yet I am a proud parent of two handsome young adults. My sons are both talented and we can all draw as a hobby. The oldest is also an accomplished percussionist, while the younger sibling is an avid sportsman including being a great marksman.
I have always enjoyed films and stage plays but didn't really embrace any of it until later in my adult life. I simply responded to a casting call for a theatrical event seeking a lead for the upcoming stage production. I composed myself enough to audition and yes, I got the part! I liked being on the stage, especially in a black box. That's when I knew I wish to pursue acting  a little further.

-I've been inspired by so many veteran stars and industry professionals during my childhood and teen years. For sure Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, Blair Underwood, Adolph Caesar, Cicely Tyson, Clint Eastwood, and Greg Alan Williams. They are all trendsetters and still make a significant impact today. They never compromised their values, ideas, or worth a check.

-Studying is important and can be done numerous ways. Classes are important-yes but studying actual films, movie genres, television series, even watching commercials flex the creative muscles for all artists. It certainly will enhance the manner I approach roles that I book. The best portrayals are always truthful, not "acted" but organic and from the heart. It's very important to allow time and practice to make you better at the craft. Many of the stories or roles demand some serious life experiences encountered in the past or even your current being helps on every level of preparation.

Being a part of a project whether stage or film, small or large budget is absolutely very gratifying. Not being entirely focused on stardom keeps me grounded, sincere, and content until that breakthrough moment happens on a grand scale. Then it's time to celebrate everything that got you there!

-As with everything worthwhile, there will also be challenges to "prove" yourself worthy of working. As a female, sometimes there can be the underlying hint of doubt. Sometimes there can be discouraging events or even words that occur to plant negative mental seeds. However, such moments like this or being invited to participate based on previous work  in a project, the film director or casting director enjoyed what you brought to it, keeps that desire and passion within strong to continue believing in the process and in this artistic journey.

-It really appears the industry standards have evolved a lot for the better. I see more and more faces, shapes, even hairstyles that resemble me. The stories are less diluted in my opinion and bold. I am blessed to reside in the city of Atlanta. I am a native and have seen it emerge into a huge magnet for success in the craft.

-When offered a role or opportunity to work, I read the entire script immediately, researching the motivation and objective a character throughout the story, and truly internalize all I can during the entire process of "being" the character. I become naked emotionally for every scene in order to live in the moment truthfully.

-It's a matter of keeping a balance of both and it is easier said than done. Honestly attempting not to overextend yourself to a point it begins to negatively impact your personal life can be a great challenge. Actors don't have the luxury of not putting themselves out there constantly to make greatness happen. Many hours and months of commitment are spent away from home mentally and physically.It's so equally important though to have an understanding significant other who is supportive of your non-traditional existence and unpredictable journey.

I recently wrapped up an independent short film entitled HAR'LEM (A character called Shanta), completed a voiceover gig for IT COMES WITH IT as a (Drive Thru Worker), and was also cast as Caroline in #BLACKGIRLHOOD, a project in partnership with Cornell University. The director Dr. Daye Rogers examines the criminalization of young Black girls in educational institutions.