Some people will be offended by the truth of this movie. That is to be expected. But that is what is awesome about this film, because it goes there. This movie is about faith issues, not just the black churches, or in white churches. This movie is about people in positions of power that usurp that power in a wrong way; from the molestation of boys in the Catholic church, to scandal in our own churches.
Tell us about your newest movie project with actor Hill Harper 1982, which is a project about the influence of crack in the black community and how it infiltrated us as a people.
This is going to be a powerful movie, because it details how this drug, crack, destroys a family. It chronicles one woman’s journey from having a good life to having a diminished life from using this drug. I play a character that is the good girl that Hill’s character should have married, but he does not. His wife is the one that has the crack addiction and he ultimately comes back to lean on me for support.
What’s the word on your new sitcom Belles?
I am very excited about this pilot. It is about a family that owns a restaurant. It’s kind of like the popular 1980s show Cheers with a little more heart to it. We are kind of like counselors in the restaurant for the various kinds of challenges our customers face each day. It is a great show about a close-knit family that works through their own challenges as they help others.
Also, your new hair line sounds very exciting.
California Lace Wigs & Weaves has tapped me to be their spokeswoman, and I was able to create my own first product line, which I am very excited about. We launch this September. I am real — [but,] I wear weaves. (Laughs.) I like to work out real hard, and as a black woman we often use our hair as an excuse not to work out because of fear of losing our [hairstyle] from sweating it out. I have to be on set sometimes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., so having a weave allows for greater versatility. We have a full line called Hollywood Belles by Elise Neal. It’s very exciting.
Elise, let’s close this interview by helping our readers to truly connect with who Elise Neal is beyond the actress we see, or the entrepreneur with a hair line. Share with us how you want people to see you as a human being when all is said and done.
Who I am is a whole lot of things. I am a woman who is a singer, dancer, and performer, who was blessed with [an additional] talent of being an actress. I say this humbly: I am able to connect with black and white fans alike throughout [the] varied roles I have been blessed to play. This is key because when you can transcend various boxes, [then] they can place you in as an artist in Hollywood. That is when your career truly takes off.
People often say “where have you been?” I have been working. (Chuckles.) I need my people to expand their minds (laughs), meaning I may not be on a so-called “black network” or show one season, but that does not mean I have left acting, or that I am not acting. It means I am doing something on the big screen, or for another network that may have varied demographics.
I have been very blessed in my career to date. But who I am beyond my career is a fun person, a loving person. I date, I laugh, I care about my family and friends. I am a pretty happy, fulfilled person. I am a work in progress like us all, but overall I am blessed to be doing what I love. Very few people get to do that in life. I understand that and I don’t take it for granted.
For me this business — acting — is silly. I never take it as seriously as I do my friends, my family or my [charity] work with say Saint Jude’s hospital. Now that is serious. That is something to be passionate about. I am constantly building and working on new projects in my life.
For example, I am working with the powers that be in Memphis, Tennessee to create arts programs, and a school, that will empower young girls and teens to express themselves through the arts. In the end, I want to teach these girls about the power of the human spirit to be able to follow your dreams, as I did, and make them come true.
As for me, I want people to know my work, and to be empowered by my work as an artist. I like making people feel special about themselves. If I can do that when all is said and done, I will have done my craft well.
Sophia A. Nelson is a journalist, award winning author and entrepreneur. Her book, “Black Woman Redefined,” has been discussed on various media outlets. Follow Sophia A. Nelson on Twitter at@SophiaRedefined.