Hyatt details acting journey
"What matters is your willingness to embrace your truth and do the work that needs to be done," Charlene Hyatt, who goes by the stage name Michael Hyatt, told an audience comprising of a wide cross section of persons in the creative arts industry on Saturday morning.
"Everybody is afraid, but are you more brave than you are afraid, or are you more afraid than you are brave? Come to terms with whatever is that truth for you. And if you find that you are more afraid than you are brave, then go to the core of that fear and heal it because if you don't, you will not ever allow yourself to embrace what is available to you," she continued with what she called her mantra.
The 45-year-old Hyatt, daughter of Jamaica's late theatre icon, Charles Hyatt, was speaking at the School of Drama, Dennis Scott Studio, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, on Saturday morning. Through a compelling monologue, she itemised the pitfalls and joys of her journey into the film industry as an actress.
The 10:15 a.m. call time for the session arranged to help "Jamaicans who aspire to be where she is" (according to Nicole Brown, an organiser of the event) seemed to have been a challenge for most of the invitees. Only the early birds heard the single mother begin her monologue about where her career started.
Her mother, Vera Hyatt, was the deputy director of the National Gallery when it was at Devon House, and that allowed young Charlene to meet a number of visual artists. She remembers seeing the Little Theatre Movement Pantomime Johnny Reggae, penned by Barbara Gloudon.
"I remember sitting in awe, not computing anything, just experiencing and being filled up. And what was also incredibly amazing was watching them [the actors] backstage; just seeing their camaraderie,"she said.
This visit to the Ward Theatre, along with watching the late Professor Rex Nettleford and the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), "were just fuelling my own art without knowing it", Hyatt explained.
"I believe that art and spirit is the same thing. There was something planned for me that was bigger than me that I never knew of, that was driving me my whole life. There was a path that I was unconsciously being taken on." she continued
Moving to the United States of America during high school, Hyatt was not an involved student, except always trying to perform at singing, dancing or other creative expressions. She also joined a touring Caribbean group. At college she shied away from acting for many years, doing lights and costume until a Shakespeare project transformed her.
"When you are an actor, there is an energy that takes you over when you are in it that is enormous, that is incredibly, incredibly, powerful," said Hyatt.
And when she learnt that major parts were given to actors from New York, she moved to the Big Apple. Hyatt worked with the likes of Spike Lee as a production assistant and read for her Master of Arts degree.
"I felt like I had arrived. ... because I was surrounded by theatre all my life, I was going to choose another avenue, I wanted to try something new. So I did TV and film," she said.
But she faced rejection because of her physical size and was completely destroyed. It took a long time for Hyatt to surrender to the advice of her agent to make the necessary physical adjustments. Hyatt also informed the group of film and theatre practitioners that there is a low side to being successful. It can also be overwhelming.
Having reached "a ceiling in New York", Hyatt said she moved to California and the opportunity came instantly with an audition for The West Wing.
"It [the role] was written for Angela Bassett. Angela did not want to do television at the time," Hyatt said.
The audition was a success and she was cast for the role. But Hyatt was very uncomfortable.
"I always saw things on a small scale and did not know how to embrace something larger. I spent so much time being afraid, feeling unworthy," she said. "I spent so much time diminishing myself that at the end of my five or six-episode, run, they decided not to continue the storyline of my character."
Hyatt used the setback to asses her life and the choices she was making as she was once again living the life of a struggling artist. It was only after making the required adjustments that she experienced a renaissance in her career.
After voicing her gratitude to the audience for being in attendance, Hyatt responded to questions and comments. They varied from how to get assistance with producing a script, the challenges in writing scripts for film, to the divisive issue of casting for films. For each, Hyatt was able to give some worthwhile advice.