Jamaican actress Mitzie Pratt shines on screen
The greatest role you will ever have in life is the one you’re meant to play. For Mitzie Pratt, she knew that it was her destiny to become an actress.
Today, Pratt gives show-stopping performances as the vibrant and sassy Mimi Clarke in the drama series, #LoveMyRoomies, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video as well as the driven forensic accountant, Della Maze, in the dramatic action short film, Maneuver, out on the new Vault Access Streaming Platform.
“Truthfully, I came out of my mother’s womb and that was it. I was born to entertain and perform. But I only came to that realisation in my adult years,” she told The Sunday Gleaner in a recent interview.
Born and raised in Jamaica, Pratt recounts the day when she would perform one-woman shows to the delight of family and friends. These were inclusive of several characters, played solely by her, along with wardrobe changes and makeup (courtesy of her mom). Her boldness, charisma, and forward thinking nature put her in a prime spot for becoming an aspiring hot shot criminal attorney in her mother’s mind. And In the eyes of her father, these traits could only align with being a budding prominent banker; that way, she would follow in his successful footsteps. But she wanted to be different.
Her heart desired to make a positive impact in this world, through her talents. And so, she set out on an exciting journey.
Paved with good intentions, she was met with many roadblocks along the way. One of the first was establishing this passion as a viable career move. Acting, she said, wasn’t taken seriously in the Caribbean. It was often seen as a hobby, something you do when you’re in preparatory or primary school, high school and in drama. “I was always told to get a degree, so acting became my sidekick.” It wasn’t until she migrated to the United States that she began to see a clearer artistic vision for herself. She was fulfilling the dream expected of her, going to school and getting good grades. But on the other side was a yearning to let that creative talent loose.
When Pratt was able to stand up for herself, she decided to go all in. People thought she was losing her mind, “Who wants to be a starving actress? The life of an actor isn’t pretty.” The acting in Jamaica and the US was comparative of cheese to chalk in her book. And that was a whole new rude awakening. “For me. I’ve always wanted to do this and the blessing is now that I’m in my adult years, I’m fulfilling my true desire. It’s never too late,” she said.
She attended The Actors Studio Drama School and currently holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The Davis Center for The Performing Arts at The City College of New York. Tackling live theatre in New York was an amazing experience for the actress. She was in the cast of the Nuyorican Poets Cafés award-winning Shango de Ima, Three Sisters, and Smile Orange. She has also done Feminine Justice, A Song for You, and Man A Yard in Jamaica.
The consummate professional describes being on stage embodying the character, living the role for the duration of the play as nothing short of life changing. “There is no cut, no reset of camera. You’re on, live and involved, giving your all to your audience and feeding off their response and the energy as well. But it’s within that moment.” It was through this success that she left New York to embark on a journey in film in Los Angeles.
The beauty of film, she later learned, is that it is not only lucrative but it lives on forever. “The camera is right there in your face and you have to pull it all in, and it becomes internal as opposed to theatre when you’re projecting out to your audience. There’s no audience, but you have to be real,” she added. It’s two different media, and she has love and appreciation for both.
This discussion progressed to other obstacles faced in the entertainment industry like facing racial prejudice and gender discrimination, especially during the strenuous audition process. “Being a black woman in the industry is a struggle. You’re lucky if there are any African American roles. And if there is one, the directors and producers may not want a darker skinned African American, they’re probably looking for one with a lighter complexion. “ She recalls going in for an African American character (this she declared was already a win on her book because picking you is a big deal) and being the only dark skinned person in the room.
Sometimes, after going through rounds of auditions and doing a good job, she will get a callback. It will then dwindle down to two persons or one, and she doesn’t get the part. “Then I sit by the television to see who gets it. And I see that it is a white girl, or a light skinned black person. The obstacle for me is fighting against a tide of looks versus talent. You start second guessing yourself. It’s a harder climb in film. It’s almost like you’re in a casino and rolling the dice, hoping to win,” she confessed.
But the vivacious Pratt champions on, exuding talent and confidence in every character she is asked to play, “I keep going. For every ‘no’, there’s going to be a ‘yes’.”
Already, she is excited about which character her audience would gravitate to more: Mimi in #LoveMyRoomie or Della Maze of Maneuver. “2021 is shaping up to be a very blessed year and I’m grateful for it,” she exhales.
Her advice to aspiring actors is be sure within yourself that this is your passion and just go all out, “There will always be naysayers living your life for you and giving you too much advice. So I would say equip yourself with training. Have a good understanding of the medium that you choose. Keep working at your craft. The more you do is the better you will get. Watch television to see what is out there so you can discover what your character type is or what your genre type is. Pace yourself and believe in yourself.”