25 years a star, an interview with Kelsey Scott of “12 Years a Slave”

From our perspective the action wasn't visible but they had to replace the windshield
From our perspective the action wasn't visible but they had to replace the windshield
Kelsey Scott sporting a badge on the set of the NCIS: New Orleans Pilot

Kelsey Scott sporting a badge on the set of the NCIS: New Orleans Pilot

Meeting Kelsey Scott on the streets of New Orleans where they were shooting the final evening of the NCIS: New Orleans pilot was an unexpected pleasure.  Her most recent performance in Brad Pitt’s “12 Years a Slave” has had a bit of notoriety if you consider winning Academy, Spirit, and Golden Globe awards for Best Picture/Feature to be worthy of your notice.  This was not, of course, Ms. Scott’s first time on the screen and she has had many roles since playing Robert Guillaume‘s daughter 25 years ago on the “Robert Guillaume Show” and has  been making public appearances since she was three years old.

When asked to take her picture on the “NCIS: New Orleans” pilot set she smiled sweetly and the woman with her said. “Do you know who she is?” with an emphasis that seemed to say, “You’re way out of your league if you don’t and you better go home and look it up!”  The stammered response?  “Well, um, uh, a famous actress but I can’t place you.  What was your name ma’am?”  With a big, warm smile and a handshake she said, “I’m Kelsey.”  Sadly at that point, the chief of security intervened and asked that no more photos be taken.  The parting words, “Perhaps another time?” garnered another bright, beautiful smile before leaving the street where they were filming.

After writing about running into Ms Scott and tweeting the article @MsKelseyScott, she responded and after exchanging a few messages, agreed to an interview with the understanding there wouldn’t be any questions about her “NCIS: New Orleans” role.

John N. Collins: Thanks for agreeing to doing an interview with me Ms. Scott!  There is so little about you online.  Could you tell me a bit about your background such as where you were born, went to high school, college, and how you got your start as a performer.

Kelsey Scott: You’re welcome!  Sure, I was born and raised in Atlanta where I lived with my mother and sister.  My grandmother moved in with us when I was six.  I remember I was six because I was finally able to join the Brownies.

JC: You were a Brownie?  Very cool!  Do you have anything you would like to share that you learned from the Brownies?

KS: Yes, My Mom was the troop leader and I still have friends from the Brownies.  Some of my most cherished friendships started there.  It’s very much like the Brownie song they taught us.  I won’t sing it for you but the words are, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver the other is gold.”

JC: What was your first public performance and how did you get into performing?

KS: My first public appearance was on stage at Atlanta’s Little Miss Dogwood Festival when I was three years old.

JC:  Wow!  Three years old?  How did that end up happening?

KS: Well, my mom’s favorite song was Debby Boone’s “You Light up my Life” and she would play it over and over.  One day while she was playing I started singing along and the next thing I knew, I was singing for the judges at the Dogwood Festival Pageant.

JC: How did you get into acting?

KS:  It’s  been a while, but I’m pretty sure my first acting experience was with the Alliance Theatre’s youth program.  Also, my grandmother was a writer.  I would recite her poetry at church and different community events.  I started out by imitating her recitation of her work – until I found my own voice.  So I suppose there was some acting in that. {Laughs}

JC: Very cool!  What church did you grow up in?

KS: ST. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. Father Bruce was the priest I remember from there.  BUT When Grandma moved in, I started going across the street to her church with her.  It was the Greater Traveler’s Rest Baptist Church. Reverend Hubert F. Shepherd was pastor at that time. The first poem I remember reciting there was  “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson.  The two churches were across from each other.

JC: I love poetry so that is really cool.  Where else did you read it?

KS: Well, it began with poetry, but as I became ‘known’ in the Atlanta community, I was invited to give full-out speeches.  I shared a dais with Jesse Jackson for the Rainbow Coalition, Maya Angelou, and the late Shirley Chisholm for events at DeKalb College (now Georgia Perimeter College), and Oprah Winfrey for the S.C.L.C.’s Drum Major for Justice Awards Ceremony.

JC: Wow!  I would like to hear more about some of those experiences sometime but I know your time is limited so lets go on to your writing, directing and such.  What was your first production?

KS: When I was in High School at the DeKalb Center for the Performing Arts I wrote and directed a play titled, “Metamorphosis.”  Later when I was in college at Florida A & M, I wrote a play called, “Ebony Lipstick” that I directed for our sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.  I came back to do a ‘sequel’ (“Ebony Lipstick 2”) after I graduated. {Laughs}

Also when I was a freshman in College, my friend Nicole D. Collier and I created the show, “Snake Eyes.”  We took the concept to the station manager, Frank Watson at the local FOX affiliate and pitched it to him.  He said that they had no money or equipment to put towards it. But if we got it produced and brought him a tape every week, he would air it.  It took us a couple of years to raise the money, get the equipment and get the production off the ground. But it was on the air our junior and senior years and kept going for awhile after we graduated.

JC: What did you major in in college and did you have any honors?

KS: I wanted to go straight to Broadway when I got out of High School but my mom said, “Please get a degree.” so I went to Florida A & M for my undergraduate work.  My degree from Florida A & M is in Broadcast Journalism but really I majored in extra curricular activities!  I graduated Summa Cum Laude.  My graduate degree from Florida State University is in Film and I graduated Magna Cum Laude there.

JC: Me: I know you can’t tell me about your current major projects, but is there anything you are working on that you want to mention?

KS: Yes, I am currently producing (along with Tina Sanchez and Howie Howell) a short film called, “Man with a movie camera.”  It was inspired by the 1929 film of the same name by Dziga Vertov.  The writer and director is a friend of mine from High School, Ameenah Kaplan.  She introduced me to Tina.  I met Howie while promoting “12 Years a Slave.”  Howie is a descendant of Solomon Northup – on whose life “12 Years a Slave” is based.  We’re now in post production on the short film.

JC: Looking at the time I see we are already 20 minutes past the time you allotted me so I will have to wrap this  up until we can talk more, but I could listen to your stories for hours.  You have led an amazing life!

KS: I’ve been very fortunate, you know?  My life has been about telling and living stories. By living stories I mean living a life worth reminiscing about. I’ll try most anything once. I like sampling different cuisines, traveling to unique places, learning new things, meeting new people… Actively living. Being the captain of my fate. {Laughs}  That might just be a long-winded way of saying I can’t sit still.

JC: Do you have anything you would like to add in closing?

KS: Sure.  My friend and co-creator of “Snake Eyes”, Nicole D. Collier, has a podcast called, “Whiskey, Wine, and Moonshine” and I’m on tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, 5 p.m. Pacific.

JC: Awesome!  Thank you so much for reading my tweet, my article, and getting in touch with me.  You are truely a sweet, humble, and totally amazing lady!  Do you have any links you want your fans to be aware of?

KS: My website is kelseyscott.com and I tweet from @MsKelseyScott.  Thanks for the interview!

A closing note: Three hours after concluding interview it was released by CBS that Kelsey Scott will be playing the role of FBI Senior Agent Lynette Doyle as a guest star on “NCIS: New Orleans.”

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Weird AKA John Collins

John N. Collins is a writer, photographer, game & coloring book designer and a bad dancer. Any resemblance to the King John character is merely a coincidence. Follow John N. Collins: YouTube Facebook Fan Page Facebook Personal Account Instagram Twitter