Mouna Traore

FEATURE: Mouna Traore On Success & Her Thoughts On The Brown Girl Movement

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Born and raised in downtown Toronto, Mouna’s passion for acting began at a young age when she began classes at Young Peoples Theatre. As her love for performance grew, she went on to spend her summers at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan before attending the prestigious Etobicoke School of the Arts, where she wrote and starred in several theatrical productions. Traoré can be seen in several productions including Carrie(MGM), Rookie Blue (Global), and The Book of Negroes (CBC/BET). When not spending her time in front of the camera, Traoré has been wearing many hats building her production company The Mini Films. In 2014 she made her screenwriting debut with her short film “All of Me” and her next project “Adorn,” is currently being submitted to film festivals around the world.

J.C: I would love to hear a little about your journey as an actress from beginning to this successful year you have had.

M.T: My journey has been a long one. I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was 5. I  begged my parents to put me in acting classes , then arts camp and arts high school. I didn’t start working professionally in film and television until I was about 17. I really thought it would be easy to break into the industry but it’s literally taken me years to get to a place where I can feel confident and have people take me seriously. When I was younger, a lot of my acting was about wanting to be famous and getting attention, but as I matured it’s really become about sharing my story and what I know about life. As my attitudes and beliefs have shifted so has my work, and I think that’s why the industry has started to respond to me differently.

J.C: What do you attribute your success to? 

M.T: I attribute my success to having the financial support of my parents, a great team around me and going to class. Not having to stress about rent and bills allowed me to dedicate way more time and energy to auditions and class, and I am so lucky and grateful for that. Having an agent that values our partnership and truly believes in me has given me the freedom to be myself in this industry. Being able to learn from a variety of teachers and watch other actors develop has taught me so much about my own process.

J.C: As a black actress what have been some of the positives and or negatives that you have experienced in the Canadian film and television industry?

M.T: One positive is that because there are so few black actress in the Canadian industry, I know most of them. For the most part, other blactresses (lol) have been friendly and supportive . Tenika Davis who I cast in my short film ‘Adorn’ became a friend after we met at an audition years ago. The negatives are obvious. I often feel stereotyped/typcast as the “bossy, sassy girl with attitude”. I’ve also been told I’m “hard to light” and that my hair is an issue.

J.C: How do you feel about the current movement in Hollywood relating to diversity and how does that effect you here in Toronto?

M.T: I think the movement towards diversity is so important, because it allows us to challenge cultural stereotypes and prejudices that are holding us back. Bringing visibility to minorities will only expand connections between people, so we can start to see where we’re all the same. I think that there are so many groups that are under-represented and I would love to see more people of colour, not just of African descent, on screen.

J.C: Murdoch Mysteries predominately has a Caucasian show and cast, how do you find your character storyline fitting into that world? And what possibilities does your character bring to expanding and creating diversity on the show?

M.T: I think Rebecca James’s storyline fits in perfectly with show and adds a little spice. At times, her experiences are so different than the rest of the cast and I think it’s exciting as well as educational. It’s important that audiences get to see the experiences of a black woman in that time period as it gives a more inclusive perspective of Canadian history. I have no idea what the writers and producers have planned for Rebecca in season 10, but I’m sure the show will continue to explore the stories of it’s diverse characters.

J.C: What is it like working on two characters Ti-Jeane (Brown girl) and Rebecca James (Murdoch) especially when they are from different time periods?

M.T: It was so cool! I kept telling people I was going to the future and then back to the past. I was filming Brown Girl In the Ring in the middle of filming Murdoch season 9 so it was definitely a trip to go from wearing a corset to a shield. It was awesome to see how they transformed in such similar ways. I feel so privileged to have been able to tell the stories of both women.

J.C: There is a #browngirlmovement happening Brown Girl in the Ring definitely sits at the centre of that. The film has strong female characters, can you dive into what it was like playing Ti-Jeane and what you love about working with this character and story?

M.T: After reading the Sharon Lewis’s script and Nalo Hopkinson’s book I really understood the importance of strong women of colour in TV and Film and in real life. To be a brown girl in the world, past, present, or future is not easy and all the women in the film are brown girls trying to overcome the challenges that come with the #browngirlmovement and living in an oppressive and patriarchal world. I loved Ti-Jeanne’s curiosity, determination, creativity and I think her coming of age story is universal. It taught me a lot about myself and my own struggles with family, relationships and my purpose, and I think that she’s a great example for all young woman for standing up for yourself and what you believe in.

J.C: Since this is a prequel, will there be another film and how close do these film(s) follow the novel by Nalo Hopkinson?

M.T: I know Sharon has another film planned, but I’m not sure of the details. The film really utilizes a lot of what Nalo shared in her novel but it’s definitely it’s own animal. It takes a few liberties that I think audiences are going to really like!

J.C: I love that the film was shot here and is about the streets and life in Toronto. How was the experience filming a great Canadian story, that was also shot here with such a strong black historic culture with it? How do you think this film will relate to the young black female population in Toronto?

M.T: Being born and raised in downtown Toronto, filming it here brought the character and the events so close to home, because it was so personal to me. I loved the fact that we were always filming in view of the CN Tower. Many of the locations I’ve explored myself on bike rides with friends in the summer so it was nice to create new memories in these spaces. I think that young black women will be able to see themselves in the world of the film because it blends so much of our African and Caribbean culture in the language and set of the film. The film connects to our roots and explores what it means to be of African descent in Canadian society, and I think a lot of young women will relate.

J.C: Being where you are now, what advice would you tell you younger self?

M.T: Shut up. Know your lines. Be humble. Be Professional. Be grateful.

 

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EditorFEATURE: Mouna Traore On Success & Her Thoughts On The Brown Girl Movement

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