Australian actress Cleopatra Coleman is about to embark on a new journey with her latest role on Showtime's White Famous.
Coleman’s no stranger to the spotlight after spending the last few years playing Erica on FOX's The Last Man on Earth. Coleman began her career in Australia with lots of support from her Jamaican mother and her Australian father. Here, she talks about her television roles, her supportive parents, and her dream role (it involves David Bowie!).
What can we expect this season on The Last Man on Earth?
CLEOPATRA COLEMAN: So Last Man on Earth is a kind of secretive show. It’s kind of hard to talk about. Every time we do press it’s like “can’t say yet!” What I can tell you though is at the end of last season we were on the move and find somewhere to live and we’ll see what adventures we get into. We’re very early into the season so I don’t even really know as it’s the nature of how we make our show. So far it’s been really fun. We also have Oscar-winning actress Mary Steenburgen who is the most seasoned of us all. We’re four years in and they are my friends and colleagues, we spend a lot of time together and are very close. We hang out a lot outside of work which is really nice and it’s nice to have a work environment of silly, fun people who genuinely enjoy creating together. We really are a family.
What interested you in starring in White Famous? How do you think people will respond to the show?
CC: Well, there’s no way of knowing how people will receive or perceive anything. It’s something I try to keep in mind in my line of work. I took the role because I am a fan of Tom Kapinos and his writing. He created Californication and I was a big fan of that show. We almost worked together on that show back in the day, but I didn’t have a visa to work here in America yet. I think he’s really talented and having worked with him now I can confirm this. It’s a great opportunity to do another comedy, but a very different comedy to the one that I’m already doing. I love working and love great writing and feel very blessed right now.
Can you tell us a little more about your role in White Famous?
CC: I play Sadie, she’s Jay’s [Pharoah’s] character’s baby mother. They were high school sweethearts and had a kid really young. What I really love about their relationship is it’s not your typical “oh she’s mad at him” situation. She’s his friend, someone who’s known him through thick and thin, she’s an artist as well, their friends and respect each other. This is something I’ve seen in my family with my parents when they broke up. They may not see eye to eye on everything but the one thing they agree on is me. It’s refreshing to see that on the show and to play the character. The lines are blurry, they still love each other. They’re not together but maybe they are, it’s more realistic that way, it’s not always black and white. Sadie is a singer and songwriter, I get to sing on the show. I really like Sadie as a person.
You spent your childhood convincing your parents to let you chase your creative dreams. If you ever choose to have children one day, do you feel like you’ll follow in your parents’ footsteps with inspiring your child to pursue their creative dreams?
CC: Absolutely. It didn’t take a lot of convincing with my parents because they’re artists too. I was always an industrious child, I was always writing. I entered poetry competitions and read my poetry on the radio at six and seven years old. High school drama students would perform my poetry on stage. I was adamant that I wanted to do ballet. I was very lucky I had parents who understood that in a non-exploitative stage mother or father type of way. They really allowed me to express myself as an artist and gave me the freedom to do that. When it comes time for having children, I definitely feel like I will follow their footsteps and just listen. Kids will tell you who they are. If I have a creative child, I’ll absolutely honor that and encourage that, and if not, that’s beautiful too. There’s no real wrong answer is there?
What is your dream role and who is your dream co-star?
CC: Actual fantasy, I’d say David Bowie—if I could be Jennifer Connelly in The Labyrinth, if I had a time machine. People can really surprise you and you might get cast in a show or film with an actor who’s never done anything before and they come to set and blow you away. I always hope to be cast in projects where I can connect with the people I’m working with and understand and learn from them. I’ve always played roles that could be played by any race and that’s something I am very proud of and would love to continue. Gender-wise my ultimate role could be a woman that is not a unity for woman per se, but a movie for the world, honoring the idea that men and women are just people, human beings having a human experience. Any role that can portray that is attractive to me.
Can you talk a bit about your behind the scenes work?
CC: I actually wrote a feature film, a sci-fi film. I wrote it, produced it and played the lead character. We shot it in Louisiana in March. It’s a sci-fi conspiracy thriller with environmental issues. It’s done in the reign of a ‘70s sci-fi film which is great. It was cool to be on the other side of the camera. The writing process was very lonely. It’s just kind of something you’ve just got to buckle down and do. I did it on my Last Man hiatus last year. I’d drink coffee, sit down and wrestle my way through it. I’m lucky that I had a lot of guidance from my father who’s a screenwriter. I have a lot of that in my blood. It’s been very satisfying to finally do that. It’s a new thing, but there’s not one part that didn’t feel natural. It’s something I want to continue to do.
What’s next for you as far as your next project or role?
CC: Last Man is a pretty long shoot. I’m not done with that until February of next year. I’m hoping to get my movie out next year then maybe have some time off. I’d like to travel the world a little more and take some time out to write. I have a million ideas and no time to get them out. I just need a moment of silence to get them out.
What are some of your favorite places to hang out or grab a bite to eat in LA where the paparazzi won’t bug you?
CC: I really like downtown. I really like hanging out at home too. Manuela in the Arts District is a great restaurant. There’s a lot of great little bars and stuff but Manuela is probably my number one spot. Then of course there’s Café 101. I’ve been going there for years and the staff are great and I love them. I haven’t been in awhile but every time I go it’s like family. I really really love that restaurant! It’s such an LA staple. They have a great jukebox and the staff has been working there forever, they’re all really cool. You never know who you’re going to see there. They make the best grilled cheese in LA.
Photography by: Photography courtesy John Tsiavis