N’Jameh Camara is the first interview in our ‘Swishlinks Showcase’ series. We’ll be posting a series of interviews with different creative individuals from across the world.
She’s an Actor and Teaching Artist living in New York City. She was also recently hired as a faculty member for the Bernard/Columbia University Undergraduate Theatre Department
You can find N’Jameh and her journey at swishlinks.com/cnjameh
Tell us about yourself.
- I’m a first generation American with immigrant parents. I’m half Gambian, half Filipino from Milwaukee, WI. I did my undergrad at Loyola University Chicago in Theatre and Women and Gender Studies. I was a member of Loyolacappella. For the record, I loved a cappella before pitch perfect or the sing-off came out! I was an actor in Chicago and performed with theatres like The Black Ensemble Theatre, Theatre at the Center, and Light Opera Works.
- I graduated and immediately started my Masters of Fine Arts in Acting at UC San Diego. That was a three year program. While taking classes, I also taught Intro to Acting and Public Speaking to undergraduate students. I was also in a show called “Up Here”, by the same creators as Frozen, Avenue Q, and Book of Mormon. I finished my Masters in March 2016, and now have bi-coastal representation in LA and NY. I currently live in Manhattan. I just finished the world premiere and nation tour of “X: Or Betty Shabazz v. The Nation” by Marcus Gardley in repertory with Julius Caesar.
What inspires you?
- First of all, being a first generation immigrant – my family inspires me. They definitely give me an internal thrive. I’ve also realized that as an actor, I get the most inspiration when I go to a dance concert, ballet, or symphony. I’m really inspired by images with music without any text. I’m also inspired by people who have internal drive, people who have passions. It doesn’t matter if its about music, the arts, science – just people who are passionate about life. I think that everyone has a story worth telling.
Tell us a little about your creative process:
- In order for my mind to work my body has to work. I try to practice yoga, 5 days out of 7 days, I also try to have a healthy balance of food.
- When it comes to reading a character, I try not to judge the character I’m playing right away. I read the play, and I read again. I ask myself, ‘what other stories sound like this? What real people sound like these characters’?. I like to make Spotify playlists of what kind of music I think my characters will be into. I play those during rehearsal and before performances. Before performances, I do a 20 minute vocal warm up. It helps to get me in a more relaxed mindset and more open to what other actors have to offer. I like art that speaks to the relevance of everyday people. I like to discuss with the other actors and directors why this work is important right now. ‘Who are we touching, and what are they learning’? For me, its all about active servitude.
- I think that artists can forget – even though we have a talent and it can be privilege for others to watch what we do, we do it to effect them. A painter can paint for himself and thats great, but at the same time you can use that to touch someone. There are things people need in this world, people need others to help tell their stories because maybe they have been silenced. Like doctors, and like the police – we are not above, and we are not below.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered on your journey?
- I have an agent and representation, but like any field, it’s very competitive. One of the challenges is remembering that there are a variety of reasons why I wouldn’t get a job. Sometimes it’s not talent, its based on a variety of things. Another challenge is realizing that not every actor is interested in being vocally “woke”. We have a long way to go in terms in representing all kinds of people. It’s up to actors to keep directors, producers, and casting directors accountable. This is essential for the stories we are telling, for the “wokeness of narratives”.
Have you ever struggled with accepting this as what you want to do for a living?
- All the time. I’ve had to stop complaining about the hustle, cause its not helpful. Ive had so many existential crisis. Like, “I’m an artist, but what am I making art for? Am I living a cliche life for going to school and moving to New York?”? I know I will do something great, and it will happen when it happens. I don’t know if its acting or something in the arts, but I know my persona will be of greater influence. I just don’t know when thats going to happen. Especially on those days when I don’t get the job, I’m up against really big insecurities of other actors that sometimes cause me to question myself. I have to be careful with what people and communities I associate with. If I’m around someone who is consistently doubting themselves, I have to be careful l don’t start to do the same.
Best advice you’ve received?
- I learned from grad school – not everyone is going to see you. It’s not your responsibility to make anyone like you. You should not have to chase after anyone.
Any advice to others starting out?
- If you ever feel like you’re going to jump – make sure you have the resources to act as momentum to help you spring off the ground. Know what you are good at, and know what you want work on. It helps to know people, but its also okay if you don’t!
Do you have an end goal?
- I’m currently doing theatre, but I would love to start doing film or TV. I’m not sure how it would come to fruition or existence but, It would be really dope to be a Performing Arts Ambassador for the United Nations. I want to be someone who travels the world and looks at different theatre productions and evaluates them. To ask, “Are we doing the most justice to the piece? Is the most humanity being brought out?”. I’m really interested in producing and being part of a team that makes executive artistic decisions. I also love to teach. Whatever I end up doing, I am going to be a badass woman who is really influential. I want to be a person who calls the shots.
You can find more about N’Jameh and her journey at swishlinks.com/cnjameh
Interview by Alexandra Ofori-Atta | swishlinks.com/alexandra
Cover Photo by David Muller Photography
Header Photo by Jim Carmody