How did your acting career start? Did you always want to become an actress?
Acting really bit me early on. I was always into my imagination when I was young. My family always moved around and it was challenging to make friends and actually keep them. I had to find a way to entertain myself, so I would read the “Golden Books”and I would love to re-enact them into plays. My dad bought me a karaoke machine when I was 8 and I loved Pocahontas and Little Mermaid, I would sing my heart out. I loved to perform! My parents and Nana saw the acting ability in me, so they enrolled me into an arts-based school in New Orleans called the Magnet School.This was during my middle and high school years. I felt it early on, that urge to perform.
Did you ever think you would star in a Tyler Perry movie? How does that make you feel?
It’s a dream come true, a very special experience. We shot the movie 2 years ago, it was during Thanksgiving. I was in Florida visiting my aunt, having a conversation about where I was as an actor and trying to figure out my next move. That’s when my Aunt Cam said, “darling I just pray that Tyler Perry puts you in one of his movies because I love me some Tyler Perry!” I just laughed and said, “yeah that’s wishful thinking” and she kept going on about his movies saying “I just hope he picks you.” Six months later, I was cast in one of Tyler Perry’s movies. I didn’t tell my aunts until the release date this past November. They freaked out! My aunt Cammy spoke it into existence, it’s like a prayer that was answered. Knowing that we are both from New Orleans, the character of Madea mirrors a lot of family patriarch down in the South, you know an old lady who talks slick, carries a gun, is familiar to those who live down here in the South, it’s fun! It was a full circle moment for me, driving around LA seeing billboards and seeing myself on them. It was cool! I was very grateful for the opportunity.
Was the set fun? Stressful?
Great experiences, the whole time we were dancing, laughing and just having a good time. It took 8-9 days to shoot everything! Mr. Perry kept it fun and relaxed, it wasn’t a serious or intense set. He let us improv and add our own little spin. As actors/actresses, we don’t experience that because we create characters, but sometimes we want to put our input in it and he allows that. It made it light, no one had big burdens on their shoulders, we were there to have fun, especially seeing Tyler as all the different characters.
Since we just recently celebrated Women’s History Month, who would you say is the woman you admire most?
I have admired and still admire many women. I am an educator so I teach at different LA schools. I’m currently teaching about matriarchs and culture within different families, so we have been talking about our grandmothers. I think about those moments and being in this Tyler Perry movie as I’m often thinking about and honoring both of my grandmothers who passed away. They were women of faith who encouraged me. My grandma Sarah was a strong, bold, fearless woman. She was always a sweet soul, never judged anyone. My other grandma, Nana Carol, came from nothing but always maintained her joy, always a giving person and one of the sweetest women. I always cherished our relationship. We used to live down the street from a halfway house and men who were released from prison would pass every day after school to talk to Nana and sometimes ask her for money. She would say “baby I can’t give you any money but I can feed you” so we would go inside and make sandwiches for them. Just seeing how strong these women were and how loving they were with people just instilled those values in me. Another idol was Dr. Maya Angelou, a teacher of mine in college. She was a strong, grounded woman who was never pretentious, never judged, always loving and accepted everyone who came into her arena. Those are the three women I admire most.
What would you describe as your perfect Sunday?
Well, lately I’ve been running on fumes, but basically just chilling, watching Netflix, scrolling on Instagram or sleeping. I love being around nature. In LA we are a bit spoiled because we have hiking and the beach. I love hiking as you can literally see the whole city of LA. It makes me happy.
Favorite social media handle to share.
I love Instagram! You can follow me @cierapayton- that’s my favorite social media!
Thank you for interviewing with BSM Media
Thank you for having me, enjoy the rest of your evening, take care!
Interview by: Jasmin Urquiza Montiel
Photo Credit: Miles Maker
To READ more check out our cover story of Ciera Payton inside the BSM digital issue Here!! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to start receiving print copies of BSM.