“I think life gives you little clues,” says Felisha Terrell. The actress who plays Marilyn Barnes on Own’s ‘Ambitions’ knows this to be true. In fact, the mother and avid kickboxer left behind a pharmaceutical career and hopped into her blue Ford Tempo to Los Angeles in pursuit of her acting dreams.


You play a socialite, philanthropist, sorority sister and one half of a power couple in OWN’s Ambitions. Tell us what your audition was like to land the role of Marilyn Barnes?

We recently moved to Atlanta but while I was here in L.A., last year, I actually auditioned for the role of Stephanie. It was between Robin, myself and another actress. Robin is iconic and fits the role. The thing about auditions is to do a great job in front of the producers. At times, you may not be right for a certain role, but they can find or create something else for you. I don’t know how long it took for them to decide on the character of Marilyn, but I was called to audition for the role in Atlanta, and I was on set a few weeks later.


Speaking of Robin Givens, tell us what it’s like working with the veteran actress alongside another equal talent, Essence Atkins?

I always consider myself fortunate and blessed to be working in something I am passionate about. It’s great when you get to work with kind, generous and giving people who also happen to be extremely talented. I’ve learned so much from Robin and we joke a lot on set. She has two boys and I have a son, so we always exchange stories about our kids, one minute and the next minute, we’re back in character with the claws out (laughs). Working with Essence is great too! I think most people are used to seeing her in comedies but to see her in a drama is really wonderful. She is a super talented human being. I have such a great time knowing the both of them.


BSM Exclusive: OWN 'Ambitions' Actress Felisha Terrell
OWN Actress Felisha Terrell


Starring in one OWN show is major but you also are cast in another drama ‘Utopia’ with John Cusack and Sasha Lane. How do you balance both roles on the same network, and have you met Oprah?

It’s tough. Leaving my family is always challenging because Utopia shoots in Chicago. But then I get to wrap my head around completely different characters and genres and that’s the fun stuff. It’s like trying on a bunch of different things and there’s the one (thing) that makes you feel a certain way. This is how I approach trying on different characters. My balance also comes from me doing the background work for myself on whose story I’m telling. I don’t care if it’s a comedy or drama, I am telling someone’s story and you have to honor that. That’s really important to me as an artist.

In terms of meeting Oprah, that is a bucket list item I have not been able to scratch off but it’s going to happen. I’m putting it out there now!


What’s a Hot Girl Summer in your life right now?

‘Hot Girl Summer’ is in the pool with my 2-year-old son Noah (laughs). There’s no being fierce in a swimsuit instead, I am a mom working on swim lessons with my son and having a ball with him. That’s the extent of my hot girl summer. I wish it were more exciting, but I love it!


The best part about motherhood?

Seeing the world through his eyes and watching him light up at the things we (adults) take for granted. My son loves fire trucks and anything that has to do with the water. He brings me back to those simple moments in life that we should all celebrate instead of hurrying off to the next thing. Face it, we have responsibilities and we are not always in the present moment. One of the best things about being a mom is being present in life where I can enjoy his childlike character.


As an avid boxer/kickboxer who does many of her own stunts. How do you avoid injury on the set?

You have to be smart. The stunt coordinators are phenomenal, and the sets where I work are protected. They are not going to let you do anything if they don’t think you can do it. I wouldn’t put myself in a scenario where I didn’t feel 100% confident about what I’m doing. Instead of getting ready I try to stay ready. I keep myself in shape and eat right. It’s really fun to use my physicalities, and I figure I should use it why I still have it.


Beauty and Brains. You graduated from the University of Iowa (with honors). But it’s the story of when you jumped in your blue Ford Tempo headed to Los Angeles that’s most interesting. How did you realize acting was for you after quitting Corporate America, and what advice do you have for others to literally go for it like you?

I took an elective (acting) in my senior year of college. I had never acted a day in my life unless you count the time I played the Sugar Plum Fairy in my school’s Christmas play…laughs. I fell in love with it because it was a freedom I had never experienced. I have always loved to entertain since I was a little girl and would put on fashion shows for my mom and grandmother. I think life gives you little clues. I was in Corporate America working for a Fortune 500 company doing consulting and pharmaceutical sales and it was like a slow death. This little voice inside of me was like if you don’t go now you’ll never do it. That was it for me. I’m also the type of person where if you say I can’t do it, I’m like, watch me.

I’m a firm believer there is no time limit on anything. You can comb social media and see 85-year-old women who are in the gym and can show us up. It’s never too late to push through what you know you’re called to do, but we all have to watch our expectations. Nothing trumps hard work. Don’t worry about how to do something today. Do it. Hone your craft in whatever it is you love.


Favorite food and vacation spot?

It’s a close tie between sushi and tacos. My family eats tacos all the time, the old school way with fried corn shells. They’re delicious. My favorite vacation spot is the city of Paris. Though I love the beach, I also love the culture, food, and history of Paris. It’s a sexy and romantic city. We did our babymoon there, and it holds a special place in my heart.


Why should people tune in every Tuesday to watch the drama series?

You already know Ambitions is juicy, scandalous and ruthless, particularly between myself and Robin. If you don’t watch people are going to be talking about it the next day, and you will have missed out.





By La Trisha and La Tasha ‘Twins of Media’

Feature photo: OWN


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