“The key to staying confident, or at least trying to, is to do something for someone else, be of service to someone else.”
NYC-based actress Cassandra Freeman is a powerful triple threat. From starring roles in Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” and Chris Rock’s “I think I Love My Wife” to featured roles on Television including “Shark” and “The Good Wife,” Freeman’s star has been- and is continuing- to rise. As a classically trained actress from NYU’s Tisch Graduate Acting Program, Freeman’s unique take on show business examines the ever-changing landscape of the path of the artist. She took some time out of her incredibly busy schedule to chat with NYCastings about the transcendence of playing a character, how to stay confident in this business, and, of all things, her love of gardening- and how it makes her a better actress.
When did you start acting?
I started acting in the 9th grade officially, though I did plays in pre-school and kindergarten…I had very small roles. I acted on purpose when I got to high school. I was an awkward kid in middle school. I had really only one close friend so I decided to audition at the art school where I heard everyone was accepted for being themselves. And that was true! I auditioned for theater and music, I played the xylophone, got in to both and chose theater… and never stopped doing it!
When did you know this wasn’t just a hobby, but a potential career?
Last year! No really, high school I did a play that made me realize I could affect others and myself. I played someone who was nothing like me with experiences of surviving a Vietnam war, and I forgot I was me and instead had a transcendent moment of believing in the world around me and in the character’s own wants and needs. I’ve been chasing that feeling and experience ever sense.
What were the choices you made regarding training and why?
I never really got much opportunity in high school or undergrad to expand my range as an actress. So I decided to go somewhere that opportunities for that did exist and I had heard such amazing things about the Grad School at NYU Tisch’s program, and all those things were true for me there… they constantly pushed me to be more, to believe more… and that there is room to always believe more.
Why did you choose New York over anywhere else?
I’m from Florida, and New York just seemed like the place to go to be who you want to be without feeling restricted to conform to others’ ideas. My passion has always been to be fully self expressed; it is an ongoing process that never ends and NY has so many opportunities for an artist to do and be just that.
Can you describe the differences between working in theatre and film/tv?
People ask me that question all the time- I’m not sure there is a difference. For both, you need all the things you learn in any acting class. TV has evolved so much that it is now as great as many films. So I think a better way to think about it is, who is the director or writer and what do they ask from their actors. Because there are plays now that play very intimately in a black box and you’d do the same style of acting there that you would on camera. There are 3 camera shows where the characters are so broad that you can use the same technique there that you do on a stage. There are comic book shows, and epic fairy tales coming to life that need the same imagination and physicality that you’d need on any stage, and there are tv shows that ask you to be yourself, that ask you to elevate your own personality full of its own quirks to inhabit a new character .… I think it is all about the text and who are you collaborating with.
How do you stay confident in this business?
I have a life that extends outside of the business like anyone else… I teach at Fordham University and have so for 5 or 6 years now… I have hobbies, I garden and LOVE it, it is so great to see the process of life growing and knowing you had a hand in it…. I play the guitar, I write music, I’m writing a new play. I support my friends in what they are up to and I’m Co-Chair to a great non-profit called Dancing Classrooms that teaches emotional and social skills to kids all over. The key to staying confident, or at least trying to, is to do something for someone else, be of service to someone else.
What do you love most about being a professional actor?
I love how my life can change in a delightful way in any moment, I love that I get to collaborate and meet people I’ve admired my whole life.
Any tips for maintaining and nurturing positive industry relationships in this business?
I think it is great to check in on people you know and discover if there is a way to help them in what they are up to in life. If you can take someone out for coffee to get advice, do it! I personally am not a believer in sending e-flyers to folks on what you’re up to… however if you are up to something that someone you know has a mutual interest in then that is a great opportunity to connect. Transparency and being authentic is key to me… however Aaron Burr in Hamilton said “smile more, say less”…and I’ve seen that be a great tool for many… so what do I know!
Any tips for someone who is just starting out in the business?
Yes: this acting game is about consistency, discipline and faith in yourself- REPEAT- and to thrive in this is to be surrounded by others whom you admire or read about others you admire… success and fame are fleeting… but friendships, your trusted collaborators, there are so many other things that will bear fruit and happiness too. And I tell my students find that love; if you are only happy when you get cast in something you are setting yourself up for a lot of unease. I think we all have to figure out who are we when there is no work, and who you are is fantastic and perfect. I read a great quote recently:
“Accept everything about yourself, I mean everything, you are you and that is the beginning and the end- no apologies, no regrets!” ~Henry Kissinger
Cassandra was last seen in the Lifetime biopic titled “The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story”, of which she plays Wanda Durant, a single mom who struggled and sacrificed to raise her two sons, Tony and NBA star Kevin Durant.
To keep up with Cassandra, check out her IMDB page:
Katie Northlich is a an actress and writer in New York City.