Faith…My Journey through ChiRaq

It was one of the biggest auditions of my career. I had 3 callbacks and was placed on “check avail”.  I felt really good about it but wasn’t sure. So, after about two weeks of waiting I finally get the call from my agent, only to hear these words,

“Thea, you’ve been released”

I remember thinking, what?  At that moment, I couldn’t comprehend what those words really meant….I felt like I had been hit by a “mack truck”.  I was paralyzed by doubt, insecurity, shame, and sadness. I had shared the “Auditon Process” with several people.  And I started to feel like I not only let myself down but them as well. After about an hour of being in total disbelief, I rolled out of bed to share the news with my family.

My 16 year old son (Kader) was the only one home at the time.  I knocked on his bedroom door and entered, he took one look at me and before I could utter the words I didn’t get the part…he knew.  He stood and I literally fell into his thin 6’4 frame.  He began to rub and pat my back, to let me know it was okay,

“Mom, its okay, don’t cry”.

Moms of teenagers can relate, I think it was the first time I felt like my son wasn’t being a jerk. I was able to get a glimpse of the awesome young man he is going to be.  He stayed by my side for what seemed like an hour. I’ll never forget that moment.

There were lots of negative thoughts running through my head: who do I tell next, what does my agency think of me NOW, maybe this whole acting thing isn’t for me, perhaps I’m just not good enough.  I thought it was important to share the news with my friends who have supported me throughout this process.  I felt like I owed people who had been supporting me over the years a call, an explanation as to why I didn’t land the job. I later came to believe that the remedy to eliminate this “obligation” was to simply stop sharing my “audition process” with others, this way I won’t feel like I’m letting the whole village down by not getting the gig.

So, I made the calls.  One of the first people I called was my dear sister-girlfriend Charmaine.  She’s been one of my biggest supporters and I felt like I let her down the most. Charmaine reminded me that maybe it wasn’t personal and I was probably just not the person Spike Lee envisioned for that particular role.  She also told me that it wasn’t over and to continue to trust God’s plan for my life.

Charmaine said, “don’t lose your faith”.  We talked for a bit and after, I proceeded to call others who’d supported me on this journey: my husband, Nikki, Pilar, Pam, Shanel, Therase, Melisa, Elisa, Christopher, Thomasa, Cynda, Tressa, Keshia, Andrea, Vee, Dee, Laurence, Richard and a host of other friends and family members.

I dreaded sharing this with my husband. I felt like he would say something I didn’t want to hear and it would cause me to feel even worst, and I was right. He told me he thought that I should give up acting and go back to corporate American.   I avoided being in the same room with him because I just couldn’t bear what else he might say.

About a week went by and I received a call from my good friend Adele.  As we chatted she told me she heard something in my voice.  Adele said you just don’t sound like the “Thea” I know. She asked me what was wrong.  I broke down and told her everything and in her unique and funny way she told me to tighten up my wig because she had a project she wanted me to work on.  She told me how talented I am and that this was just how the business of show business works.  She really helped me put things in prospective.  I shared my husband’s thoughts with Adele and she replied,

“That was his only way of protecting me because he can’t in this industry. He feels like if you just go back work, that safe place; you wouldn’t have to deal with all this.”

It made sense. I quietly forgave him and started to heal.

Two weeks passed and I felt about 85 percent better.  I look forward to auditioning again and even look forward to substitute teaching over the summer.  Then one day I’m running errands and while I’m at the checkout line in the grocery store, I get a call from my agent. She tells me Mr. Lee (Spike) wants to see me one final time.  My reply was, “Look don’t play with me. I’m 85 percent better with this whole thing and I really don’t have time for games.”

My agent replied, “we wouldn’t do that; we will send you details shortly.”  So, I got the email with the details and there’s no sides. (Part of the script to memorize)  It simply advised me of the time and place.  I show up and there’re about 30 people there and I still don’t know what this is all about. I signed in and waited.  Then my name was called and they took me to a room where Mr. Lee waited with two chairs and a table.

He stood up and greeted me with a hug and he said, “You thought it was over huh”.

I was like, “Yeah. I was really nervous the last time we met.  I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

He inquired about my nervousness.

I told him, “Dude you’re freaking Spike Lee!”

He laughed and said, “You can’t be nervous and land the job.”

I told him, “Well I’m not nervous now. What’s the job?”  He shared his vision of where my skills would be best put to use. It was within a group of women that would be in a scene with Ms. Angela Bassett. He told me it wasn’t scripted yet (meaning there were no lines) and asked if I was okay with that…Of course, I said yes.

I was hired as a “Featured Extra”.  I was part of a core group which gave me a slightly bump in pay from being a regular extra.  I didn’t mind. I would’ve done it for free but getting paid was a nice added bonus.

I was given 10 scheduled days on the project and for that, I was grateful. I hadn’t been and extra in a movie for some time and I forgot all that was involved.  You see, last summer 2014, I was a principal in a movie called Christopher Nolen’s 72 Hours with Harry Lennix (Blacklist) Brely Evans (Being Mary Jane) Terri J. Vaughn ( Steve Harvey Show) Cynda Williams (Mo betta Blues) and a host of others. So, this was a humbling experience for me. By no means am I saying this was beneath me, It was just something I hadn’t done in some time.

On set for ChiRaq, , I met and developed relationships that I believe will last a lifetime.  I met Carole, one of the 4 little girl’s (Carole Robertson) niece, which Spike did a documentary about. I met Lee Albritton, the manager of the late Bernie Mac, Atty. Ernesto Borges, (who knew he was a brilliant theater Actor), Father Pfleger and many others. The absolute highlight for me was meeting the mothers of the children that had been gunned done by gun violence in Chicago. Sitting with them, hearing their stories of loss and witnessing their courage to go on was incredible.  We, together, participated in Father Pfleger’s 3 mile annual march in Engelwood, which is one of the neighborhoods that have been plagued by violence. I was afraid while I protested…we chanted “Put down the guns”, “Stop the violence” and “Don’t shoot”.  Some of the mothers were compelled to stop in their tracks with grief; where they were consoled by the other women.  It was at that moment that I asked God to reveal to me why was I there? What purpose did he have me in the middle of a town where I was at that moment fearing for my own life.

It was on my ride home that God spoke to my spirit as to why I was chosen to be a part of this production?   It wasn’t to have a principle (speaking) role.  In fact, I had relinquished all possibilities of that. I was more focused on fulfilling my commitment as a featured extra.  See, I live in a quiet southwest suburb of Chicago and it’s there where my children can ride their bikes to the park and not fear getting gunned down, it’s a place where they can walk to the corner store or pizza parlor and not have their gym shoes, coats, or money be taken, It is there where my children can play basketball in the driveway and not worry about a drive-by shooting. Please don’t misunderstand me, violence can happen anywhere; by no means are we exempt from it. However, It’s doesn’t rid our town as it does in Chicago.

I cried the entire ride home (35 miles ) and had to sit in my driveway until I got myself together. My heart is heavy for the many families that don’t (and should) have the same opportunities as families in other parts of the city where crime is not so prevalent.  I shared this with my family with hopes that it would increase their gratitude and awareness of just how good God has been to us.

With about 2 days left on set, I struggled to go back, but I was committed to finish.  On my last day, I had another huge audition with the director of another feature film.  I was contemplating with my agent whether or not I should jet out on lunch to make it. I stepped away from my group and sat in the hallway.  I was still thinking about whether or not I should go to this audition.  Meanwhile, Spike walked in the door and asked me to join him on set. On set I began rehearsing with the principal women in the movie. Spike looks at me and gives me a line with Angela Bassett and instantly my whole world changed. I went from a featured extra to a principal in a blink of the eye.

I am now SAG-eligible. My pay increased. I will get an IMDB credit on the movie and everything else that comes with this awesome opportunity. Nothing but God!

The lessons I’ve learned being a part of the ChiRaq production are immeasurable.  Spike gave me a gift that will continue to serve me and others. I will never forget how gracious and kind he was to me.  Talk about perseverance, dedication, loyalty, humility, spirituality, confidence, and just feeling a sense of pride of being not only black but a person that truly cares about the struggles of our people.  This is not just a black issue it’s an issue that plagues our nation…and Chicago is in the very center.  I’m sure that this movie will bring a heightened awareness about to the violence and hopefully peace to a city that is in desperate need.   #Chiraq #bestsummerever #gratitude #peacetrain #stoptheviolence


31 thoughts on “Faith…My Journey through ChiRaq

      1. What a ride you had us on , but just a reminder that violence can happen anywhere even in your quiet non gun deaths suburb, I live in the city in an area that seldom have gun violence and when we do it’s someone from outside our neighborhood causing trouble. Be vigilant they can travel.


  1. It’s your undying and unwavering faith that gets and grabs the attention of God and He operates according to you Faith. Thank you for always being a trailblazer for others to follow. As I told you a long time ago. You are destined for greatness and it’s only a matter of time before the whole world knows just how great you are.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was amazing, Thea. Thank you sharing that journey. I think a lot of people that meet you, figure you never have moments of weakness or doubt. You are a constant reminder to me, to keep trusting in God’s plan for our lives, not to give up and most of all, know that what is for us, will always come to pass. Love you, dearly. Proud to call you, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sis your poetry and gotten me through some really rough spots. I’m so grateful for your gift. May God keep filling you up with words of encouragement and wisdom that continues to heal us all. Love you


  3. Interesting comments. Great Friends!!

    My question is: What would happen if we operated from a place of already knowing We Are Greatness! Not destined but born Great! Would we then act and react from Greatness. Would our actions and reaction change accordingly? Hmmmm? I was raised that way. Not destined but Born Great! I then learned to Self manage (challenging) from there. As my parent said, it then made me responsible for my reactions to situations. They were/are correct.

    Thank you for your story. Sometimes We Want a certain thing, a certain way. When it comes in a different way, we may not be open…you were open to the posibilities and that is an awesome lesson! Congratulations on being Open! You are Greatness!!


    1. I Am #Greatness! I like the sound of that. It is there from which I will continue to operate from. I am #grateful. I am wonderfully made. I am #Greatness Thanks Tracy Twinkie Byrd FOR Feeding My Soul💕💕💕


  4. Inspiring to say the least! You are all that & so much more! Can’t wait to see the movie because I know you did what you were put on this earth to do. I’ve often told you for many years that you can sell Bill’s shoes to Hilliary, that simply means you are the best! Love you!


  5. Thea,
    Your word’s are so inspiring!! I know how life obstacle’s can somtime get in our way, but remember what GOD has for you is for you…


  6. OMG! Thea I am so proud of you! Yup! I’m going to keep telling you over and over again! lol. I am truly inspired by your story and grateful to God that I met you months ago! Your story just made my heart smile! Congrats hun! The best is yet to come. 🙂


  7. Thea you are a true inspiration and one of the most courageous people I know! The way you attach your everything to your auditions -and lay your feelings on the line even when you know that you could be putting them in jeopardy-how your raw emotions are on high sensitivity mode, These are some of the many things that speaks to the fact that you’ve found part of your lifes purpose. What a fit! You deserve all you’ve experienced and more!! I am very happy for you and very proud OF you.representing what I know to be the majority of the people on chicagos west side! Soar sister!!


    1. My Sista Adele, I’m so thankful our paths crossed. You pour into me not really being aware that you do…there are many lessons to be learned in this industry and you have taught me a few. You know people can make anything come from the whole in their face but to watch their actions are a whole other story. You’re an example of a true friend. You know they say you can pick your friends and not your family…well my dear you are family to me. #westsider for life. Love you Dele


  8. Thea, thanks for sharing your testimony. This is so typical of how God works, its always none of us, but all of Him, so all the glory can go to him. I rejoice with you dear friend and big sister. Never allow circumstances confirm your gifts and talents. Continue to pursue your passion, God will open doors for you beyond your imagination. Love you dearly.


  9. Thanks Thea, Your journey was another confirmation from God. The only job you ever get is the one meant for you. God’s in Charge. I pray you have many more blessing. Shalom, Sy

    Liked by 1 person

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