Interviews

Glam chats with Actress Syr

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Syr (pronounced S-e-e-r) Law. She has performed in leading roles in a variety of films. Last year she received a WMIFF nomination and a win at the Nollywood Critics Award (NAFCA) for her performance in “Paparazzi: Eye In The Dark.” Most recently, “Days Of Our Lives.” This year Syr is nominated again and won for Best Actress in a Diaspora 2012 NAFCA for “The Entrapped.” Syr won the best actress award last year for “Paparazzi: Eye In The Dark.” Some of her other film credits are Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Blackwoman” and Allen Wolf”s “In My Sleep.” She was featured in a few commercial campaigns for Bank Of America, Verizon, and Nickelodeon.

Glam:Hi how are you, thanks for taing the time out to chat with Glam?

SYR: Hi Glam! I’m so excited to for this interview. Love glam and your style! *smiling* It’s official, I’m a GLAM GIRL now!

Glam: Your name is Syr, it is very unusual. is that your real name?

SYR: No, Syr is my stage name. This is actually an interesting story and one I love to tell. The watered down version is on my WIKI page. But I will give you the full scoop. My birth name is Crystal Dionne Porter. When I moved to Los Angeles, I joined Screen Actors Guild (SAG). SAG is a union for actors. Every actor that has worked on a union film/tv project is a member of SAG. After working on such projects as “Diary of A Mad Black Woman” and booking a national commercial for “Verizon” I was invited to join the union. Unknowingly, another actress was listed in SAG as Crystal Porter. There can only be one actor credited under a name whether alive or deceased. So I was unable to use my birth name. I couldn’t even use Crys Porter, which is what most of my family & friends call me. That was being used too. The same spelling! I couldn’t believe it, so my options: use my middle and last names or create one. So I opted for the later. I flipped Crys backwards which is Syrc, dropped the (c) on the end and came up with Syr. A close friend called me Syr for a couple of weeks to see if I would actually like the name and I DID! Law came into play because I was at a point in my life where I was making my own rules and then breaking them. LOL! I decided to live my life by my rules-my law! Hence, Syr Law was born.
The name is as natural for me as Crystal Porter. Funny thing, when I am called Syr more than Crys, I know it’s time to go home and check in with friends & family. That means I am working too much.

Glam:Tell our readers who Syr is?

SYR: Syr is a southern girl, a daughter, granddaughter, a girlfriend (and yes I spelled that correctly). A girlfriend is a friend you can call in the middle of the night when the rest of the world sleeps and 2000 miles away you share the good, bad & the ugly over skype and a glass of wine because you know you got each other’s back! Yep, that’s me! I’m loyal and sensitive. A girlfriend (yes, I mean that one how it’s spelled). An artist at her best & worst sometimes. I am an Actor and now Writer and Producer. I am comfortable in my own skin, finally. I am a traveler and humanitarian. I am a woman in progress!

Glam: Where are you from?

SYR: I am from a place where people use to leave their doors open. Where front porches & hammocks are common and all neighbors are your family. As kids we would tell time by street lights because we had to be home before the street lights came up. Ha! The memories make me smile. I am from Atlanta, Georgia. My Mother, Miriam Gibson Porter, a Social Worker for the Atlanta Public School System was born in Charleston, SC to Ora Lee Boone, one of the first African American women to serve as Clerk of Court for the State of SC and Edward M. Gibson, a Tuskegee Airman. The majority of my family still resides in Charleston. I spent a lot of my time there growing up. It is a city I love! My father, Albert Wesley Porter, a retired businessman with the City of Miami, was born in Tallahassee, FL to Willie Pearle Porter, a retired Nurse and the first African American to serve as an Instructor at Mt. Sinai Hospital and Gilbert L Porter, a celebrated Educator in the State of Florida. My father’s side of the family resides throughout the Florida area. Florida has a piece of my heart too. So, as you can see, I am truly a southern girl. Proud of my family & my roots! You can’t ask where I am from without a bit of family history.

Glam: How long have you been are acting, and how did you get started?

SYR: I made my film debut credited under my birth name Crystal Porter, as a Freshman in “Pay The Price” but I would have to go back a year prior for my introduction into acting. I wanted to be the female version of Sean Combs. Seriously, I wanted to have my own label and artists. While I was at Hampton University, I interned for Sony in New York and worked as a college rep on campus promoting music. When I gradated I moved back home and worked for a management company but that only lasted a few months. With a college degree and no job, I did with most people would do in Atlanta…I picked up a Creative Loafing. I found an audition for “The Black Playwrights’ Festival” at Actor’s Express, a well-known regional theatre. The “Black Playwrights’ Festival” is a series of works written by minority playwrights. The works are read and presented by actors to a live theater audience. But here’s the catch, I had never taken an acting class, performed in front of a audience other than dance or even thought about it…until now. But something greater than me urged me to go to that audition. So, I found two contrasting monologues that was the requirement, and prepared for the audition. I say prepared but I now know that is not the right word. With what I know about technique and preparation now, I can’t really use that word “prepared” comfortably. I simply learned the words on the page and attempted to recite them to the Casting Director. And it was a disaster! I didn’t get through the first couple of sentences before she stopped me. She kept saying, “use the words to tell me the story.” And finally she said, “just tell me the story in your OWN words.” I didn’t even get the second monologue. I left the theatre in tears and again jobless. The joy of this story is definitely hindsight. I later understood what my Grandmother would always say, “God’s plans are bigger than our own! ” I got a call a few days later, I got the call not only offering me a spot in the festival as a working actor but the theatre wanted to give me free Meisner classes to prepare for the night of readings. I was in awe by what a leap of faith can bring! We should be always walk and sometimes run in faith. Which is what I did again a few months later. The same theatre offers a year Conservatory Program for actors. Theater majors from all over the country audition to get in this program. Other than the “Black playwrights’ Festival”, I had no prior acting experience and only one acting class under my belt. But on the wings of faith, I auditioned…..and I got in! I was later told; it wasn’t my audition that got me into the program. The Artistic Director and staff just saw something in me. Sometimes, God sends others to foster a gift you can’t see. And that’s what happened for me!

Glam: Being a black actress in Hollywood, do you think that your race has made a difference in you getting a role?

SYR: That is a very interesting question. In the past, Black actors presence in film and TV has been limited by network and mainstream. But I feel the tide is turning. Minority faces on television are more common now and necessary, especially since we live in a global community. I am so inspired by actress like Kerry Washington, Regina King, Sanaa Lathan, Paula Patton, Tracey Ellis & Genevieve Naji Ross whose faces and talents are seen and highlighted in the mainstream media. And Black Female Producers like Mara Brock Akil, Shondra Rhimes, Debra Martin Chase, Tracey Edmonds & Queen Latifah who are changing mainstream media to reflect the society we live in. And that includes all minorities! I think as Black actresses we all face challenges of race, no matter our complexion. But we have faced these challenges in every sector our society for decades. So, I consciously make the choice not to focus on race. I have been fortunate to play women of Cuban, Puerto Rican, East Indian, Native American, and Ethiopian descent. I have even gone in for roles reading against blonde blue-eyed women. And I have been cast. What I focus on is bringing the character into the room. Her life. Her story. Her past. Her dreams. Her love. Her fears. Her pain. When we get to the core of who we are on a human level, you will find that we are more similar than different. At the core, a dream realized by a white woman or a black woman, to that woman…is still her dream realized!

Glam: With all your ac compliments, which would you say is the most dearest?

SYR: That’s a hard one. I would have to say the night my Mother saw me on stage at the Alliance Theatre in “Day Of Kings.” The Alliance Theatre is one of the most renowned theatres in this country. I was cast as a Cuban Mistress in the early 1800’s. It was an Equity job. That is the union for theatre actors. And I was cast alongside a cast of Broadway babies. I think when my Mother saw me in the skin of this feisty, vulnerable, quick tongued-accented woman she was in awe. She didn’t see her daughter, she saw Cecilia. She saw me as an actress.

Glam: Your role in days of our life, can you tell us who you played and how did you get into Day time soap opera?

SYR: I play the role of Becky on “Days Of Our Lives.” I am the receptionist at the FBI office. I love daytime but it was definitely a different medium for me. They move fast on soaps. A typical day would be a 6 am call. In wardrobe and make-up by 7 am. 1st rehearsal by 8:15 am. Break for an hour or so. Then your up. One more rehearsal and then tape! And I work for one take! My day can be done by 11 am. We tape about three months in advance so the storylines are thought out well in advance. It’s really a fun and challenging day!

Glam: You also won the 2012 NAFCA best -actress award. Tell us about that?

SYR: That was such a surprise Madonna! I won last year for Best Actress in Lead Role in Diaspora for the film “Paparazzi.” I am the first African American actress to win that award. Actually, I was the only actress of non-African descent to be nominated last year and this year. So truly get the nomination this year for “The Entrapped” was more than I expected. Not because I felt the film was unworthy, I think it is some of my best work to date, but because I won the award last year. I have shared this category with amazingly talented women. I am truly humbled that Dr. Victor and the NAFCA Committee would look at my performance in this film and choose me. It’s a beautiful payoff to the hard word and dedication I give to every project. And I am also nominated for the Golden Icon Awards this Saturday. Same film. Same nomination. So prayers up!

Glam: Nollywood is the next big movie venture, how did you get started in Nollywood films?

SYR: My first connection with Nollywood would prove to have been in the works before I even knew about Africa’s film industry. That’s how I know God has a plan for each of us and it is real! I studied acting in Atlanta at the Professional Actor’s Studio under the direction of Nick Conti. His technique stems from one of the greatest actors to ever take the stage, Uta Hagan. I began in the Intermediate and worked my way to the Advanced Class. Once there, I was introduced to actors, who to this day are some of the most talented and dedicated professionals I have had the privilege of working with. Amongst those were Nigerian actor Chet Anekwe and American actor Jermaine Jackson. Many years later, that friendship and connection with Chet and Jermaine would become my introduction into Nollywood. Chet received a phone call from Ghanaian performer Koby Maxwell. He was doing a show in the Bay Area in California and need a comedian to open the show. The comedian who was originally scheduled to open that show canceled at the last minute and a replacement was needed immediately. Chet thought of Jermaine who lived in LA and who has performed stand-up all over Los Angeles and other cities. Jermaine flew to Oakland, did the show and while their Koby told him about his feature film “Paparazzi.” Koby was looking for an African American actress who could embody the role of Pearle Wisdoms. And Jermaine thought of me! He connected Koby and I and there began the process of developing a character I simply love! Koby and I talked about the script for months. I sent in 3 video auditions and spent countless hours working to bring Pearle to life. After I spoke with Bayo Akimfimi, Director of “Paparazzi” and gave him my vision for Pearle, I was hired. I flew to Atlanta for a couple of weeks and made a movie that I am so proud of and friends who will forever will be a part of my life! This was my first step into the door of African Film making called Nollywood. Since then, I have worked opposite some the the biggest stars inNollywood. The film that I am nominated for was Directed by famed Nigerian Actor/Director, Desmond Eliott. Desmond also played opposite me in this film as my husband and NIgerian Actress Susan Peters played my best friend. I have worked twice with Robert Peters in “Pure Silence” and “Faces Of Love.” He is one of the best Directors and Cinematographers of our time. He is also Nigerian. I starred in two of his films oppostie John Dumelo, MosesEfret, Marie Solo-Peters and Razaaq Adoti. And I just wrapped the film “False Engagement” with Writer/Director/Producer/Actor, Kelechi Eki.

Glam: What would you tell other young actress who want to get in show business?

SYR: Ride on the wings of faith. And prepare. Before I came to LA, I was prepared. I studied the craft of acting so I can have a respect for acting. I understand how and to use my body as an instrument and what works for me to fit inside the character’s shoes. When I accept a role, I treat that character with respect. I have a responsibility to bring that woman to life. To show up every day with her agenda and not my own. I owe that to the character. To the production and to myself. Whether I am getting paid little or a lot- Know your business. This industry is a business. Know the major players in the industry. And before you arrive on set know how each Director likes to work and be prepared. I go back to that. A lot of the project I have booked were either through an audition or based on referral. People heard about my manner on set and my professionalism and wanted to work with me. That makes me proud. And lastly I would say, always be a student. I will forever be a student of life and that is what I bring to my work!

Glam: If you weren’t a actress, what other career would you do?

SYR: If I weren’t an actress I would have been a Lawyer or an Archeologist. I love to talk and I am a researcher at heart. I study my script and dissect my characters with such detail and fascination. It’s a journey for me and I love it! I think practicing the law and digging for fossils would be the same. Plus traveling is in my blood.

Glam: What’s next for Syr?

SYR: The world! LOL. I have off to the Golden Icon Awards this weekend to reunite with the cast of “The Entrapped” and hopefully come home with another awards. I have co-authored a book “2000 Miles Away” that I am publishing end of this year. I just produced my second short film “Five” with my producing partner, BJ Winfrey. The film is being edited as we speak. And I have confirmed two projects that I will film by the end of this year. Yep, I am busy and thankful!

Glam: Tell your fans something about you that would surprise them?

SYR: I am a tomboy! I am not a girly girl. I love to catch a Laker game and grab a beer with the boys. I can talk sports. And my favorite clothes are a pair of ripped up jeans and white tee with no make-up(laughing)

Glam: What is your favorite line, from one of your movie?

SYR: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way” – Jessica Rabbit from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (laughing)

Glam: What projects are you working on right now?

SYR: I just signed on for 2 new projects before the end of the year. I don’t think I can talk much about them but I will say this. In one I play a cop who gets lost in her own addition. A very different role from any you have seen me in before. And the other- a loving wife who is battling the demons of her marriage. Both are very interesting but polar. That’s what I love about my jobs. I am many women in one!( her eyes lights up)

Glam:

In the next five years, where do you see yourself?
SYR: ( thinking)That’s a tough question. I say that because I did not see myself winning Best Actress In A Lead Role In Diaspora at NAFCA two years in a row. Or being nominated at the Golden Icon Awards! I did not foresee making films with the brilliant Robert or working with Kelechi Eke on a series of films. I didn’t see myself co-authoring a book and producing my second short by the end of 2012. These blessings I did not see, but planted seed for. I expected them to grow I just did not know how they would physically manifest. And it’s been beyond my dreams! So from my limited sight and with God’s grace, I see myself continuing my work as an actor and producing my own films in Nollywood. I see myself married with a baby or two. Right now, I am setting myself up to work in Africa half of the year and Hollywood the other half. I want to give back to a continent that has embraced me as a woman and a actor. I want to continue the expansion of Nollywood working with other film industries such a Hollywood to show the progress and growth of Africa’s film community. A community that audiences both support and love. Lending myself through humanitarian efforts to the people of Africa is also important to me. I believe in giving back. And I will find a way to give back to a continent and film community who ever time I place my foot on a Nollywood film set makes me feel like I have taken my first breath in Africa.

Glam: Well it’s was a pleasure talking to you, Glam wish you all the best?

SYR: This was my pleasure! I’m a GLAM GIRL now~

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For Contact on Syr
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