Not long ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing an amazing writer & actress who writes, edits, produces, and stars in her own web series and this talented woman is Cassia Jones! According to her blog, Cassia, also known as Jonesie, is “originally from Los Angeles, CA” and “began writing as a child and fell in love with acting while watching re-runs of I Love Lucy, The Carol Burnett Show, Mama’s Family, The Jefferson’s and Sanford & Son. Comedy became her niche and she began acting in school plays, studying piano, and learning the complexities of performing comedic acting from the greats of the aforementioned titles.”
Currently, Cassia’s web series, To Live & Date in L.A., is in its second season and was recently an official selection of the 2015 Women & Fashion Filmfest! For those who don’t know, To Live & Date in L.A. focuses on Jonesie, a 30 year old woman, who is in a rocky, but what she feels is a lasting relationship, until they move in together and everything starts to take a turn for the worse. Her boyfriend ignores her, spending more time on his computer then with her, and they constantly argue. When her dumps her in an unusual way, she looks to her two best friends for guidance. These three women deal with their fledgling careers and relationship issues in relatable, funny and loving ways. Besides To Live & Date in L.A., Cassia is a feature writer for Uptown Magazine, as well as a Vlogger and she also has her own blog, Awkward Girl in the City. Check out my interview with Cassia where she discusses the show, how she got into vlogging, what’s next for her, and more below.
-Growing up, what was the pivotal moment that made you realize you want to pursue a career in writing?
As one of the five black kids at my school, I was not a favorite amongst teachers and students. I was constantly called names, made fun of, and teachers would make me re-take a test when I scored an A, and ask me who helped me with my assignments because I completed them so well. There was this constant need to prove my worth and ability to those who saw me as less than. Luckily among that group of teachers, one in particular stood out: Mrs. Van. Mrs. Van was the theatre/arts/music teacher and saw in me what I did not see in myself. She became my piano teacher, gave me the lead roles in all the school plays, taught me how to write poetry and pushed me to see that I was worthy, and talented. Had I not been blessed with her in my life, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. She was my “moment”.
-How did you come up with the Awkward Girl in the City blog?
Awkward Girl literally came from me as a person and what happens in my life…my ex-boyfriend that I lived with, after cheating on me and just not being really nice, broke up with me over text. Text! We lived together! So, I literally gave myself five minutes to cry about it and knew that I just had to pick myself up, not dwell on him or what happened, and get myself together. I started a lingerie line and began selling online, and wherever I could. Then, one day, I wrote about how I was feeling about my dating life/experiences, and put it up on the lingerie site, which I shared on Facebook at the time. People started reading, and one guy in particular commented about how amazing my writing was and that I should be sharing this, and he shared the article on his page. The lingerie line was a complete failure, but my writing wasn’t. I’d always written since having Mrs. Van in my life as a child, but had not shared it until my mid-twenties. That comment, share, and subsequent failure started the Awkward Girl Blog. I made the page a year or so later, and have been writing ever since. Failure is never the end of the line. Failure is always a new beginning.
–Besides writing, you’re also an actress & producer. How did you get into acting & producing?
As a kid I performed in many plays, and in my early twenties wrote and performed a one-act play at Los Angeles City College in my acting class. I have always performed comedy, but that one-act play was very dramatic and was about stepping outside of my box. After I performed it and walked back to my seat, one of my classmates tapped me on the shoulder and verbatim said, “I really got something from that.” and he had tears in his eyes. That changed everything. I grew up with not a lot of friends, and honestly not many of my classmates liked me, so I’d do my homework, come home and watch I Love Lucy and The Carol Burnett Show reruns. They were my friends in a sense, and I wanted to make people laugh and be like them. Then In Living Color aired in my formative years and improv was a game changer. Kim Wayans was magical and I knew I had to write, act and if I ever wanted a chance, would have to produce my own content. I was sick of being told no or just not getting any auditions, so if no one was going to cast me in a show, I’d just write and produce my own.
-How did you come up with To Live & Date in L.A.?
To Live and Date in LA came from my Awkward Girl in the City blog. I am super awkward when it comes to dating/flirting, and have had crazy dating experiences. What I write on the blog is truth, and people relate to that. Some readers suggested I write a book, which at the time I did not feel ready for, and others said that my blog should be a show. Again, the acting jobs were not coming and I knew as a black actress I did not want to be pigeonholed into a certain type of character. I wanted to write about my experiences as an actor/writer and single girl in LA. I love my city and am an OG, born and raised here, and after watching every single episode of Sex and the city, I really wanted to covey what it’s really like to be a single writer/actor. Not to say that show was not beyond amazing because it was, but it was also very polished and fantastic. Carrie Bradshaw wrote a tiny piece in the newspaper, but could afford Manolo Blahnik shoes, which is clearly not the typical experience as a writer and single woman. I also wanted to create a show about black women where we weren’t fighting, calling each other names or aspiring only to gain material things in our lives, so To Live and Date in LA is an extension of the Awkward Girl in the City blog, and an exaggerated version of events in my life. My character is based on myself, and the two characters that are my best friends on the show, are extensions of my personality.
-Season two is well on its way with episode two! What can fans expect from the rest of the season?
In season one, we were introduced to Jonesie and how she has tried to bounce back from being dumped via text message. She struggles through auditions and working odd jobs to make it. Kimmy’s job is revealed and so is the fact that she is trying to keep it a secret from people in her life, specifically the men she meets, and we learned a bit about Dani and her hopes of making it in the LA fashion scene. There were hilarious date situations and epic meltdowns, which were fun to write and act out! In season two you will see all three of the girls go through huge relationship issues and controversy. The fans should expect to shed a few tears in season two, as the extremes between comedy and drama are way more intense this season. There are new characters introduced in season two and a huge cliffhanger rounding out the end of the season as well.
-If you had a chance to cast a well known celebrity to be a guest star(or even cast member) for To Live & Date in L.A., which actor and/or actress would you choose? Why?
Well, in my head, I’m besties with Tracee Ellis Ross, Gabrielle Union, Chrissy Teigen and Kerry Washington, so I’d clutch all the pearls to work with them, and I must say selfishly I’d love to be able to make out with Laz Alonzso or Jake Gyllenhaal and casting them as my love interest would be a dream come true! But, really there are so many beautiful and talented actors I would love to work with and know that if it doesn’t happen on To Live and Date in LA the webseries, it will definitely happen one day. Speaking it into existence right now!
-Are there plans to do any more web series or maybe even films?
Right now, I am finishing up my first full length screenplay, and To Live and Date in LA has been nominated as a selection in the Women’s Fashion and Film Festival in NYC, so I am preparing for that in November. I would like To Live and Date in LA to be on network television and am working towards achieving that goal, along with getting my screenplay made.
-On top of being an amazing actress, producer and writer, you are also a Vlogger. How did you get into vlogging?
First off, thank you so much for the compliment, that truly means a lot. I am that girl who feels you have to have an insane amount of skills, because you literally never know what is going to happen, so I love to bake, cook, make crafts, travel etc. Vlogging is something I started doing this summer while To Live and Date in LA was on hiatus, and I love it! I would make little vids on Instagram and people responded to them well so vlogging seemed like the next natural step for me in building my brand and fan base. I am still getting used to it, and started off with a vlog including travel tips, and have done a few videos on making yummy homemade sorbet and snacks. I love to teach people how to bring out their inner food thug or craft goddess, and will be making more videos soon.
-What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into acting, writing, producing, and/or vlogging?
The biggest piece of advice I would offer is to not be afraid of being disliked. There were so many times I held myself back, or wasn’t true to myself out of fear of what other people thought of me. If you want to act/write/blog/vlog, you have to be willing to be your authentic self, and know that there are so many people who will love you and what you do, and an equal amount of those who will hate you for the exact same reason. You will be told one million no’s before you hear one yes, and maybe not ever hear a yes, so you’ll need to create your own content. It’s easy to join a reality show, but it’s extremely difficult to build a career on your talents and succeed on a higher level. As a black actress/actor, you have to know that you cannot be on a reality show, pose for Playboy, make a sex tape and expect to be a billionaire. That just does not happen for us in that way. Write your ass off. Do not stop writing. Create your own content whether it’s a blog, series, short film or feature, and don’t think you need a huge budget or big scale fundraising campaign to make it happen. I wrote, cast, and filmed two seasons of To Live and Date in LA for less than $1,000. Take acting classes and if you can’t watch and study vintage films, shows and character actors. Teach yourself about lighting, editing, and improv. You can never have too many skills. The budget for To Live and Date in LA was all me and help from my parents, so I had to do everyone’s hair, makeup, and wardrobe, even lending clothes and accessories of my own, just to get it done.
-What is NEXT for Cassia Jones aka Jonesie?
What’s next for me is to continue to focus on building, and expanding my brand: Awkward Girl Blog, To Live and Date in LA webseries, and my vlog. Finishing my sci-fi thriller screenplay and getting it made. I have also written a series of children’s books based on a character named after my mother who I lost earlier this year, just four months after her cancer diagnosis. Book one is currently being shopped to publishers. Also, heading to NYC and hoping to win the Women’s Fashion and Film Festival webseries category in a few weeks! Thank you so much to black Talent TV for creating a site where our stories are featured, and creatives are highlighted. I am honored and humbled to be a part of the club!
FOLLOW Cassia Jones on Twitter, VISIT her official blog where the show can be seen, FOLLOW her on Instagram, and VISIT her YouTube page to watch the show as well as some great “How To” videos from Jones.
Photo Credit: YOUTUBE(To Live & Date in L.A.)/Cassia Jones