According to French novelist Emile Zola, “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work” and one talented individual that embodies this gift is Javana Mundy. An actor, writer, and interdisciplinary artist from Brooklyn, NY by way of Atlanta, GA. Javana graduated with her MFA at the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in 2015. Her love for new works have garnered her roles in Off – Broadway productions at Dixon Place with The Penalty, Signature Theater with Invincible Ones, and Labyrinth Theater with Queen Latina and her Power Posse just to name a few. Javana is proud to be back on stage with her solo show Mama’s 19 for the first time in two years after spending time away to grow her advocacy work in arts education. Mama’s 19 is a one-person, multi-character show and personal documentation on the evolution, journey, and struggle of the black woman in America. A look at some of the effects of long term racial trauma on the black woman, black mothers, and with in the black community. VISIT Javana’s official website for more information on the play, where to buy tickets, and more.
Check out my interview with Javana Mundy where she talks about what the audience can expect from Mama’s 19, what her dream role is, and more below.
1-When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue an acting career?
It was a few years after I graduated from my Bachelors program. I studied Business and Fashion and had a budding career in the industry. I was working US Sales for Pharrell’s fashion line Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. I also worked as an assistant styling for sports players like Carmelo Anthony and entertainment industry elite like Kevin Liles, Keyshia Cole, and Nicki Minaj. Now see, I fell in love with the performing arts when I was a child. It was all I wanted to do but I came from a family that just didn’t understand how that could be a career. Ironically, I was raised by an artist but she was worried of the struggle that could come from it so I picked a career in fashion. I realized I wasn’t happy and changed my route five years in and decided I was going to go for my dream and went back to school to study it.
2-Who is your favorite actor/actress?
That’s a hard one because there are many. Also, sometimes there are many favorite performances but they may not necessarily be a favorite. I think I have a special place in my heart for Dorothy Dandridge. She is why I fell in love with the performance of it all. However, I love me some Viola Davis, Tracee Ellis-Ross, Sophie Okonedo, Gugu Mbatha, Lupita N’yongo, Eartha Kitt, and the extremely under rated Jeffery Wright. Anthony Mackie. Mahershala Ali. Regina Hall. Angela Basset. Amandla Stenberg. Thandie Newton. Adam Driver is so fun to watch. Some of the newbies like Dominique Fishback(a fellow Pace alumni), Zazie Beetz, Natalie Paul, Asa Butterfield, Natasha Rothwell. Like I said, it’s hard. There are so many more I am missing. It is a weird question for me. I am a fan of anyone who does the work effortlessly because it is such a beautiful thing to experience.
3-You’ve been in a slew of off-Broadway productions. Which of these productions was your favorite to act in?
So far, my all-time favorite performance I have done has been The Context by Lucy Thurber. I was able to work with formerly incarcerated women and we as actors were able to give their stories a voice through the work. It was one of the most moving pieces I have acted in and experiences I have been a part of because it advocated for women who needed it the most. My cast mates were also so amazing to work with. Erin Cherry has gone on to win an Emmy as Best Supporting Actress in a Digital Series for her role in the After Forever series. Stefa Marin Alarcorn is an independent recording artist. We did our thing on that stage and are artist sisters till this day. I think it really moved me forward in my educational advocacy and work in under-served communities with black and brown youth as a teaching artist. It is part of the reason Mama’s 19 is so important to me.
4-With all of your many hats(acting, writing, artistry, teaching), if you had to choose one to do for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Oh, please. Why should I have to choose? Why can’t they be interchangeable? I suppose that is always been a huge challenge for me. To feel I have to choose one. I don’t think I ever will.
5-How did you come up with Mama’s 19?
I found these old poetry books in my Grandmothers basement when we were cleaning out her home after she passed away. We had already lost so many family members around this time and it was a beautiful and hopeful moment in a time of tragedy in our family because I knew or at least felt there was a restorative reason I found them. At the time I just didn’t know why. My family always shared that my mother was a gifted writer. I picked out one of my own books from the stack and knew right away exactly how talented she was. She published this book back when she was 19 and still in undergrad. She stopped writing after she had me. I knew she had dreams but I knew she curbed those dreams to raise me. It became clear as I was developing my work as an actor that one of the reason’s I am to use my own gifts are to hopefully inspire and empower my mother to write and embrace her full artist self while she is still here. She needs to own that and be unapologetic about it. If artists don’t create, they suffocate.
6-What can audiences expect from Mama’s 19?
A very black experience using the Black American Women’s gaze and only the black women’s gaze. An abstract journey to redemption through the lens and experiences of five black women; God, Grandmother, Mother, Daughter, and Auntie. Hopefully a safe place that feels restorative and unifying for the next generation. A reason to talk about the psychological damage and effects done to black communities in American history. To also create conversations around mental health and the importance of safe spaces and wellness in communities of color.
7-You’re also part of Dui Jarrod’s upcoming project Sauce. What can viewers expect from your character on the show?
I can’t say too much just yet, but what I will say is that she is a woman who is on a journey to self-discovery but it may come with a cost.
8-What is your dream role?
I mean, I’d love to play a superhero! A superhero that is a product of foster care. A weird quirky one with all types of issues. Also, I would love to play a ballet dancer or an opera singer. I just want to play dynamic black characters that are complex, strong, and discover independence within their personal choices, good or bad.
9-What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue an acting career?
Don’t do it if the word struggle scares you. Don’t do it because you want to prove to you or anyone else that you can. Don’t do it for the money. Nine times out of ten there is no money in it. Don’t do it if you think you’re not going to have to work hard. Don’t do it if you are trying to be a celebrity. Don’t do it if you don’t like working with other people. That is literally all you do. Don’t do it if you don’t want to fail. YOU WILL FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! Don’t do it if you like stability. Don’t do it unless you can’t breathe without it.
The odds are stacked against you, young black Jedi…especially if you are a person of color. Especially if you are a woman of color and most definitely if you come from a financially unstable background. So, if you are still reading this and you are shrugging this off, well then welcome to the industry. You’re in the right place. The benefit is you will find your place in this industry if you love this. THERE IS SPACE FOR YOU! Trust God! If you have been called then answer the call because there is a space just for you. You must know this with all your heart and soul. Your ancestors have your back. So jump!
10-What is NEXT for Javana Mundy?
After I put up the workshop production of Mama’s 19, I plan to work on raising the money to put up the finished play in 2020 in all its blackity, black gloriousness. That will be one-part staged work and one-part film. I plan to make it a fully immersive experience with food, tech, and art. I see this being performed on stages and in gallery spaces. In wellness spaces and who knows even prisons. I want to build a curriculum around this to teach a course on health and wellness in under-served communities. I plan to tour it in seven major cities around the world as well. As far as other acting projects, well outside of Sauce coming out in the Fall, we will have to see what’s next. I am excited for the next part of the journey either way! I’ll keep you guys posted.
VISIT Javana Mundy’s official website for updates & more.
Photo Credit: Javana Mundy official website