A Star is Born
A Star is Born: Denisha Hardeman Interview
by Evan Jackson
Immediately when I met actress and author Denisha Hardeman there was a vibrant spirit to her and she was beaming with happiness. Her passion for acting is evident and she is adamant about others reaching their dreams, especially those who are involved in Domestic Violence like she was. Why was the spirit within her shinning so bright? I had to know. As a native of Houston, Texas Denisha Hardeman has been an acting Phenom since she was a kid with a gift to entertain. She was also a talented track star in high school receiving an academic and track scholarship to Southern Methodist University but that love for acting never left her. Through a tumultuous time in her life she landed a role in Quentin Tarentino’s Django Unchained. From there she’s sky rocketed to write, develop, produce, and star in her own projects as well as creating projects for others. She plans on releasing her first book 8 Lanes, which is loosely based on her life, this summer followed up by a featured film, with the same title. Through that dark period Denisha saw the light and will be a star you are going to see for years to come.
What inspired you to become an actor?
I grew up in the 90’s so I had a lot of great movies that were around like Set It off and Waiting To Exhale. We grew up in a generation where movies were really good and it was a lot of black stars in those movies at that time. Seeing those black women like Nia long, Angela Basset, all those women growing up really made me want to do what they do. I’ve been acting since I was about four at school and church. As a kid, I was always animated with my speeches, I had moves, I had dances, and the whole nine. In elementary I was in the choir and played the piano. My teacher wanted to start acting at our school so she created a play and made me the star in it when I was seven or eight. In went to a middle school for Performing and Visual Arts. You have to audition at least four times to get into that school. I auditioned once and in the first 30 seconds I was accepted. I went to The High School for The Performing and Visual Arts which Beyoncé attended for a little while. I decided not go I wanted to focus on sports and I knew if I had to make a choice did I really think, as I grew older, I would be an actress or did I know sports would get me a scholarship , I ran track and played basketball, and I knew. So I took the easier route and went to SMU on a track scholarship. When I was there my acting teacher, for my class Acting Intro 101, really wanted me to change my major to theater. I left school for a little while. And around the time when I got the role in Django, I got signed, and I moved to Los Angeles.
How was your experience on the set of Django Unchained?
That’s probably the best set I’ve ever been on. It was like seeing greatness happen and to be a part of that was great. I got to befriend these people I’ve watched – I’ve watched the Jamie Foxx Show when he first started, I watched Samuel L. Jackson in Do The Right Thing when he had three lines, I watched Quentin Tarentino when he did Reservoir Dogs with no money, and I remember seeing Kerry Washington in Save The Last Dance. For them to just talk to me on set and encourage me to move was amazing. Sometimes you hear about stars being mean but they were the total opposite. They were fun, down to earth, and they were really great. When I was called to audition, I didn’t know what the movie was, Quentin Tarentino is very secretive about his projects, and all I knew was that I had to get to New Orleans to do a fitting. I was in school and I was babysitting and I remembered saying I can’t take off, I don’t know what movie this is and I had been dodging my agent. My agent had a talk with me and told me that I was great and they loved me, but I can’t keep not going to stuff, telling me either you want to act or you don’t. I sucked it up, I went, and it became greatness. See how God works?
What encouraging words of advice have you gotten about life as an actor?
Do it yourself and never allow anyone to give you anything because if they give it to you they can take it away. So Hollywood is very fickle, it’s very hard, and very gritty. There are shortcuts, but sometimes those shortcuts aren’t the right shortcut. I would rather write my own movies produce my own movies, and do my own things, then somebody give it to me and have to do what they say. If I don’t do what they say then I get fired and to possibly get blackballed. When they blackball you , you pretty much can’t get work, it takes one person to say ‘don’t work with her’. I thought why put myself in that position when I can just write my own movies and make inspiring movies that I know people want to see. One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve gotten is don’t let anybody tell you no. Find a way for them to say yes. If you go to an audition and they say no, go to the next one, keep going. I can write as well, so that makes me a little ahead of the game. If someone tells me no I will just write a movie, produce it, put it in theaters, put it on Netflix, put it on RedBox, and then now I have a fan base and now you will want to work with me.
You’ve acted in dramas, comedies, and horror films. Which roles do you feel naturally drawn towards?
I love thrillers, I love having people at the edge of their seat wondering what’s going to happen next. I think that’s my niche, those challenging thriller type roles. Those psychological thrillers are my favorite; I took psychology, so those types of roles that mess with somebody’s mind makes it very intriguing.
What drew you to writing?
When I was little I was very great at creative writing. I wrote poetry, I wrote a poem book when I was nine. All throughout school I would write crazy stories that my teacher would be amazed by. When I was eleven, I wrote a psychological thriller for a paper and my teacher called my mom and asked, “Is something wrong With Denisha?”. And my mom said “No, why?”, my teacher said “Because she wrote one of the best papers I’ve ever read and it scared me because she’s only eleven.” I still have that paper to this day. I call it the Silent Killer; I plan on developing it into a full length movie. I always was a great writer. When everyone was reading babysitter’s club while I was reading John Grisham books. I read To Kill a Mocking Bird when I was six. My favorite book is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. When I went to college I minored in English. It’s a nice way to cope with life getting your words out on paper. That’s why I love writing a script, it’s very comforting. You can write anything you want, it’s very liberating. With writing, I get an idea out of nowhere, I write everything out on paper first, and then I’ll write an outline. I listen to music outside, get all my ideas out, do research, and after my outline is finished I develop that character that I like most. I’ll wake up about 4 In the Morning when everyone is quiet and the world is sleeping and let all my ideas out and write it down.
What compelled you to tap into the topics of your own life for the film 8 Lanes?
The story I’m trying to tell is very relevant. Domestic violence is increasing and I just want to share my story. I know a lot of people who have been through what I’ve been through and they completely shut out and give up on the world. I just had a friend whose sister committed suicide and I know how that feels but I want these people to know there is still life. Just because you went through that you’re not done. That’s why I had to realize I’m not done, that’s why I’m in LA and this why I’m doing what I’m doing. If I would have let that keep me down I would have killed myself, I would have been over. Which I did attempt, my cousin saved my life, that was God’s way of saying no ‘I didn't tell you, you were done. I did this for a reason’. I feel like it’s becoming normal for a woman to be raped or beaten. I’ll be talking to women and they’ll say ‘Oh yeah, I was raped’ and then they would just move on to the next subject rather than talking about it. You know, because it affects you even if you don’t talk about it. It has affected many of my relationships, I go in saying “Oh you’re going to hit me, you’re going to cheat on me so what are we doing?”. That’s not giving anyone a chance to date me. It can make you crazy, vicious, and paranoid. That’s not the way you want to live. I want women and men, who have ever been through what I’ve been through to know that it’s ok to leave and it’s ok to talk about it. You need to talk to somebody about it, it’s ok to live your life without that stuff because some people get so trapped in it that they think it’s normal. I know a lot of girls that their boyfriend just hits them and they think it’s normal. They know that it’s coming, like “Oh, I know he’s going to beat my ass today”. That’s not ok and that was me. Thinking were probably going to get in a fight today, he’s probably going to hit me. When is that ok? When has that become ok? It’s never ok. He wasn’t the violent one; I was very violent as well, so those are lessons learned. In a relationship if it’s that toxic it’s ok to leave. I really want people to find other ways to cope besides alcohol and drugs. I became heavily involved in drinking and it became really bad. I have a little sister and little cousins and I would never want them to keep something like that from my mom and my family and walk in the house and they’re dead and something could have been done about it. I think the suicide rate has increased by 18% in the last five years, that’s crazy and that’s too much. I think Domestic Violence has increased as well. I actually didn’t want to write this, I didn’t want to bring attention to me or make it seem I was seeking attention. It happened four or five years ago, it’s not old but it’s not new. I didn’t want people to think I’m doing it for attention, it’s not. People were like no you’re going to help somebody and that’s my goal, If someone comes to me and says I’ve been through this can you help me.
You touch on subject matter of your life that is dark, how difficult will it be to mentally relive those scenarios as you act it out?
We haven’t started filming yet, but that is a concern for my producers. They are a little nervous about me. I’m not bitter about the situation, it can’t upset me. There will be emotions, when I was writing the book there were times I had to stop. Certain parts aren’t as detailed as they could have been that is why I had to get an editor because I couldn’t write it out myself. I think I’ll be fine and it needs to be done. We shall see in November when we start filming how that goes. I’m close to the producer and director and they are taking all precautions, they’ll have a therapist on set. I did have to act it out in the promo for the movie and I did great. It got emotional, but I was fine. I haven’t had the rape scene yet, which I’m not looking forward to. Nobody else is going to be in there except for the director, the actor, and the cinematographer. We will film that first and get it out the way.
Which lessons do you want the audience to take away from 8 Lanes when they see this film?
Violence goes both ways. I don’t want to make it seem as if he wasn’t the only one doing it, I was doing it too, and we hit each other. I stopped and he had extended the violence and almost killed me. Learn to leave and you need to love yourself first because the only women who don’t love themselves only allow themselves to stay in situations like that. I want men to know women can get a little crazy but you’re always going to be stronger, you’re always going to be bigger, you’re always going to be faster than any woman. It’s ok for you to leave and not put your hands on a woman. And women you can’t be going around hitting men. Nobody should put their hands on anybody. There is light in the darkness and you just have to find it. I’m a genuinely happy person; I didn’t want to be sad forever. It’s ok to tell somebody, it’s ok to let someone know, and you don’t have to feel embarrassed.
Tell us more about the charity Un-Hushed that you are about to start?
We’re just getting started is about finding what helps you cope. If you want to be a model and that helps you cope, taking photos then do it. If you want to be a writer and that helps you cope, writing a book will help, and then do it. If it’s playing basketball, cooking, or anything you love to do this charity is here to help you with it. If you’re in a relationship and being abused, being bullied, or damn near suicide get help and let’s find solutions for what you’re going through. Let’s figure this out together. Mine was I need to move to LA and follow my dreams. I really want to help people follow their dreams. I love children so I know a lot of kids that see violence and they become violent themselves. I want to tell them ahead of time that, it’s not ok and let’s figure out other ways to release that anger. For me that was running track. The first event we’re looking to do is a marathon called “Run and Tell”. So you’re running and telling your story. I’m very excited about that. Let’s figure out what were your dreams and help you with that. That’s what my charity is about, for people that went through hell to help them find heaven in a way.
You’ve also ventured into writing books. How did it feel to write your first novel?
The book should come out in the summer and on every platform. It still hasn’t hit me yet. It’s still a blur. Everyone else gets excited, but when I get the book physically in my hand, that’s when I’ll freak out. It’s amazing, it’s crazy, and I feel blessed.
What is your Dream role?
To play Flo Jo. I think to play Flo Jo you have track, you have drama, you have rumors, you have questions. I would love to play her; I would love for someone to make a movie about her. I ran track, that’s my thing, it would be great to play her. Or even Marion Jones.
What is the boldest thing you’ve ever done?
The boldest thing I’ve done yet was on the set of Django going up to Quientin Tarentino. Who the heck does that? I wasn’t going to leave that set before I met him.
What are your future plans?
My book will be released this summer along with the soundtrack and I plan on doing a high school tour speaking to young ladies. My movie 8 Lanes, we are going to get all the funding so we can start shooting in October/November and have it out by next year. I just got a deal with this guy who wants to do horror films. I wrote my first horror film, he wants to do two to five horror films every three months. Horror is my favorite genre to write about. Just wrote an all-girl action film, so excited about that. I plan on filming that this summer as well and have that ready for Sundance and the American Film Festival. I have another movie that is romance. My friend has a production company and he wants me to write a story about how two people fell in love on set. A lot of people are coming to me wanting to write and produce, as well as being a part of their films. In the next two to three years I want to be known for my work. I want to be known by everybody so that my charity can do well. If you’re known on a certain level people are more willing to help you. I want to show people what I can do and then I can help other people. In ten years I want to be on Halle Berry’s level or Jada Pinkett’s level where they are helping so many people writing and producing projects.
Where can people reach you?
People can reach me on Instagram/Twitter: @Crazydede09
And my website should be up soon.