WONDER WOMEN OF HOLLYWOOD PROFILE: Sandi McCree

Sandi McCree

“I am honored to be here. And I have confidence and I am blessed with what I can give back to these beautiful young ones. My activism starts with love…the power of love.”

– Sandi McCree

Sandi McCree earned an MFA from Case Western Reserve University and studied at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England. But growing up in our nation’s capital, the actress found little representation of African Americans on television separate from Good Times. Times have certainly changed, but she still believes that inclusion is necessary and real diversity and education begins at home.

In the wide-ranging Wonder Women of Hollywood event co-produced by ZBS Studios and Backstage and hosted by master acting teachers Zak Barnett and Martha Gehman, the pivotal performer of many TV shows and mini-series including HBO’s The Wire, The Closer, Leverage and most recently: The New Edition Story which garnered her an Emmy- For Your Consideration (#FYC)  for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series.  On the show, The New York Times writes: “The New Edition Story depicts a group of young men consistently slipping through the fingers of authority figures. That means their mothers (Sandi McCree as Carole Brown and Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley Bivins are especially intense).”  Sandi will also be reprising her role as Bobby Brown’s mother in BET’s The Bobby Brown Story, which is scheduled to air September 4th. During our Wonder Women panel she discusses her personal and professional challenges, questions what audiences are and are not watching, and shares insights on bridging the divide. Here are the bits we thought you shouldn’t miss.

Sandi McCree

ABOUT SANDI MCCREE:

Sandi is an Acting Teacher, Coach, and Actress who holds a B.A. in Radio, Film and Television from the University of Maryland, and an MFA from Case Western Reserve University. She attended the Shakespeare Conservatory in New York and the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England.  Notably, Case Western commissioned Sandi to develop original activities for the student body with an emphasis on education and art focused prevention programing to children.

Sandi is both an extraordinary dramatic actress and an accomplished improv performer.  She was celebrated for her pivotal recurring role as the notorious ‘De’londa Brice’ on the critically-acclaimed HBO series, The Wire. Of her performance, Slate Magazine noted, “De’londa was one of the great maternal monsters in screen history. She made Joan Crawford look like mother of the year.”

She’s trained and performed at Groundlings School Sunday Company, Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Second City, The Nerdist, and IO West. She is currently part of the ZBS faculty.

SANDI ON DIVERSITY

When I was young, I turned on the TV set, and I didn’t see me. There was “Good Times”, but we still weren’t represented. And many of us are still not represented. We have prominent people in the right positions and writers, but then it’s a “Black show” and not inclusive.

Sandi praised the film Mudbound directed by Dee Rees written by Rees and Virgil Williams based on the novel by Hillary Jordan (note: film earned four Oscar nominations including Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Song,  Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography, for Rachel Morrison, the first woman ever nominated in the category).  And expressed her concern for other incredible independent films and smaller projects that often go unseen, stating, “Without the studio marketing dollars and promotional campaigns these projects get lost simply because people ‘do not believe that it might be their cup of tea.’”

“It starts in the home,” she added passionately recommending that people pick up books and dive into other cultures. “Until we become inclusive within ourselves, with our families and bring them up, the future young writers, directors, and producers – it’s not going to happen.”

She questions how many people watched The New Edition Story (in which she stars as Bobby Brown’s mother, Carole Brown). The New Edition Story was the networks first scripted miniseries and BET’s most watched premiere making the miniseries the top-rated cable program for three consecutive nights literally breaking BET ratings records. Sylvia Obell of Buzzfeed praised the casting as “absolute perfection” and rated it an A+. The Bobby Brown Story picks up where that pic left off following Brown’s successful solo run. 

Sandi furthers the point noting that shows such as HBO’s The Wire (in which Sandi infamously starred as the ruthless De’Londa Brice) had the promotional machine of the network behind it to reach a widely diverse audience. “The show was touted as the ‘Best Show on Television’,” she notes,and that promoted it over the limitation of diversity.” Justina Machado, star of HBO’s Six Feet Under confirms the conviction.

SANDI ON INTER-GENERATIONAL DIVIDE

For me, I have to keep growing as a professional actor as a person. I have been fortunate to be surrounded with so many incredible women and men in an industry to mentor me. She points out two friends in the audience: Actress / Writer Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story) and Lois Hunter (Chair of the Theatre Department at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) both of whom came out to support.

I constantly look at other women who have been courageous in this industry. And when I teach young people, mostly teenagers, it is important for me to let them know that they have it – that everything is already there…

We need to all be grounded and able to bring it. And to have our voices…Otherwise, we miss out on our individual histories and that is what makes us great actors and great people that become vulnerable in this sense…

SANDI ON ACTIVISM:

I have been fortunate because my everyday world looks lot like this audience – multicultural, multi-generational, and economically different.  I volunteer a lot. I go into hospitals, I work in a public school and now at this amazing {ZBS} studio.

I am honored to be here. And I have confidence and I am blessed with what I can give back to these beautiful young ones. My activism starts with love…the power of love.

Sandi is proud to support the following organizations:

To find out more, please visit their websites.

For hear more from Sandi and the incredible Wonder Women of Hollywood, click here to watch the entire panel discussion.

ZBS Video by Austin Heemstra

Photos by Austin Heemstra and Cullyn Doerfler

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