Recent Cal State Grad Mychala Lee’s star is shining bright. Lee shares the screen with Queen Latifah and Ludacris on Netflix’s upcoming feature film End of the Road, and in Season 3 of Apple TV+’s Truth Be Told, her character Trini is all tied up in the drama of Poppies next true crime podcast case. BGN spoke with Lee on July 29, and we were honored to share Beyonce’s “Cozy” on the Zoom with her and her team, happily realizing we are all a part of The Beyhive. After we danced a little joy, we were ready to chat.
What was your favorite part of working with Queen Latifah?
She was carrying this portable speaker around whenever we were on set, and I mean, it was Queen Latifah! She was playing some good songs and great hits. It was always just like a dance party with her on set. I’m sure there are tons of bloopers of us dancing literally until Millicent, the director, would call action. Sometimes she’d have to be like, “Okay, guys, turn the music off.” [Laughs.]
What was the difference between working in indie films and on End of the Road for Netflix?
End of the Road was a bigger budget film, and it definitely felt more glam and glitz. There’s a moment in an actor’s life where you’re like, “Oh, this is happening. This is my life.” The defining moment that separated the two was that my name was on the chair, and I’d never had that before. I saw “Mychala Faith Lee, End of the Road.” I took it with me, and I still have it in my little memory box. That was a defining moment, having my name on my chair for the first time.
I hear we’re going to learn more about your character Trini on AppleTV+’s Truth Be Told.
Yeah, this season has been a big jump for me. Last season my character was introduced at a surface level. This season, we’re getting deep. My storyline intertwines with all of the other characters a lot more. And you know, there was some hard work this season, and I am so proud of what all of us are doing, all the cast, all the crew on every level. It’s been so beautiful to see this story take place and come to light. I can’t share too much, but I am proud of our work.
Octavia Spencer, Ron Cephas Jones, Tracie Thomas — you’re working with such talented, amazing Broadway legends and Oscar winners. What’s that like?
I just want to be a sponge when I’m on set. I’m just trying to soak up everything. You know Mekhi, “Markus” [Mekhi Phifer, Divergent] has the craziest stories about how he got started and his career, and Merle “Zarina” [Merle Dandridge, Station 19] and her Broadway experiences, she’s like another mother to me. Octavia “Poppy” [Octavia Spencer, The Help] is so wise and just this beautiful balance of professionalism and fun. And Gabrielle “Eva” [Gabrielle Union, Being Mary Jane], who I met for the first time yesterday, is just a radiant, beautiful soul. There are so many more. Everyone on that cast is incredible. Everywhere I’m going, every scene I’m in, I’m just watching how they work, listening to their notes, soaking it all in, and being present.
Are you a fan of true crime podcasts?
I am. I listen to all the podcasts and subscribe to a bunch on YouTube. I’ll listen to them at very bizarre times, like when I’m going to bed or in the shower, and so my boyfriend is like, “Maybe you shouldn’t watch so much true crime?” But I’m like, “No, I love it!”
What is it about true crime podcasts that hook you?
I listen to a variety of them. Some of them are a little more lighthearted. Some of them are on the heavier side. And I think it’s the awareness they give me, and I am fascinated by people’s stories.
Congratulations on graduating from Cal State.
Thank you so much.
Can you share some wisdom on balancing school work and family while still maintaining self-care?
It’s been a learning curve. I’ve been working since I was eight years old. So I’ve always had to balance school and extracurriculars with my career. College was a whole different ball game. I just think about listening to your body, your mind, and taking that time and being as self-aware as possible. For me, it’s mental health above anything else because that affects your whole being. If school was getting to be too much, I would maybe take it back a unit and drop one class. If acting was stressful, I would take a little month’s break or something. Don’t be afraid to take breaks, and listen to your body because it will take the time it needs to recover regardless of whether you do or not.
I read you are interested in dealing with organizations that assist the unhoused. Can you talk to me a little bit about how you like to be of service?
I’ve always been in touch, even in high school. I like volunteering for Hope of the Valley. They have thrift stores all across the Valley. They have homeless shelters, they do food banks, and they do a fun 5K Thanksgiving run. Also, it’s always been a dream of mine to open a chain of traveling convenience stores. So we can bring food, fresh produce, and hygiene products to these communities so that if they don’t have the transportation, we just bring everything to them. It’s my dream to fund that fully so that it would be free to anyone who needs it.
That’s a great idea. What right now is bringing you the most joy?
My baby nephew. He is five months old. And when I tell you like this, this little ball of sunshine came into my life and changed it forever. Until a couple of weeks ago, I lived with him, so I would wake up every morning, hear his little laughs and giggles, and see that little face; it’s just impossible to look at a baby and not feel joy. So much gratitude.
End of the Road streams on Netflix on September 8, 2022. Season 3 of Truth Be Told is currently in production.
Photos by: Abe Bermude
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.