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Through her strong performances in movies like Dear White People, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Chi-Raq and shows like Mad Men and Survivor's Remorse, Teyonah Parris is quickly proving herself to be an exceptional up-and-coming actress with a career worth following. Thankfully, that won't be a challenge, as she has a number of high-profile projects in the works. In addition to starring in 2021's much-anticipated Candyman, Parris will play an adult version of Captain Marvel's Monica Rambeau in Disney+'s WandaVision. The peculiar sitcom-esque Marvel Cinematic Universe extension is proving to be an intriguing addition to the ever-expanding cinematic world. And it should hopefully continue to bolster the promising actress's establishing profile.
If you're curious to learn more about the talented performer, here are seven intriguing facts worth knowing about Teyonah Parris.
It Was A Big Deal When Teyonah Parris Won Ms. Lower Richland High School
Even from a young age, Teyonah Parris found ways to excel. It was clear that the future actress was on the path to success, and she was already proving herself when she was just a high school freshman. Specifically, Parris received the honorary title of Ms. Lower Richland High School, a distinction that's quite notable for two big reasons. First, as she noted on her website, Parris was the first freshman recognized with this distinction. Second, she was the first African-American student to earn this title. Even before the actress studied at Julliard and became famous, Parris broke new barriers and demonstrated herself in many exceptional ways. This is only one of her early triumphs.
Teyonah Parris Initially Did Pageants But She Switched To Acting When She Realized She ‘Couldn’t Talk’
It's apparent that Teyonah Parris always had a desire to appeal to a crowd. Even from a young age, Parris found herself performing — in a sense — when she would get involved with pageants. But this part of her life was ultimately short-lived, as she found it not only "expensive" and exhausting but also limiting, in the sense that pageantry prevented her from talking. When Parris performed for a crowd, the future actress wanted to speak out and engage with the audience, not simply strike a pose. Therefore, after a while, it became apparent that Parris's career path wasn't in pageants, but rather acting.
Here's how Teyonah Parris described her time in pageants to Coveteur.com:
It was so expensive though. So my mom would do my makeup, and I would wear some of her clothes. We made it work. It [wasn’t] like what you see on TV where people are spending thousands of dollars to compete. That wasn’t us; we didn’t have it like that. But it was fun and I enjoyed the competition of it all. I loved it until I realized I can’t talk! So I quickly found the drama club in middle school and that’s pretty much where my love for acting blossomed.
Teyonah Parris And Spike Lee’s Goal With Chi-Raq Was To ‘Save Lives’
Lots of up-and-coming performers would do anything to work with an acclaimed filmmaker like Spike Lee. So it should say something about Teyonah Parris' instant charisma that she landed a lead role in one of the Oscar-winning filmmaker's movie without even realizing it.
During a simple meet-and-greet breakfast after Dear White People's release, Teyonah Parris briefly interacted with the acclaimed auteur. Shortly after this meal, Parris was surprised to discover that Lee sent her the script for his latest film, Chi-Raq, as well as an invitation to play the lead role. It'd be foolish to turn down such an amazing opportunity, but even beyond the great chance to work with such an esteemed director, Parris was inspired by Lee's desire to make life-saving art, which is a mission statement she can get behind.
Here's what she said in a radio interview:
Once I’d spoken to Spike, the first thing that he said was that we have to save lives. If we save even one life, then we’ve done our work. But we have to save lives, and that’s what his mission has been going forward with the film. And that’s been mine for sure as an artist, being a part of this.
Teyonah Parris Almost Skipped Her Mad Men Audition To Go To India
Being an actor is hard living. Especially when you're starting out, you need to go through audition after audition, callback after callback, hoping against hope for one audition to pull through. More often than not, it doesn't work out for one reason or another. You deal with lots of rejection in Hollywood. Even if you're lucky, you might barely make a decent living. Because you'll have to go through the audition process again.
For Teyonah Parris, she found one of her first brushes at fame when she was cast as Dawn Chambers, Don Draper's secretary, in AMC's Mad Men. But the actress almost skipped her audition altogether, since she was burnt out by auditions and wanted to travel to India. Here's what Parris told The Hairpin.
I had been in LA for 8 or 9 months and I could not get a callback to save my life! ... My friends were going to India. And I was like, You know what? I’m going to spend my last bit of money ... I can’t do LA anymore, and this trip to India will be my goodbye... Then of course this audition comes up and they were like, 'Well, T, we have something we think you should try out for.' And I was like 'I told y’all I’m not cancelling this trip, I can’t get the money back, and I want to go!' ... Long story short, it ended up working out. I think it was the only time in the show’s production history that it ended up shooting out of order and it wasn’t because of me... So I got to go on my India trip! Then when I came back, they told me they want me to come back on.
When She Got Her Role in WandaVision, Teyonah Parris Was So Excited, She Jumped Off A Flight of Stairs
Obviously, it's a big deal to be cast in a Marvel property. When you sign a contract with producer Kevin Feige, you're not simply attaching yourself to an exciting superhero project. You're involved with an expansive superhero-filled world, interweaving yourself into an engaging cinematic universe wherein you can pop into several blockbusters for years (or maybe even decades) to come.
Certainly, when Teyonah Parris got the call confirming her casting in WandaVision, the actress was filled with elation. She landed one of her biggest roles yet, and she felt like celebrating. But in that moment of discovery, Parris claims she believed that she actually had superhero powers, which caused her family to remind her otherwise whenever she wanted to jump down a set of stairs.
Here's what Parris told EW:
When I found out I actually got it, I tried to jump off a set of stairs because in my body, I was like, ‘I can fly! I can freaking fly!’ [laughs] My family had to calm me down.
Teyonah Parris Will Soon Star In Candyman (2021)
While WandaVision is certainly a huge upcoming project for the up-and-coming actress, the Marvel show isn't the only enticing new project on Teyonah Parris' CV. She also stars in 2021's Candyman, from co-writer/director Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) and co-writer/producer Jordan Peele. Also starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Tony Todd, reprising the titular role, this horror continuation serves as a direct sequel to the 1992 movie of the same name, and it's the franchise's fourth installment.
Originally set for June of this year, the release date was pushed back to September 25th, then October 16th, before it was scheduled into its current release date, August 27th, 2021. While that's a while to wait, hopefully, the wait will be worth it. Expectations are high for this continuation, and it'll serve as a major platform for Teyonah Parris.
She’ll Also Soon Star In Netflix’s They Cloned Tyrone With Jamie Foxx and John Boyega
But that's not the only exciting project Teyonah Parris has in store. In addition to starring in WandaVision and Candyman (2021), the film-TV actress is signed on for Netflix's sci-fi mystery, They Cloned Tyrone, which will also star John Boyega and Jamie Foxx.
Directed by Creed II co-writer Juel Taylor, with a screenplay he'll co-write with Tony Rettenmaier, this streaming exclusive follows an unlikely trio on the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy. Currently, it's in pre-production without a release date. But with this talent involved, this is definitely one to look out for.
Are you excited for Candyman (2021) and WandaVision? Let us know in the comments!