representation and rise: an interview with rachel hilson


Haloscope had the pleasure of sending over a few questions to Baltimore-native actress and writer Rachel Hilson, who is paving her own way towards success. Hilson talks about what it means to be an African-American actress in the industry, embracing the hardships of your craft, and what it was like to work with fellow actresses like Halle Berry. You can catch Hilson right now on NBC’s new drama Rise.


KéJa: First of all— Hi! I haven’t seen you in almost 5 years now, which is a really long time.. a lot has changed! It’s mind-blowing. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions for Haloscope! I know you’re a busy bee so, this was superrrr kind of you. Could you introduce yourself to Haloscope readers and anyone else that may not know who Rachel Hilson is?


Hilson: Hi, I’m Rachel! I’m from Baltimore Maryland. I went to Baltimore School for the Arts before continuing my education at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where I study race politics, writing, and theater. I’m an actor and writer.


KéJa: When did you first start performing, and what made you want to act specifically?


Hilson: I first started performing when I was 4. I started ballet at Baltimore Dance Tech and performed in shows like The Nutcracker, and even had a stint as a backup dancer on the show LazyTown. I danced for about 12 years until I realized I wanted to put my full energy into pursuing acting.


KéJa: Who/what has inspired you to go after what you want in life?


Hilson: My mom. She’s always been my biggest supporter along with the rest of my family. She taught me faith, and that’s taken me to where I am, I think.


KéJa: Are there any experiences you can recall that have had a significant impact on who you are today? If so, explain.


Hilson: Not getting the role of Clara/Maria in The Nutcracker the first year I auditioned. I had wanted it for my entire dance career after seeing dancers I had admired dance it [sic] and so well. I’ve always been so hard on myself, and that rejection really pushed me. I always want to be the best I can be and I think that pursuit - the silly little role of Maria/Clara - really ignited a fire in me.


KéJa: Is there any advice you could give to someone else who is hesitant about embarking on their own creative journey?


Hilson: It’s not easy, and there will be moments that you want to give up. That’s inevitable and unavoidable. But if you love it and you’re sure that you love it, let the hardships be worth it. Embrace them. Let them feed you and your art. Also, don’t give a $!@#% about what people think of you! And do not compare yourself. Both are traps.


KéJa: Everyday, we have to come to terms with the unadulterated truth of our society. Who we are, what we stand for, and our mediums of expression are some of the ways in which we can create our own identity-- despite society’s efforts. To be an African-American woman is to be?


Hilson: A goddess. Obviously.


KéJa: To be an African-American actress is to be?


Hilson: Still working to be seen and heard for all that I am and can be.



KéJa: The #MeToo/Times Up movement has been a major topic of discussion within media. What are your views on the industry, specifically it’s treatment towards woman?


Hilson: It’s similar to racism in that we’ve fed an old ideology so much that [sic] it became normalized. The poor treatment of women in any workspace is nothing new. There’s an underlying (or maybe not so underlying) superiority/inferiority complex that is a product of the troubling history of the disenfranchisement of women altogether. Women, especially women of color, have always been strong, always been resilient - the world is now just listening and catching up, I think.


KéJa: Can you speak on the representation of women and minorities in TV/film? Do you believe that there's has been progress to include more women and minorities in TV/film?


Hilson: There has absolutely been progress. It’s now about the right progress. Instead of including minorities to fill the quota, let’s now tell interesting stories about them. Let’s now make them fully human, you know? We’re getting there.


KéJa: That’s enough of the serious talk. Now i’m going to ask you some random, out-of-the-box questions. Don’t judge me, just know in my brain, I seriously thought “Oh, it’ll be interesting!” Unfortunately, I can’t watch you as you answer so I'm trusting that you won’t think too hard and will answer as short and fast as you actually can! Ready, set, go: what is your favorite show to watch right now?


Hilson: The Office and Black Mirror.


KéJa: Who’s your favorite actress and actor?


Hilson: Oh, I have so many. Today I’ll say: Jodie Foster, Meryl, Lupita, and Daniel Kaluuya.


KéJa: If someone was going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?


Hilson: Not sure yet... me? Lol.


KéJa: What was it like working with Halle Berry?


Hilson: Surreal. An acting lesson, a series of life lessons. Amazing.


KéJa: What would be the perfect day for you?


Hilson: Hiking in Hawaii.


KéJa: L.A. or N.Y. ?


Hilson: NY in spring, summer, and fall. L.A. in winter.


KéJa: Okay and of course last but not least.. What can we expect to see from you next?


Hilson: Rise comes out March 13 on NBC, KINGS comes out April 27, and I’m shooting a film in the spring. And then I graduate from college!!! Aah!


KéJa: Aaah! Congratulations, and thank you again! ✉


piece by: kéja telp

visuals by: rachel hilson

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