IN HER IMAGE: “It’s a role that has stayed with me,” Solomon says of playing Lena Baker in 2005. Below, with Philip Clarke in Second Chance.
Prize-winning actress Makeda Solomon continues to defy the odds in an industry that seemingly prizes youth and buzz above talent. For years, the highly respected stage (and screen) star has won rave reviews for exercising her exemplary acting muscles, and Jamaican theatregoers still talk about her bravura turns in such works as ’night, Mother and 2005’s one-woman masterpiece Who Will Sing For Lena?, which secured her a second Actor Boy trophy for Best Actress. This month, Montego Bay can check her out as she steps into the starring role of Nicky, an alcoholic mother on the edge, in Second Chance at the Fairfield Theatre.
As Solomon tells TALLAWAH, where they share a common experience is where she meets this seriously complicated new character. “As a mother, not of a daughter, but of a son who is not too far away from teenage years, I found myself projecting the emotions I would be feeling if these sorts of clashes were to arise between me and my child,” she says, referring to the intense verbal spats between Nicky and daughter Pepper that are among the best moments in the drama, penned by Angie Binns and directed by David Tulloch. “And in terms of how I would react if he were injured or hospitalized. So that’s where I drew a lot of the emotional aspects as it relates to playing this character and connecting with my daughter on stage.”
But disappearing into the part of this troubled woman also meant absorbing the bigger picture as it to relates to everyday human existence. “It was just like ‘Wow.’ There are so many mothers out there who are trying to make ends meet, doing it by themselves and have fallen out of their comfort zones and are literally just hanging on to survive,” says Solomon. “So as I worked through the process with the words and how they felt to me, she kind of evolved. And the thing with characters like that, someone who is far from who you are, the way I do it is to allow the person to evolve through the process.”
And by Solomon’s own admission, as a committed artist there is hardly a greater sensation than the process of being transformed into someone else. “I just the love the feeling of being in someone else’s skin and being able to portray [a character] in a way that connects with the audience. Connecting with the audience is very important for me. Once they connect with the story and what you are trying to portray, and you see that they are being moved, that’s priceless.”
The road not yet travelled:
“I’d love the challenge of two things: One is playing a man, and playing it so convincingly that the audience believes that I am male. That’s one challenge (Laughs). And because I don’t necessarily feel that I have an up-there singing voice I’d also love to challenge myself to train my voice to the level where I could be in a musical. So those are two things for me to conquer.”
Her most memorable acting role to date:
“It would have to be Lena Baker,” she offers without hesitation, recalling her award-winning performance as the only woman put to death by the electric chair in the US state of Georgia. “Being a true story and me having to get so immersed in it, it’s a role that has stayed with me.”
Makeda on her downtime:
“I enjoy jamming with friends, talking, eating healthy food and just enjoying the beauty of Jamaica.”
>>REVIEW: Second Chance finds new life