Wednesday, 3 December 2014

PORTRAIT OF A LADY: Super-actress Terri Salmon keeps an open mind in matters of life and art

TOP OF HER GAME: "I'm in my second phase of life and I'll embrace whatever it has to offer," shares the 55-year-old phenom.

"Can I take off the wig now?" Terri Salmon asks calmly in her sweet, small voice. We are in the dressing room at the Green Gables Theatre, where she is all dolled up in homage to the spirited character she's portraying in this month's reboot of the Bashment Granny series. In a flash, it becomes clear that as much as Terri appreciates the fashionable aspect of her job, the veteran actress, who has been at this for well over two decades, enjoys keeping it regular-girl real when she has company. "I always shy away from interviews, which is not a good thing since I've been in the business so long," she admits, blushing. "People might be interested to learn about my personal life, but I don't think I have any really." 

Terri Salmon may seem guarded at the outset of a conversation like this with a reporter, but what she does reveal ultimately is the real, warm and very funny woman behind those impeccable crafted characters she brings to the stage - running the gamut from the sassy best friend in Aston Cooke's Concubine to the iron-willed matriarch Vera Lue-Chen in David Tulloch's 2014 masterpiece For My Daughter, a superb performance that could book her a spot in the Best Actress race this coming award season. 

And she continues to attract work in a profession often criticized for its dearth of meaty roles for actresses when they get to a certain age. But, as Terri explains, success has always been hers for the taking. "I'm not surprised that I'm still going strong after so long because I work hard and I'm very committed and passionate about what I do," she professes, her voice laden with conviction. "I take my work in the theatre very serious;y." 

Acting aside, Terri says she's entered a fresh chapter in her life where she feels she can handle anything the universe sends her way. "I am into my second phase of life, and I'm open and will embrace whatever it has to offer. You just never know," she tells TALLAWAH. And that includes the possibility of vowing 'Til death do us part' for a second time. "If marriage comes along I'll accept it," shares the 55-year-old divorcee and mother of two adult sons. "But that man has to be deserving of a Terri Salmon." And what exactly does that mean? "At my age, I cannot meet a man halfway. He has to be accomplished in his career and be a desirable man." What if he has kids from a previous union, is that a potential deal-breaker? Pause. "Possibly widowed," she offers finally. And just where will she find this Mr. Right? "It might not be a Jamaican; you have to think global." Yes, ma'am. 

Terri Salmon is a ball of fun; she should do interviews more often. At one point, the topic of plastic surgery winds up in our conversation, and Terri had this confession to make: "If I had the money I'd do it. I take my craft seriously." (For the record, not that she needs it.) On the subject of reading material (not including scripts) that has changed her life: "I read a lot of inspirational books and autobiographies," she shares. "I buy copies of Acts of Faith by Iyanla Vanzant and give them out as gifts. I like to mentor youngsters." 
Which brings us to the young woman she's set to bring to life in Bashment Granny 3 (opening at Green Gables on Dec. 19). "This is an innocent country girl who never had the opportunities she would have wanted, but she has ambition, and that's one thing I like about her very much," Terri explains. "She's very complex, very complicated as most people are, so I get to show a lot of range playing this character." 

Moments earlier, as she doffed her wig and eye-popping photo-shoot outfit to get comfy in a white tee and slacks, Terri was telling me the interesting story of how the role found its way to her. "I was on the phone telling a friend how disappointed I was that I wasn't doing a production for the holidays," she recalls. "And as we were talking the second line started beeping." 

It was producer-director Bunny Allen calling to tell her about the role he wanted to fill with an actress of her stature. It wasn't a long conversation, as Terri readily accepted, eager to sink her teeth into yet another juicy role on the heels of her ovation-worthy turn in For My Daughter a few months ago. "It was like ticking another item off my career list," Terri says, "because I've always wanted to work with Shebada, and with this production I'm getting to do that." What's more, it will be the cap on a fantastic, memorable year. 

For his part, Allen says Terri Salmon's immaculate reputation precedes her and with rehearsals now well underway he was sure he had found the right fit to complete a cast that already includes Junior Williams and Garfield Reid. "I wanted somebody strong to work with, and she has that fire that I'm looking for," Allen tells TALLAWAH. "I've admired her work as an actress from over the years." 

As she looks ahead to a New Year and many more career highlights, the Terri Salmon audiences have come to love and respect has no intention of letting us down or, better yet, slowing down. Striving for the best remains her mantra. "My success comes from the fact that this is the work I was born to do," she says. "When I get a script I lend myself to the character bu being as sincere as possible to the words." 

"I buy copies of Acts of Faith and give them out as gifts. I like to mentor youngsters." 
 

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