Blazing A Trail In Digital Content: How Kelsey Scott Helps Make Hollywood More Inclusive
Moguldom got a chance to talk to Kelsey Scott and Mishel Prada, who star in the Emmy-nominated short-form web series, “Fear the Walking Dead: Passage.” We asked them if they think short-form is helping to solve Hollywood’s diversity problem. In Part 2 of this Moguldom series, we talk to Scott about growing up in the arts in Atlanta, her work in front of- and behind – the camera, and her latest writing project — a revenge film.
Actor and writer Kelsey Scott may be best known for her role in the Oscar-winning “12 Years A Slave,” but now she’s being recognized for a relatively new category in the Television Academy Awards that recognizes the boom in digital content.
Scott has been nominated for best actress in a short-form series for her role as Sierra in AMC TV’s web series, “Fear the Walking Dead: Passage.” The 16-episode post-apocalyptic horror drama TV series is set in Los Angeles and Mexico. Sierra, a survivor of an undead apocalypse, takes an injured woman under her wing as they search for sanctuary. The show has been nominated for best drama or comedy series short form in the 2017 Emmy Awards.
The Television Academy added new categories in 2016 to the Emmys recognizing short-form for series averaging 15 minutes or less that are shown on traditional TV or the internet. Awards were also added for best short-form actor and actress.
As a screenwriter, Scott has written the Sony Pictures thrillers “Motives” and “Motives 2”, starring Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill), Shemar Moore (“Criminal Minds”), and Sean Blakemore (“General Hospital”). Rainforest Films (“Think Like A Man”).
Scott talked to Moguldom about how short form is blazing new trails, and about her new writing project — the screen adaptation of the book “Getting Hers” by Donna Hill. It’s a revenge story about three very different women stuck for hours in an elevator who realize they have one thing in common: they have been wronged and it’s payback time.
Moguldom: You’ve been nominated for a Best Actress Emmy in short-form, an art form that has been credited with helping bring an audience to underrepresented artists. What are your thoughts on short form?
Kelsey Scott: The ability to create content and be your own distributor has emboldened diverse narratives that might not have been able to get that audience. It’s a new frontier for the artist’s voice, for different perspectives, and it’s happening with different distribution channels opening up for streaming. Those tools are much more accessible in that they can now reach not only niche audiences. Short-form is blazing trails for a wider selection of stories.
Moguldom: In addition to being an actor, you’re a writer. How does this help diversity in Hollywood?
Kelsey Scott: That gives me an opportunity to be in front of the camera and literally create characters on the other side of the camera. It’s very nice to be part of the machine that helps people get jobs — being able to put out plots and characters and perspectives that are important to me. The more you are diversified in your skillset, the more can you put out there. I also edit and direct. You can contribute, not just technically but story wise. One of things (I’m working on) is the film adaptation of “Getting Hers.” I thought this could definitely translate to a film. Now we’re getting some heat behind it that looks very promising. The story is female-driven with drama and intrigue and espionage — an opportunity not often offered to women. It’s a great multicultural take on “Strangers On A Train” (a 1951 psychological thriller film noir by Alfred Hitchcock, based on a 1950 novel.)
Moguldom: What is like to be a woman in Hollywood in the film industry and how did you find your voice?
Kelsey Scott: I think being a woman in the film industry is similar to what it’s like to be a woman in the world. The scale is skewed in the other direction. We deal with the same types of challenges. Finding your voice initially is believing you have one, because we’re not always told we do as women. If you know you have one, it’s very difficult for someone to (encroach) on that.
Moguldom: Talk about your background in Atlanta, and how the environment did/didn’t nurture you as an actor.
Kelsey Scott: I started on stage about 3, singing for the Little Miss Dogwood Festival. I wouldn’t call it acting initially. I got on stage about age 6 to recite the poetry and prose of my grandmother, Marion Rice. Atlanta absolutely nurtured me. I learned to become an artist in Atlanta. I went to a performing arts high school. My mother felt that as long as I was enjoying myself, we’d continue. There was not the pressure of, ‘Oh this is the rest of my life.’
Moguldom: In “Fear the Walking Dead: Passage” you dwell in this post-apocalyptic world — something that’s not far from the minds of probably at least half the U.S. population, given the current political climate. Do you have any insights you can share from the experiences you’ve gained by pretending to survive in such an environment, even if it’s only make-believe?
Kelsey Scott: On the make believe side I learned some pretty fun hand-to-hand combat. I haven’t had to use it in my life. I’m a tomboy at heart so it’s really fun to get dirty and jump through tunnels and hit zombies with rocks and impale them. I’d like to explore more of the survival techniques that involve hand-to-hand combat, but I also learned that even if you are able to go it alone, that isn’t always the best course. Most art is collaborative. All performing art is collaborative. For this type of production, there’s all these other elements that have to move in symmetry for this story to be created. It tests your acting acumen. Your foot has to hit a certain spot, you have to fall in a certain way so it looks good on camera. The way the blood falls (is important). This production was challenging. It’s always a surprise when you’re acknowledged by your peers. To be plucked from among such a talented pool — it makes you feel like giggling, and I still am. It’s a very exclusive club and you can’t miss the significance of being in it.