A candid conversation with award-winning actress Alexandra Foucard
By Ardain Isma CSMS Magazine
Despite the seemingly hopeless conditions Haiti is being portrayed around the world, one thing continues to thrive, continues to make its way to the grand stages of all artistic venues: Its art. The protagonists of this glory—one must awesomely say—are the undisputable bearers of a craftsmanship the whole humanity can’t seem to go without.
Award-winning actress Alexandra Foucard is without question one of the ambassadors. Like all Haitians living outside of their homeland, Alexandra could not escape the horror of cultural shock when, at the age of 4, she found herself transplanted into foreign land, an environment completely unknown to her. Like most of her fellow countrymen, she was resilient as not to let any barriers—cultural or linguistic—to keep her from shining. Talented, she truly is to the point where her ever-growing natural aptitude could not escape the eyes of directors and producers alike. Like a tapestry of artistic designs, Alexandra is a singer, screenwriter, and actress in both theatre and film.
I came to know Alexandra Foucard through a colleague who has been watching the steady climb of this impressive actress. This is to say that the finesse of her artistic skills has already made its way to mainstream America, to college campuses long before many of her expatriates had the chance to discover her as one of their own. At first glance, the New York-based actress seems to shed a timid introvertedness that, if it weren’t for her coaches and directors, the public would have never had the opportunity to capture the astonishing flair that dwells under her reddish cinnamon tan. She is a Howard University graduate of Fine Arts.
Throughout her career, Ms. Foucard has clinched several awards, including a NAACP Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play for the role of Adelaide in the musical Guys and Dolls. Foucard was nominated for the prestigious Helen Hayes Award for her turn as Vy in Sheldon Epps’ Play On. That’s not all. She embodied the character of Beneatha in an off-Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry A Raisin in the Sun. She currently stars in the TV show OFFSEASON. Last week from her home in New York City, Dr. Ardain Isma held a candid conversation with the impressive actress where she spoke about her upbringing, her accomplishments and her hopes for the future.
A.I. Bonjour, Alexandra. We’re happy to have you here at CSMS Magazine. Can you please introduce yourself to the readers?
A.F. Bonjour, my name is Alexandra Foucard. I was born in Haiti. I consider myself to be an amalgamation of many cultures and beliefs based on my family’s diverse background. But the one that supersedes them all is my Haitian roots. I came to the US at the age of four and learned to speak English by watching Sesame Street. I have great affection for my country of origin.
A.I. In your sphere of acting, you’ve come to master the three most important components: television, theater and film. How did you manage to be so skillful?
A.F. Practice, practice and did I mention practice! I think the best actors understand you never stop learning. That’s what makes it so much fun. I’ve been taking voice and acting lessons since the age of 11. I attended the High School of Performing Arts in Miami, Florida. And I continue to take voice and acting lessons now. It’s the only way I am able to keep my instrument sharp.
A.I. What makes an actor stand out is his ability to mold into the character’s mind. In Les Misérables, you have done it in the intriguing role of that prostitute. Weren’t you hesitant in taking that role?
A.F. Each actor has his own process. For me, I draw from my own experiences and circumstances, or similar scenarios which evoke the same emotion. I also do research on the character’s background, surroundings, time period. Once I’ve done all the academic work, I then trust my imagination and allow myself to enjoy the ride.
Yes, I played the role of Fantine. I did not hesitate for a moment. It’s a universal story. She’s a mother who is doing all that she knows to take care of her daughter. When the show begins, Fantine is a factory worker, she then sells her locket, hair, teeth and finally she succumbs to selling her body because she has nothing left to sell. This is a love story, albeit a sad one, of a mother’s love for her child.
A.I. Who discovered your talent? Under what circumstance?
A. F. My father. I was singing in the hallway one day, and he said “Is that the radio?” That’s all it took to give me the confidence to pursue my career. I was 7.
A. I. I understand you have received an NAACP award. What impeccable performance that led the committee to zero-in on you? Did you feel you were at your finest in that performance?
A. F. Yes. I did Guys and Dolls, playing the role of Adelaide opposite Maurice Hines. I believe they came to see the show when we played in LA.
Do I feel it was my finest performance? No! If it were I’d have no reason to keep working. I really feel like I completely understood Adelaide. She’s one of my favorite characters I’ve played.
A.I. Did you get advance notice about the nomination?
A.F. No. In fact, I was doing a show at the time, and my stage manager called me into her office and told me I was nominated.
A.I. When did you realize acting was something you couldn’t do without? What was your folks’ reaction when it became clear you were heading down this path?
A. I. I’ve always known I wanted to act and sing. My parents would take me to the movies in Haiti and I would come back home, make them sit down so I could reenact the film for them. They were great, they totally indulged me.
My father passed away when I was 11, but I’m sure he would have been fine with my chosen profession. My mother, however, although she took me to all my lessons, she was not thrilled, I must say. She did not think it was proper for a Haitian girl to be an actress. It was too close to being a “woman of ill repute” (Laughter)
A.I. How old were you when you left Haiti? Have you been back since then?
A.F. I left Haiti when I was 4 years old. I went back at the age of 28. I found the people there to be exceptionally warm and gracious.
A.I. A colleague at UNF, the university where I teach, is convinced you’re from Jacmel. Is that true? If not, what is your native town in Haiti? Where were you born?
A.F. Well, no, I am not from Jacmel, which I think is a beautiful town. I was born in Gonaives. My family is from Port de Paix and my parents lived in Pétionville until we left Haiti.
A.I. I understand you lived in Miami at some point. Was Miami the first city you lived in after you arrived in the United States? If not, where did your parents settle?
A.F. We first moved to Maryland, but my mother didn’t like the cold weather. So we moved to Miami, Florida. My parents also liked Miami because it was closer to Haiti.
A.I. Did you go to Fine Arts School?
A.F. I did. I went to the High School of Performing Arts (also known as PAVAC) in Miami, Florida. Then I went to Howard University, where I received a BFA in Musical Theatre.
A.I. Do you have or maintain any contact with fellow Haitian-Americans operating in your same sphere of showbiz? If yes, who are they?
A.F. I do. It’s important that we understand that there’s strength in numbers. This business is one that can un-ground you if you’re not mindful. So keeping in touch with my peers is certainly one way to stay true to who I am. One of my good friends is Allan Louis, who went to the High School of Performing Arts with me in Miami, has been in my life for years, obviously. In New York, we have a little Haitian network, where we keep each other informed of upcoming projects.
A.I. Despite the fact you left Haiti at a very young age, it appears you never lost your Creole or French. Is that correct? If yes, how did you manage to keep up with your multilingualism?
A.F. That is absolutely correct. Growing up in my house I was not allowed to speak anything but French. When I became a teenager and had Haitian friends, I began to speak Creole. Hence, the “pastors” accent when I speak Creole.
A.I. At a glance, you fit the profile of a young Ti-Corn or Cornélia Schultz, Haitian songstress and actress who was the lead actress in Anita produced by writer and poet Rassoul Labuchin. Have you ever met Ti-Corn or heard about her?
A.F. Thank you, that’s very flattering. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Ti Corn. However, I do enjoy her music. She’s a great artist.
A.I. Are you also a novelist?
A.F. I am not a novelist. I am in the middle of writing a play with music with my collaborator, David Sisco. I also have written a couple of short films.
A.I. How does your Haitianism influence your art, your acting career?
A.F. It affects everything I do. It’s in my core…and I am grateful! It’s an asset.
A.I. Where do you see your career 5 years from now? A production company?
A.F. I see myself being a series regular on a nationally successful episodic, with at least 7 seasons. I also see myself as a principal character in a French film shot in Paris. Lastly, having my show (which I am currently writing) at an Off-Broadway theatre in New York during my hiatus from the show.
I actually had a production company in Miami before I moved to New York, so I’ve checked off that box. (Laughter) I would like to be a producer for some film and episodic. I think that would be fun and certainly challenging.
A.I. What is your advice to young Haitian-Americans inspiring to become actors someday?
A.F. Know your business, become an expert in whatever it is you’re attracted to. Keep learning and take every opportunity to work your craft. Surround yourself with likeminded people and those who will support you. When people are working toward a goal, the universe aligns with them to achieve it.
A.I. It’s been said that stars do not fall from the sky. Even star-apples have to be snapped from their stems. Are there specific individuals you want to thank for your successes in acting?
A.F. My father, for his unwavering faith in me. My mother, for her natural sense of drama. All of my acting coaches, voice teachers and genius directors from high school through Broadway who have taught me so much. My mentor, Mark Jolin at Howard University. The Haitian people for their creative spirits. Most currently, my acting coach Rosalyn Coleman and my voice teacher David Sisco. It goes to show you never stop learning, just when I thought I couldn’t go any farther, these two geniuses of the craft came into my life. And I am grateful!
A.I. Haiti has produced impeccable songstresses who went on to become great actresses the whole humanity has claimed for its own. Toto Bissainthe, Martha Jean-Claude, Ti-Corn to name a few. Most of them have long passed on, and they left a legacy, a heritage, if you will, that makes all of us feel so proud and empowered to speak about. Do you see yourself being part of this fulfilling legacy? If yes, how?
A.F. Yes, I do. I think each of us has been given the same opportunity, and that is to fulfill our purpose. I have been blessed with people who have inspired me to pursue my passions, tell my story and continue to create. As long as I continue to be true to who I am, then I will be contributing in a way that only I can. Hopefully that will inspire others to do the same.
A.I. As we have come to the conclusion of our conversation, is there a current project or a TV series you’d like to share with the readers?
A.F. As I mentioned I am working on a play with music with my collaborator, David Sisco. One of the main characters in the play was a Haitian Broadway actress and one of the other characters is myself. Our goal is to workshop it in the fall of 2014. The other thing I’ve got in the can is a situation dramedy that takes place in Provincetown, MA. It’s an ensemble piece that is being shopped around for distribution. Hopefully, it will have legs and you’ll be able to view it in your homes soon.
A.I. Thank you, Alexandra. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you.
A.F. Thank you, I am truly grateful for your interest in my work. You can sign up for updates on my websitewww.alexandrafoucard.com
Note: Also, you can visit Ms. Foucard’s Facebook Fan Page: www.facebook.com/alexandrafoucard Like it and Follow it. More pictures of Alexandra can be found in our Facebook Fan Page:www.facebook.com/csmsmagazine