A Girl Like Grace: Garcelle Beauvais Interview
The story of a young woman struggling through the loss of her friend while dealing with the destructive influence of her mother A Girl Like Grace is less a film about plot and more surrounds the character exploration of Grace and her mother Lisa. Their relationship, or lack thereof and how it shapes their worlds.
I was lucky enough to speak with Garcelle Beauvais who plays the role of Grace's mother, Lisa, about the challenge of playing such a flawed individual and what attracted her to the role.
Moh: It's been said that all artists put a bit of themselves into their work. With a character like Lisa I hesitate to ask but, what did you put of yourself into that role?
Garcelle: Wow, well whenever you are doing work like this you need to bring real struggles into it and everyone, everyone has gone through hard times. For myself it was bringing forward these times of hardship and loneliness I'd been through but also going into the lives of people I've been close to. People I've known who have been hurt by or even attacked by their partners. It was a challenge because this wasn't the sort of 'everything is happy' story. These are flawed people and you have to show that in an honest way so I drew a lot from both my personal hardships and times of isolation, and those of people close to me.
Moh: Well what did the role leave you with? What effect or mark did doing such a role leave you with?
Garcelle: It hammered home this idea that everyone has a journey and that we should realize that before we judge people. Like, what they are doing may hurt us or not make sense to us but we don't know why they are who they are and what else is happening in their lives and that's immensely important.
Moh: Well what would your ideal role be? Is there any particular role you see and just deliver the lines in your own style? What would you have liked to been able to play?
Garcelle: Oh, I'd have to say Cathrine from Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone's character. That is such a cool mix of this woman that on the surface is sexy and in control but at her core is so flawed. A role like that is always really interesting. Like Viola Davis in Fences? That she is a strong woman but has to let her husband take the lead even though it run against her. I mean she's raising a child that isn't her own and just playing imperfect characters, it just gives you so much. I think every actor needs a role that lets them stretch themselves, so we can see what we can do.
Moh: So what was it about this script, and particularly the character of Lisa, that attracted you?
Garcelle: I read the script twice, the second time to get a better grip on the message of Lisa and her daughter and to me that was that you can't teach what you don't know. That Lisa, while she doesn't start out trying to be a mother, when she gets to that point later she doesn't know what to do. She never had self worth so she couldn't pass that on to her daughter. For her its always been the guys and the dinners and basically being a single woman but she has this daughter and is just unable to be a mother. And you see it in Grace, because Lisa doesn't have a strong sense of self worth she can't teach it to her daughter and Grace is affected by that.
Moh: Would it be fair to say that your interpretation of Lisa is this idea of broken but trying?
Garcelle: I think it's more that she's doing the best she could. That she still sees herself as a single woman first and isn't able to see herself as a single parent. She isn't broken but is very flawed.
Moh: Well how much of that translated off screen. Because you had a very young actress right across from you, did you two bond at all, did she look to you for advice?
Garcelle: I love Ryan Destiny so much. From day one she was there and taking it all seriously, giving it everything. She was there with her mother and I love that she has support like that. The first scene she shot was actually the lapdance scene and she was just in it. I wish her so much success because she is SO talented. They were staying with me as she was auditioning actually.
Moh: I didn't realize they stayed with you during the casting for the film, that's amazing
Garcelle: No, I mean after we did the film Ryan and her mother flew back out here so she could audition for other roles and I just thought 'Wait, why are you going to a hotel, you can just stay with me.' It was so great having them and Ryan get's along great with my boys. They were all laughing and playing video games and shooting basket ball, it was so much fun.
Moh: Honest answer, who's the better gamer, Ryan or your boys?
Garcelle: She is by a little bit but I'll never say that to my sons (laughs). It was great because Ryan's mother and I were scrambling to get Christmas gifts for all the kids. They said they wanted Hoverboards and she and I were just running all over town desperately trying to find any.
Moh: Is there anything else you'd like to say about the film itself or your time putting it together?
Garcelle: Just that I need to give props to Director Ty Hodges. It's amazing to work with a director you trust and Ty is just amazing. It was his idea to bring my roots into the film and it's a big reason why Lisa is Haitian. He's just such a pleasure to work with and I love the work he does.