Can you imagine being dumped by your live-in boyfriend of two years over text messages shortly after buying a wedding dress!? Well that’s what happened to actress, writer, and producer Cassia Jones. Instead of crying about the situation Cassia wrote about it which led to the creation of her blog and web series called “To Live & Date in LA,” which chronicles the dating life of a young woman in her early 30s.
I came across Cassia’s Instagram page a few months ago and I was instantly drawn to her vibrate personality. As an aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter I wanted to learn more about her career and the challenges she faces in the entertainment industry. In our interview Cassia discusses the difficulties of being a black actress and writer, her web series, and being single and dating in her 30s. She also gives advice to aspiring actors and writers.
Check out the interview below:
Amy Nicole: How long have you been acting professionally and how did you get your start in the entertainment industry?
Cassia: I started acting professionally in my early twenties with work as an extra, and a role in a documentary, then I kind of abandoned acting. I was pissed! Roles were literally nowhere to be found and if there was a role casting for a black actress, it was almost impossible to get an audition without a top-notch agent, so I felt defeated. Acting began for me in my childhood at church and school. I had lead roles in just about everything as a kid, studied piano, and even improv acting. After school, I’d come home practice piano, and watch reruns of old shows like, The Adams Family, I Love Lucy, The Carol Burnett Show and Sanford & Son. Then, In Living Color debuted when I was in junior high, and everything changed! Improv became all I wanted to do, and I would study it by watching Kim Wayans…she was amazing!
Amy Nicole: There is no secret that making a successful career as an actress is challenging? What challenges have you faced in the industry and how do you make yourself stand out from other actresses?
Cassia: “Making” it as an actress is almost impossible if you measure your success by the number of fans you have, or the amount of money you make. If I can inspire a young girl to write, act, produce or just not give up in any way, then emotionally I am filled with success. At this point in my career, I have so much more that I want to achieve, and feel totally confident that I will. I believe I make myself stand out by being relatable, open, funny and honestly, just being a badass that never takes no for an answer. I also use my talents in every way possible to make myself stand out. Writing has always been a gift, so I blog, wrote my series, am writing two screenplays, and wrote a series of children’s books I’m shopping to publishers. Acting is another gift and I use that to my advantage by creating a webseries I play the lead role in, and I recently started vlogging. All of this is a package I created, a brand, so that I can make myself stand out.
Amy Nicole: An interesting fact about you is that you write, produce and act in a web series called To Live & Date in LA, which is based off of your real life dating experiences. How did you come up with the idea for the show? Were you nervous at all about how people would react to the series?
Cassia: To Live & Date in LA is my baby. I began blogging after my live-in boyfriend dumped me over text message…yes, you read that right! Homeboy dumped his girlfriend of two years, that he lived with, over text. So, I cried for five minutes-literally timing myself-picked myself back up, partied a bit to shake off the pain, then started blogging. No one read it at first, but I kept going, and joined social media. That’s how I was found by the digital editor of Uptown Magazine, who read my posts and liked them, so they started featuring my posts as well as exclusive content from me on their site. People started commenting about relating to my experiences and the comedic way in which I told them, and would always say that it should be a show. I knew no one in Hollywood was going to beat my door down to give me a show, so I started writing once again. I wrote eighteen episodes in about two months, and started casting shortly after. I was nervous about creating the show, mainly because if it sucks, I get all the blame as the writer and creator, but who the hell cares! At least I tried! We create our destinies, and I know this is mine.
Amy Nicole: I read where you bought a wedding dress back in 2009 because your boyfriend at the time asked you to marry him. Although the relationship was tumultuous and you weren’t happy you still went through with the dress purchase. I know most women as they approach 30 feel this huge pressure to get married or settle down. Would you say that pressure is what made you stay in the relationship even though you weren’t happy?
Cassia: In my last relationship, I did in fact buy a wedding dress, on Halloween 2008. Why the hell I didn’t see that as an Omen, I don’t know! Of course I blogged about that huge mistake and many people identified with it. As a woman in my late twenties at the time, the pressure of being married started to mount. I felt as though the relationship was not the best, but it was better than turning thirty and having no prospects. How wrong I was! There is huge societal pressure on us to be married, with 2.5 kids, a home, dog, vacation property and luxury car by the time we are thirty years old. this is insane, but true.
Amy Nicole: In the web series you play a young woman in her early 30s who is navigating the dating scene. How would you compare the single life in your 20s versus in your 30s?
Cassia: Single life in my twenties was all about fun and desperation. Fun because you go out, party and have no cares, but also desperate because during those years we tend to seek validation from men. In your early twenties especially is when we are still forming who we are as women. Most of us are still trying to find ourselves and define our wants and needs. As we mature and grow, we realize we do not need constant validation from men, and we are willing to put up with less. In my twenties guys put no effort in and I put in an insane amount, or I would cut someone off with no explanation. As a single woman in my thirties, those are things I have no time for.
I am a woman looking for real love and commitment. That’s why I have been single for the last seven years-yes y’all, seven-because I am no longer willing to entertain a man who will not put effort into me, and who will not appreciate the effort I put into him. Also, I am not about dating multiple partners at one time. I deserve your attention, and you deserve mine. If you are not willing to just date me and see where this is going, then I wish you well…bye boo. At this point it’s like, “Hey, I like you, and you like me. No games, no ignoring texts. Let’s do this.”
Amy Nicole: What advice would you give to aspiring actors, writers and filmmakers?
Cassia: The advice I would give to anyone coming into the acting/writing/filmmaking game is this: If you can be deterred by what others think of you, then this is not the life for you. As an entertainer, people will hate you for being who you are. You will be gossiped about and your looks will constantly be judged, so your emotions need to be in check. You have to be confident in your abilities, talents and choices. I have failed way more then I have succeeded, and I haven’t even made it to the top of my mountain yet. I’ve been knocked down more times then I can count, but I keep persevering because that is what will sustain you. Work on your craft. Make short films, put them on your site or Youtube.
Make sure you have a website that displays your talents, and your strengths. Write your own stories, and reach out to people in your field, no matter how big they are. I kid you now, I sent Lee Daniels a DM on Instagram. Now, will he read it, probably not, but what if…what if he does. Never look to someone else to make your dreams a reality. I never have. I wrote To Live & Date in LA, did everyone’s hair/makeup/wardrobe. I edit all of the episodes. Luckily I cast great actors who brought the story to life. I shoot all my footage, and taught myself how to edit, light etc. I made an insane amount of mistakes, but the mistakes were all learning experiences. Put yourself out there, tell the universe and God what you want, but don’t sit around waiting for them to just hand it to you. Do work.
Amy Nicole: What are some upcoming projects that you are working on and how can people contact you?
Cassia: Currently my new site is up and revamped! My webseries To Live & Date in LA is into season two which can be seen on my site and on YouTube as well. My goal is to get To Live & Date in LA on a network, where it deserves to be. I am finishing two screenplays and will shop those as well later on in the year. The children’s book series I have written is currently being shopped to publishers, and I will later be working towards turning it into a cartoon series. To Live & Date in LA was just honored in the Women’s Fashion & Film Festival, and I am focusing on promoting it so that it’s viewership will increase. I recently created a line of custom quotable Coffee/Tea mugs, which are also up on my site and in my zazzle store: http://www.zazzle.com/toliveanddateinla*
It was great getting to know more about Cassia and I’m looking forward to seeing her career continue to blossom! She gave some great career advice which I hope is an inspiration to someone. One inspiring quote from her that really stood out to me was the one below regarding black women in film and not being good enough.
“I have been told by casting agents that I needed to, “talk more black” aka “talk ghetto” and I have been told I was not black enough. As a black actress you will never be first choice, you will have to write your own material, you will have to cast yourself, you will have to be fearless, you will have to work harder than everyone else. Just don’t ever think you are not good enough, because you are. You deserve to be successful, be a leading lady, be head writer, and be cast in major film and television roles”.