Artists in Conversation: Talking with Actor & Playwright TAYLOR BLACKMAN


Taylor Blackman is a multi-hyphenate. As an actor, he recently finished the First National Tour of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. He has also performed with Roundabout Theatre Company, The Public Theatre, and New York Stage & Film. Taylor can also be seen on Comedy Central’s Alternatino and on CBS’ FBI. As a playwright, he is currently under commission with Ensemble Studio Theatre & Roberta P Sloan to create a new scientific play. He has also held residency with Hi-ARTS Harlem to develop new works, as well as creatively produced readings and workshops of his own work.  In addition, Taylor holds an adjunct professorship with the New School in the Theatre School. Taylor is currently working on a new play titled Hero, created by Shariffa Ali and Vuyo Sotashe.

Renika: In the month of May, The Uptown Collective will be focusing on establishing healthy boundaries as artists. Taylor, you’ve worked as an actor on Broadway tours, Off-Broadway productions, and even as the playwright and producer of your own work. How do you establish healthy boundaries when working in different spaces? What makes you feel safe in a room?

Taylor: The most effective way I’ve established healthy boundaries from the get-go of a process, is to create the understanding amongst the room that every individual in the creative process is invaluable and remarkable in their own right. Not just as an artist, but as an individual primarily. For me, that sets the tone on respect and admiration of the boundaries we all set. 

I’ve been very lucky to work in creative spaces where all the humans I work with are good to their core and truly immaculate at what they do. So there tends to be a huge desire to hold sacred space for the boundaries each of us set for ourselves as humans and as artists. It requires constant practice of standing in your truth and knowing that the right people will appreciate you, respect you, and nourish you. 

UC-Blog-pullquote_TaylorBI feel the most safe in a room where there is a genuine sense of play and joy reverberating in the space. Art doesn’t need to be traumatic and painful to make. Sure, it has painful moments of reflection, but the process should feel safe and exploratory above all. 

Renika:  When I witness your work, the word “free” comes to mind. There’s such freedom and groundedness in the work you share. What was the journey like to have that freedom in your craft as an artist? How important is it to be your authentic self in the room? What was the journey like to discover what makes you, you?

Taylor: That’s very sweet of you to say. The freedom you see in me is one I’m constantly mining for every day. I do know that it requires me to let go of expectations of what I thought my career was “supposed” to look like. It also required me to experience a huge ego death. One that prompted me to question not just my art, but my entire sense of existence. And that was devastating and painful. Because I realized how I was holding onto things or ideologies that were keeping me stagnant. I may have achieved the things I “wanted,” but I was still so unhappy. And it wasn’t until the pandemic when I started writing, that I discovered I had been living in the confines of trying to fit a mold of what I thought the industry “wanted” me to be. 

As I get older, authenticity from myself has become such a huge priority, if not THE priority. And I am at a point where I won’t insert myself in spaces of creativity if I can’t be my full, authentic self. Because what’s the cost? My joy. My center. My heart. It sounds corny even saying it, but this industry won’t always hold space for the soft parts of you. So, I have to instill those morals into my work and journey. 

Renika: How do you take care of yourself as a human being when you’re not working?

Taylor: Woof. This question is so interesting cause I’m discovering it in real time. For the last year, I’ve been working consistently in my field as an artist. Which is a huge achievement for myself because that’s not always the case. I found time and space to make room for the other parts of my life to flourish. I had a full-time job as a nanny so that I could travel, pay my bills on time, afford therapy, take classes; I was so adamant on not making “me not working” the WORST part of me being in New York. Cause I would be MISERABLE if I focused on “not working”. TRULY.

I find moments of discovery. Whether it’s taking my bike out to new boroughs or exploring different food places. I give myself the chance to experience my existence. And I find utter joy in that. Sometimes as an artist, I can get caught up in the ideology that playing pretend and investigating other people’s stories and lives brings me the most joy. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I find joy in existing and experiencing the ups and downs of my own life outside of what my career or passion is. 

Renika: What are you reading or watching this month?

Taylor: So, I finally watched Harry Potter all the way through. The movies are a bit corny I have to say, but I also cried watching some parts. Bravo. 

Renika: I always close with something called “Word to the Wise.” If you could share some words of wisdom to our readers this month, what would it be?

Taylor: Find your community that understands you are destined for greatness and vice versa. Success is 95-percent based on the people you surround yourself with. 

And when I say success, I mean success in all aspects of your life.  Be around people who want to see you win in therapy, in love, in family relationships, in boundary settings, in career, etc.  Invest in people’s hearts, and let the right people invest in yours. 


Artists in Conversation: Talking with Actor & Musician CECIL BLUTCHER


Cecil Blutcher is an actor, musician and writer. He received a Masters of Fine Arts from Penn State University. His regional theater credits include Petrol Station at The Kennedy Center and The Hot Wing King at Signature Theatre. Film and TV credits include The Game on Paramount+; The Good Fight on CBS All-Access; and Random Acts of Flyness on HBO.

Renika: Is there a specific memory of the moment you knew you wanted to pursue acting?

Cecil: I was cast in a musical when I was in college. I was on the speech team, and had an interest in acting but decided to take classes to gauge if my interest and aptitude would match. This play came about a semester later and was a very unique challenge because I had to sing a lot. I love music but it was a lot. Once I finished the process, I wound up enjoying it so much that got excited because I realized straight-acting would probably be much easier for me.

Renika: Your resume has quite the range. You’ve performed in off-broadway and regional theatre plays, in films, and on television. But you also write, perform, and produce music. How do you balance the different hats you wear?

Cecil: That’s a dance I’m still trying to figure out to this day. I think creativity comes in waves and I just try to ride the wave that I’m on in a particular moment. I’ll set aside different days for different tasks. Or even within a day I often switch between mediums. If I can really catch a flow, they tend to talk to and inform each other.

Renika: How do you take care of yourself outside of work? What other interests do you have and why are they important to you as a person?

UC-Blog-pullquote-CecilBlutcherCecil: I love sports. I’m a lifelong athlete so moving my body is one of my favorite things to do because it accomplishes so many different goals for me. For example: Pick up basketball serves as self-care, social activity and exercise. Sports make me very happy. I love watching them, too.

Renika: If you could name one person who has made an impact on your artistry, who would it be and why?

Cecil: Steve Broadnax. He taught me many things. Namely, that I can record music from my home and no one will know the difference.

Renika: What are you currently reading?

Cecil: “The One Year; Uncommon Life, Daily Challenge” by Tony Dungy.

Renika: I always end the blog with something called Word to the Wise where an offering of wisdom, advice, lessons is left with our readers. What is your Word to the Wise, Cecil?

Cecil: I don’t do this enough: I was once given the advice to make my bed every day. They told me that might be the one thing I can control during the day, and I can definitely make sure it goes correctly.   



Artists in Conversation: Talking with Actor & Dancer ALANA RAQUEL BOWERS


Alana Raquel Bowers is an actor, dancer and singer born and raised in Baltimore, MD. She is a proud alumna of the Baltimore School for the Arts (2012) and NYU Tisch Drama (2016). She recently made her Broadway debut in Chicken and Biscuit, originating her role as Simone, at Circle in the Square Theatre. Regional credits include Scraps at Flea Theater (Aisha), Chicken and Biscuits at Queens Theatre (Simone). Off-Broadway credits include What To Send Up When It Goes Down (Three) at A.R.T./New York Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, American Repertory Theater, the Public Theater, and BAM, respectively. She has been featured in numerous readings and developmental workshops at notable institutions; the Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC), and MCC Theater, to name a few. Film/TV credits include After Class starring Justin Long and FBI: Most Wanted on CBS. 

Renika:  When did you know you wanted to be an artist? Where did that journey begin for you? 

Alana:  My parents put me in dance class around age 3, so I grew up onstage. I’m not sure I knew I wanted to be an artist as much as I knew I loved expressing myself through different modes of art. Expression through movement was something that came naturally to me. I loved how it made me feel, and loved being part of something that was bigger than myself. Moving with other bodies to create one cohesive feeling was something that fueled me, and continues to fuel me, both witnessing it and being part of it. What I kept a secret though, was that it wasn’t just the movement that fueled my expression, but it was also the costumes, the make-up, the different characters I got to become, that excited me the most. With every new costume came a new era, a new perspective, a new way into how to move in the first place. Looking back, I realized character always came first for me–I loved the movement aspect, but I was always fascinated by who I needed to become before I thought about how to move.  

Growing up, my paternal grandfather, my dad, my older sister and I would watch Looney Tunes and “I Love Lucy” religiously. My grandfather informed me that Chuck Jones was responsible for most of the voices of the Looney Tunes characters, and the physical comedy of all of the “I Love Lucy” characters peaked a familiar excitement and fascination. One day, I remember asking my grandfather, “That’s what those people got to do for a living?” “Yes”, I remember him telling me. “I think I want to do that when I grow up”, I said. And he confidently responded, “Doodle, you can do anything you want to do, as long as you love it.” I was about 9 or 10 years old then. And I have been pursuing this crazy career ever since.  

Renika:  I think it’s safe to say you’re a New Yorker…you’ve been here for ten years, right? I know you rep Baltimore all day and forever but give our readers an overview about your unique and heartfelt New York journey.

Alana: Ten years officially, yes! It’s actually wild. I came here as a bright-eyed 17 year-old college freshman at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in 2012, and now here we are!  

Ha! Yes, Baltimore will always be my home (#410forever), but New York is the city I became an adult in. It is the only home I’ve known other than Baltimore and it is also where I began my career, so this city means a great deal to me.  

Okay, overview! In 2016, I was fresh out of NYU Tisch! That summer, I performed in the New York Fringe Festival doing a show called Girls Will Be Girls and booked my manager from that run. In 2017, my day job is going well and I’ve done a short film or two at this point, but in early January 2017 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. That was unexpected to say the least. Thankfully, the doctors caught it early, so once I had my surgery to get my entire thyroid removed, a month and a half later I was determined to be completely cancer-free. I am so grateful to God to have had the best doctors, caretakers, family and friends to rally around me and support me while I wasn’t able to work. I will never take that for granted.  

In 2018, I was fully recovered and so grateful to God. I made a commitment to seek out more artistic opportunities, paid or not. Because at that point I was just grateful to be able to walk and talk, let alone express myself. I sought out the Flea Theater and got cast in their first show of their 2018-2019 season about the family of a black man who gets shot and killed by a police officer –an original play called SCRAPS by Geraldine Inoa. SCRAPS was a wonderful hit and got me my first New York Times write up. It also lended me a lot of exposure and planted seeds I didn’t realize would blossom so beautifully in my favor in the years to come.  

 In 2019, I made my Off-Broadway debut in WHAT TO SEND UP WHEN IT GOES DOWN by Aleshea Harris which is one of the most important theatrical experiences I’ve had so far in my career. Then we went on tour and were honored to share this beautiful ritual Aleshea created for Black people, Black pain surrounding the Black souls we’ve lost to police brutality, and the Black joy that always “comes in the morning”. Which is so unique to us!. I also booked my first guest star role on FBI: Most Wanted on CBS and got to shoot it on my 25th birthday! Fast forward through the 2020 part of the pandemic and I was a part of the reopening of theatre by making my Broadway debut in Chicken & Biscuits in 2021! So after having to leave the WHAT TO SEND UP tour, I was preparing to be on Broadway as an original principal role!  And the icing on the cake: it was about a Black family! God took the dream I had for myself and said, “Watch this. Watch what I can do.” It was beyond a dream come true. Unfortunately, due to the quick and severe resurgence of COVID, we closed earlier than expected. But 2021 was a year of God saying “YES.”  

Renika: What was the most challenging time in your life thus far and how did it impact you artistically?

Alana: Honestly, this time! This time of waiting. The “meantime” is a MEAN TIME. Your mind can play lots of tricks on you. Your heart can, too. Telling you things that are just simply not true. At first I immediately thought, “most difficult time? Cancer journey.” But that time was more of a shocking detour. It was difficult, do not get it twisted. Rehab was brutal. But With rehab, regardless how restless I got, I knew that it was a process to heal. I knew that my body had just undergone major surgery for the first time. It would take time for anyone. But waiting on your blessing, waiting for that moment you’ve been praying hard for and about requires a different set of faith wings. Wings you are not born with. They have to be developed and nurtured and sharpened in order to withstand the rain and the wind and the fire that life will test you with. There was an end goal with my cancer rehab. The waiting, you have no control over. Learning that, learning that the majority of this business is completely out of your control, is one of the most difficult lessons I am continuing to learn. But it has made me a smarter actor, a woman with integrity, morals and healthy boundaries, and best of all, a sharper faith-warrior. And with faith, you simply cannot lose. 

Renika: Chicken & Biscuits! Broadway, baby! What was that like for you? & What was it like returning to the stage post Covid quarantine life?

Alana: Truly, a dream come true. A moment in my life I will never forget. Imposter syndrome tried to set in many times, but my good friend and director of Chicken & Biscuits, Zhailon Levingston reminded me of something very important. He told me that God made the path, and I had the courage to follow suit. That journey had nothing to do with anyone else but me and God. It was always mine. God instilled a sense of work-ethic in me that reminded me that I can do anything I set my mind to. Sadly, COVID made everything complicated and ultimately became the reason for our show being shut down early, but it shed a light on the resilience of theatre and the resilience of Black people. We truly cannot be stopped. Our stories will not be silenced. And we will continue to shine, even through the darkest of times.   

Renika: How do you take care of yourself outside of work?

Alana: I do yoga. I go to the gym. I listen to the Bible every day. I watch “The Proud Family” and “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”. I watch Sarah Jakes Roberts sermons. I spend time with people who love me. I drink lots of water. I eat well. I try to sleep well. Rest is still something that does not come naturally yet, but I am working on it.  

Renika: What are you reading these days and why?

Alana: Just finished Will Smith’s book “WILL”, Cicely Tyson’s book “As I Am,” and Viola Davis’s book “Finding Me”. Re-reading “Boundaries: When to say YES, How to say NO to Take Control of your Life”. Currently reading Michaela Coel’s book “Mis-Fits”. The “Boundaries” book helps me realign and redefine who I am and how I want to show up in the world. The rest of the books are the best versions of research we have as actors who want longevity in this business. I like studying the people that sparked my fascination, and I am even more intrigued by how they deal/dealt with their “mean times.”  

Renika: Every month on the blog, I do something called WORD TO THE WISE, where I offer some words of wisdom, advice, peace offerings, whatever you have to give. What’s your Word to the Wise, Alana?

Alana: My Word to the Wise? In this life, we are always students of something. We are either fresh off a lesson, or about to learn a new one, or maybe continually learning the same one. But it is best we get comfortable in these moments of correction. Because it is there, where we develop our greatest strengths, through humility and growth, and are able to reflect on and even share our biggest testimonies. Because for me, it is all about giving back. Because what is the point of reaching a level of greatness if we do not honor who got us there and help someone else go beyond where we could go?   


tdc_uc_team_hed_renikawilliamsMy name is Renika Williams and I’m a Theatre, TV, & Film Actress, Teaching Artist, and one of the founding members of the Uptown Collective. I’ll be writing blogs posts that will include my journey as an actor, craft, self care, tips, artist interviews, and all things Uptown Collective. This blog is for the everyday dreamer no matter who you are aspiring and working to become.

It’s been a minute and I fell off. Life has been life-ing. But I’m back and ready to share. This morning after riding my Peloton bike, trying to get these thighs together, I came across a new podcast. I absolutely love listening to podcasts. If you didn’t know that before, now you do! I listen while walking, showering, cooking, cleaning, you name it. I.Love.Podcasts. And no, not true crime podcasts (no judgement if you do…well maybe a little.) I love self-help, inspiring podcasts. I just love learning about the experiences of others, specifically the journeys and experiences of artists I admire.

Dear White People’s Ashley Blaine, has a new podcast produced by Oprah’s OWN Podcasts called Trials to Triumphs. It’s an interview style show in which she gives space for notable guests to share their ups and downs as they’ve press on through the entertainment industry. The first episode that caught my eye just so happened to beUC-Blog-pullquote_1 the most recent at the time of this writing entitled “Sheryl Lee Ralph is Her Own Dreamgirl.” Now, if you know me, you know I love me some Dreamgirls and I love me some Sheryl Lee Ralph! I mean, Moesha….hello??!! Sister Act 2ABBOTT ELEMENTARY?! The list literally goes on. I will not list her entire resume for you but Sheryl Lee Ralph has been a force in the entertainment industry for over 40 years.

Ashley opens up the interview by expressing how much Sheryl’s presence in the industry has meant to her and then they go on to unpack how Sheryl got started in musical theatre. It was great but then it got deep when Ashley asked, “What was the most difficult season in your career?” To my surprise, the answer was the season that involved the hit show Moesha. From trouble working on that show with it “going sideways” as Sheryl explains, to struggles within her  marriage, she knew deep down in her spirit that she had to get out of both situations. So she did. She yearned for balance during this time and felt like she had to move on even though she didn’t have a “lifeboat” to save her. Whew. Talk about stepping out on faith.

This struck me for many reasons.

  1. It’s just another example of the drastic difference between how other people view your life and accomplishments versus the actual experience you’re having. Everything isn’t always as it seems. My Big Mama used to say “Thank God, I don’t look like what I’ve been through.” Ain’t that the truth.
  2. She left both “contracts” without a lifeboat. It is very rare that people leave a job without having another one. Not if they can help it. I admire Sheryl Lee for doing what she needed to do for her spirit and well-being. I often wonder if I would have the strength to do the same thing.

After Sheryl left her marriage and her series regular role on Moesha, she didn’t work for a while. She expressed that she still felt both decisions were the “right thing to do” but admitted to “feeling lost.” One day she ran into a casting director while dropping her daughter off to school. The casting director asked what she had been up to and Sheryl replied that she “wasn’t working at the moment.” The casting director was shocked and said, “Oh, you must not want to work or you’ve forgotten who you are.” Chilllllleeeeeeeeeeee, that took me out.

How often do we forget who we are and WHOSE we are? (*raises hands and replies “All the time”) Life be life-ing, OK? To all of us. Even freakin’ Sheryl Lee Ralph was going through it as we were sitting in our living rooms watching her yell at Lauryn Hill thinking her life was perfect. But even Sheryl had to be reminded of who she is and later on she adds whose she is. If we pay attention, there are friendly reminders all around us that whisper “keep going” or “do it anyway.” If we pay attention, there are confirmations for our life purpose sent to us all the time, even while life is life-ing. Sheryl goes on to remind us that our purpose is and should always be bigger than us. It’s bigger than you. That’s reason enough to keep on going.

Word to the Wise: Remember who you are. Remember whose you are. You’ll make it through knowing those two things alone. [Sep’22]

Suggested Read of the Month: The Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Suggested Podcast: Trials and Triumphs – “Sheryl Lee Ralph is Her Own DreamGirl”


Artists in Conversation: Talking with Actor & Director TORIE WIGGINS


Torie Wiggins is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with a BFA in Dramatic Performance and has been performing professionally for over 15 years. She has co-adapted and performed a one woman show, Your Negro Tour Guide, at various venues across the country. Her film work includes A Christmas Melody, starring and directed by Mariah Carey; The Old Man and the Gun with Robert Redford and Danny Glover and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile starring Zac Efron.  Select Regional Credits include Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Know Theatre of Cincinnati; To Kill a Mockingbird, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; and A Raisin in the Sun, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Directing credits include We Are Proud to Present… and Good Kids, Dreamgirls, Proof and Blues for an Alabama Sky.

Renika:  The reason I wanted to interview you is because you really inspire me. You’ve been in the game for a really long time, you lived and worked in New York for a decade, you moved to Cincinnati and took over the market there, and you also create your own work. So, give us a brief overview of the journey during your time in New York and your decision to take the leap to leave and move to Cincinnati. Because that leap was faith, right? How important has faith been to you in your artistic journey?

Torie:  I have my faith BECAUSE of my artistic journey. So, I can’t sit here and say it has been what has fueled me this whole time. I think I’ve grown to have a strong faith BECAUSE of my artistic journey. I want to be clear about that. Because when I moved to New York, I was fearless. I had no concept of what I was getting into. I was like “You have to move here to be an actor, so that’s what I’m gonna do.” I packed all my stuff up in my ’97 Geo Prism, which they don’t even make anymore, and just drove there. I didn’t even have a place to live! I knew I was talented, I had an agent, and I just knew this was it. But I want to be careful when I use the word “fearless” because it doesn’t mean I was over-confident. My lack of confidence is ultimately what led to me being not as successful as I could’ve been. I just assumed everything would just come together even though I didn’t have a plan or any real self-awareness. So, I got there and my talent got me as far as it got me. But I had no real anchor or foundation. I was just floating. I had oversimplified the process. “I’m gonna audition. They’re gonna see that I’m talented. They’re gonna book me. Boom.” I kind of did that for a while, all while life happened to me. Relationships, trauma, depression, loss, you name it. Yes, in the midst of all that life happening, was the dichotomy of a lot of triumphs and failures. By the time I left New York, it really wasn’t my decision to leave. Everything in me said “If I leave, I fail.” But that just wasn’t true. God was moving me and I had to trust that it was a good decision even though I didn’t think it was.

Renika:  Wow. So, what happened when you moved to Cincinnati?

Torie:  Moved to Cincinnati and I found myself! I found a sense of foundation in my spiritual walk and it seeped into all other areas of my life. I mean, my cup runneth over. I found an amazing man, formed amazing friendships, I was closer to my family, and I was booking movies! Who knew I had to move to Ohio to book movies! All of these things started happening and it was really a testament to obedience. 

Renika:  You’ve worked nonstop in Cincinnati at all of the Equity houses in the city. You’ve also worked as a professor at both Miami University and The University of Cincinnati. You’ve done it all. Now, you’re moving back into creating your own work. What does that feel like? After the comfort of working at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati Shakespeare, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, etc., how does it feel to go out on your own and be like “now this is what I want to say” in your one woman show Your Negro Tour Guide”?

Torie:  Empowering. Scary. Exciting. “Creating your own work” is such a blanket statement because it’s not just “I have an idea and I need a stage.” It’s so much work. For me, “creating my own work” is really doing the same show and editing it for like 15 years. It’s not like I wrote a play and someone “let” me do it. It takes time and skill. And it was definitely scary but now because of that leap, I’ve been writing more and pushing beyond those limits of what I thought I could do in Cincinnati and I got my first commission!

Renika: *shrieks 

Torie:  (laughs) I’ll tell you later!

Renika:  Well, I’m excited to get the tea off the record! But I usually close out my blogs with something called “Word to the Wise”. Do you have any words of wisdom to leave with our readers?

Torie:  This is gonna sound so cliche but (1) THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. (2) Know that your lived experience is art. (3) Redefine what success means for you. (4) Redefine what creative means and find what works for YOU! 

Renika:  Well, that this the best Words to the Wise ya’ll have gotten this whole year so hold onto that because I can’t promise something better! Lastly, what would be your suggested read of the month?

Torie:  Finding Me by Viola Davis. It was very affirming especially around the idea of what it means to “make it.” I’m so glad I never defined my success as an “it” and hearing her journey around rejecting that same idea was really moving for me. I listened to the audiobook on my drive from New York.

Renika:  Amazing! I will add that to my list! Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your journey with us! [Jun’22]


tdc_uc_team_hed_renikawilliamsWelp. It’s May. Which in New York City, means it finally feels like Spring. Usually, this time of year inspires me to deep clean my apartment, donate clothes, journal, paint, write a play, etc.  Just like new buds that grow on the trees, I’m usually inspired to bloom something new during this season of the year. Usually. But for some reason, this Spring feels a little bland for me. I’m not feeling very Spring-like. If I’m honest, I’m a bit underwhelmed artistically right now. Although, I am very grateful for my current job, it doesn’t challenge me. It’s super fun and incredibly easy and I thought that would be enough. It isn’t. And that’s very hard for me to admit. 

Now, I stay in therapy. It’s been vital in my growth, mentally and spiritually. I’ve learned how to communicate in my relationships more effectively, set boundaries, and unpack some childhood trauma (no matter how small). But lately, my sessions have been about communicating with myself. Even though it was hard to admit out loud to my therapist that I am artistically unfulfilled, it was absolutely necessary because it forced me to ask myself questions. I started to ask myself, “Why do I feel guilty about feeling unfulfilled?” Because I’ve never wanted anything more than to be on television and now that I’m on it, I’m bored? Because I always try to lead with gratitude and it feels very ungrateful to admit that I’m bored?! BECAUSE THERE WAS A TIME WHEN I DIDN’T KNOW HOW I WAS GOING TO PAY MY RENT AND NOW THAT’S NOT AN ISSUE…AND YET I’M BORED?! Sorry for yelling…I’m clearly still unpacking this. Teeheehee. 🙂  


I thank God for my therapist (shout out to Pastor Dez for sharing hers because she’s getting me TOGETHER, OKAY?!). She reassured me that I am 100% allowed to be unfulfilled during this chapter in my life because it’s teaching me what I value most. It’s uncomfortable but I’m learning more about myself. It’s not about the money or the fame for me. I want to work. I don’t want to just walk on and say a couple of funny lines and then bounce for a check. I want to dive into my craft and utilize the tools I’ve learned in my training. I want to prepare to go to work. I want to be exhausted. I’ve had the blessing of being exhausted from doing what I love for many years in the theatre and I pray that the Creator places me in a role on screen where I feel the same. I’m learning that everything isn’t black and white. Life involves many gray areas and that’s okay. I can be grateful for this season and a bit bored. You know why? Because now I’m inspired to spring forward into strategizing for my next season. Planting seeds now so that I can make sure I’m full even if that means creating the role and the space for myself.  [May’22]

Words to the Wise
1) Allow yourself to feel how you feel. Work on not censoring your feelings just because they’re not “pretty.” 
2) Find a therapist. Don’t ask for mine because she’s booked. Jk. Teeheehee. 🙂 
3) Do some soul searching and find out what you value most when it comes to work. Is it environment? Financial stability? Flexibility? Collaboration? Freedom to be your authentic self? Or is it a combination of all the things? 

Suggested Read of the Month: Feeding the Soul by Tabitha Brown  


tdc_uc_team_hed_renikawilliamsI don’t know about you but I work best under pressure. I tend to thrive in uncomfortable situations. I mean, the amount of strides I made in growth, personally and career-wise, my first four years living and working (primarily as a nanny not just an actor) in New York City were huge. But honestly, this past year has felt a little stagnant for me. I met a major life goal. I am finally able to say I’m a working actress on television but now it’s giving a little “Now what?” I’m finally comfortable. Or shall I say stable for the first time in my adult life and I’m feeling really…bored. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because I need bigger goals. Or should I say, more specific goals.

Seven years post undergraduate school and I have checked nearly every major thing off of my list. “Thank you, God,” is the first thing I said. But now I’m asking Him, “what now?” Through prayer and meditation, it was revealed to me that I need to get more specific about the stories I want to tell.

If I’m honest, all of my goals were/are pretty vague:
1) Establish a regional theatre career.
2) Quit day job (aka stop baby-sitting rich children in Tribeca)
3) Originate a role Off Broadway.
4) Book a guest star.
5) Book a series regular.
6) Star in a film.
7) Star in a series written and produced by me.

The only two I haven’t checked off are numbers six and seven. But if you notice, every goal is super vague. What kind of roles do I want to play? How do I want to represent Black women on stage and on screen? And why am I leaving that up to someone else? When will I finally create my own opportunities? I’m so inspired by artists and businesswomen like Issa Rae, Shonda Rhimes, and Michaela Coel but I always thought I had to be in a certain “position” in the industry before I started making moves like them. And now I see that isn’t true at all. (I.E. simply research Issa’s journey and you can see that’s a whole entire lie I told myself.)

I am a storyteller. There is no reason that I should be waiting around for someone to cast me in a role. Waiting for someone else to give me an opportunity. Life is too short for that and the gift inside of me is too precious for that. Same with you. So, I’m encouraging you, not just myself, to lean into your community. If you’re an actor, link up with friends who are writers and ask for help, call that one film major you got close to in undergrad and ask do they have a camera, do a reading of your play, apply for a grant, whatever it is, lean into the resources you already have and get it done. And most importantly, be specific about who you want to be in this world and how you use your voice. I’ll be taking my own advice, I hope you do, too. [Apr’22]

Word to the Wise
1) Write down your goals and share them with a friend. Become accountability partners on your journey as an artist. Remember, community is everything.
2) Remember your Why. Why did you choose to be an artist in the first place?
3) Create a mission statement for your life and then make sure you abide by it in all that you do.

Suggested Read of the Month: Misfits: A Personal Manifesto by Michaela Coel


tdc_uc_team_hed_renikawilliamsMy name is Renika Williams and I’m a Theatre, TV, & Film Actress, Teaching Artist, and one of the founding members of the Uptown Collective. I’ll be writing blogs posts that will include my journey as an actor, craft, self care, tips, artist interviews, and all things Uptown Collective. This blog is for the everyday dreamer no matter who you are aspiring and working to become.

When I was a child, I used to tell everyone I met that I wanted to be an actress on television when I grew up. My dreams were so big, I just couldn’t keep them to myself. I was fearless. I was proud of who I wanted to be when I grew up. And I was unashamed of all I wanted to accomplish in this world. But somewhere along they way, I started cutting my dreams short. I continued to dream but I kept them inside.

I remember the first week of classes in the Professional Acting Program at Wright State University; we all went around and shared our wildest dreams and career goals with each other. Of course, I mentioned that I wanted a career in theatre but I shared that my biggest goal was to have my own television show one day. Later that evening, a classmate told me that I was “in the wrong business if I was here to make money” and that hurt me. That was not at all what I was saying. Even though now I look back and wish I had the words then to express that there is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring work that actually pays you a living wage, but I digress. From that moment on, I kept my dreams and goals to myself. I kept my head down and did the work. But I ultimately kept the truth about how big my dreams were to myself. I was no longer that little girl who would walk the halls of her arts middle school telling her friends that one day she was going to be a star like Gabrielle Union.

I look back on my childhood and remember how free I was. The older I got, the more self conscious I became about who I believed I was truly destined to be. I felt foolish for dreaming so big. I felt silly every time someone asked me what my major was; I told them acting, and then they suggested I study something “that could get me a job”. But now I know, that I was encountering people who stopped dreaming. Receiving advice from peers, elders, family members, and wannabe mentors who no longer dream is dangerous for anyone no matter what field you’re in.

I was deeply moved by the sermon Pastor Mike at FCBC taught on the first Sunday of December 2021 entitled “The Beauty of Dreams and Hope”. I was reminded that I used to be bold about my dreams. I was bold before life hit. Before rejection and responsibility smacked me in the face. After listening to the lesson, I made a vow to stand tall in what I want out of life and my belief in who I know I was created to be. I made a new promise to myself to remind everyone around me to continue to dream, no matter what stage they’re in their life.


My mother is one of the most talented human beings I know. She can bake, sew, decorate, and design. If you walk into my childhood home, you’d think you were walking onto the set of a new HGTV series that involved everything from cooking to decor. I mean, Regina gets DOWN, okay?! But I can see that she’s struggling with the magnitude of the dream that can come out of her God-given gifts. She inspires me and I want her to inspire others. I want her to truly dream again. Even at 64 years young. Because what is life if we don’t hope for more? Who do we become if we don’t dare to dream? I want to encourage you to start speaking your dreams out loud. Write them down. Share them with people you trust. And then actively work to make them a reality. We only get one life on this Earth, don’t waste it trying to fit in with those who stopped dreaming.  [Dec’21]

Word to the Wise:
1) Write down your dreams in a journal. Then, write out a hopeful plan that will set you on the path to accomplish the many small goals it will take to reach your ultimate dream.

2) Find an accountability partner. Make a promise with someone you trust that you both will work harder to be more conscious about what you speak into the atmosphere. Specifically about yourself, your life, and your goals.

3) If they’re still here with us, talk to your grandparents, great aunts & uncles, or elders in the community about their life and their dreams. Ask them what they wish they’d known when they were your age. Learn from their journey. Like Pastor Mike said, “I want to die with memories not dreams.” 

Moment of Reflection: Meditate on these questions
1) In what ways have I silenced my own dreams?
2) How can I be sure that happens less and less?

Suggested Read: You Got Anything Stronger? By Gabrielle Union


tdc_uc_team_hed_renikawilliamsMy name is Renika Williams and I’m a Theatre, TV, & Film Actress, Teaching Artist, and one of the founding members of the Uptown Collective. I’ll be writing blogs posts that will include my journey as an actor, craft, self care, tips, artist interviews, and all things Uptown Collective. This blog is for the everyday dreamer no matter who you are aspiring and working to become.

Transitions have always been hard for me. Transitioning from private to public school. Transitioning from suburbia Ohio to living in New York City. Transitioning from life before loss and life after loss. It’s never been easy for me. If I’m honest, I’m often afraid of entering into new seasons in my life. Sometimes, I can feel it coming before the transition even actually begins. Most times, it feels like my head and shoulders have entered a new realm but my knees and toes are still planted on the ground of the last chapter. I’m currently transitioning from a world where I only performed on stages to adding performing on screen to my resume. The weight of this transition feels heavy. The pressure of visibility is looming in a way that it never has before. The safety and security of the sanctuary that is the theatre seems far off in the distance and I’m yearning to get it back.

Everything isn’t always what it seems. Have you ever prayed for something for so long, get it, and then you realize that your life didn’t instantly change as much as you thought it would? Or did you meet a major goal of yours but the moment didn’t feel as big as the one you imagined in your head for so long? Like, when you received the promotion, you imagined you’d do a cartwheel, cry the Kim Kardashian ugly tears, call your mom and cry some more? But then the moment came and it was more like, “Thank you, next” or “About time” or whatever, just simply not how you thought you’d react? That’s me. Right now.

A few months ago, a friend told me that she didn’t think I fully processed my recent success because I didn’t “seem” excited. Like, what does that even mean? I was excited. I AM excited. I just think excitement looks differently on different people. I think excitement can look differently when you’ve worked really hard for something for so long that all you have left is a big sigh of relief. A relief that that chapter is over. Relief that you can pay your bills. Relief that maybe life can slow down for just a moment before it picks back up. (Because it always does.)

After my friend said she didn’t feel like I processed my new job. I told my therapist and per usual what she said was gold. She said, “I think you HAVE processed your new job. But maybe your excitement presents differently because you’ve been expecting this.” And she was right. I DID expect this. I didn’t know when and I didn’t know how. But I knew it would be mine one day because it was promised to me. Because I prayed for it. Because I manifested it. I did all the things we all do. On top of expecting it.

There’s something about expecting to see goodness in your life. It really changed how I experience life. Prior to this chapter, my therapist suggested that every morning I imagine the life I wanted to live. Even though I was on unemployment, food assistance, and far away from my family because of Covid, she told me to imagine the opposite. To imagine the life I wanted to live. And then proceed to move about my day as if it were already true. I lived in a closet but it felt like a ranch on five acres. I was riding a cheap stationary bike from Amazon but it felt like a Peloton bike. Nearly everything I imagined had little or nothing to do with my career. It mostly had to do with how I wanted to feel every day and I learned how little that has to do with the work I do.


Of course I want to influence and make an impact through my craft. Storytelling has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But if I’ve learned anything these past five years in New York City, is that it’s not my whole life. I had to learn to value myself whether I was working or not. I am worthy of goodness even if there’s no platform for others to witness. I can’t gain fulfillment from whether someone else chooses to “give” me something or not. So, when I’m granted a new blessing, (these days who knows how I’ll react when I get a call to play opposite Denzel Washington) it’s more of a big smile and a “thank you, Lord” and less of a cartwheel. And that’s simply because I expect to see goodness.

The summer of 2020, during the search of new representation, I reached out to an actress I admire deeply. I had never spoken to her on the phone and honestly never said more than five words to her in person because she’s just that amazing to me. But I called her. I asked her if she could give me a list of agents and managers that she feels would be a good fit for me and who also have a strong muscle when it comes to television and film. There was a brief pause after I asked. Then she said, “ You know what I like about you? You ask and you EXPECT an answer.” I was a little bashful when she said that until I processed it and realized that it was a good thing. I ask and I expect to receive. And so should you. Cartwheel if you want. Cry if you choose. But expect to see goodness in your life and it will come in its time. [Nov’21]

Word to the Wise:
 1) Journal. Sounds corny but it’s not. You can write lists of ideas. Affirmations. Dreams and goals. Prayers. Whatever it is, just write.

2) Practice the art of imagining yourself living the life you want to live.

3) Find a therapist.

Moment of Reflection: Meditate on these questions
1) How do I want to feel every day?
2) What can I do with the resources I have right now to insure that I am experiencing goodness in my life?
3) In what areas of my life can I be more specific about the things I want? Career, relationships, health, home?

Suggested Read: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle


tdc_uc_team_hed_renikawilliamsMy name is Renika Williams and I’m a Theatre, TV, & Film Actress, Teaching Artist, and one of the founding members of the Uptown Collective. I’ll be writing blogs posts that will include my journey as an actor, craft, self care, tips, artist interviews, and all things Uptown Collective. This blog is for the everyday dreamer no matter who you are aspiring and working to become.

Transitions have always been hard for me. Transitioning from private to public school. Transitioning from suburbia Ohio to living in New York City. Transitioning from life before loss and life after loss. It’s never been easy for me. If I’m honest, I’m often afraid of entering into new seasons in my life. Sometimes, I can feel it coming before the transition even actually begins. Most times, it feels like my head and shoulders have entered a new realm but my knees and toes are still planted on the ground of the last chapter. I’m currently transitioning from a world where I only performed on stages to adding performing on screen to my resume. The weight of this transition feels heavy. The pressure of visibility is looming in a way that it never has before. The safety and security of the sanctuary that is the theatre seems far off in the distance and I’m yearning to get it back.

In our last panel (The TalkBack Artist, Choices & Values), we discussed core values and how they influence the roles we pursue. The conversation was timely because it’s something that has been on my heart and mind a lot lately. Every decision I make feels heavier than ever. There was a time when I didn’t have any auditions at all, and now, thank God, that is no longer a problem. But there is a new problem. The problem is the new challenge of learning when or how to say no. No to a specific character and their requirements. No to the giving of my time. No to sacrificing my peace. No to anything that doesn’t serve me and my desired trajectory of my life and career. I’ve had to learn how to exercise the Power of No. In college, my instructors often told us as young artists we’d have to say yes to work. Free work. Small work. Whatever. Just say yes to work to build your resume. Needless to say, I’m in a season that is in full disagreement with that advice.

I’m transitioning from yes to no. I’m transitioning from doing for everyone except myself to pouring into me and those who do the same. The more I grow, the more I see every audition, every meeting, every choice I make as significant. I can’t do everything and neither do I want to. I’m working on constantly checking in with myself and making sure I’m honoring the woman I want to be in the Earth. And it’s hard. Sometimes I change my mind. Most times, I don’t. Every time it’s scary. But irregardless of how scary it is, I do it any way. I’m more afraid of losing myself in the process. Television or no television. Fame or no fame. Work or no work. I’ll be me all day every day and I’m working to make sure no matter the circumstance, no matter the transition, I’m still proud of me and how I show up. [Oct’21]


Word to the Wise:
1) Create a morning routine and stick to it. Wake up, pray, meditate, drink coffee, exercise, eat breakfast, practice yoga, have a dance party, call your mother, whatever your morning routine looks like, stick to it. Creating a morning routine helped me when things started to pick up and get hectic. Instead of disrupting my entire morning routine with last minute work, meetings, and/or auditions, I made the commitment to pour into myself every single morning even if that meant waking up earlier in order to do so.

2) Get a therapist. Your friends are not your therapist. Your mother is not your therapist (and you’re not hers either). Artists experience a ton of rejection on a weekly basis. Artists go through more dry spells than most professionals in other industries. So, um, get a therapist. There’s no shame. Learn the tools to help you navigate the ups and downs of your career. Address your past and the reasons you are the way you are. It’s scary but do it any way.

3) Watch interviews of artists who inspire you. Read autobiographies. Ask a seasoned artist who you admire and respect to be your mentor. Give yourself permission to learn from others. Then pass it on when you have the chance.

Moment of Reflection: Meditate on these questions
1. In what areas of my life do I need to practice saying “no” as a “yes” to myself and my needs? 
2. Who in my life can I healthfully lean on to remind me to pour into myself by saying “no”?
3. What have I learned so far about myself so far in the current transition that I’m in?

Suggested Read: Boundaries:When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud




The Uptown Collective programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Learn more about The Uptown Collective!