10 THINGS with Adina Porter
You’re originally from New York City, which probably means that you had the potential to do something great! Maybe I’m just partial to New Yorkers. Nonetheless, you selected acting as your career path. What was so intriguing about this platform?
I always thought I was lucky, being from New York City. I didn’t have to muster up the guts to go to the ‘big city’ and pursue my dreams. The big city and all of its promise was, and feels like, home. From my earliest of memories, I wanted to be an actor. What was intriguing about it? I would put on shows in my parents’ living room. It seemed to relieve the tension in the apartment and made them smile. I liked doing that.
Once you made your choice to act, what positive influences did you have to support your decision and which actors work did you appreciate the most?
One day, our school assembly was having a live performance by the Juilliard acting troupe, the Acting Company. I saw Keith David perform. I said to myself, “I can do this.” Butterfly McQueen was a member at the church my family belonged to, in Harlem. She was frail, with that same voice and would coach us kids, for the Christmas pageant and other church shows. The guidance counselor at my junior high school directed me in Purlie Victorious. I impressed him enough, that he suggested I audition for the High School of Performing Arts / LaGuardia High School. I was accepted and just followed the path they laid out.
What was the first major role that you booked and what was your initial reaction?
The job that got me into the union was for PBS’s American Masters: Katherine Anne Porter, A Texas Childhood. I got to work alongside Bill Irwin. My very first job was an off-Broadway play called, Inside Out. I remember in the beginning of my career, that whenever I got a job, my body would get all warm. It was such a high. Reversely, not booking the jobs was such a low. I’m glad it has evened out.
You’re most notable for your role on HBO’s True Blood, which had such a huge following. How were you first introduced to the show and what made you decide to take on the role?
I was called in to audition for Junie Lowry Johnson and Libby Goldstein…two amazing, successful and high-powered casting agents. They had hired me before, for my first HBO job in Gia. They were (and are still) fans. I always want to do a good job. I especially want to do a great job for the fans. I didn’t do tons of research on Alan Ball. No need to get intimidated. I took the role because it was a job and they offered it to me. It was intended to be only eight episodes and the character was supposed to die. But, they liked me.
You played the role of Lettie Mae Thornton, the mother of Tara Thornton, played by Rutina Wesley. What did you enjoy most about bringing this character to life?
Playing ‘Lettie Mae Thornton’ was an amazing, safe place to exercise my demons. I enjoyed allowing myself to be so insecure, needy and ugly. Better to explore those feelings, get paid and realize how futile self-hatred is, than to impose those fears on my own family. There is a poem I learned in a college sociology class, “No Images” by William Waring Cuney:
She does not know
she thinks her brown body
has no glory.
If she could dance
under palm trees
and see her image in the river,
she would know.
But there are no palm trees
on the street,
and dish water gives back
That’s how I saw ‘Lettie.’
What will you miss about being on the set of True Blood?
It’s corny…but the people. This cast and crew were together seven years. We still get together, for teas, for drinks, for Christmas-tree trimming and pumpkin carving. I did a play with Chris Bauer before True Blood. I got to work with director Anthony Hemingway on The Newsroom. My path will cross again with the True Blood folks and we will pick up right where we left off. That’s what actors and crew folks do.
Apparently HBO loves you, and that’s a good thing. Let’s talk about the series, The Newsroom. We love the inside view we get, into a news anchor’s life. On the show, you play Kendra James, who is a booker for News Night. And she’s not the easiest person to get along with. What’s the good and bad of Kendra and what do you enjoy about playing her the most?
So you think ‘Kendra James’ was not the easiest person to get along with at News Night? Hope Hanafin, the costume designer of The Newsroom used to refer to my character as “the grown up” of the bullpen staff. I remember in Season One, ‘Jim’s’ girlfriend who also happened to be ‘Maggie’s’ roommate, was shouting about the underwear she wasn’t wearing in the middle of the News Night bullpen. The camera panned and there was ‘Kendra.’ The expression on her face said, “TMI” and “some young white privileged kids get away with so much stuff.” I think the audience can relate to that. That’s the good and bad of ‘Kendra.’
I loved being part of that ensemble. Every actor, whether you had lines or not in a scene, were invited to those private closed doors rehearsals that Sorkin would always attend. I felt like I was part of the chemistry that made up the scene. The Newsroom set was made of glass, so reflections and reactions were important too. I will also miss the camaraderie on the set. HBO allowed me to do The Newsroom while I was still shooting True Blood. I will be forever grateful for that.
As the series comes to a close, without giving it all away, what can viewers expect from Kendra and the rest of the crew on the finale?
Viewers can expect that we are going to continue to take risks and do our very best. I’m a mom of two young children. I love to multitask. I find, that you can’t have The Newsroom on in the background when you’re doing your holiday shopping online or cooking a meal. Wait until you have time and pour yourself a drink. Perhaps, pop some popcorn and enjoy the show. That’s how I watch The Newsroom. I think viewers can expect another great ride.
When you’re not on set working, what does a typical day look like for Adina Porter?
As with most actors and working moms, there is no such thing as a typical day. I’m the mother to a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old. I have an Au Pair, but don’t have a housekeeper. I strive for a healthy balance and make sure I get a daily workout into my schedule. Most of my ‘off time’ is filled with family stuff. However, the phone can ring, at any given moment, with an audition or a job and then, I begin the juggling routine: my children, our dog, my work and our Au Pair – a lot of balls in the air. I’ve become quite the accomplished juggler.
We wish you well with your career. Now that you’ve wrapped two major TV series, what other projects are you working on now and have coming up in the near future?
Thank you for your well wishes. The day after I wrapped The Newsroom, I flew up to Vancouver and started shooting The 100 for the CW. I am now playing ‘Indra,’ a fierce warrior queen and having a lot of fun. I get to do some stunt work, speak an invented language and make new friends.
Official website: http://www.AdinaPorter.com/
Facebook: Adina Porter
Main Image, Image 1 & Image 4- Photography: Diana Ragland, Makeup: Kumiko Oka, Wardrobe: Tod Hallman/Ivy Eleven agency
Image 2- Photographer: John P. Johnson/HBO
Image 3- Photographer: Melissa Mosely/HBO