There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)
It was so good to hear the voice of my sweet sister again, the one that started along with me in the hustle and journey of faith shortly after our days of graduating from graduate school at Regent University. Casually dressed in very comfortable attire, out in the elements of the sun, playing soft worship music, she appears on the screen by way of her laptop’s video camera, and as always cheerful and genuine in spirit.
Where were you born; where are you from?
I hope this music is not too loud. Its Kari Jobe called “The Garden”, and it’s just so (sigh)…. I just have this sense of intimacy with Jesus when I listen to it. It’s beautiful. So, I recommend it. I was born in Columbus, Ohio. I was more so raised in Alabama…Clanton, Alabama. It’s a super small town. We had a Walmart. That was it…super small town.
How and when were you exposed to the art of acting?
My first exposure was watching soap operas that my grandma watched (laughs). She use to record Days of Our Lives, Another World, and Young & the Restless every day and watch them on the VCR (laughs)….EVERYDAY. And that was my first experience of acting. It was super melodramatic, and I just thought that uh that’s what acting was, I guess.
I’ve actually kind of had this epiphany in the past week or so, that it was my communication with God. It was my prayer time before anybody ever told me about God. I use to go and make up stories, and act them out in the bathroom, in the kitchen, where ever, and looking back, it was the purest form of acting I’ve ever done. Because it was fun; it was play; it was creative; and it was using my imagination with God (tears up). And it was the purest form of prayer and communication. So that’s when I was first introduced to it…when it wasn’t about anyone else; it was me having fun, creating worlds, living in them, experiencing them, and it was beautiful.
What made you fall in love with the art form?
What made me fall in love with it, is that I just felt free. It felt right; it felt at home, and it felt like I could totally be myself, umm…I was constantly in my imagination. Growing up I didn’t have my mom. And so I remember I use to play Whitney Houston in my bedroom. I would dance and envision her as my mom. I had this whole scenario worked out (laughs), and that was my running story for years. I’ve just always been in my imagination like that.
What is your educational background in the field?
I have a B.A. and a Master’s Degree in Acting, and I’ve studied with many teachers, workshops, and different things. I’ve learned a lot from working on set, and being in the action of it. That’s when the experience is truly transformational, I think. Umm cathartic….
What inspired you to take on acting as a career?
When I was in high school, and it was my senior year in school, everybody was saying what they wanted to be. I was ashamed to say that I wanted to be an actress because I didn’t have any examples. And people wanted to be lawyers, doctors, teachers, and engineers and….I wanted to be an actress (laughs). And it wasn’t until I got to college, and I went to Alabama State University, which is a historically black college, that I emerged myself in the Theatre program, and I was like “Oh my gosh! There’s people who look like me. Who love what I love, who do what I do, and who are planning on making a career out of it. I can do that too.” So working under Dr. Stewart, my amazing acting guru at the time, I really felt like I could make it a career.
Who inspired you to pursue your dream in the field?
Everybody!! I don’t know if you are talking about professionally and personally. I would say, my biggest inspiration, my biggest motivator, (tears up)…has been my sister, Nicole. Umm, she is the most genuine, generous person that I know, and she has had my back so many times. Like I said, growing up I didn’t have my mom so she’s kind of had the dual role of my mom and my sister, but she has found this perfect balance with allowing me to experience things and being there to pick me up at the same time. Like, she may know there’s a better way, but she in her own way allows me to experience it for myself. And then when I learn the lesson, I come to her, and I’m like, “Hey this is what I learned.” And she listens as if she already didn’t know. And it’s such a beautiful portrait of how God is with us. We talk to God….”Oh I learned this, I learned that, and….” He knows everything, but He listens as if He doesn’t, and that’s the kind of parent I want to be. So my sister has taught me so much about how to parent, for real…not just being a sister.
Do you consider acting to be a calling for you? If so, share how you discovered that it was more than just a career for you but a calling.
I knew acting was a calling for me, when it started chasing me. And what I mean by that is, for many many years, I ran away from acting because I was afraid of it, because I didn’t understand it, because I didn’t think I was worthy enough, and no matter how I try to escape it, it always found its way back to me. And that’s when I kind of realized, it aint going nowhere. So maybe I should stop and listen to what it’s trying to say to me. And when I went to Regent University, and really kind of understood acting from a spiritual place, I realized that it was more than a career for sure because it’s a platform of course to reach people, but it’s also a transformational art for yourself and for other people. And I really believe it’s my calling in the world, I do….
What were your first steps towards your pursuit in the acting industry?
I moved to L.A. after school…after Regent. And I would definitely say, I lacked preparation. I understood the art, but I did not understand the business. I’m still coming to understand the business to this day. But it’s been a definite journey.
What was your most memorable and successful moment?
I think the most memorable moment is when I did an audition…I did a taped audition for a movie, and the casting director said he wanted me to come back for the call back. My agent called me that night. She said, “Can you be in North Carolina tomorrow at 2 PM?” I said, “Uh sure yeah! I can do that!” At the time, I didn’t even have money to take the trip. I didn’t have money. They were putting me up in the hotel, but I was really low on money. And my friend loaned me $200 to take the trip. And I was in my car before the rehearsal, and I felt like it was mine. I felt like the role was mine. And I felt God with me. And they had given me some sides to go over, and I memorized them. Then when I got there, they were just like, “Well, we just want you to improv.” And I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” I was so deeply connected with myself and with God, that the improv…he ended up writing it into his script. And it was a film that I got to work on for 4 months. With amazing actors and actresses, but what was so memorable for me was not that I booked it, but that I could sense God aligned with me the whole way…before I walked in the door. It’s like, when God opens doors, no man can close. That was true for me that day, for sure.
What was your most challenging moment?
Girl, you are going to have a book (laugh). Uh my most challenging moment is some of the dark days. It’s challenging when you lose your perspective. And in the past couple of years I have gone through some life changes, and my perspective was kind of way off. And because my perspective was so off, the way I saw life was off. So I lost my ability to see from God’s perspective, and I could only see what was in front of me. I could only feel what I felt and when that happened for months and months and months, years actually…of kind of losing my sense of connection to what I can’t see, which is what faith is, it was just really dark for a while. And I think it’s challenging to win in any area of your life, when it’s dark. Definitely had my dark days…. So I try to be really committed to keeping my perspective on track.
What motivates you to keep going?
That’s all God because I think even movies that motivate me and songs that motivate me and people that motivate me, it’s all a reminder of who God is and who I am in Him. On an external level, I would definitely say my family because I see how much happiness it brings them (tears up) when I take a step forward in my career. It’s almost like I’m doing this for them. Not for me, but for them. Like, from their perspective, they feel like it’s happening to them. All these experiences I’m having in Hollywood, and all of these people I’m meeting….it’s like they’re living vicariously through me. And every time I see them, they tell me how proud they are, and they know that I’m just going to take off, and it’s going to happen, it does refresh me and encourages me to keep moving past the “muck” and into the glory. Well, I wouldn’t say muck because muck I think is when you allow obstacles to become distractions as opposed to opportunities. So I would say to maneuver through my own mindset of not seeing things clearly.
Who motivates you as an artist? (Other artists, acting coaches, family, etc…)
I have a lot of people that motivate me. My favorite actor is Denzel Washington. I think that he is amazingly present in his work. Like, I just get this energy from him, that when that was captured on camera, he was a hundred percent in that moment. And it transfers to me as I’m watching it. I’m inspired by a lot of the Netflix series that are out because they are breaking the mold of what TV should be. And I’m having cathartic experiences watching it. It’s like raising the bar of writing, raising the bar of story structure. I am inspired by innovation. I am inspired by people that are doing their own things, and I’m actually writing a TV series right now. So I’m inspired by innovation.
What is your motto?
Girl, I don’t think I have a motto. I have so many things that I live by. But you know, I guess I would say love (shows her minute love tattoo on her wrist). That’s why I have it tattooed. And it’s interesting because this meaning of this tattoo has taken on different meanings throughout the years that I’ve had it. I’ve had it for going on 4 years. And today it reminds me when I look at it…it reminds me that I’m unconditionally loved. I don’t have to work for it, earn it, do anything right, be perfect… that it’s who I am.
What legacy are you currently making or hoping to leave behind for your fan, viewers, and followers?
I would definitely say, empowerment. But not empowerment in the sense of “I’m the boss, I can do it, I can do anything.” But empowerment from freeing yourself, or allowing yourself to be free from your bondage and living a life of freedom. But not a life of freedom in the sense that you have to put other people down, or become closed off. But more like a sense of freedom of more like I’m opening myself up to the love of the universe. To use your pain for beauty. To take your pain and create something. To create a gift…a gift to other people. Empathy…I’m really seeing as an actress that the point of it is to empathize. We tell stories to empathize. We tell stories to see life from other people’s perspectives and as an actress, it is a blessing to do work that requires me to do that because it helps me to show up in my own life with empathy in more ways. Yea…surrender.
What was your spiritual journey throughout the process?
You keep giving me these questions that are complete novels (laughs). If I could sum it all up, it’s so interesting that, like when I said I was a little girl…. My spiritual journey throughout the process is me coming back to that, when I was so comfortable in my communion and fellowship with God and myself that I was free. My spiritual journey has been to help me be free. And playing these characters, I am freeing myself. When you are free, you are able to take risks, and you are able to jump and dive and swim and just go for it, and that’s the work that wins Oscars for sure.
What are your future plans and goals as an actress? What projects are you currently working on?
I’m really focused right now on fine tuning my craft, and aligning my spiritual journey with my artistic preparation and portrayal. And I think I’m going to write a book about that one day… on Christina’s approach to acting. Something that was kind of planted in me a long time ago and I kind of forgot about and it’ been on my heart lately. Like I said, I’m writing a T.V. Series, and I’m really…I mean of course I want to do film and I want to do TV shows, but I really want to do things that are purposeful for me and for other people. I’m learning that acting really is a service, and I don’t want to be selfish about it. And that takes a certain amount of surrender for sure. Because if you consider acting to be a service, then you are surrendering to a higher calling…a higher purpose…and I want to have meaning and I also want to create my own stuff…which I’m doing.
What other hobbies do you have besides acting?
I love reading. I read every day. I journal every day. I love watching acting. Some of my favorite things to watch are TV shows now because they are so good. I love being out. I love being in the element of the sun. I love working out. I’m about to love Alabama football because it’s coming back real soon (laughs). Umm gosh I’m boring. Oh I love to dance! But I haven’t been dancing in a while. Remember when we went dancing at loca lunas (laughs)? I love music…absolutely love music. And I love to imagine. I love to put myself in different places and different scenarios; I love to dream. I like getting dressed up. Like if I get to go to a red carpet event, I like putting on a really nice dress. It’s fun!
What advice do have for an inspiring actor/actress?
Right now…the why. Why do you want to do this? Tape it on your mirror and in your bathroom and constantly go back to the why. Because the why is the most important thing, and I would say really evaluate the why because if you want to do it to be rich and famous, the trajectory of your career is going to look a certain way, and you might do certain things or allow certain things that you wouldn’t have…. Let’s say, if your why was because I feel called to change the world through stories, I feel called to bring attention, I feel called to help people empathize, it kind of changes the mood of your pursuit, and it helps you keep things in perspective. And I would say that’s what I want to do; I would want to create empathy. I think the world can world can be healed in so many ways through empathy.
List any favorite scriptures to share with readers.
Ahhhh! (laughs) What have I been meditating on lately? I have so many scriptures, and they are all so different. It’s hard to think of just one. Well, I would just say, the one I have to remind myself of a lot is, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Because I can go back to wanting to be a perfectionist. And thinking I need to earn everything and I’m not good enough for the things I do get. Just this crazy…. That one is very crucial for me because I live in a society of rejection or I live in a business where rejection is a major part of it. And just that I’m a daughter of God.
Christ is the glory, and our glory is in Him. It’s such a beautiful reminder that this is not a selfish thing. That…my glory is in Christ and I don’t need validation or likes or followers. I think it’s such a slippery slope with social media, and I just try to keep that in perspective.
List any websites, links to reels, or social media pages that you would like for readers to view.
Well I am on IMDB under Christina Marie Karis, and I have my recent reel there. So you can go there.
Post additional comments, information, or words you would like to share for the readers.
I mean I just have so many thoughts because I’m constantly learning and observing. Oh! There’s something that Maryanne Williamson said that really stuck with me…that growth is not so much horizontal but vertical as going down a path this way (reaching arm forwards), when really life is going down a path this way (reaches up to the sky and draws a line down to her heart and rubs her chest)…into your heart because life is not about becoming, it’s about remembering. And a lot of times, this journey is about remembering and maintaining what you know to be true and not forgetting what you know to be true. Before I learned all the things that made me feel like I had to get people’s approval, as a little girl, the only thing I knew is that acting was fun and that it allowed me to engage my imagination. And it was freeing, and then I learned all these things along the way about approval, validation, worthiness, blah blah blah, and I started putting these things down in me…got do this…can’t do that…need to do this…. Ya know? When really if I could just remember that I’m already approved, that I’m already validated, that I’m already worthy, that I’m already enough that I could take all those things out that I stuffed in, and I can fly. I can be free. Let’s just be free. And things that we encounter along the way…. This is another thing that I’ve been focused on is… don’t take stuff personally. People don’t want to deal with you not because of who you are but because of who they are. Nobody has an issue with you, it’s about who they are in your presence. They can be like, “You really get on my nerves. “ Aint got nothing to do with you; it’s who they are in your presence, that’s the nerves. So when people betray you, hurt you, whatever, it’s not about you…it’s about them. And let go...let go...let go and be free.
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