Black women are naturally powerful beings. Culture and society move along to the rhythm of their every whim. For generations, they have guided Black Men and Children into greatness in a society intent on condemning them to mediocrity. Now in the decade of the new 20s, Sista's are doing it for themselves. Tracey Bonner is a phenomenal example of the power of being a black woman. She has manifested a successful career in television and film. Now on the heels of her very pivotal role in Season 2 of Netflix's Raising Dion, Konkret Comics would like to provide a special spotlight to the incomparable Tracey Bonner.
Tracey Bonner is an American actor most known for Raising Dion, Sweet Magnolias, and Black Lightning. The child of two educators, Tracey grew up in Murfreesboro, TN very rooted in sports and academia. She found her love of Shakespeare in high school and was cast in a theatre tour, realizing that acting could become a profession. This discovery led her to extensive training and many theatre performances throughout the U.S., all while playing sports as well. A varsity basketball and softball player, she was able to receive a full ride to Tennessee State University, where she became an athletic/academic All-American softball player. Tracey majored in Speech Communication and Theatre with an English minor and later obtained an MFA in Acting from the Theatre School at DePaul University. She taught for 15 years before deciding to become an actor full-time.
Now that you've been properly introduced, let's hear Tracey's journey in her own words from this One-on-One conversation with Konkret Comic's own, J.E. Tyler.
J.E. Tyler: I’ve always been a fan of film and television. I think its magical the way you all bring characters and stories to life. What was the first film that you can recall watching that inspired you to be an actress?
Tracey Bonner: The Women of Brewster Place was a made for TV movie that inspired and continues to inspire me even now. I remember being 9 or 10 years old and seeing all of those
iconic actresses in one film playing a myriad of characters from broken to resilient to
redemptive to honorable. It was my first real look at women, at every stage of life, being
uplifting to one another as they all dealt with the not so good circumstances of their
lives. After that experience, I really started to follow those actresses careers and am still
very inspired by them today.
J.E. Tyler: From viewing your Instagram, I see that you are an alumnus of an HBCU, Tennessee State University. I, myself, am a proud graduate of an HBCU as well, Alabama A & M University. With Vice Presidential Candidate, Kamala Harris, shedding a new light onto HBCU greatness, how do you feel that the unique experience HBCU’s offer prepared you to excel within the entertainment industry?
Tracey Bonner: Well, let me start by saying that I, too, am a BULLDOG...at heart. My dad was the Head Football Coach there in the early 90’s so I was raised by Alabama A&M. As for my HBCU experience, I can honestly say that The Tennessee State University prepared me
for all aspects of my life. I was trained and challenged to become a more disciplined
individual. For example, I was an All-American Scholar Athlete but we didn’t have
access to the same equipment and resources that our PWI athletes had. We didn’t even
have our own Softball field on campus. We had to walk to the park up the street to
practice and play our games. That taught me that I could work with fewer resources and
still be successful on the field and in the classroom. Additionally, as a Speech
Communication/Theatre Major, we didn’t have a “training program”. We just took acting
classes but they didn’t teach us specific techniques like Meisner or Method, Alexander,
Linklater, etc. Our program wasn’t a conservatory style training where the actors were
guaranteed shows each semester. We went through a hard core audition process and if
you got cast great and if you didn’t you had to wait until the next year. That taught me
that talent wasn’t enough. You have to be dedicated to the craft, as a whole. Studying
your lines more frequently, rehearsing longer hours, setting up meetings with your
professors to track your progress, and researching on your own. We didn’t have the
funding that a lot of our PWI programs had, which makes for a more difficult learning
environment. But I wouldn’t change it for the world because I was trained by some very
powerful black instructors like the late Barry Scott and Kimberly LaMarque-Orman, who
made it their life’s mission to train up the next generation of black artists. So because of
the experience they gave me I was introduced to black playwrights like August Wilson,
Pearl Cleage, John Henry Redwood, and Chad Boseman. This gave me ownership of my
identity and afforded me the opportunity to appreciate & embrace blackness in all its
J.E. Tyler: With black actresses like Regina King, Issa Rae and more gaining powerful roles as producers, writers and directors on major Hollywood projects, it seems that black women are facing the beginning of a renaissance within entertainment. As a booked and busy black actress, have you witnessed a growth of opportunities for black women in the industry or just more of the same?
Tracey Bonner: I have seen a shift in the industry in terms of black women being at the helm of projects. Especially, living in Atlanta you see more blacks behind the camera as writers,
directors, and producers. And there is indeed a movement where black women are being
more than just a face on the screen. We are being seen as leads, thanks to the leadership
of actresses like Angela Basset, Viola Davis, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Lewis, Regina King,
Issa Rae, Mara Shahidi, Zendaya...the list is endless. And what I’m finding refreshing is
that there is a new desire to cast new black faces. We used to see the same black women
cast in everything but thanks to production companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and
Hulu they have helped to expand the reach for black artists to have platforms to develop
and hone their work. Listen, I’M HERE FOR IT and cannot wait to see what the next 10
years will look like for black women artists.
J.E. Tyler: There have been so many amazing biopic opportunities in film and television. Who, out of all the actresses and entertainers that you admire, would you hope to someday portray in a biopic and why?
Tracey Bonner: Wow, that’s a very good question. There are so many to choose from but if I had to choose it would be Oprah Winfrey. Her story is packed with so much pain, drama, and
triumph. From being molested at such a young age, becoming a teen mom, being
abandoned by her mother, and being told that she wasn’t pretty enough to make it on
TV...she managed to take all of her adversity and turn it into a story of mastery and
victory. Playing her would be an absolute honor and would be a challenge as an artist.
To visit all those dark places and fight my way out to get to the beauty of what is now
her life...I would be completely edified, as an actor.
J.E. Tyler: I’ve never been on a Hollywood audition, but based on what I hear, it can be a very intimidating and, at times, a difficult process. What tips would you give to aspiring actors or actresses to ensure that they are successful in auditions?
Tracey Bonner: It’s okay to be YOU! I tell my students all the time that you are enough because we are all unique in our own right. Walking into an audition is already intimidating because you see so many other actors you admire and respect in the waiting room and you have the eyes and ears of the casting director, director, and producers who are essentially
deciding your fate so why would you put pressure on yourself to be something that you
are not? I say win them over by being authentically and unapologetically YOU because
they have seen the same take on the same audition all day. Be the one who stands out
by bringing as much of you to the performance as possible.
J.E. Tyler: Of all the roles that you’ve played in film and television, which has been your favorite? Also, until this day, who has been your favorite on-screen partner?
Tracey Bonner: Oooooo, I’ve had several favorites. Lawanda from Black Lightning, Torture from Doom Patrol, and Pastor June Wilkes from Sweet Magnolias. They are all so starkly
different and required me to access a different side of myself, which is an actor's dream.
You don’t want to be stuck in a box, you always want opportunities that will allow you to
stretch and challenge you in the best ways possible.