Enlightenment Issue MADE Magazine - Page 10

MADEFEATURES MADEXXXX character, especially for a long period of time, you go on a journey with them and you learn from that character. You put a little of yourself in that character. I’m a believer of trying to bring a little separation between you and the character. But, there’s just so much of Merle in Grace. The first season, Grace had a lot of verbal flog coming her way. Merle in the flesh would have been like, “I need y’all to pull off and leave me alone.” (Laughs) But, Grace had a different agenda and a different way of operating. She had different history and learned behaviors with her family. So, her journey was stepping out of the old pattern that she had as a kid and into her strength as a grown woman. I think people identified with that because we all know what it’s like to come home after a long period of time and feel like you fit right back into that same slot in the wheel. It’s hard to get out of that rotation and have a different encounter with your family members that you’ve known your entire life. Watching Grace Know thy self & love thyself.” overcome that and stand in her own truth has been a great thrill for the audience and for me. MADE: The show is set in Memphis, Tennessee where your father was raised. Do you feel a connection to the city? Merle: Oh, yes. It’s so interesting. I look at the characters Sophia and Zora and think about my cousins. I have so many first-cousins in Memphis. One in particular, Kim, is my age and every time I came to Memphis she was the one who took me by the hand and said, “Come on girl” or “Merle, let’s go down to Beale Street.” She was my Zora. We called each other “sister-cousin,” as well. I don’t think the writers even know how close they write to my life sometimes. I consider Memphis a home, and every time I go there, my aunties and uncles rally around me. They encourage me and lift me up. Our butts are always in the pew on Sunday morning. MADE: How has being at the OWN Network influenced how you meet other women in your career? Merle: What’s really wonderful about being at OWN, in particular, is there is a great sense of really pulling out each individual’s greatest potential and setting up environments in which they will thrive and grow to become their very best. I’ve always absorbed a lot of energy, so I enjoy being able to be around absolute queens. In my opinion, Oprah and Ava are royalty, and so is everyone who works with them. One of the executive vice presidents at Harpo, Carla Gardini, has magnificent energy. She’s smart, unstoppable and an encourager. All of these people are the best they can be, and they motivate me to be the best that I can be. Even when I started this job and my nerves were just trying to get the best of me, there was still something inside of me that said “O.K., you are meant to be here. You are ordained to be here. You have the tools to be here. Use them. Keep stepping forward and know you have been brought to this place for a purpose.” It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This amazing show has created the perfect storm for me to thrive, constantly get better and search for ways to expand myself. That’s a roundabout way of saying, “I’ve been planted in fertile soil.” MADE: Can you share three tips for those in the arts who are feeling stuck? Merle: I love the allegory where the person is so frustrated because they can’t move the boulder. They keep pushing and pushing and pushing against it, and it won’t move. But then, they turn around and they are strengthened and realized that the race is behind them. You’re at the boulder to strengthen yourself beyond what you can’t see. So, here are my tips: 1. Know thyself and love thyself. 2. Persevere.Never give up and never stop sweating.You never know when“Game Day” will be. 3. You are enough. It all comes down to being good in your skin and continuing to work hard, even when you don’t think anybody’s looking.– made-magazine.com | 10