Acting is no joke so when Rhona Fox, an emerging Guyanese American actress found time to chitchat with MagLYFE, we were very grateful. Rhona is beyond busy from filming with celebrated actors to memorizing lines for upcoming shows to perfecting her talent to biking around NYC. She does it all, but that aside, she is very humble and a truly amazing person. Rhona recently received the Rising Sun Award from the Caribbean Heritage Organisation (CHO) which recognizes emerging Caribbean actors/actresses.
Who is Rhona Fox?
I’m a woman who was raised in three countries, with a yearning to explore the world and a longing to contribute to society in a meaningful and lasting way. I’m educated but aware I have plenty to learn. I’m also against the status quo, in a good way. If you tell me I can’t do it, that’s my biggest motivation to prove you wrong. I’m definitely a contradiction but age has brought balance, and I’m finding my place in the world (instead of being lost in it). Most of all, I live my life for myself! I cannot be confined by or be a victim of society’s standards and expectations, and I’m happy to have my freedom, make my own choices, mistakes and find my way in life.
On growing up in Guyana …
Guyana has moulded me into the person I am today. I’m a fighter, determined to procure more opportunities and persevere for a better life for myself. Growing up in Guyana, in a working-class family with not too many resources or access to money or opportunities, has instilled in me a steely resolve to succeed, and success to me is having the life that I want, not money in the bank or fame or anything else. I’m not sure how it is for people there now, but as an Indian girl and the last child with two older brothers, I was the last to have a say in anything, the last to get new clothing or even food at dinnertime. After being raised in the country then thrown into high school at Queens College in Georgetown, I had a hard time speaking properly and difficulties in attaining decent grades. It was a challenge just to get the bus to the boat to another bus, to make it to school each day, and then repeat the trek at the end of the day, complete homework then sleep and repeat. I remember that struggle to get a proper education, so I can one day build a better life for myself.
I’m finally in a position where I have my own life, I can make my own choices, and I’m forging in a career with big hopes and dreams. A true Guyanese-upbringing has everything to do with my grit, determination and motivation to make it…make it out, make it better…not just take it (accept whatever life gave me).
On Moving to the United States
Moving to the United States was the best thing that ever happened to me. Just like my entire life, it wasn’t planned. I was on summer vacation in Long Island after graduating high school and I liked being with my girl cousins and they said I should stay. So on a whim, I went into the local community college and took a placement exam and was accepted to the college, and that’s how I stayed. I applied to university one year later and moved into the dorms to experience undergraduate life, and chase my dreams.
Acting allows me to forgo the constrains that society and family place on me, as an unmarried, 33-year old Indian woman of Hindu and Muslim and Guyanese heritage. Through acting I’m able to transform into someone else, with each character I play. It is freeing and cathartic – a truly out of body experience. It makes me happy like no other career has, and I’ve tried a few of them. In some ways, it’s a 24-hour job, between memorizing lines and preparing for a role to changing my diet, exercise regime and entire lifestyle (I stopped going out, drinking, staying up late due to early call times), to adopt the lifestyle fit to bring me longevity as an actor. It’s weird but this entire process of acting has actually brought me more in touch with myself and with life – I’m now living in the moment, instead of always mulling over the past or worrying about the future. It’s also brought a lot of self-acceptance because in acting, you’re celebrated for being unique and being different from every other person. I’m finally okay with being me.
The Road to Today
I got into acting after I’d tried several careers and they brought no personal fulfilment. I remember being a music publicist to Soca star Machel Montano. I was working with him in Barbados in 2008, when my phone rang, I almost didn’t answer it, but luckily for me I picked it up right before it hit the voicemail and it was a casting agent for the new Jay-Z Roc-A-Wear 10th anniversary commercial that was being directed by Spike Lee. I had just signed up with a casting agency before heading to Barbados and I certainly never expected to be called so quickly.
I earned my Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card after being cast in ‘Sex And The City 2’ and after noticing how everything was flowing, I decided to get serious about the business of acting, so I enrolled full-time in acting school for almost two years, to study the craft. I didn’t have anyone to give me advice so I figured I’d use the same approach I used with my past careers and put the same energies into acting. I had succeeded as a TV producer then a publicist, so perhaps my approach could work with acting. So I went back to school and took every class I could afford. I also spent a lot of time on vocal coaching, because growing up in Guyana and The Bahamas had cultivated a strange foreign accent, which I still haven’t truly overcome.
Tell Us About Your Major Roles, Appearances and People You’ve Worked With
I recently worked with Chris Rock on his new movie. I also recently worked with Peter Berg, who is an actor-turned-director and I’m a huge fan of his, so it was great to work on his new HBO series, ‘The Leftovers.’ The coolest person I’ve worked with thus far has been Martin Scorsese, on his new film with Leonardo DiCaprio called ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street.’ It was great to see Leonardo in action but Marty, as he’s known to colleagues, was downright amazing. He handled all the actors and the crew so professionally, gracefully and beautifully. I was just a day-player on that film so I would love to work with him again one day, in a much bigger way
What’s currently on your plate?
I’m working on my first short film and hope to shoot by August or September. We’re ironing out the script right now. I want more parts that reflect me and I’ve always felt perhaps I should produce my own project, but I just never did it, until now. So I’m looking forward to having an input in my character, and I’m working with a bunch of friends on the project. It will be fun and fulfilling.
Up next for me is the hunt for a great theatrical agent. I have representation but as my resume is growing, I need new representation. That’s how you get the good roles so I need all the ammunition I can get. This career is the impossible one – it’s like lightning striking and it takes a lot of luck, which is preparation and opportunity. I can prepare myself but I need a great agent to bring me the opportunities.
Favourite Quote To Live By
My favourite motto is “live the dream.” I’ve known plenty of people who always wish and hope for something, – be it a job or a relationship or a trip, whatever it is – and they do nothing to put them on the path to fulfilling that goal. Every day that I wake up, even doing this interview right now, I know that I’m living my dream because I’m doing something each day to make sure it happens. So don’t just dream your dream, live it every day.
What are some of your major challenges as an actress?
My accent – it’s all screwed up from being raised all over Guyana, especially Berbice – that accent is a killer! Then I gained a British inflection from living in The Bahamas. And when I moved to America, I thought ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ was how people spoke here so I learned that accent, and now my voice coach is trying to kill it. Apparently, I sound like a California girl more than Standard American.
My weight is also a challenge. Unfortunately, I have chubby Indian genes and need to be lean and thin for on-camera work, which isn’t easy to come for me. My parents used to beat me to eat as a child, and now, I can’t seem to stop eating.
Seriously though, my biggest challenge besides losing my accent and getting thin is working on my craft. I have to read a lot of literature and watch a lot of film and TV shows to learn how it’s done. So I’m trying to challenge myself to improve as an actress. I’ve heard that work will continue for the rest of my life, and I’m looking forward to it.
Apart from acting, what do you do, hobbies, interests, etc.:
For fun, I love to read. I invested in a Kindle, mostly because I’ve run out of space to store books in my NYC apartment. In Guyana, we didn’t have a TV so my parents used to give me $5 to rent books each week, at someone’s home library. I’m not sure if those are still around. I used to beg for more money so I could get more books, then I would read late into the night with a kerosene lamp until the wick burnt out. Memories! But reading was my escape, and my main resource for learning about life and cultures and the world. So even with unlimited TV/movies here, I still prefer to read. I’m also a big foodie so I love to eat and cook, and I post all my creations on Instagram.I also love sports – watching American football and soccer (I played varsity soccer in high school in The Bahamas), and playing tennis and golf, whenever I can. I don’t drink or smoke or go out, so most of the time, I just go outside and walk around the city for fun. I just took up biking in the city so that’s another form of exercise, at least while it’s warm. There is always a new street or festival or even people-watching is great for me, as an actor. Living here has really brought me out of my shell, as I was extremely shy my entire life.
FIVE things we don’t know about Rhona Fox:
1 “Rhona” in Hindi means cry and I cry a lot – during movies, when people win awards or when my favourite team wins a game. I also laugh a lot so I balance it out.
2 My favourite cuisine is Guyanese. Now that I’m vegan, I try to make vegan versions of all my favourites like curried squash with veggie chunks instead of squash curry with beef.
3 I used to suck my finger for years and had to get braces – twice! As a child, I never smiled or always covered my mouth, so now I’m obsessed with my teeth and smile all the time.
4 I wanted to be a lawyer and initially went to university to study economics, then fell in love with entertainment and changed my major to communication so I can work in Television.
5 I’m the black sheep of my family. My two older brothers are both engineers and very successful in their respective fields. My Dad still isn’t too keen on the acting thing, but my Mom has come around. They wanted me to be a teacher like them, or an accountant – something they are familiar with. Mom actually laughs whenever I tell her of my various strange roles, such as a zookeeper on a new film called ‘Beware The Night.’ She rarely laughs but she is always cracking up now when I talk to her about acting. She’s been my biggest supporter and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.
To learn more about Rhona and to interact with her on social media visit www.rhonafox.com.