Interview

Actress and Leading Star Danielle Moné Truitt Discusses Everything From ‘Rebel’ to Method Man’s ‘Ghetto Remedy’

"Rebel" pilot episode. (Photo: Prashant Gupta/BET)
"Rebel" pilot episode. (Photo: Prashant Gupta/BET)

“Rebel” pilot episode. (Photo: Prashant Gupta/BET)

You can call her the modern day Cleopatra Jones or Foxy Brown, but she’s REBEL, a bad a** of her own. She’s classy and a fighter, for justice that is. Played by Danielle Moné Truitt, the theatrical actress is stepping into a major role, her first to be exact. The fun and charismatic star is acting alongside, rapper Method Man as her love interest (ex-husband), whom in real life just so happened to share the same birthday as Danielle. The police drama is created and Executive Produced by the great, John Singleton. He had a vision and that vision came true in Truitt from the first day he saw her stand before him. Oakland police officer, Rebecca “Rebel” Knight is a hero, who took matters into her own hands as a private investigator after her brother was killed by police. The series speaks to the police brutality our community faced repetitively not long ago, unfortunately, but Rebel wants what’s right, not what’s fair. There is a difference. With such cutting edge, pro-black advocacy, the cast leaves room everyone showcasing a diverse cast. The original pilot is now an eight-episode series picked up by BET. What a better network to give breath to this television masterpiece.

Last year, life changed for the mother of two and wife forever. I was able to catch-up with the lead character via phone to discuss all things Rebel and Danielle. Come to find out she has more in common with the role she plays than you may know. She also explains the difference between fighting for what’s right or settling for what’s fair. She shares a fascinating story to illustrate the contrast. Danielle was truly a pleasure to talk to. She was funny and full of laughter through every word she spoke. She oozed confidence and strength and melanin. She personified the character she plays; you can see why she was able to embody the portrayal so evidently. She also tells a funny story on how she was able to stay warm using Meth’s ‘Ghetto Remedy.’ Check out our chat below:

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PYNK: I know you’re a mother and a wife, most importantly, but tell us about you, who is Danielle Moné Truitt? How would you describe yourself?

Danielle Moné Truitt: (Laughs) How would I describe myself; I think I am a confident woman who has finally got to a place in her life where she’s comfortable. Who she is; comfortable in her skin, when I was younger I guess I kinda struggled with feeling like I wasn’t enough or like maybe I was too much for people, so I would kinda dim my light so that people would like me or I wouldn’t have to deal with confrontation or things like that. Now that I’m more mature I don’t care (laugh). Be who I am and not worry about other people’s opinions of me. I’m a fun person. People who are close to me know that I’m pretty funny and silly, I can be pretty silly. I’m definitely a classy woman who is from the hood so I definitely have both sides to my personality (laughs). I can be very classy and warm and friendly, but then if you push me then you know you’ll see a different side that we don’t have to talk about right now (laughs).

PYNK: I know that’s right!

DMT: I guess, that’s it in a nutshell. I’m a very determined person, very resilient person, I don’t give up easily. I guess I don’t give up at all, I never give up, really. It’s not really apart of my makeup as a person or even in my vocabulary so I choose to see positive perspectives in my life, even when things aren’t going the way that I initially planned for them to go. I just believe we have a choice in how we’re gonna see our lives and I’ve always kinda chosen to look at it in a positive way and to think about what I’m grateful for more than what I’m lacking in my life.

PYNK: Would you say that you’re anything like Rebel?

DMT: Yeah, actually I am kinda like her some ways. We’re both from Northern California, so we both have that vibe, that Northern Cali swag (laugh) I guess. Very down to earth, she’s a very down to earth woman, grew up in the hood like me so we know how to turn our gangsta on and off. When we need to communicate in a more I guess proper if you would say capacity we can do that and then when we are with the homies or we need to use our colloquialisms we can very easily. Also, as far as her passion for justice, I feel like I have the same mind set in that way of sticking up for people who don’t have a voice, speaking up for people who don’t have one and I’m very effected when people are bullied, when people take advantage of their power and misuse their power; that’s something that really really really upsets me. So I’m very passionate about justice and people being treated justly. I think there is a difference between fairness and justice and a lot of people say, ‘Oh, that’s not fair…,’ but I don’t think that’s really, things being fair isn’t always the answer, but justice is always the answer. There was a meme that I saw that had these three boys and they were, it was a drawing and the three boys were behind a fence; they were trying to watch a baseball game and there was a really tall boy, a medium sized boy, then a really short boy, but all fairness is giving all three boys a block to stand on so they could see the game. So the tall boy got a box, the medium sized boy got a box, and the really small boy got a box. Well the little small boy still couldn’t see the game with his one box, he couldn’t see the game, so that’s fairness. Justice is giving the little guy two or three boxes so he can see the game, giving the middle boy one box so he can see the game, and give the really tall boy no box, because he can already see the game! (Laughs) I was really touched by that meme. I was like that’s what I’m about, giving those who are disadvantaged a chance to have an equal playing field. I think me and Rebel are very similar in that way and we love hard. We love really hard and sometimes people always laugh at my family, we’re yellers. We argue one minute, we’re playing around laughing the next minute. You know, that’s just how my family is and some people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you guys, is everything okay?’ I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, this is how we talk to each other.’ (Laughs). So in that way me and Rebel are very similar.

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PYNK: So I know you also described yourself as a triple threat. What does that mean? I know you were in some plays and also you sing, right?

DMT: I do, yeah. People describe a triple threat as somebody who can sing, dance, and act, and can do them at the same time; and so I do have the capacity. I’ve been singing since I was 8 years old and church, and my mother was a singer. I was really influenced by Whitney Houston and some other vocalists over the years. So I started off as a singer. That’s what I was known for in high school and elementary and doing talent shows and stuff like that; then I got into theater later and I actually got my degree in theater. I just studied straight plays and then as time went on people realized oh you can sing, so they would put me in musicals. Musicals are something that I’m fairly new to, but because I do sing I have done them. I’ve done “Dreamgirls,” I’ve done “Aida,” I’ve done “Hair,” you know I’ve done several musicals, but it’s still I feel like I’m getting my feet wet in, because certain people study musical theater; like it’s its own thing separate from studying straight acting, which is what I studied. Then dance wise I just feel like ever kid that grew up in the hood knows how to dance, which is not true (laughs), but many of us do. I grew up singing and dancing. I did drill team when I was really young and started doing hip hop. I used to teach Hip Hop classes in college. I could tap, African Caribbean dance, then I’m also a member of Delta Sigma Theta. I was the step master for my sorority and we went on to win a national competition so, definitely a dancer as well. So when I do musicals and stuff, I use that skill set for that as well. So yeah in that regard that’s why people say I’m a triple threat, cause I can do all three things and sometimes I do them all at that same time and sometimes I’m just using one aspect of my skill set if you will.

PYNK: Awesome! That’s talent!

(Laughs)

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PYNK: So this is your first major role though, right? How did that come about, the opportunity to become Rebel?

DMT: I got an audition from my manager. This was in December of 2015; I was up in Sonoma actually doing like a musical theater gig or whatever and it was like the day before. I was leaving Sonoma, had my two year old, well he’s two now so he was like one back then. My one year old was with me at the time I was doing the play up there and she sent me the script, or not the script, so sent me the sides. She was like, ‘There’s this project, BET, it’s a for a leading role, looks like something you’ll be great for.’ So I read the description and it said Rebel, brown skin woman with natural hair from Oakland. I was like, what, wait a minute, that sounds like me! (Laugh). It sounds just like me, even though I’m from Sacramento, but Northern California and I wear my hair natural and I was like wow, okay! So I read that she’s a detective, she’s sassy, but sexy and so I read the sides and I was like, ‘this sounds dope.’ So I coached with my acting coach, she’s in Sacramento so we Skyped. She coached me like two hours before I had to get on the plane to come back to L.A. My audition was like the next day when I got back to L.A. so I had to do it while I was in Sonoma. So we worked on it for a couple of hours, got home, went to the audition. I auditioned for Kim Harden, who was the casting director. She was like, ‘Have you ever been in for me?’ I was like, ‘No I don’t think so, maybe your assistant. She was like, ‘Oh, that’s great, new face, I’m excited.’ I was like, what?! (Laugh). I’m just just not used to, usually when you’re a new face they just ignore you or they’re like, ‘Oh okay.’ You don’t have any tv credits, we don’t know who you are so they just don’t, they’re not necessarily happy to see you, so I was like, oh that was nice. I did the scene and she was like, ‘That was really great.’ I was like, ‘Thanks!’ A couple of days went by they were like you have a call back for John Singleton so of course I was like freaking out. I love John Singleton, I love his work, and I was like, oh my god! (Laugh). So I was excited to go in for him. Of course in my head I’m like well this is BET; this is for a lead role. I have primarily theater on my resume and like two tv credits on my resume. More than likely this is not something I’m going to get. I’m gonna go in and I’m gonna do the best job I can because it’s John Singleton and hopefully he’ll have another job that maybe he’ll look at me for if I do really well this time in this audition. So I was like, maybe they’ll be a smaller role for Rebel that maybe he’ll give me since I’m not a known actress. So I go in, I had to learn like twelve pages of dialogue or whatever for the call back. It was like three or four scenes and I coached with my coach for like five hours the night before so I felt very prepared to go in and do my thing. So I go in, John Singleton, Dallas Jackson, Robin Snider; they were all the producers, they were all there. Deon Farron, they’re all there and there was a room full of people, small room and I go in and do the first scene and I get done; John’s like, ‘Oh my God, baby girl, oh man, I love your flags, ohh, see man you funky, that’s what I’m talking about, man she is a sista, she is a black woman, that’s what I want right there, that’s what I’m talking about!’ I wish I could have seen my face, but I was just like, I couldn’t believe it, I could not believe he was saying that to me. (Laughs). I was like, ‘WHAT!!’ So I was just smiling. I felt like my face was gonna fall off because I was just cheesing so hard and he was like, ‘okay, do the second scene.’ Then I was like okay, so I did the second scene. Then he was like, ‘Do the third scene.’ Before the audition the casting director was like, ‘Look, you’re gonna do the first two scenes, if he likes you then you can do the third.’ The third scene was my favorite scene, so he said do the third year. I was like, ‘Yes!’ So by that time I felt super confident because I knew he already liked me and so I did the third scene and he was like, ‘man, great job.’ He was like, ‘Keep the cameras rolling’ or whatever; I was like, ‘Okay.’ He was like, ‘Have a seat.’ So I sat down. He was like, ‘Where you from?’ So I tell him I’m from Sacramento. He was like, ‘Ohh you’re from Northern California?’ I’m like yeah and then he’s like, ‘What have I seen you in?’ I was like nothing! (Laughs). He was like, ‘Okay.’ I was like, ‘You haven’t seen me in anything probably; I’ve done like two smaller roles on television. I was apart of “The Princess and The Frog” and I do theater. When I said I do theater his eyes just got so big and he was like, ‘You do theater?’ I was like yeah and he was like, ‘Where?’ I was like, ‘I’m actually in a play right now called “The Mountaintop” and he was like, ‘Where is it?’ I tell him and he’s like, ‘I’m gonna come!’ I’m like oh my God! He’s like, ‘I love that you do theater, I love that!’ Then he goes through my whole audition and tells me what he loves about it and one of the other producers telling me what she loved about what I did and in my head I’m like, okay this is not happening to me right now, like this is way too good to be true, like he’s telling me like, ‘That’s what I want!’ He clearly means like, my performance is what he would want in someone who was famous already and like, already known, like that’s what he is looking for, not that he actually wants me to do the part. I was just in shock. So I left, it was probably like 15 girls waiting in the lobby, I’m trying to keep my composure, I don’t wanna be walking the halls like, ‘Yeah, I killed it!’ That’s the worst, I just think that’s horrible when people do that. (Laughs). So I just was like, ‘Break a leg ladies!’ I just left and I went outside and I just started crying when I got outside. I was just like, ‘This is the best audition of my life! Lord, thank you so much, like I don’t know what’s gonna happen next, I may not even get this part, but thank you for the encouragement for today, like I’m gonna take this experience into the future with me and I’m gonna remember, even though I might not get this part, I’m gonna remember that somebody like him was that impressed with what I did, which means I must have some kind of talent.’ Never in my mind did I think I was gonna have this story then be able to say then I booked the part, like I never at that moment thought that is what was gonna happen. Four months went by, I didn’t hear anything.. I knew they liked me, but I didn’t hear anything. I was doing The Mountaintop still, and I was doing Dreamgirls at the time, and I had moved on with my little life. Then out of the blue I got a call saying they were still interested in me for the part. Then I did like a twelve hour screen test with John Singleton and I was thinking like, oh, I wonder how many other girls they’re gonna do the screen test with and he’s like, ‘You’re the only one.’ Then I was like, ‘Wait a minute, are you telling me this is my part?’ I mean, to this day, the show is about to come out March 28th and I’m literally feeling like, ‘Wait a minute, what is happening in my life right now?!’ So it was definitely a long process, two days ago was the one year anniversary of the day that I did the screen test for John, so I guess it’s pretty much a year and a half since I first started the process, but it’s a miracle! (Laughs).

PYNK: That just means it was meant for you. That’s awesome. That’s a great story.

DMT: Right, exactly, thank you!

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PYNK: Yeah, you’re welcome. So what was it like ultimately being on set and playing Method Man’s love interest too?

DMT: (Laughs) The question all black women in America want to know! Being on set was amazing. It was definitely a different experience for me. It’s very hard work! I know a lot of people think it’s like a glamorous job, but it really isn’t. It’s very taxing on you emotionally and physically. I have two children and a husband, so when I get off work I’m still on the clock, because I have kids and a family. So it’s like I’m never not working. That’s how I felt, but during the pilot I worked like 80 hour weeks. During the series we worked like 12-14 hour days Monday thru Friday. So it was a lot to juggle, especially just being my first time, but I felt like God had prepared me as much as possible for it and what ever I felt like I couldn’t handle I would take in prayer. I would talk to my friends. Sometimes I’d just have to cry it out until I felt better, but I’m a resilient person and I just kinda kept it pushing. I had a great cast around me and crew, loving people who were very encouraging and John was just amazing, so being on set was exciting. I mean, one day I got to work at 1pm, I didn’t get off until 4:30am the next day and so I got home at like 5am and then I had to be back on set at 1pm that same day. Needless to say I was exhausted, but I could not wait to go back at 1pm. (Laughs). That’s when you know that you’re really doing what you love, because no matter how frustrating, no matter how tired and exhausted you get, there’s something in you that just can’t wait for the next day! So being on set was awesome! Playing Method Man’s love interest, (laugh) was awesome or him playing my love interest, should I say. Him playing my love interest was hilarious, because I am younger than Method Man and when he was like doing, “You’re all I Need” with Mary J. Blige, I was like 13 years old or 14 and I was like in love with him. You know, I had like the biggest crush on him when I was a kid so never in a million years would I think I was gonna get the role and then he was playing my love interest. It was very weird when I found out he was up for the role. I had to do a chemistry read with him, I was like freaking out! I was like driving to the chemistry read freaking out! (Laughs)

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PYNK: Acting it all out in your head, like I’m do this and I’m gonna say this..like in your mind you’re playing it out!

DMT: Yes, exactly, I called one of my girlfriends and I was like, ‘Why?!’ Two of my girlfriends, I was like, ‘You guys, what is happening to me right now?! Like, I’m driving there right now, like I have to kiss him! That is so weird, like that is weird!’ I was like, ‘What if he doesn’t think I’m cute?!’ (Laughs). These are all the things in my head. I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, this is my part, like this is my role, he’s auditioning, I’m not, like get it together Danielle!’ You know, I gave myself a pep talk, like, ‘Get it together, go in there and just like be yourself, don’t trip, he’s a person just like you.’ Then I found out we have the same birthday, so I was like well okay we’re born on the same day, he has to be a cool person. We met and I was like, ‘You know we have the same birthday?’ He’s like, ‘your birthday is March 2nd?!’ I’m like, ‘yeah!’ He’s like, ‘ohhh!!’ We just kinda hit it off immediately with having that in common and he has been acting, but he’s kinda newer to acting. I’m a theater person and he admires me a lot for doing theater. He’s like, ‘Man, that’ll be so hard, I would love to do that one day!’ So we talked about that and when it came time to do love scenes and stuff, the first one of course was very awkward. We were both very nervous, we’re both married with children and we have both never done a love scene, so we were both kinda new at it. It was cool. We were both kinda experiencing it together. We were very respectful of one another. Just very respectful and very professional and cool and we just both know how to have a great time; so of course the first one was really awkward and it was very cute. He’s this big rapper in my head and like this is Method Man! So it was very cute to see like both of us be like really really nervous! (Laughs). I was like, he’s like human, that’s awesome! But overall we got along, like really really well and then of course by the time we got to the series, the other scenes we had; we’re always nervous. That’s just apart of the job. It’s not as glamorous as people think. People think like, you watch it on tv, like ooh that’s hot, but when we’re shooting it, it’s really not as hot as it looks on tv. You have a director like, ‘Do this, okay put your hand right there, okay put your neck back, okay…’. It’s not as seamless as it seems on television. (Laugh). So we’re definitely like brother and sister, building a good friendship and a great repore and I did say I really think I was blessed to have the co-stars that I had. I was very happy that he’s the person that was picked to be my love interest, because he’s just a stand up guy. He’s a good guy. I feel very comfortable with him. I don’t feel like he on no okie doke. He’s a really great great great person so, a lot of fun!

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PYNK: What was the “ghetto remedy” about? I saw on your Instagram. It was a picture of you and him and you said it was a ghetto remedy to keep you warm that he told you about. What was that about?

DMT: Ohhh yeah yeah! So we were freezing! I do not do good when I’m cold. I would rather be hot than cold and so when we were shooting it was freezing and there’s a certain scene where I’m outside, standing outside the door and I’m not knocking on the door, he comes outside to talk to me, and I was like freezing so he was like, ‘Come inside real quick!’ I was like, ‘Okay!’ He was like, ‘This is my ghetto remedy to keep you warm!’ He plugged in a blow dryer and turned the blow dryer on and was like putting the blow dryer on me so I could be warm.. (Laughs).. before I had to go back outside.

PYNK: That is hilarious!

DMT: He’s like, ‘I’ve been doing this for years!’ So funny, but it worked, cause I was warm! He definitely made me warm, so funny! He’s just silly, he’s just very very silly. He’s definitely not much like the persona that he puts on, you know as far as his rap character or whatever, he’s like a freaking goof ball!

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PYNK: That’s amazing. So it seems like in the series you’re playing a role that’s kinda similar to Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson and like the Cleopatra Jones, Foxy Brown, like those type of hard, bad ladies, but yet classy. Did you have to study? Were those your influences?

DMT: No, I didn’t study those roles. I’m very familiar with the roles. I actually was in a show, kinda like a play, kinda like a rock concert almost. It was called For The Record Tarenteno and we would sing songs from the soundtrack of his movies and play scenes from some of this movies; so Pam Grier played a role in one of his movies and I actually played her part in the show that we did so I’m like very familiar with her work and like stuff that she’s done, so this character I feel was definitely inspired by those women in the 1970s, the black exportation films and stuff like that. She’s definitely inspired by them, but the show and the movie is really not black exportation at all, the way that it was written. It’s a very character driven show, it’s procedural in nature, cause we have different cases that she’s working on, but it’s not all about action. There is action in it, but it’s really more about the personal journey and development of Rebecca “Rebel” Knight. It’s not just some woman who’s bad ass and kinda sexy who’s kicking ass and taking names. That is definitely a part of it, but majority of it is the world of this woman, the things that she’s been through, the struggles that she’s trying to overcome in order to do something for a greater cause. So I actually studied some other actresses that were in the show called Happy Valley on Netflix and I studied the main character; and that show, because her character and her journey was little bit more similar to Rebel’s journey. I definitely looked at Pam Grier’s swag as far as just how sexy and bad ass she was. I also studied Shaft. I think he was the first one that I studied, the way he moved, his walk, of course I have the female version walk; but just his swag when it was time for him to go kick some ass, you know how he kinda carried himself. Just how smooth he was, and stuff like that, so it’s kind of a mix of a lot of different things that I kinda looked at and pulled from to help guide me in what this show is. Cause this show is definitely so much different than those shows from the 70s and I think it’s gonna surprise a lot of people; a lot of people are talking about what they think the show is about, but they really have no idea.

PYNK: So ultimately what can we expect from the show? Any scoop you can share? What can we expect overall?

DMT: Overall, I think you can expect a show that tells a real life down to earth story about a woman who is trying to figure out who she is while she’s trying to fix the problems of other people. She’s a fixer for other people, but her life needs a lot of fixing at the same time, which is the dicatame of most of us living right now. We have a lot going on, maybe helping other people or doing things or being excellent in a certain area and then there’s areas of our lives where we need a lot of help. So you’re gonna see that journey and I think that journey is gonna speak to a lot of, bit just black women, just women in general. Rebel is not this woman who has it all together. She’s very crippled in a lot of aspects of her life. So my hope is that people will see themselves in her and maybe get healing for themselves. It’s also a show that talks about what’s happening in our world. We talk about some very relevant and current issues. The biggest one being the overuse of police force and the killings of all these African American men and women of the decades, but especially now since we have social media, we’re inundated with it much more. So it’s definitely speaking to that aspect in our nation. That’s the big umbrella of the pilot and the tv show is this situation that happened that Rebel is determined to get justice for; and then also the relationship between African American officers and their communities and how to navigate being an African American officer when there’s all this craziness happening in the department that you are on; and it’s like how do you take care of your family, how are you a champion for your community, and also still have an allegiance to the boys in blue or whatever. How do you fit in, you know, when you look like the people that are being murdered by the hands of people. So I think people can expect some hard hitting issues that a lot of us need to face, a lot of us want people to be talking about, not just acting like it doesn’t matter and like it doesn’t exist. This stuff is happening everyday and I had a hard time a couple of times shooting some of the scenes because it would hit me like, this is like real life! Like, this isn’t just a show, this isn’t just a play, we aren’t just playing make believe. Yeah, we’re playing make believe, but we’re talking about stuff that’s happening to people right now as I’m shooting this scene. People are grieving over their sons that have been murdered in the street. So there were times when I had to just kinda take it like, I’m sorry you guys need a second.. One time I just started crying. It was a certain scene I was doing and I couldn’t shoot it. I had to take a second first, before to get myself together, before I could finish shooting it. Yeah, so but then there’s also gonna be, you’re gonna hear a lot of Oakland slang and colloquialisms that people don’t really know, that don’t live in Oakland or don’t live on the West Coast. So it’s gonna be also a cultural lesson for a lot of people for the city of Oakland, which is a city where there’s a lot of people there who feel like nobody cares about them. Nobody cares about their children, their stories, about what’s happening in the hood and different places. So I think people are gonna get a little bit more incite about that culture and that city and it’s gonna be a celebration for Northern California, which makes me excited, because I’m from there! It’s gonna be some sexiness in there, there’ll be some kick ass fights, and scenes, and shootouts and stuff like that and I think it’s a very well-rounded show. It’s very diverse, it’s not just all black people on the show. You’re gonna get a lot of different perspectives. You’re gonna hear a lot of different voices and so I’m really hoping it will bring a wide spread and diverse audience to BET as well.

PYNK: What’s next for you?

DMT: I’m probably gonna produce my own stuff so I’m talking about producing my one woman show some time soon, probably in the summer. I have some projects that people want me to do, maybe a couple of movies or whatever, so we’ll see if they work out. This industry is very, you just never know! Taking it a day at a time and we’ll see what happens.

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BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE PREMIERE PILOT OF THE SERIES “REBEL” STARTING TONIGHT ON BET AT 10:00 PM EST!

Photo Credit(s): Danielle’s IG and JetMag.com

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