Alexandra Foucard: An Interview with the Theater and Film Actress and Singer
Award-winning thespian Alexandra Foucard is what some might call a quad threat. You read correctly. She is a singer, a theater and film actress, and a writer—having written two short films.
Nathan Butera, who has directed Foucard on the TV show “OFFSEASON” especially appreciates her dual experience on the stage and on film. “That’s a rare thing to find these days. As many of the actors on my production are stage-trained and have limited film and TV experience, Alexandra has a language and presence she uses to help some of the other actors who are less experienced in film and TV translate their stage techniques to the screen.”
Foucard played Fantine in a production of Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables. In embodying the character, Foucard captured the vulnerability of the prostitute in 19th Century France, who is lax in her morals but who is abundant in motherly love and selflessness.
Its her dedication to capturing the essence of characters like Fantine that has earned her the admiration of directors like Butera. “She understands the power of a subtle gesture or a simple look of the eyes and has the confidence and timing to know when to use them in place of bigger, more affected movements and speech,” he says. “But make no mistake, when it’s appropriate, Alex will ‘let ‘er rip’ with a cut-you-to-the-bone performance that’ll make the hairs on your neck stand up an pay attention.”
Based in Los Angeles, Foucard was honored with a NAACP Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play, for the role of Adelaide in the musical “Guys and Dolls” and was nominated for the prestigious Helen Hayes Award for her turn as Vy in Sheldon Epps’ “Play On”. She played Beneatha in an off-Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Howard University.
Q & A
Tell us about yourself. I was born in Haiti. As in most Haitian families, we are on big melting pot. One of my grandmothers was Domincan and Spaniard, one grandfather was French, and my other set of grandparents were Haitian and Caribe. This has played a great role in shaping who I am. I have a great love of Haitian art and storytelling–it’s in my DNA. It’s opened my creative mind to embrace all art forms throughout the world.
So you were born in Haiti. At which point did you leave? Yes, I was born in Gonaives and we lived in Petion-Ville. However, political reasons forced my parents to leave Haiti when I was four. We first moved to Chevy Chase, Maryland but my maman couldn’t handle the cold, so we moved to Miami, Florida where I grew up.
Have you always been in love with acting? Yes! My parents told me when I’d go to the movies with them in Haiti, I would make them sit and I’d reenact the entire movie when we got home. I’ve been interested in fashion design, interior design, advertising, even the law. But I adore acting and singing.
You played Fantine, in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. How was that experience? It was a dream come true, I remember seeing Debbie Gibson singing “On My Own” on some morning talk show, and I thought,” I want to do that…I want to be in that show!” When I auditioned for Les Miserable I was was living in Miami. I went to a general call at the Theater of Performing Arts, [and] 386 people showed up and two of us were cast. I was with the Les Miz touring company for six weeks and then joined the Broadway Company. When you’re doing 8 shows a week you spend a lot of time together. We all had a great love and respect for the show, it was a great experience for me. The cast was and still is part of my theater family. In fact, those of us who are in New York went to see Les Miserables—the film—together in January, some of a crew also came along. We had a blast! One time, I remember being on stage singing my solo and realizing at that moment “Oh my God! I am actually on a Broadway stage singing! My dream is now my reality”, I started to cry.
Now, you’ve done theater, television and film. In which setting do you feel most comfortable? I am comfortable with all three. However, if I had to choose, I would say the theater. It’s my foundation. There’s something about being on a stage that make me feel grounded. Maybe it’s the familiarity.
Your performance in “Guys and Dolls” earned you a NAACP Award. How did you feel when your name was announced? It’s pretty funny because I didn’t know I had been nominated. A friend of mine called me to congratulate me on the nomination, I totally thought he was kidding. I was working in New York and was unable to fly to L.A. for the NAACP Awards. The night of the awards during the show I got a call from Maurice Hines, who played Nathan Detroit to my Adelaide and he told me I won. I was in my dressing room totally freaking out!
How much asowosi and vèvenn did your parents drink when you told them you were going to pursue acting? That’s really funny…I haven’t heard that in a long time. My parents were cool with me taking voice lessons, acting and dance lessons — My mother even drove me to all my activities. But, when I announced that I was going to get my BFA in Musical Theater my mother just didn’t get it. She told me, “No respectable Haitian woman acted as a profession. It ‘s considered one step up from a prostitute.” Pitit mwen te choke, men mwen pa t kite sa estope m. I told her: “Maman, I’m sorry you feel that way, but this is my passion.” She had a change of heart after I booked Les Miserables!
Are Hollywood people are ruthless as they’re portrayed? I think people are the same everywhere, it depends on what’s going on inside of them, I mean how they feel about themselves. This will indicate how they choose to react to certain situations.
Do you have a dream role? One written for me! [Laughter] I think that all actors would like someone to write something just for them. Although if I had to be more specific, I would like to star in a French film where I would play la fanm fatal. The idea of doing an entire film in French or Creole is exciting because it provides several challenges — not letting the words get in the way for one. I mean, I’ve only acted in English!
When was the last time you went to Haiti? It’s been too long! I was back in 1998. I would like to go back this year, I think Haiti has the most amazing people and it’s a beautiful country.
If you were graduating high school right now, and knowing all you know now, would you still get a degree in acting? Hmmm, interesting question. Honestly, I’m torn — on one hand there’s much to be said about having a BFA, I did get the conservatory experience, which was a great way to learn my craft. Yet, I think learning marketing and business is such an advantage because at least 90% of the industry is about those two things. But the thought of those majors bore me. Although, If I had majored in either I could have minored in Acting and Musical Theater. Frankly, I did learn a lot in college, but I don’t think it could have prepared me for all I’ve encountered professionally. Sometimes experience is the best teacher, provided you learn from it.
Do you think it’s essential to keep Haitian culture and customs alive? Absolutely! We have such an inspiring history which has bled into our culture and customs, it makes us unique. We’ve also had a great influence throughout other cultures as well through our music and art.
You’ve studied acting with David Sisco, Roz Coleman, Bruce Kolb, and Allan Louis, among others. What have you learned about your craft through these distinguished teachers? Very loaded question! They are all amazing acting and vocal coaches. They taught me to improve my technique and hone my craft as an artist. But, what I’ve taken from all my experience with them is how to make all the technique and coaching my own; in other words make it organic, because when you’re on stage or in front of the camera it’s just you. I’ve also learned an artist never stops growing, so I continue to coach with both my voice and acting coach.
When you bounce from role to role, how do you manage to create a new character from scratch? Well, I create a biography for each character: where I grew up, my likes and dislikes, profession, etc., in other words I get as detailed as I possibly can for each character down to my zodiac sign. This foundation makes it possible for me to be my character.
Is there a challenge in being yourself again, after you’re done playing a role? Yes, yes, yes! When I played Adelaide I would catch myself slipping into a Bronx accent while my voice became high pitched on certain words during conversations…crazy!
What can you tell us about “OFFSEASON”? “OFFSEASON”, well, I spend a lot of time in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. It’s a beautiful place with a huge artist and LGBT community. Some local writers, actors and a cinematographer got together and decided to create a miniseries. It is a quirky little town, people work hard during “the Season”, which is the summer, usually having two or more jobs. Then during the off-season, the winter, the town is deserted except for the townies and almost every business closes its doors. The show is based on what happens in Provincetown when the tourists go home. I’m Maya Wholly, a general contractor and yoga instructor who manages to get myself into a bit of trouble.
What are you working on currently? I’m currently working on “OFFSEASON”, we’re shooting five more episodes. I’m slated to do a science-fiction short this month, entitled Memorama, by Peter Normandia. I’m a president of major bank who doesn’t take no for an answer. Also in July, I’ll be working on a feature written and directed by Leon Raymond Mitchell entitled, Drinking From Satan’s Cup, I’m a French business woman with a twist.
You sing too. I’ve been singing my whole life. One day, I was about seven, I was singing in the hallway of our house in Miami and my papi said to me, “San, se radyo an kap jwe ?” Well that did it for me, I thought, “I can sing because my papi thought it was the radio.” I’ve been taking lessons since I was eleven. My stage work has consisted mostly of musicals, which is great. I’d love to do a television show or film where my character had to sing.
If you could talk to a room full of new graduates, who’ve just earned their BFAs from Howard University, actually from any university, what would you say to them about the road ahead? Hmmm, you ask some provocative questions. [Laughter] The first thing I would say is know who you are, accept and love yourself, know your talent and self-worth, be kind to yourself and trust yourself. When you leave the comforts of your universities where you’ve been incubating for the past four years you may find that people appear unimpressed or maybe even dismissive of your talent. But, if you hold on to all of these things I’ve mentioned, find good coaches, continue to hone your craft and maintain a clear vision of where you want to go, you will without a doubt get there.