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The advent of the Internet and the availability of high tech photographic equipment and software at affordable prices have created an explosion of creative content across the virtual landscape. In addition to our ongoing series spotlighting independent producers of film and theater, we at US Townhall wanted to recognize some of the best of what we're calling "Entertainment Entrepreneurs" – those creative individuals who choose to work outside the traditional corporate studio system in order to create and develop their own projects that they can bring to life in a vision wholly their own, undiluted by Hollywood committees and focus groups.
We introduce to you Kai Soremekun, an established actress living in Hollywood who has decided to chart her own course and create her first ongoing web series, simply entitled Chick. Chick follows the journey of Lisa, played by Ms. Soremekun, a person much like you or anyone you could know: bright, funny, insecure, determined, complex, contradictory, and hopeful. However, Lisa has one tiny little quirk that sets her apart from the average boy or girl next door:
She wants to become a superhero.
And, fashioning a costume for herself and naming herself Fantastica, she sets out to do just that.
As the series creator herself puts it, Chick "uses the superhero as a metaphor for exploring human potential." Can Lisa be successful in her pursuit? Will she give up and just go back to her philandering boyfriend? And what are the underlying root causes of Lisa's desire to pursue such a seemingly off-kilter goal?
Read the no-holds-barred interview below to gain more insight into both Chick's creator, Kai Soremekun, and her character, Lisa. After which, we're sure you'll catch the chickspirit and want to follow Kai's ongoing project, the innovative new web series, Chick.
ABOUT KAI SOREMEKUN
USTOWNHALL: Tell us about your background: where were you born, and where did you grow up?
KAI SOREMEKUN: I was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and moved to Toronto when I was 6 months old where I grew up until I moved to New York to pursue dancing and acting.
USTH: When did you develop an interest in acting and performing?
KS: My mom is a nurse and my dad a doctor so I prepped myself through high school to follow in my parents' footsteps and go to medical school. But I struggled with math and physics and hated it even though I was smart enough to do well at it if I put my mind to it. Then it hit me that I didn't really want to be a doctor; I was doing it to please my father. So I took a year off after I graduated from high school to figure out what I really wanted to do. This kind of freaked my parents out because they feared I wouldn't go back to school and get a degree after my hiatus. But I felt it made more sense to figure out what I wanted to do than waste my parents' money doing something I may not follow through with. I had been taking dance classes for a couple of years at this point and really loved it. I explored that even though as a performer I was often terrified. At the time, I worked at a performing arts center called the O'Keefe Center as a concession stand employee. Posted in the Artists' Entrance was a notice about auditions coming up for entrance into a performing arts academy in New York called the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. So, on a whim and to push myself, I decided to audition. I sang "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, and I was pretty bad. But despite this, they invited me to attend the school. I had also been accepted into Simon Frasier University in British Columbia. So it was a moment of truth...University or Performing Arts Academy? I was having a hard time letting go of the belief that you have to go to University in order to make something of yourself. My mom was the deciding factor. She told me I should go to New York because if I didn't I would always wonder what if? And so, I went to New York, attended AMDA for two years, and have never looked back.
USTH: Any additional educational background in acting?
KS: [In addition to attending] the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, I've also studied filmmaking at Los Angeles City College. And I'm a huge fan of being a student of life. There's really no better classroom.
USTH: Growing up, were your parents encouraging of your creative endeavors or did they want you to pursue a more traditional career?
KS: Well, I guess I answered that one a bit previously. My dad was not a fan of my artistic pursuits in the beginning. He insisted they could be pursued as a hobby, but not as a profession. But despite his distaste with my decision to go the artistic route, he supported my decision to go to New York and supported me financially while I went through school. I really appreciate that because it's often hard for a parent to let go of their own strong beliefs in order to honor their child's different approach to life. Since the early days of uncertainty from my Dad, he has become my biggest fan. I think the decisions I made at that time in my life are confirmations to do your best as a young person to honor your own passions and what you're drawn to instead of pushing your dreams to the side in order to please your parents.
USTH: Tell us about some of your previous acting credits.
KS: I was a series regular on a Fox medical drama called Medicine Ball that aired for nine [episodes]. I've appeared in several films: a small role in the movie Heat, and a supporting lead role in a film starring Hill Harper called Love, Sex and Eating the Bones, which was voted one of the top ten films in Canada the year it came out. Several smaller roles on television shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Monk and many, many commercials which is how I support myself these days while I pursue my filmmaking dreams.
USTH: Tell us about any other self-produced projects you have done besides Chick and any awards you have won.
KS: My first project, a spoken word music video, The Style of My Soul, was featured in The Best of Doboy’s at the Pan African Film Festival and was honored with a Special Acknowledgement Award for Best Film/Video at the Black International Cinema in Berlin, Germany. I was honored with the Best Director Award at the Reel Black Awards for my first narrative short film entitled Maple.
My second narrative short film Lock Her Room was adapted from a short story of the same name and had its television premiere on the Showtime Network.
I was hired to direct and executive produce a web series called The Timer Game that was used as a prequel for the launch of a suspense/thriller novel of the same name. Even though that wasn't my own project, it was an amazing experience that prepared me for creating my web series, Chick.
USTH: As far as the future is concerned, do you want to grow this self-production operation you have now and stick to that, or do you also want to continue to pursue working for others in TV and film?
KS: Part of the reason I started producing my own projects was because I wasn't being completely fulfilled artistically from the roles I was auditioning for. I'm open to working for others in TV and film, but my focus right now is on developing my own projects and creating an interesting library of content geared towards women.
USTH: What genres do you feel are your strongest suits? Do you prefer comedy or drama?
KS: I've always gravitated towards drama but since shooting and acting in Chick, I am discovering more of my comedic side and enjoying it. For so long, I felt very insecure around comedic material, and I think having the opportunity to experiment more with the funny through my own project in a situation where people couldn't tell me what I could and could not do, has helped my relationship with comedy. Overall, I love pieces that encompass both comedy and drama because I feel that best reflects life. I always remember listening to an author read from his latest book at the Los Angeles Book Festival one year and during the reading I was moved to both tears and uncontrollable laughter. I felt so alive from that experience, and I hope to achieve that with my work as I grow as an artist.
USTH: Tell us about any other artistic talents you may have. Are you a "triple threat"? Can you also sing and dance?
KS: I started out as a dancer, but quickly realized that the life of a dancer was similar to that of an athlete...short-lived. So I switched my focus to acting. I can sing, but I'm not brilliant. Going to a performing arts academy gave me the basic skills to do singing, dancing and acting. I was also part of a rap group called Flexx for a quick minute when I lived in New York City.
USTH: Which actors or directors in Hollywood would you like to work with?
KS: Actors I would love to work with: Meryl Streep, Robert Downey Jr., Frances McDormand, Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Judi Dench.
Directors: Clint Eastwood, Steven Soderbergh, Kathryn Bigelow, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Sam Mendes, Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg.
USTH: Which recent movie or television roles would you have liked to have done?
KS: I've been so focused on creating my show that I haven't spent much time looking at roles out there I would have liked to do. To be honest, the role I'm playing in Chick is somewhat of a dream and the reason, after quite a bit of back and forth, I decided to cast myself in the role. There's nothing more fun than playing a character that is struggling, given the opportunity to grow and evolve during the course of the story being told, and on top of that dress up in a superhero outfit <laughs>. Everything else pales in comparison.
USTH: You wear many hats in producing this series: Star, Writer, Executive Producer, Director. Is there any one aspect that you prefer to the others? Which of these different jobs comes most naturally to you?
KS: I love, love, love directing. That is my passion and I feel connected to my life purpose when I’m directing. Time flies by when I'm working as a director and my instincts kick in so easily around that job...it brings me incredible joy.
USTH: You've shared a frightening experience from your past in that in January 1998, you were practically held at knifepoint by your boyfriend for a night. Can you go into more detail as to what precipitated that incident and how you escaped? Were you injured in any way? Did you press charges against this boyfriend?
KS: We had been dating for three years. It was a very tumultuous relationship up and down, emotionally and mentally abusive, but never physically abusive. I spent a good chunk of time in that relationship trying to prove to my boyfriend that I was good enough. What's deep about that is that I was so focused on wanting to be loved and accepted by him that I never stopped to ponder if he was worthy of my love. It's deep how sometimes you get so caught up that you can’t see the bigger picture. It's like when your hand is so close to your face you can't see it. Towards the end of our relationship, I got tired of trying to prove myself and so kind of started rebelling. Honoring my own needs, not placating him to keep things calm between us. Because I was changing my behavior in the relationship, it affected how he was responding to me. He probably, in hindsight, felt threatened that the status quo was going to change and so he stepped up the game to keep things as they had been. He showed up one night high off some weed and just started talking crazy. At one point, he pulled a knife out from under the mattress on my bed which freaked me out because first of all, how long was the knife under there?!?! It was a long night of just placating him, not pissing him off. He never actually threatened me with the knife but there were moments when that knife was inches from my stomach and he wouldn't let it go, which made me feel things could turn on a dime at any point and I could be seriously hurt or killed. In the morning when he'd calmed down and went to take a shower, I called my girlfriend and went into hiding for a few days to gather myself. The biggest problem was my self-esteem at that time was so low it was easier to stay in the situation than find a way to get out. But the knifepoint incident took things to a level I couldn't ignore anymore, and so I got out. I never pressed charges against him. He left the country soon after that incident which gave me some time to heal. By the time he returned and tried to pick things back up, I was strong enough to say no.
USTH: Were there any red flags or warning signs to you that this relationship was unhealthy before the January 1998 incident? If so, what made you ignore these warning signs?
KS: In hindsight, I knew the night I met him that this wasn't a good situation to be in. But I hadn't developed a strong relationship with my higher voice at that time in my life so I didn't hear the warning signs clearly. As I said earlier, I was caught up in trying to prove myself to him and I somehow convinced myself that once he realized how good I was all would be okay.
USTH: You have said that your chickspirit.com website exists to help empower young women. Why is that important to you?
KS: I think how you feel about yourself affects everything you manifest in your life. It would have been so easy for me to blame my ex-boyfriend for his horrible behavior and leave it at that, but the most empowering and exciting part of that experience was when the light bulb went off, and I realized I had a lot to do with ending up in an unhealthy relationship. When I took responsibility for my choices is when I really started to grow as a person. I consider self-awareness, taking responsibility and embracing all of ourselves – the good and the ugly – to be major keys to success and happiness in life.