Love Me or Leave MeAn Interview with Elise Neal
by Wilson Morales
Whether the role has been big or small, Elise Neal has consistently worked on films and TV projects for nearly 15 years.
After getting wide exposure in John Singleton’s 1997 ‘Rosewood,’ the Memphis, Tennessee native went on to be featured in other films such as ‘Scream 2,’ and ‘Mission to Mars,’ before landing on the successful TV series, ‘The Hughleys,’ and followed by ‘All of Us’ for the first two seasons.
Following 2005’s ‘Hustle and Flow’ with several independent films, Neal is back in the spotlight in 2010 as she’s been in ‘Love Ranch’ with Helen Mirren, ‘N-Secure’ with Essence Atkings, and ‘Love Chronicles: Secrets Revealed’ with Vivica A. Fox.
Coming up next for Neal is her return to television in the World Premiere of the stage production ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ on the Gospel Music Channel.
Love Me or Leave Me’ is a powerful and inspirational musical stage play that evokes an array of emotions. Cynthia Wyatt (played by Angela Evans) is a troubled teen who abandons her fraternal twin infants, leaving her own mother Annie Wyatt (Shirley Murdock) to raise the children. Now, 25 years later, one of the twins, Josephine Wyatt (Elise Neal), is an attorney who is engaged to the man of her dreams, Justin Daniels (played by Christian Keyes). Cynthia then returns to the scene to reclaim her place in her children’s lives. Will she be accepted? What made her leave in the first place?
The play also stars Clifton Powell, Carl Anthony Payne II, Terrell Carter and Terri J. Vaughn.
Blackfilm.com caught up with Neal as she talked about her recent project and showing different ranges of her acting abilities.
How would you describe your character?
Elise Neal: When they reached out to me, they wanted me to be involved in this staged play/ TV version, and I liked the character. She’s really layered, and she’s finding so many different things about her life and her mother. There are relations that this character goes through.
How different is this from shooting a film?
EN: I started my career doing musicals off-Broadway and all around the world and doing stage productions, and doing this reminds me of what I used to do all the time. I really enjoyed doing those. This is actually not a stage play because it was shot like a film.
How was working with the cast?
EN: I loved working with Terri J. Vaughn, and there were a lot of people in this production that I had worked with before. The best part was reconnecting with Terri.
This has been a good year for you as far as projects released with ‘Love Ranch,’ ‘N-Secure,’ and ‘Love Chronicles: Secrets Revealed.’ How exciting is it to be working?
EN: I love what I do and still love it. It was cool to be in ‘Love Ranch’ and loved playing a crazy prostitute. I usually don’t get to play those types of roles. It was awesome to be part of that production. I also liked doing ‘Love Chronicles’ and forming a relationship with the producers. It’s really good to be working.
With as much that you have done so far, are you still vying for parts in bigger films?
EN: That would be great. For me, it’s time to do something different so that people can see that I can do it. Whether it’s a big film or small film, doing something like ‘Love Ranch’ was different than a lot of the roles that I’ve done, so that’s generated a different audience for me and different projects for me as well. After I’ve done this for so long, it’s more about the project, and basically, the money. (Laughs) I’m just looking to show audiences a different range of my abilities, whether it’s on stage, big films, or small films.
EN: I would say no. The thing about being an actor is that work begets work, so when people see you working, you will always find work. For me, a lot of decisions that I learned over the years, I didn’t capitalize on. I come from the world of musical theater and you stick with the same agent your entire musical theater career. Being thrown into the acting world, I did not know that you didn’t have to do that. Now I know, and I’m doing different things because there are different levels of agents who can make things happen that others don’t. In the beginning, I didn’t know that. When a lot of people were offering their services, I was like, “I like my agent. I don’t see why I have to move. I like them.” I didn’t make those choices and now I know better. Things are happening at a different pace. Moving forward, you will see me doing a lot of things. I’m producing a lot of my own projects. I writing my own scripts and shopping it.
What project that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?
EN: There are so many things that I have done, I’ve been really lucky. I have great relationships with great people. I’ve worked with John Singleton twice. I have a great relationship with Wes Craven. I was just doing a documentary in regards to the ‘Scream’ movie because I was in ‘Scream 2’ and it’s called ‘Still Screaming.’ That’s because the fourth film is about to come out. I loved working on ‘Money Talks,’ and loved with D.L. (Hughley) on ‘The Hughleys.’ I loved working with Anthony Anderson on ‘Hustle and Flow’ and our TV show, ‘K-Ville,’ even though it got cut short. I’m grateful to have been a part of all these projects.
What keeps you grounded?
EN: Honestly, myself. This business, if you let it, can change your value system as a person and I think that’s the best thing I can say. You have to be true to yourself and look in the mirror and know that you are making the right choices and not doing things that are hurtful to other people. This business can be funny. I didn’t sleep with anyone to get a part. I didn’t get into drugs. I can look in the mirror and know that I’m happy and that’s really all I want.
Do you have any more projects lined up?
EN: I’m on the new NBC series called ‘The Cape,’ with David Lyons, Summer Glau, and Keith David. I’m very excited about that and I’m also shopping my own project called ‘Timeless.’ It encompasses my dancing, singing, and acting career. It would be a dream for me to do all those things on film. That’s what next for me.
‘Love Me or Leave Me’ will air on on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. ET with encores that night at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.