When Lovie Simone saw Raven-Symoné on Disney Channel, she was hooked. Not hooked on "That’s So Raven" (though she was a big fan), but hooked on a dream of becoming an actress.
"I was about nine when I started thinking this is what I wanted to do," Simone, 20, says.
The actress grew up on 180th Street in the Bronx and left the city with her family at age 16 to pursue a career in television. Her first major gig just so happened to be a recurring role on OWN’s "Greenleaf," across from Oprah Winfrey, herself.
"I auditioned the summer going into my senior year of high school. The funny thing is I said to myself, if I don’t get any jobs in senior year, I’m going to give acting a break and study fashion marketing. I auditioned for ‘Greenleaf’ and it was a major opportunity not to pass up," she recalls.
Below, she discusses what it was like to leave the Bronx behind and start her career with "Greenleaf."
You were 16 when "Greenleaf" premiered and uprooted your life in NYC to following a dream of acting. How did you know you wanted to do this at a young age?
I used to watch a lot of Disney Channel growing up and that kind of comedy always piqued my interest. I looked up to shows like "That’s So Raven," all Disney shows, really. Then, getting into acting, starting to see everything behind the camera, and growing up within the industry, I started to get interested in the personalities people take on and the psychology part of acting.
What were your early years like growing up in the Bronx? What do you remember most?
I pretty much remember everything. I was born and raised. I moved out of the city when I got "Greenleaf." I went to school in Harlem, FDA [Frederick Douglass Academy]. I’d take the train or the bus to school. Even before that, I was starting young being on the No. 2 train or the 19 bus, stuff like that. It was a cool life, but I was just a regular kid exploring her creative side.
How did growing up in the city help prepare you for your first acting gig?
That grind. That grind is built into you, it’s what New York gives you. Also, I feel like seeing diversity while growing up keeps you with almost everything. New York was that place where anything could happen for anyone.
You’ve worked alongside the likes of Oprah and Keith David in "Greenleaf." What have you learned from them?
So much. I’ve learned how sets work, little set lingo, different camera lenses and I’ve picked up on a lot of acting skills from my castmates. It’s really cool. It was exciting because I realized I’m one of the few people that can say Oprah is my TV family. She’s really nice and very welcoming.
This season of "Greenleaf" follows the fight from Harmony and Hope’s takeover of the church. How will we see this impact Zora and the "Greenleaf" family?
This impacts them in a major way. The "Greenleaf" family won’t be the same because of everything they have to go through with Harmony and Hope. A lot of things are brought to light in this battle. A lot of things will get mixed up, and everyone’s going to have to hold onto their seats because this is going to be an exciting season.
What does it mean to you to play a character who’s been through abusive relationships, harder times and found her voice?
I love being that voice because I feel like my character doesn’t do the right thing to the viewer all the time, but they are choices that a character made that are justified within that character’s mind. That’s what acting is about. It’s also fun for me to play dramatic scenes. It teaches me a lot. In my acting especially, it helps me see the psychology side of things: trying to justify certain decisions and making a life out of them.
ON TV: The fourth season of "Greenleaf" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on OWN.