Broadway star Chantel Riley, who made her debut on the Germany Broadway run of The Lion King in 2012 as Nala, is having quite the year. After landing her first role in the anticipated film “Race” this month, she’s on the fast track to becoming an artist to watch. Riley talked with Glambergirlblog exclusively about her role in The Lion King, landing “Race,” advice she received about the industry and how she got started.
“For me it started with an invitation from my friend Olunike Adeliyi, to go to an open casting call for The Lion King,” Riley said about getting her start in the industry. “Before that, I haven’t had any background or training in theatre or drama. Now that I have been working professionally for four years, I have been able to take a couple of classes in New York.”
The Canadian-born actress didn’t hear anything from Disney Theatrical for a couple of months following the open casting call, but then she did and flew to Hamburg, Germany to audition for the role of Nala. She learned “Shadowland” in German, tried out for the role and in five days she received news that she earned the coveted role. A role that changed her life.
This year, as mentioned earlier, Riley received her first acting credit outside of Broadway in “Race,” starring Stephen James as the lead character. Riley play Quincella Nickerson, the woman who came between famed athlete Jesse Owens and his long-time love Ruth. It was a role she was nervous about auditioning for, but took on headstrong. “My agent sent me the audition and had to record myself on tape. I was a little nervous that only submitting a tape wouldn’t be enough. Fortunately for me, it was,” she said.
She then went on to talk about her character and working with the cast telling GGB, “Quincella Nickerson was the daughter of a wealthy business owner in California during the 1930s. She was well-known as a socialite and a big fan of Jesse’s. I imagined she was the type of woman who got whatever she wanted. A new car, beautiful clothes, it all came easy to her.”
“Working with Stephan was great. He is very sweet, humble and committed to his role. We are both from the same city, Toronto, and so that made it a lot easier to have some sort or connection and chemistry. I also had the chance to work with Jason Sudeikis. He was great to be around. Jason is so funny and such a great actor. It was an honor to be able to work with both of them,” Riley added.
Having worked on both live theater and on set Riley noticed a big difference. She said, “I think one of the biggest differences from set to stage was the fact that on set, it was live. So if I had messed up a line or two we are able to reset and do it again. On stage, it’s a one time shot everyday. On stage you have to be ready at all times because you never know what is going to happen. Also, with a live audience you get to feel the energy of the crowd, which can sometimes affect your performance.”
One thing that attributed to Chantel’s performance as an actor was the advice she got going into her life as an entertainer. “The greatest advice I have received was to know that I was good enough. In this industry, it is easy to have growing insecurities. But I have been taught that it is important to know that I am capable. If I put my mind to it, and take to the time and effort to building my craft as an actor, that I am worthy to continue in the business,” the “Race” actress said, then offered some advice to aspiring artists.
“I love to tell aspiring entertainers to see yourself where you want to be. Visualization of your career and dream is so important. It allows you to have hope and push you to work towards your goal. There are going to be times when it is going to be difficult, but hang on and push through, you are an over comer and can do anything you put your mind to.”
As an actor you never know where the “next one” will come from, but Chantel Riley is optimistic on what’s to come. “All I can say that for now I am continuing my role as Nala in The Lion King and am staying faithful and positive for what is yet to come. I am excited to see what this year will bring.”
Keep up with Chantel Riley on social media by following her on Twitter and Instagram @chantel_riley and on Facebook at Facebook.com/ccamilleriley.
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Photo: Chantel Riley