IN CONVERSATION WITH DANIELLE MONÉ TRUITT
Interview by Jana Letonja
Danielle Moné Truitt stars as Sergeant Ayanna Bell in ‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’, the latest installment of Dick Wolf’s successful ‘Law & Order’ franchise on NBC. An actor, producer, singer and writer, she created a one-woman show ‘3: Black Girl Blues’, which she performed before sold-out audiences in Sacramento, Los Angeles and New York City.
Danielle, you’re a lead in NBC’s ‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’, which is airing its third season. What can the viewers expect from the final episodes of this season?
I actually don’t know specifically because we only get the episodes right before we shoot them. However, you can certainly expect a lot of action-packed episodes where we all end up in pretty sticky situations.
Your character, Sergeant Ayanna Bell, is the squad Sergeant and a total force on the screen. How has it been portraying someone like her, a leader of the team that works to dismantle New York City’s most vicious and violent illegal enterprises?
It’s been really fun bringing her to life. She’s a rock for her squad and she really does give her all to her team and to what she does. It’s been fun finding the nuances of her personality and what makes her tick.
Before pursuing a career in acting, you studied theatre and dance at Sacramento State University. What was the turning point for you to pursue acting?
I took a theatre class as an elective and my professor suggested that I change my major from psychology to theatre. Funny, because both really are a study in human behavior.
I auditioned for a play and booked the lead role. After experiencing the process and magic of theatre, I knew that acting was something I wanted to learn as much as I could about it and it was something I wanted to spend my life doing.
For your theater work, you’ve been nominated for two Ovation Awards for ‘Dreamgirls‘ and ‘TheMountaintop‘, for which you were also nominated for an NAACP Theatre Award. What do you miss the most about your days on the theater stage?
I miss the electricity between an actor performing live and the audience. There’s a beautiful agreement between the two that says “For 2-3 hours we are going to escape the world we are living in, we are going to suspend our disbelief and commit to this make believe world.” Nothing is the same from performance to performance and you are continuously finding new things while on stage.
You also created a dynamic one-woman play called ‘3: Black Girl Blues‘ that you performed to sold-out audiences in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and most recently a very successful reading in New York City. What feelings do you experience when being on stage, in front of live audiences?
I truly feel free when I’m on stage. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to create a world for the audience and I love to see the discoveries they are making as I bring the story to life. The stage really is my happy place and it’s the place that I feel I shine the brightest.
Tell us more about ‘3: Black Girl Blues’. What inspired it, what’s it all about? Do you have plans to take it to other cities as well?
It is a tale of three close friends, Keisha, Jill and Stephanie, who grew up together and now at thirty years old are confronted with facing their demons. They cling to vanity, envy and pain, all while trying to make sense of their past, present and future. Keisha, an urban socialite, has her life crushed when she realizes her long-term boyfriend has had a child with another woman. Jill, a housewife in denial, admits to the betrayal put upon her by her husband. Stephanie, an executive in the upper echelon world, has to face the core of her mental illness. The play is a meditation on external behavior and the forces that cause us to come clean.
I saw a one-man play back in 2005. I was so inspired. In 2007, I called my dear friend Anthony Djuan and asked him if he could help me write a one-woman show. We got to work and a few years later ‘3 Black Girl Blues’ was born. It’s been a true labor of love and one of the highlights of my career.
I am doing a run of it this summer in Los Angeles and Sacramento, and I plan to do a full run in New York in the summer of 2024.
At the beginning of February, you attended The American Heart Association‘s ‘Go Red for Women: Red Dress Collection Concert‘, a national marquee event aimed at increasing awareness of heart disease in women. Why is supporting this association and this cause so dear to you?
Supporting this cause was so important to me because my mother has heart disease. I witnessed firsthand her struggle with her health. Black women are affected by heart disease at alarming rates.
Splitting your time between New York and California for work and being a mom to two boys is not the easiest task. How do you balance it all?
Well, I don’t really believe you can actually balance things. I just try to do my best whether I’m at work or going back to California to spend time with my kids. My children are my first priority, so traveling back to California is a must. I try to do self-care as much as possible to avoid complete burn out. And I’m grateful that production tries to honor my requests for travel as much as they can.
Danielle, what’s next for you in your career? Any exciting projects that you can share with us?
I’m really excited about my play. Producing it is a huge deal for me, so I’m looking forward to it.