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Film Thu Jun 03 2010
Going from a career in engineering to an acting career may seem extreme to some; however, for Chicago-born actress and producer Mekita Faiye, this bold move was a seamless transition that proved that your dreams really can come true. Here, the South Side native talks about trading in math and science equations for the bright lights of Hollywood, and also her new movie Speed-Dating, which hits theatres this week.
How did you get started in acting and producing?
It's interesting because I've been onstage since I was little--acting, singing, dancing and things like that. I was also good in math and science, and when you're good at that, you're pushed in that direction. I later decided pursue engineering, which I still love to this day; however, it was so challenging, that once I got my Bachelor's degree in engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), I really didn't have time to do things that I loved and had done all my life.
When I decided to move to Atlanta to pursue my PhD, I told myself that I would get my PhD in engineering, but on one condition--that I get back to the things I knew and loved. In Atlanta, I would go to the lab, change clothes, run out, and either do an independent film, take acting classes, or even enter beauty contests. After I graduated, I decided to take a chance on my dream--so I packed my bags and drove to Los Angeles to pursue acting. Producing just kind of fell in my lap.
And you produced Speed-Dating, which hits theatres this week.
This is actually my fifth film but the first one under my production company, Eizzil Entertainment. It's also the first one going to theaters. I'm very happy about that. I couldn't ask for anything more.
Tell us about the film.
Well, we like to say it's the "must-see" comedy of 2010. And it's definitely a comedy for men--finally! Usually, women have to drag men in kicking and screaming all the way to see romantic comedies, but men are gravitating towards this film, probably because it follows the journey of three guys who have are in the lead roles.
So the film centers on men somewhat?
Yes. It follows these guys who love women for all the wrong reasons and it follows their journey to become more mature in relationships. It also has strong ladies behind them who help whip them into shape.
Was it a conscious effort on your part to make it more appealing to a male audience?
I would like to say "yes," but no, we just wanted to make a funny movie--one where people could come out and laugh and see beautiful men and women onscreen. We just wanted to make a fun movie and we lucked up on it being so well received by men.
Tell me about your character, "Danielle."
Danielle is a very interesting character and a lot of women will identify with her because she's fun-loving, but at the same time, she's strong and sticks to her morals. I also think that's what attracts the character "Too-Cool" (played by Wesley Jonathan) to her. But even though it's a comedy, there are serious parts to it and we deal with some deep issues; for example, Too Cool has an estranged relationship with his mother, played by actress Holly Robinson Peete. He also has some abandonment issues and Danielle helps him come face to face with himself. This is one of the reasons he falls in love with her. And even though she is fun, she's very no nonsense and I think women can identify with that strength.
Speed-dating is very fast-paced and in many ways, very impersonal, which seems to be par for the course in our current society with technology and such. Do you think this will simply be the future of dating?
I wouldn't say that; I think we're just in a time now where you can pick and choose what you want to do. That's the fun thing about being in this era of technology though, because there's a wide variety of things you have access to and you can simply pick and choose. It's all about the variety of life. But in the movie, we actually make speed-dating a little more interesting--we do it like "musical chairs"; once the music stops, if the guy doesn't find a lady, then he's out!
There are lots of funny things about dating, especially the awkwardness in the beginning. Any funny dating stories you care to share?
[Laughs] I've had some decent dating experiences, so shouts out to the nice, outstanding gentlemen out there! I think the biggest disappointment though is when chivalry seems almost dead, but you do find some gems, and I'm appreciative of those.
Speed-Dating is opening in Chicago. Talk about what premiering the movie in your hometown means to you.
It's an indie film and we don't have studio backing yet. And you know, I don't believe studios value our dollars because they pick up urban indie films and send them straight to DVD. We decided to take a stand and felt that people want to see quality movies in the theatre and they will spend their money to do so. That's why opening weekend is so important. But it's such a good feeling to open in Chicago, because I felt I could rally the support in my hometown to show the studio that people are going to take a stand and want to see this movie. And we need a wide release because people want to see quality movies; they don't want to have to resort only to DVDs to see our movies. I believe my hometown will do this for me.
The movie is opening at the ICE Theaters, located on Chicago's South side--was it important to you to open in the community?
It was very important to do this and I have to thank Don and Alisa Starks for the opportunity because they didn't have to do this; they could've stuck to the Sex and the City 2 and other big name movies, but they've taken a stand by supporting independent filmmakers and that means a lot to me. I'm very grateful to them for giving us this opportunity.
I also see Speed-Dating won the Audience Favorite Award at this year's Pan African Film and Arts Festival--congratulations.
Thank you. It was an honor for the oldest and the largest black film festival to recognize us. Winning the audience favorite award is the most important award, in my opinion, because that's when the audience says, "Hey, this was our favorite film at the festival." It really was an honor to receive that award from such a prestigious film festival.
Well, I'm just going to continue making quality films. Also, I co-produced the film My Girlfriend's Back starring Malik Yoba which will be out this year.
Is there anything you want to tell Chicago?
I just love this city. There's no place like Chicago and I couldn't ask for anything more than to be opening my movie in my hometown. I can't wait to see Chicago come out and support it. Opening weekend is important so we're asking everyone to come out.
Speed-Dating opens Fri., June 4 at ICE Theaters, 210 W. 87th St. Tickets and showtimes vary. For more information, visit the theater's website or call 773-892-3204.