The trials and tribulations that one faces throughout life can either shake us to our core, or, place us on the necessary paths to prosper. After the ever-so-talented Keana Marie described that she spent years of her life as the second choice for what she describes as, “Huge, life-changing projects,” she ultimately rose to the occasion and persisted in the entertainment industry, as she vowed to never put her career, or ultimately, her dreams, on a particular timeline. Fast forward, she is now set to star in the highly anticipated Netflix series, Dash & Lily, premiering November 10th. As Keana is swiftly making her mark under the fluorescent lights of the Hollywood sign, not only is she polishing her career as an actress, but she is expanding her talents as a budding writer and producer. In this exclusive interview, we had the opportunity to chat with the multi-talented creative to discuss her newest role in Netflix’s Dash & Lily, valuable life lessons she absorbed from her on-screen character, Sofia, and an inside look into her directorial debut.
Megan Morgante: You’re a multi-talented actress, writer, and director. Did anything/anyone, in particular, inspire you to enter the multifaceted world of entertainment?
Keana Marie: Hmmm, I don’t believe I can pinpoint a certain thing or person who inspired me to enter this world (if I’m being quite honest). I was always performing as a child and I would say my passion and drive were self-engrained from an early age.
MM: What did your life look like before you entered the entertainment industry professionally?
KM: I moved to Los Angeles about seven-years-ago and before that, I lived in Miami. I was
still, nonetheless, submerged in the arts, as I attended an arts high school with a focus in theater, film, and photography. I had a lot more beach days back then and I’m a lot busier now, but overall, not much has changed!
MM: Can you give an overview of your past in the entertainment industry and how it led you to where you are now?
KM: I got an agent in the seventh grade, but in Miami, that looks like a lot of commercial
work and a once-in-a-blue-moon audition for a film/tv project. I landed my first role at seventeen-years-old in the film, Posthumous, while I was still living in Miami. The film had a very successful run in the festival circuit and helped me sign with the team I am with today. My first TV gig was Netflix’s, Flaked. I have also had the pleasure of acting in, Life in Pieces, The Goldberg’s, Wisdom of The Crowd, The Catch, Criminal Minds, as well as a role in Netflix’s, Huge in France. Aside from Dash & Lily, you can see me in my first lead in a new feature, Root Letter, projected to be coming out soon. Alongside acting, I am also a filmmaker. Most recently, I completed my directorial debut (which I wrote, starred in, and produced), As the Tide Comes In. Look out for that. I have really found my voice, love for expressing myself, and storytelling through words. I am currently writing a series and my first feature.
MM: The highly anticipated romantic comedy series, Dash & Lily, is set to premiere on Netflix on November 10th… congratulations! What can we expect to see from your character, Sofia, in the newest Netflix series?
KM: Sofia is Dash’s [Austin Abrams] ex-girlfriend who is back in town (they broke up because she moved to Brazil). Her father is a politician, so she is constantly moving around the world. Sofia is of Colombian descent, but her being a polyglot, she has developed her own unique subtle, or “Sofia Voice,” which is something I worked on as I was carving her character. With that being said, she is very mature for her age, cultured, and speaks six languages: Spanish, French, English, Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese. Unlike other stereotypical ex-girlfriends, Sofia is very likable, empathetic, nurturing, intellectual, and truly has the best of intentions. Coming back to town, Dash represents her safe space and is a source of comfort, he is one of her best friends, but with that brings complications. Particularly, in the sense that at times viewers are going to be perplexed and rooting for Dash & Sofia, so I guess you’re going to have to wait to make your own judgment!
MM: Was there anything, in particular, your character, Sofia, taught you throughout
KM: The way Sofia handles situations is way ahead of her time. I think she gets it, more
than most people. She sees the bigger picture and wants the best for everybody, to the point where she will be selfless, even if it hurts. Those are just some of the things I’ve learned from her so far.
MM: What was your experience like filming this project and working with the cast?
KM: Oh, it was amazing! First shooting on location, in New York City, is a complete delight.
Pure magic. The cast is incredible and a blast to work with. Austin and Midori are the perfect Dash & Lily. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
MM: Is there anything, in particular, you look for when reading new scripts?
KM: Story, story, story. How do I feel? Once I’m all finished reading - do I feel inspired? Touched? Did I learn something? Am I compelled to tell this story because I relate or because I think it’s important? These are the questions I ask myself.
MM: Where do you tend to draw your inspiration from when preparing for each role?
KM: I think it’s dependent on the role, every character has a completely different process, as far as research goes. With that being said, I pull from inspiration according to the character’s film and music taste. I really immerse myself into the world of, *insert character’s name,* and that’s where I pull most of my inspiration from, my imagination.
MM: The roles of an actress, writer, and director are obviously very different. Which position do you feel you have more creative freedom in?
KM: Ah! I’m going to say that in some ways, they are all freeing, or have the liberty of expression to some degree, if not all. Logistically though, I would say directors have the most creative freedom because ultimately, it’s their vision, their film. Actors, whilst it’s a collaboration, most of the time we serve as a channel of the director’s vision for the role.
MM: If you could give a piece of advice to someone looking to enter the entertainment industry, what would it be?
KM: Make your own films and projects! Go out there and use your voice. Work hard, but don’t care too much, because that could be hindering in itself. Get used to rejection, because tough skin is a requirement to survive in this industry. It’s work, but have fun & never forget why you’re doing it. Lastly, never give up. If your actual dream is to make art and it eats at your soul, if you aren’t feeding your passion, then never give up and do not give yourself a timeframe. For example, avoid the thought process, “...If I don’t make it in two years, I’ll go back home.” Everybody has their own path & timing. Trust the universe and keep manifesting, because we are way more powerful then we make ourselves out to be.
MM: Do you have any new or upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about?
KM: Yes, yes, yes! I mentioned them earlier, but aside from Dash & Lily, my upcoming projects include my first lead in the feature film, Root Letter, and my directorial debut for, As the Tide Comes In. Also, there are the things I’m cooking, projects I’m currently writing!
MM: Have you ever experienced any notable challenges throughout your career?
KM: Oh, definitely. The ups and downs are a given in this field. I spent years of my life as the second choice for, *insert name of a huge, life-changing project here.*
MM: Do you feel you have a social responsibility with your growing platform?
KM: 100%. As daunting as social media is, due to my tangible old-soul nature, I have some difficulties with some of the negatives that have come with the over ingestion of social media. But, one positive that is very important to me is how powerful and accessible it is for you to reach such a wide-ranging audience in seconds. One post might inform 50, 50,000, or 50,000,000 people. The point is, there is power in volume and in this day-and-age with everything that is going on, I think now more than ever is the time to use your platform & voice to reach as many people as you can.
MM: What would you say your personal style is like?
KM: I am an eclectic mix of all kinds of styles. I love fashion and have gathered some pieces through the years that I hold dear to my heart. These include a lot of thrift shop finds & boutique purchases from my travels.
MM: Who is your ultimate style icon?
KM: Honestly, I’m going to have to say... Sofia. I mean, just wait. I want, no, I need her closet. She is the ultimate style icon and I can’t wait for all the fashion trends she’s about to start.
Photography by: Samantha Hunter + Michelle Hindle