Jasmine Carmichael stars in Kirsten Greenidge’s play ‘Milk Like Sugar’
In just three years, actress Jasmine Carmichael has gone from ensemble player in the Kwame Kwei-Armah-directed play “Dance of The Holy Ghosts” at Center Stage in Baltimore to lead actress in playwright Kirsten Greenidge’s “Milk Like Sugar” at the Calderwood Pavilion in the South End.
The actress stars in Greenidge’s Obie Award-winning play, which was partly inspired by the events in 2008 in the town of Gloucester, Mass., in which 18 teenage girls mostly under the age of 16 were part of a “pregnancy pact.” The play is about a pregnancy pact between friends Annie (Jasmine Carmichael), Talisha (Shazi Raja) and Margie (Carolina Sanchdez), but it’s also much more than that, according to Carmichael. It’s about “evolving friendship, evolving relationships with your parent and an evolving relationship with yourself.”
A classically and Shakespearean trained actress, Carmichael earned a BFA in acting from Rutgers University’s Mason School of the Arts. In 2015, she had a starring role as Juliet in the independent feature film “Romeo and Juliet in Harlem,” opposite Harry Lennix (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) and Aunjanue Ellis (ABC’s “Quantico”). She also has appeared in the television series “Blue Bloods,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Unforgettable” and “The Following.”
Similar to “Annie,” Carmichael came to a point in her life where she needed to figure out her next move. “I remember all the uncertainty that goes along with that, all of the excitement that goes along with that, too. And that really drew me into her. Someone who is really struggling because they really want to do the right thing for them but not really sure what that right thing is, and if there even is really a ‘right thing,’” says the actress on using her own experience to play the teen.
The Piscataway, New Jersey native spoke about her character and what attracted her to the role of the 16-year-old teen.
You made your theater debut in 2013. Does it feel like a lifetime ago? How are you feeling now about everything you’ve done so far?
Jasmine Carmichael: I’ve actually been very lucky. The first two professional productions that I’ve been in — both times I’ve worked with smaller casts and I got along with that cast as well — and I’m still friends with all of them. I’ve been very fortunate to work with people who have enriched my life and have helped me grow. And, so being here is sometimes very reminiscent of the last show that I worked on just in terms of the cast dynamic, and the positive good will that we all have for one another and for the material.
Can you describe your character Annie, and what was it about her that drew you to the role?
JC: I will try my best. Annie is newly 16 when we meet her on the night of her 16th birthday. She is a girl transitioning into womanhood and really determining what that means for her, the best road that is for her. That was something that I could relate to very easily — transitioning into adulthood and what that looks like. You want to make the right choices and you can only make a decision based with the knowledge that you have. All these new windows of opportunity are being open to her. All these new avenues are being open to her that she’s considering which she’s never in her life considered before. And so she’s weighing her options and figuring outside of her friends, or outside of who she might be seeing, or outside of her mother’s opinion. What is the best road for her to choose? What is the path that is going to lead her to her best self?
And I think that’s something we all struggle with at one point, actually at multiple points in our lives. What path should I choose? What road is going to be the best road for me? And hoping that you don’t make a mistake and having pressures weighing on you, people’s opinions weighing on you, people’s expectations weighing on you, and trying to weed through all of that, to find your own voice, and to find the courage to listen to your own voice, and trust your own voice.
What do you hope that audience takes away from Annie’s experience?
JC: The universal truth of growing up and how hard that is for everyone, and how even though you might have specific instances in your life that are different from the particular characters in the show, even if you can’t understand specifically what they’re going through, you can relate to them and can maybe see experiences in your own life where you’ve gone through a struggle that was similar to theirs, maybe emotionally or mentally.
What’s next for you?
JC: You know that question has not been answered for me yet. I’ll be returning to New York. And that is the life of an actor — always searching for the next thing, the next challenge, the next bit of material. Right now, I’m focused on this wonderful journey.