“Sistas” star Ebony Obsidian, who plays salon owner Karen on Tyler Perry’s BET series, says she got into acting by mistake.
“I heard about this audition on the radio like 10 years ago, so I went the next day to try out and find some agents and see if anyone would be interested,” says Obsidian, 25, who’s originally from New Paltz.
“I was in my early teens, so I went back to school, graduated early and moved to the city and attended The William Esper Studio [for actors].” Obsidian, who moved to Queens (and now lives in Brooklyn), really wanted to be a journalist, she says.
“I went to college because I wanted to be a travel journalist. I wanted to tell stories,” she says. “And then I did an on-camera class and I am way too emotional to be just a straight-up journalist and look at the camera and be like, ‘People are dead.’ I was interested in it so I just gave it a shot.”
Once she began to pursue acting, Obsidian’s career took off. In addition to her role on “Sistas,” she’s appeared on HBO’s “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Hulu’s “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” and “Hunters” on Amazon (starring Al Pacino).
“When you get a script, a lot of times you can anticipate what’s going to happen — but I did not know a lot of what was going to happen with Karen [on ‘Sistas’],” she says. “But I got the trajectory of it. We get the script as we are shooting, so none of the cast knows the full story — which kind of helps because you can grow realistically.”
Obsidian acknowledges that Karen may be seen as angry. “I think a lot of her anger comes from pain and comes from the fact that she’s not where she wants to be in life right now,” she says. “She’s not happy with her situation, but she doesn’t necessarily know how to change it. She needs a minute to take a step back.”
Obsidian knows that she’s come quite a long way from her days working as a hostess at Applebee’s in Times Square. “The thing about New York City is you have to be a hustler,” she says. “I actually didn’t finish going to school because I didn’t have enough money. I was really out here by myself. I was thinking. ‘I have to make this work because I don’t have a Plan B.’ ”
With all of her success, she admits that she has to take a mental break from all the characters she plays. “Last year it was beautiful. I shot ‘Wu-Tang,’ ‘Hunters’ and ‘Sistas,’ ” she says. “It was a lot of traveling between Atlanta and New York. I wouldn’t say it was stressful. It was my first time juggling so many roles. I was excited, but I also knew I had a lot of work to do so it was just a matter of me being calm and being focused and not losing track of what I’m actually doing.”
Obsidian says her dream role would be to act in a Japanese Anime project, but that she’s perfectly content playing women with different emotions and personalities and “going into somebody else’s life and seeing where their joys come from, where the pain comes from, where the love comes from.”
And, she says, she looks to her mother for inspiration. “My mom wanted to be an actress when she was younger,” she says. “One day she said to me, ‘Remember when we were in the city for a little bit when you were younger? I was working but I was also auditioning.’
“I was maybe 7 and I had no idea,” she says. “[My mother] is living vicariously through me.”