Carlease Burke is a high performance actress whose talent is definitely built to last. “Carlease! accelerates from the Cadillac of mini vans to the Cadillac of comedy.” She is fun, funny, fabulous and can be found performing on television, stage, stand-up comedy, and in the movies. In a word, Everywhere!
Carlease has over one-hundred credits to her name and was selected to work with the likes of Tom Hanks (The Terminal), Jennifer Lopez (The Backup plan), William H. Macy (Shameless), and Marlee Matlin (Sweet Nothings in My Ear), to name a few. One measure of an actor/actress is with whom they’ve worked. Carlease has worked with the best of them. Follow me as we journey in to the world of Carlease Burke, the Cadillac of Comedy.
Renisha Marie: Tell Los Angeles about your current roles.
Carlease Burke: I have a recurring guest star role on the ABC Family show, SWITCHED AT BIRTH. I was recommended by the ASL Master on the show because I know sign language and had worked with Marlee Matlin before. I play Principal Rose and my students attend Carlton School for the Deaf. It will be interesting to see what the school will be called next season because it’s now become 50% hearing! It is such a joy to be able to combine two of my favorite things: acting and sign language. I may be one of the few hearing actors who have “hands-on” experience with Deaf culture. Going to work on that set is like attending a family reunion with people I don’t get to seevery often.
Another project I am currently working on is not as “family” oriented as SWITCHED AT BIRTH, but also includes American Sign Language. I had been producing a standup comedy show called Laugh-A-Latte for five years at a Hot Java Coffeehouse in Long Beach. The show is still in existence with a new producer, Tom “Hot Fingers” O’Malley. Originally Tom was our sign language interpreter for all of our Deaf fans but because of his comedic stage presence, he quickly became a favorite of our hearing audiences, as well. In order to expand the reach of this uniquely diverse show, we have an online version for fans to rent or buy who can’t physically get to Long Beach on the third Saturday of the month. Enjoy a sneak preview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vexRBBykFA.
Renisha Marie: You worked with Tom Hanks and Jennifer Lopez. What was it like working with them and your impressions of them individually?
Carlease Burke: Working with Tom Hanks (and Steven Spielberg ) in the movie The Terminal is at the top of my list of all-time favorite projects to work on. Watching Steven Spielberg manage an entire set, cast (including about 500 extras) and crew without breaking a sweat was awe inspiring. Everything ran so smoothly you would hardly even know there were so many people/personalities involved. He commands respect because of his professionalism. He had to keep reminding me to call him Steven instead of Mr. Spielberg! He’s kind to everyone and gets the job done. Even though I had scripted lines, I never saw a full script while working on The Terminal. He would set up a shot, give us an idea of what he wanted and then we would go for it. Fortunately for me, every scene he put me in ended up in the film. It was so much fun and I would love to have the opportunity to work with him again.
Tom Hanks was also a joy to work with. On set, he was focused yet playful and in between takes he sat right in the middle of everyone and didn’t hide out in his trailer like so many other stars. At the time, it seemed like he was working on a writing project and everyone respectfully left him alone. Every Friday he bought lottery tickets for the entire cast and crew, and often there was a Coffee Bean truck on set, courtesy of Mr. Hanks!
Upon meeting Jennifer Lopez for the first time, you can’t help but notice how stunningly beautiful she is. I just wanted to sit and stare at her, but at some point I knew I would have to snap out of it and say my lines! When I worked with her in The Back Up Plan, I witnessed a true business woman. She was very focused on the project at hand and managed JLo village at the same time, which consisted of her twins, their nanny, her hair & make-up people and I’m sure there was a personal assistant or two in there somewhere, housed in her two-story motor home. Her acting was very natural. I watched her try new things in every scene, always checking the monitor after a few takes, I’m assuming, to give her seal of approval. Working with Jennifer Lopez was another pleasant highlight to add to my resume. For more about JLo and The Back Up Plan premiere, check out my blog: cbitsnpieces.blogspot.com
Renisha Marie: Give me one word to describe Tom Hanks.
Carlease Burke: Generous.
Renisha Marie: Give me one word to describe Jennifer Lopez.
Carlease Burke: Flawless.
Renisha Marie: You’re also a stage actress. What plays have you been in?
Carlease Burke: Helen-last year at the Getty Villa; August Wilson’s Gem of The Ocean;Romeo and Juliet; For Colored Girls Who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf; and Deadwood Dick, Legend of The West, to name a few.
Renisha Marie: What inspired your passion for acting?
Carlease Burke: It’s what I was born to do. I can’t explain it, but creativity is in my blood. I love the story telling process whether it be through dance, music, acting or writing. It’s what makes people fascinating to me; everyone has a story to tell. When I was a little girl watching TV, I used to pretend I knew those people I saw in that “box.” I would fantasize that I would grow up and become friends with them someday. My parents took me to a lot of cultural events and the day they took me to see Melba Moore in PURLIE on Broadway, I knew I wanted to be an actress.
Renisha Marie: What do you love about your work?
Carlease Burke: Everything!
Renisha Marie: What is your best quality as an actor?
Carlease Burke: My joy and gratitude for each and every job I book. My dedication and hard work. My belief in the characters I portray and how they fit into the story.
Renisha Marie: Describe your dream role.
Carlease Burke: It would be a character like the one I started in the show TOUCH. A homeless, schizophrenic mother, only this time we get to see her struggles and watch how she overcomes her challenges. It would be a story of triumph where some will want to help while others give up on her, but she will rise from the ashes like the Phoenix. It will be my tour de force, Academy Award-winning role!!!
Renisha Marie: What has been your biggest challenge?
Carlease Burke: Patience! There are some elements of this business we have no control over and there are no guarantees so it’s important to enjoy the process and keep the faith.
Renisha Marie: What motivates you?
Carlease Burke: Hope. Knowing that I have so much to give and that this journey is not over yet. I have a lot more to do here.
Renisha Marie: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and actresses?
Carlease Burke: Believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone discourage you from your dreams. Never give up. Ask someone who is doing what you’d like to do for advice on how they accomplished their goals. If you don’t know anyone yet, ask me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j25Ymvk3Wnc
Contact Carlease Burke :
Follow on twitter @CarleaseBurke
Like on facebook: Carlease’s Bits n Pieces
Car – lease` (n.) – talent built to last; option to buy