By Charles Hallman Staff Writer
Sofia Dupre arrives in town to work for the local billionaire. Almost immediately after her arrival, she gets involved with a handsome gent. That encounter didn’t work out, but she soon gets smitten instead with the man’s brother, and they both fall in love. While planning the wedding, the soon-to-be spouse hasn’t been totally honest with her soul mate, and his brother has threatened to disclose their tryst — partly to protect his unsuspecting brother, but more so because he also loves Sofia.
This is a complicated love triangle not so unfamiliar on TV’s soap operas, except this time Black people are interestingly involved. Julie Pace Mitchell plays Sofia on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless. Darius McCrary plays Malcolm, the husband, and Kristoff St. John is Neil, his brother. According to AOL Black Voices, Black actors such as Mitchell, McCrary and St. John on daytime soaps are increasing, and their roles are juicy ones. Speaking from the show’s set, Mitchell, who joined the cast last June, excitedly talked about her “nuptials” in a recent phone interview with the MSR. “It’s going to be some Black love in the afternoon,” she announced. “We’re a happy couple, and we’re both employed and bucking some stereotypes.” Yet, she understands the ups-and-downs of the soap opera world.
As a result, being employed, whether as a fictional company executive or a real-life actress, is awfully important for Mitchell, a formally trained actress. “Every day, I turn the script to see if I live or die,” she said jokingly. After earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from the National Theatre Conservatory in the early 2000s and her bachelor’s degree in theater from Howard University, Mitchell also studied classical theater at Oxford University in England and improvisational comedy with the Groundlings in Los Angeles. She has worked on the stage, appearing in Shakespeare festivals, hip-hop festivals and off-Broadway productions around the country. Mitchell’s film work includes a featured role in the movie Notorious, and her television credits include The Closer, Cold Case, Chappelle’s Show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order and Strong Medicine. “I’ve been really blessed to be able to have a career for a long time before I came to television,” she noted. “I think if you have a background, and really stick to it, you can follow your dream and have the chops to back it up.” On her current role, “I auditioned over and over again,” Mitchell pointed out. She’s really enjoying her role as a no-nonsense Black woman on the long-running daytime program: “[Sofia] is a chief financial officer in a multi-faceted corporation.
She became engaged to Malcolm [McCrary], a member of the Winters family, an African American family living [in the show’s fictitious town located in Wisconsin]. I just [suddenly] appeared in town,” continued Mitchell. She also enjoys working with McCrary, whose acting credits include a starring role in the sitcom Family Matters. “On the second day at work, we were in bed [on the show],” admitted Mitchell. “Darius and I have a lot of fun off screen. I think it is really great that CBS gave two dark brown, chocolate people the opportunity to change things in the daytime.” Working with St. John, a veteran soap actor, has been great as well, she added. “When I had a [love] scene with Kristoff, I had to take my top off, and I was really nervous all day about it. But it’s fun.” Soap operas are very popular among Black audiences.
“They [have] universal themes of right and wrong,” asserted Mitchell. As the daughter of actress Judy Pace and actor Don Mitchell, acting came naturally: “I think it is in the blood,” Mitchell believes. She also happens to be a stepdaughter of the late Curt Flood, who legally challenged Major League Baseball’s old reserve clause in the early 1970s, eventually creating today’s free agency rules Judy Pace appeared in many screen roles in the 1970s, including Cotton Comes to Harlem, and Don Mitchell was a key cast member on Ironside. “Definitely, my mom was groundbreaking in her time,” Pace’s daughter said proudly.
Also a playwright, Mitchell has received a NAACP Theatre Award for The Interview, a one-woman show, and five nominations for her work on Hills Above the Hood. “I’m working on a comedy show,” said Mitchell, adding that her natural comedic skills are a result of “being the baby in the family — you are fighting for attention and you have to be quick. I have an older sister, but we also have a foster family.” She sees an all-Black daytime soap opera on television in the future — NBC once aired Generations, which featured two families, one Black and one White. “I definitely think [it can happen],” said Mitchell, adding that the Internet is fast becoming a medium for Blacks as well. “We can do anything.” Mitchell said that Black audiences must show support for Black actors and actresses in whatever medium they are in. She encouraged the public to visit her website, www.ju liapacemitchell.com. “I think we have to write our own stories more and support different types of Black films and independent films.With my mom in the ’70s, we did have that era of Black exploitation films, but it was a lot of work [for Blacks]. Now it’s not necessarily that much [work]. I think it’s gone backwards in some ways, but I’m not complaining,” the actress concluded.
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