Interviews

Actress, Screenwriter Maya Hooks: I Am The Movement

Maya Hooks, the multi-talented Chicago native, has a released a short film titled ‘Black Girl vs Ambiguous’, which centers around a very determined brown skinned girl who gets thrown into an ongoing cycle of ambiguous acting auditions and vows to challenge the systematic stereotypes of the entertainment industry.

Not only does 13-year-old Maya Hooks star in the short film as Andrea Worthy, but she is also responsible for producing and co-writing the film along with mentor Seven “Okema” Gunn.

Striving to be the next Regina King, Hooks is truly working on becoming a serious creative force in the entertainment industry and a superstar in her own right.

Black Girl vs Ambiguous (@bgva_movie) is screening this November at various film festivals starting with the Queens New York International Underground Film Festival.

  • Queens New York International Underground Film Festival Oct 15-17th
  • Black Harvest Film Festival Nov 6-30th
  • Film Girl Milwaukee Film Festival Nov 13-15th
  • Cannes Short Film Festival Nov 13-16th
Actress, Screenwriter Maya Hooks: I Am The Movement
Maya Hooks

We caught up with Maya Hooks to speak about her latest project, what’s next, and how she is juggling school, acting classes, auditions, and studying film making & screenwriting at the Bronx College in New York.

How old were you when you decided that acting was something you wanted to pursue and what inspired you? Was it a movie? An actor?

Well my parents said I was always trying to put on a show since I was about 5 or 6. When I was 9 we had a Queen of the monologue contest at school and I entered and won. I did a monologue from the movie Fences. It was when I saw Viola Davis in the scene with Denzel I decided then I wanted to be an actor. After that my mom signed me up for community theater classes at the Kroc Center Chicago by my house.

What about that particular scene that made it the moment where you decided to become an actor?

When she crying saying “I held on to you Troy” when he told her he had a baby and the mom died. That scene helped me to realize the kind of actress I wanted to be. I’m training a lot because I want people to not be able to doubt me as a actor.

Speaking of training, you have a mentor named Seven “Okema” Gunn. How did that connection come about?

Yes I am a current acting student of Shari Shaws studio and my acting coaches are Deanna Reed-Foster and Lisa Morgan. Seven Okema Gunn is my filmmaker Mentor. She casted me as her lead in her film A Sisterhood of the Signatures, and I told her about my idea for a film and she encouraged and supported me and my mom to help bring my vision to life.

Seven has been so supportive and really makes me feel like I can do anything I want to do in the entertainment Industry. I told her I wanted to create more roles for girls who look like me and just not be an actress and she said “so do I, now let’s work together” and we did! She is a teacher and so her breaking down the film making process was kinda easy for her. She listened and that gave me the courage to do even more by myself and with the help of my mom who knows nothing about the entertainment Industry.

One of those films that has come to life is Black Girl vs Ambiguous, which you co-produced with Seven. Tell us about the film and what do you want viewers to gain from it?

Well I really wanted like casting directors, and networks (like people in charge of putting out tv shows, movies, commercials and films) to see how colorism in the casting process affects kids confidence.

Black Girl Vs Ambiguous is my story and Its inspired by real events that were painful to me. I still don’t like when I get an audition breakdown that says Black or ethically Ambiguous because Its not the same. I want people to know that your hard work should matter more than the color of your skin, eye color or your hair texture.

As far as the art form, what has been the most challenging obstacle you have had to over come so far?

I think its just being told no a lot. You get way more no’s than yes. Its challenging when you work hard trying to balance school, sports, and training. Also you can’t like see your friends as much and you don’t book, but I’m not giving up at all.

What advice would you give anyone who is a young teen like yourself and is trying to make their dreams come true and like yourself trying to balance so much?

Keep doing things you love while acting or film making. I am a competitive swimmer and diver and I love the water so much. Follow your dreams and just don’t give up when things get tuff. My mom has pushed me to work on time management and it works.

Do you feel the youth in 2020 understand the opportunities that are out there for them if they apply themselves?

I do, but some people don’t know how to find opportunities or don’t have the support I do. That’s why when I become successful I’m going to open a acting school in the Roseland and Morgan Park community.

You are a screen writer, producer, and actress, which is your favorite and why?

I’m an actress first. I love acting, it’s who I am. I love screenwriting and directing to because I can make the characters do what I want. Making my first film made me feel empowered like I can really do whatever I want (Laughs).

I plan to do both just like Spike Lee, Regina King and Issa Rea. My mom said I’m 13 and so I have time to decide.

Your film Black Girl vs Ambiguous is screening at the Black Harvest Film Festival in November. Being a Chicago native how important is this moment for you?

Very special! Last year, I was at Black Harvest as an actor and this year a filmmaker! Black Harvest just feels like home because I see lots of people I’ve been meeting along the way and meeting new people. I wish the festival was in person again. It’s nothing like seeing yourself on the big screen after all your hard work.

What’s next for Maya Hooks?

I’m hoping to shoot my award winning script You Change late spring, while working on my first feature film script. I also will keep training, auditioning and working on my craft as an actress.

I’m constantly in movement as a actress, screenwriter, competitive swimmer, student and dancer! I don’t stand still for anybody.

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