Interview with LSTFI Alum Y’lan Noel
Q: So first off, When did you graduate from NYU and what studio/s did you attend?
A: I graduated from NYU in the spring of 2010. My first year and a half I was at Strasberg and then I did the Experimental Theatre Wing Transfer track my final semester. I also did the ITW Amsterdam program the summer before graduating and a summer course at NYU/Stonestreet Studios while I was at Morehouse College.
Q: Nice! What made you decide to transfer from Morehouse to NYU?
A: A lot of different reasons. Mostly because I didn’t get in the first time I auditioned for NYU. I remember the admissions process to the acting program was 50 % artistic and 50% academic and I was equally worried about both. I didn’t know what a “monologue” was until I was reading the application brochure and saw that one would be required. That said, my grades coming out of High School were just as underwhelming as my audition had to have been considering I wrote my “monologue” on the plane and paraphrased it during the audition. All within the same day. My only stop between the airport and the audition was to purchase a candle from a corner in Chelsea, somehow I wrote the piece and decided my character would be addressing a candle instead of an actual person. Not my brightest work. Later on after taking a couple acting classes at Morehouse however I decided I wanted to give NYU another shot and did so through the ‘Spring at Tisch’ program which afforded students at other universities a semester long introduction into Tisch. Strasberg was the studio that was automatically chosen for me. I loved it, to say the least, and while I was there for the spring I began preparing my application/audition for the following fall semester. After over-preparing in order to compensate for the lack of preparation the first time- I finally got in and chose to continue with the Strasberg approach towards acting.
Q: When did you move out to LA and what made you decide to do that move?
A: To be honest LA was a surprise move even for me. I was being politely hounded by a friend from college who was living in LA and working as a manager to put myself on tape for a project one of his colleague’s clients was putting together. I did and they liked it enough to ask if I could be in LA the next day for a chemistry test if they paid for the trip out. They sent a car to the house in the morning and I was off to LA for my first tv/film audition. I ended up finding out that same day a couple hours after the chemistry test that I booked it and wouldn’t be going back to Georgia for a while. I went to Marshalls to buy underwear and socks. This was 2013 and the role was for a series regular but by the time we didn’t get picked up for a second season I had already moved back home to Georgia.
Q: How is working with the creative cast of Insecure?
A: A dream that I didn’t even know I should’ve been dreaming. If that makes ANY sense. Everyone is so enthusiastic and friendly from my fellow actors to the writers to the camera operators and crew. It’s been ideal in every way, so much so that I have to keep my expectations in check since I know not all shows I work on will be this community inspired. We go paintballing on the weekends and stuff, crazy.
Q: Any shows on television now you would like to be a part of?
A: I should be watching way more shows than I am right now but of the few I’ve gotten a chance to check out I’d have to say ‘The Knick’. I really want to play in a period drama and to act alongside Andre Holland would be supremely dope.
Q: I agree! He’s fantastic! So as an actor, what has been your favorite project to be a part of thus far?
A: On camera I’d have to say ‘Insecure’. The way the show permeates through a culture that I know and adore so much is what this whole thing is about for me. All of my family watches it and all of my friends and people I care about the most have been blown away by the content and how much they relate to it. It’s been fun to passively sit on heated conversations going on around me about infidelity and loyalty when the character I play is partly responsible for triggering these events. The show stimulates real life conversation in a way I personally haven’t seen from any other show. The fact that I’m in it is just a bonus for the people that know me. They’d watch it regardless because it speaks to them in a way that a lot of other shows aren’t able to. Some of them even root against me and that’s also really cool to know they are invested enough to do that.
Q: How much do you use your training in preparing for a role?
A: Consistently. The biggest thing I learned and use on a daily basis are the relaxation techniques I learned at Strasberg. I got my first formal training in acting at Strasberg and sitting in those metal chairs with my feet and arms flailing didn’t seem like much at first but the purpose isn’t lost on me these days. I find myself going back to a lot of the “private moment” stuff I learned back then as well. I spend a lot of time by myself as it is so my natural tendency when I’m in a big group of any kind is to “hide”. Obviously you have to do the exact opposite of that on camera or on stage and doing the private moment work helps me stay open to expressing myself even when my inherent public anxiety kicks in. To be able to be private in public space was a focus in the training and continues to be.
Q: I truly believe that is what makes this training so special. I also believe this shows in the really gifted actors… That being said who are your role models?
A: My role models are a lot of character actors. Gary Oldman is my favorite right now but that changes every now and then. Right now I watch clips of him before auditions just to reinforce to my mind and body the true reason I do this which I’m beginning to see is purely for the transformational aspect. It’s what I find most satisfying about acting. My other role models are actors who I see bare themselves whenever we see them onstage or on film/tv and then we don’t hear much about them otherwise. I kind of love that.
Q: Before we wrap up, any words of wisdom to aspiring actors graduating from NYU?
A: The advice I give to myself every day is to trust my timing and also to not be afraid of getting a little ahead of myself and feeling a bit off balance. I am sort of a control freak when it comes to the way I conduct myself in my personal life where I want to know everything that is coming before it comes and I want to feel 100 % percent prepared before I try anything and using that approach with my acting just takes all the fun out of it. I’m learning to find the fun and satisfaction in preparing thoroughly but then allowing the process of creating and transforming to do its own thing.