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On and Off Screen with Harriett D. Foy

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Photographer Carlos Montelara Stylist Dash Armstrong Assistant Stylist Sean Dustin

MAU Johannah Hair Christina Lubin

Featured in our Issue 15, Harriett D. Foy is currently captivating audiences as Patrice Woodbine in the widely acclaimed STARZ series, P-Valley. With a stellar career that spans from the bright lights of Broadway to international stages in Dubai, Foy has solidified herself as an award-winning actress. She has left her mark on the industry with captivating performances that can be heard on the cast albums for renowned productions such as Amelie, Amazing Grace, Lone Star Love, Reunion, and Inside Out. Foy's talents extend beyond the screen, as she is also the creator and lead performer of the mesmerizing one-woman play with music, My Soul Looks Back in Wonder, drawing inspiration from Slave Narratives.

Adding to her list of accomplishments, Foy made her concert debut at Merkin Hall in The African American Spiritual, a production presented by B. Arts Presenter. Notably, Foy holds the distinction of being the first African-American woman to portray the character of Rosie in the Broadway production of Mamma Mia. Foy's artistic journey began at Howard University, where she earned her BFA in acting and proudly represented the Howard Bison. Although originally from New Bern, NC, Foy spent her formative years in New York and Maryland. Currently, she serves as the Board President of The Lighthouse Opera Company based in New York.

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Which cinematic period do you find most inspiring?

I love the Golden Age of cinema, women were beautiful, powerful, and made their voices heard.

What film or television show has influenced your career?

When I was a little girl living in Brooklyn, you could find me outside playing or watching movies on television. Two films that stand out are The Bad Seed starring Patty McCormack and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The lead actors were great, but the supporting actors, Eileen Heckart, Henry Jones (The Bad Seed), Victor Buono, Maidie Norman (Whatever Happened…) were outstanding! I used to practice Mr. Jones’ lines in my room.

Tell us about your last binge-watch…

My last binge-watch was Queen Charlotte! I was up until 4am watching this show! Grand storytelling, complex characters, beautiful costumes, and exquisite acting by a brilliant company of actors.

Have you recently watched something that's a must-see?

Yes, “P-Valley” by Katori Hall on STARZ is a must-see!

Which character from the world of cinema or television do you relate to the most?

I love a good Romcom. I relate to the character of Kenya McQueen from the movie, “Something New.”

Managing the entrepreneurial aspects of being an artist is crucial for success. How do you handle the business side of the industry?

I read the entire contract! I do research and ask questions. I also have great agents who get me. Earlier this year I produced my own music, “Project 1:11” with my writing partner Germono Toussaint. I love music and wanted to do a house music song, which ended up being four songs with interludes and instrumental tracks. I have learned quite a bit about the business side of music producing.

With SAG-AFTRA and the WGA on strike in their labor dispute against AMPTP. We're curious to know your take on the current state of the entertainment industry?

The pandemic taught all of us what is right and wrong and how to advocate for yourself, “as a collective, we just want a fair deal so that we can all get back to doing what we love.”

What message would you like to send to AMPTP?

Be the change for the future of all artists.

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What do you envision for the future of cinema?

Fully-funded independent films by diverse artists telling stories that reflect the diversity of our culture with mainstream support.

And where do you place yourself in the conversation?

I will continue to mentor the younger artists by encouraging them to create their own content and supporting new work.

What is it about this character that truly speaks to you?

I appreciate the journey that the character embarks upon. At the start, she is successful, beautiful and unhappy. She goes from being a people-pleaser/team player to finally taking care of her needs without caring about the judgment of others. She lives her best life and finds the support and love that she needs.

In your opinion, how do you think the film industry influences society?

A good film makes us consider the human experience. We find ourselves asking questions about fairness, cause and effect, life lessons, health, self-care and how we are contributing to the world. Also, we know it certainly influences fashion!

Who's in your thespian Hall of Fame?

My thespian Hall of Fame includes…Bette Davis, Ruby Dee, Lynda Gravatt, Viola Davis, Agnes Morehead, Regina Taylor, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Rami Malek, Dame Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Sanaa Lathan, Cate Blanchett, Kathy Bates, Elizabeth Montgomery, Zendaya, Regina Hall, Jessica Lange, Diahann Carroll, and Alfre Woodward to name a few.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is interacting with the fans and giving life to the writer’s words.

Take us back to your first project, how did that moment prepare you for where you're currently in your career?

I was fortunate to work on quite a few original pieces in the beginning of my career, so I am used to collaborating to find the best possible outcome. That could include learning a new opening song and choreography or receiving a new scene to add it into the show that night. All of this has given me the creative juices, discipline and focus necessary to work on an outstanding new show like “PValley.”

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How do you approach the technicality of your work, both from yourself and others?

I do my research, create an actor’s notebook outlining characteristics of the role that I will be playing, and I always ask for my character’s shoes early, which gives me insight into how the character moves. I am prepared, on time, focused and ready to go when it’s time. Because I like to have fun when I work, so by the time I am on set, I keep it light.

Are you a bit of an overthinker or do you like to let the art take the reins?

I have moments of both. I did quite a bit of overthinking when I portrayed NIna Simone in the play, Nina Simone: Four Women by Christina Ham. I was extremely nervous to take on a powerful icon like Dr. Nina Simone, but after doing research and realizing that we had more in common than not, and with the support of a great cast and director, I was able to get out of my way and enjoy the journey.

What's the body of work you're most proud of?

I am most proud of the work I am doing on P-Valley playing Patrice Woodbine. Embracing criticism and negative feedback is an essential part of growth and improvement.

How do you handle criticism or negative feedback on your work?

In the early days of my career, I would take criticism pretty hard, but that was out of my own insecurities. I have always worked hard at my craft, so back then when something didn’t work out I took it to heart, but now I realize that I was being guided to the project that was right for me. Now, I walk in my power as an artist and I always encourage younger artists to enjoy the journey and have fun.

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Finding the perfect harmony between your artistic style and the collaborating teams' preferences is an art in itself. How do you find the balance?

I am blessed to work with collaborative artists who value input and operate without ego.

Can you tell us about a particularly difficult project you’ve worked on, and what you learned from it?

Over the years, I learned to trust my instinct and not do projects that don’t serve my well-being. The most unforgettable line from a movie. “Oh Blanche, you know we got rats in the cellar?” Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”

How do you handle rejection or not getting chosen for a project or opportunity?

I keep it moving… We all face those pesky creative blocks and moments of self-doubt from time to time.


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