I really enjoy interviewing people. The other week, my niece, Anna Nicole Moses, mentioned that she was friends with actress Dawn Noel. After checking out Dawn’s IMDb and her website, I was hooked. After learning that Dawn hails from my old neighborhood; I was ecstatic. Check out the first part of the interview, after the jump.
So how did a young girl from South Philly get to be a multi-talented star?
Marie Gilbert: “Hi Dawn. I am so happy to have this opportunity to chat with you. I can’t believe you grew up in the same parish as me.”
Dawn Noel: “Yeah, I grew up on 15th and Porter, between Porter and Shunk.”
Marie Gilbert: “My father had a grocery store on 15th and Porter. It’s a hair dresser shop now and right across from a Pizza Shop.
Dawn Noel: “Yeah, I remember.”
Marie Gilbert: “What a small world and this is great. Now that we know that we were neighbors, tell me a little bit about your childhood and when did you realize that you wanted to dance and then later go into acting.”
Dawn Noel: “Okay, so born in South Philly, I wanted to dance ever since I was three years old. My mother put me in a dance school. I think it was called Joanna’s and I did some other dance schools and I did pageants; I was little Miss South Philly and Little Miss Philadelphia. I didn’t really like that so much. I liked the talent part of it, but wearing the dresses and the makeup; I hated that as a kid. My mother never forced me and it was always things that I wanted to do and she supported me.
I took acting classes as a kid and did commercials and a lot of print work in catalogs for Strawbridge & Clothier or Clover; yeah I did tons and tons. My mother was really good because she made me save all my money and put it in the bank and I could never touch it. Then when I was nine years old, I met a dance teacher, his name was Stephen Love. He was up in Center City on Samson Street where the Jazz Center was, and then the dancing was taken to a whole different level because he was way more professional in my training. It was a dance theatre program.
I went to Saint Monica’s School until eighth grade and my mother wanted to put me in Goretti High School, but I told her, “If you put me in there, I’ll make sure that I get kicked out. I don’t want to be in a Catholic School.” I was very rebellious as a kid, but it was because I knew exactly what I wanted. I believed differently and I knew as a child to think outside of the box, and so…I went to the High School for Creative and Performing Arts and went to CAPA. The freedom that I got from wearing whatever I wanted to wear every day to school, without a uniform, it was literally like the “Fame School” with dancing down the hallways, and I just needed a sense of freedom and needed to be around different types of people, different nationalities, different artists, singers, painters, actors and poets.
Then my friends started to change and I really didn’t hang out in South Philly anymore. I was never the kind of girl who hung out anyway. I was always in dance class.”
Marie Gilbert: “You were taking care of your career, and your mother seemed to be very supportive. Other mothers would have said, “You have to do this,” but she trusted your dream.”
Dawn Noel: “Well my mother danced for a while when she was a child, so I think she kind of saw me fulfilling a dream that she never had a chance to do. Yes, she’s very supportive and she knew I was talented and believed in me, but even if she wasn’t; I was the type of kid that would have done it anyway.
Marie Gilbert: “Now after you graduated from the performing arts, did you stay in Philadelphia or did you go to New York?”
Dawn Noel: “Well first I went to the University of the Arts and got a BFA. in dance education and theatre and then I moved to New York. I was in New York for twelve years and that’s where my whole career started.”
Marie Gilbert: “You were in the Lion King, In the Heights and Fame so which one of the three was your break into working on the stage?”
Dawn Noel: “Well I used to perform for the Koresh Dance Company in Philadelphia, so I was always on the stage anyway, but I guess my first professional, where I actually got paid was Fame. It was a national tour that I did all over the country. So, yeah, it was the first one.”
Marie Gilbert: “How did they hear of you? Did you have to audition?
Dawn Noel: “Yeah, I auditioned for everything. There were tons of people, hundreds of people, and I remember when I auditioned for Madonna, there were thousands of people and then you got past two days of auditioning in New York and they kept making cuts and cuts until the group got smaller and then they flew me to L.A. for the last day of auditioning there, and then, I finally got it, but it was three days of auditioning with thousands of people. I always audition, absolutely.”
Marie Gilbert: “Well, it worked because you danced with Madonna and Jennifer Lopez.”
Dawn Noel: “Well, those were the two that I toured with the most for long periods of time; for months, but I danced with Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and Ricky Martin.”
Marie Gilbert: “From there you went from dancing to acting. How did you make that switch?”
Dawn Noel: “Well, this is exactly why I love doing these kinds of interviews because I want to inform artists that whether you’re a dancer or actress, you can always make that transition, regardless of what it is, whether it’s teaching after you’re done dancing, or personal trainer, or you go into directing, writing…something. If you’re an artist, I believe that you can experiment with all the different art forms.
So, I always knew as a kid that I was also going to act, but I had to focus on dance and become a master of that first, and then, when I knew that I was halfway through dancing, I started preparing seriously for acting. I was always in class. I took my acting classes all the time and I started doing independent films in New York. You know they would pay us a hundred bucks a day, and it was still union and maybe it would go to some film festival or end up on Netflix or something, but it was a way for me to learn to be in front of the camera, to build footage, to build credits on IMDb. So, that’s when I started seriously almost fifteen years ago, so I’ve been making this transition for a while. I had to do this at the same time I was dancing, so I would be in the Lion King performing eight shows a week, but during the day, I would still be in acting class.”
Marie Gilbert: “You were very determined to achieve your dream and that’s what made you so successful.”
Dawn Noel: “Yes, always.”
Marie Gilbert: “Now, you’ve been on a few television shows and I actually remember you being in one of the “NCIS” episodes. What was your first television role?”
Dawn Noel: “Well, for T.V. I had a really small, under five co-stars for “All My Children” and then when I went to L.A. I got a couple of small roles like co-star for “Glee” and then for “NCIS” I’ve been on there a few times. I’m still waiting for bigger roles and sometimes, you know it’s hard. In New York, it was a lot easier because you could do a Broadway Show and have a consistent paycheck, but out here, there are so many actors and sometimes it’s even hard just getting into the door to audition, but I stay persistent and determined, which I am. I end up doing, for some reason I do more films than I do T.V. and I’m hoping for that to change, soon. So, yeah that was my first couple of things.”
Marie Gilbert: “But, you were in films.”
Dawn Noel: “Yes, I did a lot of Independent films, features and shorts.”
Marie Gilbert: “I’m a big supporter of Independent Films. They’re able to show things that, sometimes, the big studios don’t want to touch. And, I also see that you’re on a Web Series and I’ve been watching “Sistah Did What?” and I love the show! Is this a continuing series?”
Dawn Noel: “Yes, there should be an episode five coming out soon and I’m actually getting ready to do a table read this weekend for another Web Series that I’m going to be a part of, so I’m just finishing up reading all the scripts, now.
Yeah, so there is a lot of independent films and if you go on my IMDb, you’ll see a lot of Indie Films that go mostly to festivals. I love film festivals and the one that I did with Chad Coleman is a short film that I produced, didn’t write or direct only produced and I acted in it and Chad is in that film and you can buy or rent it on Amazon. It’s called, Shattered Pitch.”
Marie Gilbert: “What’s the film about?”
Dawn Noel: “It’s a short film and it was my first project producing so it was a learning experience for me and it’s about a mid-west girl coming out to L.A. to pursue her dreams and she gets caught up in drugs and a bad music producer who abuses her and its Chad.
Right now, I’m in the process of writing my own short film, Twenty Two Years, and I will also produce and act in as well. I’ll be looking for funding soon. You know you can’t wait around for people so in-between time while you’re waiting agents to call you for an audition, I have to be creative and productive and, proactive. Now, I’ve written my own short and the director that I’m using is Fred Thomas from Philadelphia, South Philly and he went to St. John Newman. Now he lives here in L.A.
We’ll end part one of the interview with the very talented Dawn Noel. Thank you Dawn and we’ll return next time and talk about the science fiction pilot that you’re in.
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