Blacktress has exactly three weeks before she has to be naked on camera for the Indie Film, Open Mic Knight.   She thrusts herself into body beautification mode so intense one would swear her wedding day to the Prince of Wales is approaching.   Her first order of business is to track down all her vegan friends.   Ordinarily she finds them far too annoying to invite to dinner parties or share meals with.   But now that I’m watching my calories like Jennifer Hudson, this is the perfect time to catch up with those lunatics over lunch, she thinks.   When even thinking the words “catch-up” makes her crave a turkey burger and sweet potato fries, she realizes that she’s in for a long three weeks.”

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“Stevie Wonder Black” refers to someone you can tell is Black even with your eyes closed.

Today, Blacktress finds herself walking onto a small studio lot with a self-assuredness that surprises her.  In the last year she’s booked the role of a Ugandan refugee, a depression era jazz singer, a teenage Crip girl, and is in serious contention for the role of Chantal, a pre-op tranny hooker.  Today, she’s up for a part far less challenging.

This breakdown reads like my bio, she thinks.  Piece of cake.

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Blacktress watches as her I-phone lights up and sings a digital blues riff.

“Hey Sam,” she says eagerly.

Her agent talks quickly as if Blacktress is a stenographer in need of a challenge.

“ Sotheywannaseeyouforthisthing. Saglowbuget.  Theroleof… Chantal.  A gorgeous pre-op tranny hooker.”

Is there even such a thing?  Blacktress wonders.

He goes on.

“The producer’s got a name.”

Blacktress rolls her eyes.  Don’t we all?

Sam powers on.

“They’vebeenlookingallover.  They’ve seen boys, girls, he/she’s, and shims.  Younameit.  Theycan’tfindit. Gogetit.”

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On a Thursday evening Blacktress and her British friend, Ann are waiting in line amongst film snobs and film students for a free screening of the new art house indie, Red Romance.

“Its getting a lot of Oscar buzz and I hear the performances are impeccable, ” they overhear the woman in front of them explain to her husband.

Blacktress and Ann are seemingly there to enjoy high art, but are actually there for the much publicized down and dirty sex scenes.

“I hear the lead girl gets head for ten minutes.  In real time.”  Blacktress explains to Ann.

“Oooooh!  Lovely,” she responds.  Her proper English accent warms over with a smoldering breathiness.

“What would respectable single girls do without kinky, art films?”

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It’s the closing night party for the play, Dusty Melody. The walls are lined with LA theater types, their plus ones and the kind of actors whose faces you know but names you don’t.  Blacktress is tangled within the crowd wearing  a short red dress, sipping a dry red wine.  But she’s more high from the successful run of the show than the libations.  People are buzzing about eager to acknowledge her performance.  A handsome man in his thirties taps her on the shoulder and immediately begins blowing smoke up her ass.

“I just wanted to say that you were absolutely wonderful.  Won- der- ful.   I saw the show twice.”

He leans in closer.

“And you were my favorite.”

Blacktress beams.

“Thank you.  It was a lot of fun.”

“So what’s up next for you?”  He asks.

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Blacktress is driving through the NoHo arts district in the valley when she spots a marquee in front of a small theater that reads: Sexy and Suicidal, LA’s fourth longest running stage play.  Blacktress is glad to be driving away from the theater instead of towards it.    I can’t believe it’s still running, she thinks.

Blacktress is no stranger to the production.  She’d been cast in the show years ago after being in LA for only two months.  The playwright/director/producer Tony White called to give her the good news.

“But I didn’t audition,” Blacktress said dumbfounded.

“I went over your resume and I liked it.  I’ve been doing this a long time.  I can just tell you’ll be right.”

Blacktress was confused but in no position to turn down roles.  Tony went on to explain the intricacies of his masterpiece.

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Blacktress has just arrived at Get Cast Now Acting Workshops.  This week’s guest casting director Rick Peterson, on the other hand, has not.  But his reputation precedes him and it stinks up the place…

“He’s a snarky little asshole,” a workshop devotee cautions, while stapling her resume to the back of her headshot.

Twenty minutes later he barrels in, bitching about traffic.  Blacktress hands him her picture.  He studies it, then her, then the picture again.

“Ewww. You need new pictures. I hate this one.”

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Photo by Miles Orion Feldsott

It is Saturday night and Blacktress is more than happy to spend it gabbing with her girlfriend Iyanla on the phone, while  playing Virtual Catch-up:  the ritual of perusing the Facebook pages of old friends from back home in lieu of ever actually calling them.

“Why would I ever call these people?   This is far more entertaining.” Blacktress says while scrolling through wedding photos of a girl she never much cared for in middle school.  “Terrible color scheme,” she notes.

“And they’re all married back home,” Iyanla bemoans.  “Every. Single. One.  By twenty- five.  And they all have two kids.  In LA we have two roommates, maybe. But home everyone’s got two goofy-ass kids.”

“I know, what’s up with that?”

“They grew up.”  “We moved to Never Never Land where everyone still has dreams.”

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It’s the middle of the week and Blacktress is downtown at The Edison.  Her friend and former roommate Terrence Clarke, is slumped over on the barstool next to her.  It’s happy hour, but Terrence isn’t smiling.  He has become romantically (meaning sexually) entangled with Hollywood heavyweight, Sasha Brown, a successful actress.   Sasha also happens to be, not so successfully married to Keyvon Brown, a Hollywood featherweight.

“It’s a sin,” Terry says earnestly between gulps of his Cabernet.   “It goes against all my beliefs.”

Most of the people Blacktress meets in LA have long abandoned their childhood religious beliefs, in favor of practicing something more exotic, like Buddhism, Spiritualism or Narcissism (that is if they aren’t Scientologists.)  But Terry remains joyfully devoted to his Christian faith; a faith that, up until now, has always guided him down a righteous path…  Even if that path veered around golden career opportunities.

“I won’t trade in my integrity for an IMBD credit,” Terrence once told Bilal Patrick, an independent filmmaker.  A few months back, Bilal was desperate to cast him in the highly offensive role, “Monster Thug” in his movie, Hood Niggaz: Da Untold Story.

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Photo by Matt O'Callaghan

Blacktress is meeting her friend Shante Shannon for dinner at The Village Idiot, a gastro-pub on Melrose.  For the first time in history, Blacktress is on time for a social outing.  Shante calls to say she is stuck in traffic coming from the west side, and is going to be late.  Go figure.

While Blacktress waits at the bar for her friend to arrive, she catches the eye of Brandon Henry, a thirty something in a button down and jeans.  She buys his line.  He buys her a Lemon drop martini.  They engage in casual flirtatious banter.

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