Katie Garfield on what acting in ‘The Birth of a Nation’ taught her

One of 2016’s most buzzed about films is The Birth of a Nation. Katie Garfield talks about the film, what she learned about herself while filming, and how songwriting fulfills another side of her creativity.

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When were you bit by the acting bug?

I started singing in the school choir when I was 10 and my friends convinced me to try out for the school musical. I was hooked from that point and did theater throughout middle and high school. That transitioned into a love for television at 15 years old when I booked my first guest-starring role on an episode of “One Tree Hill.”

How did you nurture and cultivate that skill?

My family has always been incredibly supportive of me; driving me around to auditions and helping me memorize lines. Acting is just like any other skill – you have to put the work in and hone your craft. I take acting very seriously, but I also have so much fun doing it. I think the balance is important.

What did the process of making The Birth of a Nation teach you about yourself as an actor?

Nate Parker is a brilliant actor and I learned so much from him and my incredibly talented cast-mates. I learned that simple is better, and I learned how important it is to throw yourself into your research for the role you’re playing. It was amazing to get to work with such talented actors. I feel like I learned from the best and I was so excited to show up to work every day.

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What did the process teach you about yourself as a woman?

As a woman, I learned how important the past is. Slavery was the manifestation of ignorance, fear and hate. Now in 2016, it is so important that we look back and learn from our horrible mistakes. I also learned that injustice is a plague that spreads quickly, and that it’s prevalent in our world today. I’m more mindful of that than ever now.

Much has been written about the film. What do you want audiences to take away from the movie?

This film is a masterpiece. It’s about a man of God who was called to lead and protect his people from the outrageous atrocities they faced at the hands of slave owners. I hope people feel inspired to have conversations about the racial injustices that are happening every day, all over the world. I think the most important thing we can do is be inspired to change the way we think about and view one another.

You’re making music too. How does that fulfill you in a way that acting doesn’t?

I’ve been lucky to find two passions that fulfill me completely. I’ve been writing songs since I was 14, and that’s been a huge part of who I am for most of my life. I’m more excited than ever to be working on projects that I believe in and that inspire me, and I feel creatively challenged and fulfilled. I just signed my first songwriting publishing deal in Nashville, so I officially get to write songs for a living. Not a bad gig.

What’s next?

I’m really excited for people to see The Birth of a Nation, and I look forward to some awesome auditions and projects in the coming year. For the rest of this year, I’ll be working on my craft and writing away in the studio.

Interview by Ryan Brinson
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