Daphne Maxwell Sees Versatile Expressions in Acting

ATM: Describe your approach to acting as an art form.

DMR: Art is an expression of the God given gift I was given. Something that I would like to share that I have seen. Art is an expression of all the things I like to do, and the things God gave me to do.

ATM: How do you see acting as artistry?

DMR: Acting is the expression of the words of the writer. The words are a portrayal of their vision of an idea. The actors get to say these words. They encourage you to listen to these words and interpret them so that it means something to you. Hopefully, the words motivate you to do or feel something. Acting is bringing these words to life, and this is an art form.

ATM: How do you continue to be true or real with your art?

DMR: There is no truth or falseness to art. Art just is, and it is judged by those who can see it. It is not judged by me creating it. It is an expression of my authenticity. Art comes out of one, and it is presented as it is. It is easy to do, scary to do, but art is in the eye of the beholder. Not the maker.

ATM: When it is in the eye of the beholder and not the maker, do you think the maker will ever see it in the same way as the beholder?

DMR: Everybody will get a different meaning depending on where they are in their life. This is called art interpretation. The way you see it is up to you. I do not judge this as an artist. You are entitled to view it the way you want to. You could say it is wonderful or a piece of crap. It does not change that fact that it is the artist’s work.

ATM: What prompted you to have an education in interior design at a young age?

DMR: I took a mechanical drafting class in high school and enjoyed it. I realized mechanical drafting was used in interior design and architecture. When I got to college I wanted to express myself in drafting, so this was the course I took. I got my degree in this because I loved the act of designing and creating details. The act of trying to express how I would like to live or how a building needs to be structured to enhance the community.

ATM: Do you dabble in art before taking the mechanical drafting class?

DMR: I was making art from when I came out of the womb! In my family, we did crafts. I knitted and sewed. We painted pictures. I was always doing something artistic.

ATM: What were the stereotypes for black women on television during the 1960s?

DMR: On TV, we had Julia, played by Diahann Carroll, who was a nurse, a single woman and mother raising a son on television. She was one of the few black images on television. Throughout the history of movies, there were black people, but they always played characters in ways the dominant culture wanted them to play. They played maids, servants, and the villain. They were trying to propagandize the fact that you should be scared of black people. When we got control in the 60s of our image, we started with superheroes (the film Shaft), and folks in the neighborhood who were cleaning up. This was our created image. If we do not create the image, then we do not get to say what they looked like.

ATM: Did you ever envision that you would one day embody the character of a mother?

DMR: Never crossed my mind. Acting is not a thought process, but it is a doing process. You get the opportunity to represent a mother on television, and this is what you are. I am not a writer, director, or producer. I do not get to create these characters.

ATM: Today, what are your comments on the expression of the black identity as seen in television and film today? What shows on TV do you feel expresses this?

DMR: There are various black identities on television. We wanted to see all of our communities and not just one type of black person. It is a variety now from hero to villain. We are not monolithic people. We are people who do various things such as being villains and heroes. We are doctors, lawyers, and more. This is all we wanted, which is not to be just one image.

ATM: What is your description of yourself as an actor today?

DMR: Unemployed.

ATM & DMR: (Laughs)

DMR: An actor has to wait to get chosen. I recently finished shooting two projects. Today I am not employed, I am the lady who is cooking for a bunch of folks.

ATM: What is your personality? How did you ground yourself in this strong woman persona?

DMR: I am gregarious and outgoing, and I like to smile. I am warm and friendly. I am a strong woman who has an idea of what is right and what is wrong. I will not put up with BS. My mother told me I could do anything I wanted. You have mother wit and intuition that guides you. There should be no obstacle to doing what you want to do in service of your purpose. Your purpose is your God given purpose. You have to find out what this is. You do this by living every day as a good person. You find out where it leads you. I go where my light leads me and try to make the best choices when I get there.

ATM: Has anyone ever been intimidated by your personality?

DMR: Oh, sure, I can come on strong sometimes. I can offend people sometimes by being very upfront. They sometimes do not want to hear what I have to say. I have been offended by people. It does not kill you. Hopefully, it makes you think.

ATM: What are your comments on someone who does not understand or know their God given purpose or their innate ability? Also, do you look at life in sequences of chapters?

DMR: For those having a hard time finding their purpose just know that making mistakes can help you find it. You just get up and try something else. This is how you find your road, your purpose, and your door. I got up this morning and thought, “What am I going to do with this day? Who can I help this day? How can I advance into what I want to do today?” I can look back on the chapters in my life saying I went through this and I got through that. I do not have chapters in front of me. I have only today. What can I do today? Move toward a goal and how can I make this day of my life.

ATM: What are your current goals?

DMR: I have a fashion collection, which I will put on the runway in the Spring to design and make the collection. I have a book on my computer that needs to be published. My book talks about the doors of Sicily and Venice. I have an event on my calendar. I have to prepare for these. What am I going to wear? How will I do this? How will I get there? I do not think of things as a big life goal. I am an older woman now. I had my goals. My goal now is joy. I want to feel good about myself. If this means making true art, then I do art. If it means working out every day for two weeks, then I do this.

ATM: How do you get past a mistake? Are you a perfectionist?

DMR: I am not a perfectionist. If I make a mistake, then I get back up. I go on to the next idea. Failure does not stop me. Failure is a lesson. You learn from it and you move on to create something new. Failure can be defined in a lot of different ways.

ATM: Such as?

DMR: I can fail at creating something that I wanted to create in a garment, and it just doesn’t work. Why does it not work? Because this needs to get changed and that needs to get changed. This is a failure. It is also the lesson. So it changes and you have success.

ATM: What morals and values did you live by in your 20s and 30s? What are some of your morals now?

DMR: I lived by inquisitive values and pushing the envelope. I had a basis of honesty and a basis of truth. I had a basis of loving myself. I had pride in myself. I had a moral compass that I was raised with. I made judgments of what I did based on what was right or wrong for me.