Baltimore School for the Arts alumna Imani Nia Robinson is on a mission to become a "classic" in the world of Hollywood — a comedic actress and a screenwriter to be reckoned with. In the process, she's learning from people who know a thing or two about the industry.
The Los Angeles resident, who started acting in the third grade, has a speaking role in David Simon's latest HBO series "The Deuce," which stars James Franco and explores the sex industry in New York during its pivotal beginnings in the 1970s. It's the second time she's worked with both Franco and Simon.
In the fifth episode, Robinson plays a Southern girl named Alice in the show, which premieres Sept. 10.
The 24-year-old said she was offered the chance to audition for the part while working as a writer's office assistant while the show was filming in Brooklyn, N.Y. Robinson said it was great to practice her writing chops and reconnect with Franco, who had directed her in two plays while she was a student at the California Institute of the Arts.
"I've always been acting. I just really want to get involved with writing so that I can create stories," said Robinson.
"I'm thankful to have the opportunity to learn the writing techniques so I can do my own work and perform my own work."
Working with Simon again — she appears in Season 4 of "The Wire" during a scene in the classroom of retired detective-turned-teacher Roland "Prezbo" Pryzbylewski — was also a powerful learning experience.
"When I was able to work with David Simon … again with 'The Deuce,' I feel like I was able to understand how amazing the my opportunity was, so I don't take anything for granted," said Robinson, who said she often got to interact with the former Baltimore Sun reporter in the writers' room while working on "The Deuce."
"He was in the writers' room often. He's a very brilliant man, and he really brings his vision into fruition. I got to help edit all the scripts, so it was amazing to see his vision on paper come to life, because I got to see some of the screenings also. I was able to learn a lot from him and from his writing and I applied them to my own work."
Though she's acted in mostly dramas ("The Deuce" does have some comedic elements, she said), comedy is Robinson's passion. She looks up to the likes of actresses Dorothy Dandridge, Tracee Ellis Ross and writer and actress Issa Rae, whose HBO comedy series "Insecure" has been renewed for a third season.
"Issa Rae created her own television show and she's starring in her own work. I hope that happens for me also," said Robinson.
After obtaining an agent and moving to Los Angeles four weeks ago, Robinson is traveling back and forth to act in a comedy web series that's being filmed in New York. She's focused on filming the pilot she wrote for a TV show, and she's working on the finishing touches of her one-woman-show, which she plans to perform in Los Angeles.
"I want to be a part of a comedy series where people say 'That's a classic.' That's really what I'm hoping for," she said. "I tend to believe that your mindset creates the tone for your life. … Anything is possible."
BEST OF BALTIMORE INSIDER