Take in the ups and downs of every job but other than your artistry and professionalism, don’t take it too seriously.
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne-Marie Johnson.
A Los Angeles native and UCLA graduate, Anne-Marie Johnson continues to have a very busy career on television and in major motion pictures.
Ms. Johnson starred in several successful television series, including, In The Heat of the Night, What’s Happening Now, In Living Color, Melrose Place, etc. For five sea- sons she portrayed “Congresswoman Bobbie Latham” on the CBS hit mili- tary drama JAG, followed with appearing as “Sharon Upton Farley” on the hit WB comedy Girl- friends. Ms. Johnson starred as “Donna Cabonna” on the Disney Channel’s hit televi- sion series, That’s So Raven and had a recurring role on Tyler Perry’s TBS hit sitcom, House Of Payne.
More recently, Anne-Marie has guest-starred in multiple hit shows including Murder in The First, Chasing Life, Pretty Little Liars, Childrens Hospital, Castle, Grey’s Anatomy, Reverie, as well as a recur- ring roles on Days Of Our Lives, NCIS:LA, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later and Imposters.
She also starred in a recurring role on the ABC Shondaland drama series For The People as “Senator Melora Knox,” and was seen in a series regular role as “Lt. Eliza-beth Swanstrom” on the NBC drama series The InBetween. She appeared in a co-star- ring role in the original holiday film Dear Santa, I Need A Date for TV One, and most recently starred in a recurring role as “Marilyn Fisher” in Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed ro- mantic drama anthology series Cherish The Day for OWN. For complete resume, go to www.IMDB.com).
Ms. Johnson’s feature credits include Hollywood Shuffle, Strictly Business, I’m Gonna Git U Sucka, Robot Jox, True Identity, Down in the Delta, Pursuit of Happi- ness, L.A. Riots Spectacular, About Fifty , Sister Code and the indepen- dent drama Adopt A Highway, opposite Ethan Hawke.
Ms. Johnson is the vice president of The ManKind Initiative, a non profit that uses mu- sic, arts and the spoken word to encourage empathy and tolerance in order to build bridges. For more information, please visit or www.defundthefear.com
Anne-Marie represented the Screen Actors Guild as a national board member and 4- term first vice-president, from 1997–2013. In 2016 she was recently honored with the prestigious Ralph Morgan Award, SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles’ highest honor. Most re- cently, Ms. Johnson was once again elected to 4 year seat on SAG-AFTRA’s National Board.
Since 2015, Anne-Marie has worked with the LAPD creating, co-producing and directing a series of public service announcements, and has served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the LAWPOA Symposium for several years. She was also honored with the 2017 Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Rosa Parks Award, and was named the 2017 Silver Lake Woman of the Year by Congressman Adam Schiff. She recently was recognized as one of the 2019 Wonder Women of the Fourth by Los Angeles Coun- cilmember David Ryu.
Ms. Johnson is also the co-producer of audio books for Bronzeville Pictures, a sister LLC of Bronzeville Books.
Ms. Johnson served as an At-Large board member and co-chair of her Neighborhood Council governing board from 2011–2019.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?
By the time I was in kindergarten, I knew what I wanted to do once I “grew up”. So, I was very fortunate to know that I wanted to be an actor at such an early age. But more importantly, I had parents who believed in me, and never doubted by ability.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or takeaway you took out of that story?
There were and continue to be so many stories, all providing different lessons. One of the most memorable was the night I invited a bunch of friends over to watch me in an episode of “Hill Street Blues.” I set out quite a spread and was really excited. Only to have my balloon busted in the most embarrassing way…. the episode was pre-empted due to “breaking news”. Yikes. That was the last time I ever made a big deal about my “work”,( except when using professional publicists to promote my work.)
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Well… I’m not so inclined any longer to encourage people to choose professional acting as a career. Salary compression, extreme instability and the lack of interest in scripted content has made this industry even more unforgiving. The powers that be have turned actors into hobbyists, barely making minimum wage. It’s always been a dicey way to make a living but it’s gotten worse. Sorry I can’t be more positive but as the former vice president of the Screen Actors Guild, the actors life is truly a lonely one.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
The two people who made the most profound impact were my parents. Their love, support, encouragement, guidance and joy helped shape who I am and the career choices I’ve made in my 37 years as a professional actor.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?
I think I’ve always believed that living outside of yourself was the best way to have a fulfilling life. So, I make it a point to be engaged and hands on with my city, church and community. I’ve served on the SAG, AFTRA and SAG-AFTRA board of directors off and on since 1997. I’ve served on may committees and boards and find advocating for others truly gratifying. The Man/Kind Initiative has been a true blessing and the work we do is important and needed. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve concentrated our energy on two issues; homelessness and exposing institutional racism.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
The life of an actor is filled with a lot of down time. I’ve always hated a ton of free time, so creating projects and content with my non profit partner Richard Stellar has been great. Our work is tangible and focused. Each week we collect and distribute food and supplies to the homeless. We also create and produce content focusing on racism and stereotyping, building bridges of commonality to help bring attention to bigotry and racism. Sounds like a fantasy but we can’t just sit still and watch the madness from afar.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I don’t think there’s been any particular person. I just know that being part of a program that delivers over 50,000 meals, along with producing informative and entertaining content to bring attention to the not so obvious signs and damages of institutional discrimination has hopefully created change and impact on people I’ll probably never meet.
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
Donation, donations, donations. And also viewing and sharing our content.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”
(1) Lying is an art in this business, so be very cautious and aware. (2). Save even more money. (3). Getting older is the death knell for female actors. (4). Take in the ups and downs of every job but other than your artistry and professionalism, don’t take it too seriously. (5). Grow an extremely thick layer of skin.
You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would start a movement to strengthen ones confidence to help avoid addictions of all kinds. The dependance we have on so many harmful things is truly daunting. Social media is one of the most harmful addictions. People have become so isolated and mean. It’s shocking. I know this sounds corny but we really need to concentrate on creating kindness.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
No good deed goes un-punished. Never stop helping and reaching out and being engaged and helpful…but never expect or ask for a “thank you.”
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
President Biden and VP Harris. I just want to thank them personally for working hard to bring back respect and positivity to this country after the last administration did and continue to do whatever they can to hold on to power using hate, divisiveness, lies, racism, misogyny, and bigot.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Anne-Marie Johnson Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.