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Kimberly Elise
Actress, Diary of a Mad Black Woman
Friday, February 18, 2005; 12:00 PM

Kimberly Elise may look familiar.

That's because she's appeared in a string of films, including "John Q," last year's remake of "The Manchurian Candidate," "Woman Thou Art Loosed" and the movie that launched her career, "Beloved."

Kimberly Elise
Kimberly Elise
Kimberly Elise stars in "Diary of a Mad Black Woman." (Alfeo Dixon)

Now she's in "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," a film based on Tyler Perry's play about a faithful wife whose happy marriage suddenly starts to crumble. Elise co-stars in the film -- which opens Friday, Feb. 25 -- with Steve Harris, Perry and Cicely Tyson.

She was online Friday, Feb. 18, at Noon ET, to discuss her current film and her career in Hollywood.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Baltimore, Md.: Kimberly, can you tell me more about the "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and how you came to star in the film?

Kimberly Elise: It's based on Tyler Perry's play of the same name and it's the story of a woman who gets left by her husband and has to start life anew and gets revenge on her husband and falls in love with another man. And it came to me by, the producer sent me the scripts and asked me to consider doing it. And I loved it and said yes.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, Kimberly - What was it like to work with Denzel?

Kimberly Elise: Extraordinary. He's, you know, it's extraordinary to sit across from him and watch him do his craft. He's a great, great man, very family-oriented and very intelligent. Strong, dignified. And a great collaborator, it's always fun when we work together. He's safe to take chances with.


Springfield, Va.: Are you able to identify with being a "Mad Black Woman"? How did this enable you to play this role?

Kimberly Elise: No, I don't carry anger in my heart. I wouldn't have taken quite the path that the character does, but it was so well-written and I can certainly understand her feeling. They're justified and she has a right to be very mad. So it was easy to connect to in that way.


Bethesda, Md.: Mrs. Kimberly Elise,
I just read the article about you in the current issue of Essence -- fabulous!
I wanted to say how much I have admired your acting choices and the strength of your characters. I am counting down the days until "Diary" comes out.
I do think it is a shame that more young (and all ages, come to think of it) black actresses have such limited roles offered to them when white actresses with, in my opinion, either the same "acting chops" or less, pretty much get their pick of the litter among the roles offered to women. Anyhow, I guess that is just a sad reflection of Hollywood and the greater society. May you forever get to choose the kinds of roles that speak directly to you! And thanks for being an inspiration to young black women such as myself.

Kimberly Elise: Wow, thank you. Thank you so much. It means a lot to know my work has reached you and touched you. And I hope it continues to do so.


Laurel, Md.: Hi Kimberly -- I loved your performance in "Beloved." How did you get the part?

Kimberly Elise: I auditioned several times and it was through the auditioning process.


Washington, D.C.: Have you done any live theatre?

Kimberly Elise: Yes. I started on the stage, actually, and spent quite a few years on the stage. And that's where I learned my craft before ever coming to Hollywood.


Wheaton, Md.: Are you single?

Kimberly Elise: No.


Boynton Beach, Fla.: Hello Kimberly, I think that you are a wonderful actor who can emote like few others. How did you balance having a young family with the uncertainty of an acting career and when did you feel that you had "made it" as an actor?

Kimberly Elise: I have a lot of family support that helps me manage my family and my career. I don't do it alone. And I don't ever feel like I will have made it as an actor because made it to me is being the greatest actress I can be, and that's going to be a lifetime journey.


Rockville, Md.: Hi. I saw a preview for your movie a few days ago. Unfortunately, it's hitting way too close to home (based on what I've seen in the previews, I'm currently in the same situation as your character). Part of me really wants to see the movie -- I'm hoping it's one of those movies I can draw some strength from ... but I don't want to wind up sitting in the theatre bawling the whole time. Is this one of those movies that I should wait until I've "healed" a bit to see? Also, I realize this is a predominantly black movie. How well does this cross racial lines (I'm white) or is this intended more for a black audience? Thanks for your honest insight!!

Kimberly Elise: It's a healing story. It's a story that the only black is in the title. There are painful moments in the movie but there's a lot of comedy interspersed in there. A lot of women tell me they feel great relief in watching this journey. I would send somebody who understands your emotional state at this time and have them decide if this is the right thing for you. In the end, I think it will feel good for your heart.


Upper Marlboro, Md.: I just want to say that I have been a fan of yours for years, you are truly very talented. I have enjoyed all of your movies. I know that "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" will be a big success. Keep up the good work!!! We love you, sister. Love, Pat Jones

Kimberly Elise: I love you, too. Thank you for your support. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Burbank, Calif.: Did you know from childhood that you wanted to go into acting? Did you take acting classes anywhere? What did you do before your movie roles?

Kimberly Elise: I've always known that I was destined to be an actor. I never took a class, I learned my craft on stage. It was on the job training doing many, many shows. Before I did movies I was in college and I was a waitress.


Falls Church, Va.: Hi Kimberly! I am looking forward to your new film -- what was it like working with Tyler Perry? Was he funny, making jokes on-set? His plays are so much fun!

Kimberly Elise: Yes, it was constant humor. Constant fun. He's a good man, very intelligent, someone for us all to be inspired by and very proud of.


Vienna, Va.: What made you want to take on this film and role? What do you hope the audience will get from the film?

Kimberly Elise: I loved the character's story. I loved the opportunity to have a complete arc with the character, where she's one person in the beginning and someone entirely different in the end. And I loved the challenge of playing so many emotional ranges within one film.


West Palm Beach, Fla.: Kimberly - What is the best way to get scripts to producers or actors? Is it necessary to for a writer to have an agent?

Kimberly Elise: It helps a lot. It legitimizes you. A lot of people won't accept material unless it comes through an agent. I would recommend it, also to protect your work.


New York, N.Y.: Hi, I just saw you in "Manchurian Candidate," and was very impressed with the range you had to show (because your character wasn't what she seemed, for any who haven't caught the movie yet). You have "presence," which I don't know how to define, but I'll be looking for more of your work. Best of Luck.

Kimberly Elise: Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the film.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Kimberly. I am a fan of your work and can't wait to see "Diary of a Mad Black Woman"! What are your next projects?

Kimberly Elise: I'm looking for the right thing. Haven't made any decisions yet.


St. Louis, Mo.: Hello Kimberly, Forgive me, but I've always considered Tyler Perry plays to be "chitlin circuit" material not for the serious thespian. Do these plays and now films create opportunities for actors of color that wouldn't be available in Hollywood? And what kind of effect does Tyler Perry work have on an actor's resume?

Kimberly Elise: That's a misconception abut Tyler's work. This film is representative of that with the caliber of talent he was able to attract. He writes great, human stories and challenges the actor to reach beyond what is normally expected of them. And I would encourage you to explore his work, beginning with our film but continuing with his theater. It's an astounding experience, something to be proud of for all of us.


washingtonpost.com: Kimberly will need to depart shortly so please send final questions if you have them.


washingtonpost.com: Kimberly has to continue with her schedule, but thanks all of you for your questions and support.


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