“Neutralize The Meaning Of The Word No” 5 Insider Tips With Actress And Activist Schalet Jackson
“Neutralize the meaning of the word “no”. Trust me, you are going to hear that word A LOT. But hey, that’s okay! Rejection is protection and an opportunity to learn.”
I had the pleasure to interview Actress and Labor Activist Schalet Jackson
Thank you so much for your time, Schalet. Can you share your background with us?
The honor is mine. Thank you!
I am the oldest of four siblings who spent the latter half of my childhood growing up in a country setting at a time where cable television wasn’t a possibility, the internet was unknown and owning a mobile phone wasn’t even imaginable. I spent my adolescent years climbing trees, exploring wooded areas and daydreaming about my future on the front porch swing. You see, I made a promise to myself towards the end of my fourth-grade year. Because I couldn’t decide on just one, I established three career goals: music education, law and acting.
I participated in church programs, junior high and high school musicals and tried to learn as many musical instruments as possible. In May 1991, I graduated from Perry High School and Apollo Joint Vocational School, where I earned her Nursing Assistant certification, from Lima, Ohio. I spent the summer of ’91 traveling all over the United States while performing with the Glassmen Drum & Bugle Corps, from Toledo, Ohio.
Growing up, I was well-aware of my family’s socioeconomic status. My mom and dad were working several jobs and I didn’t feel right about dumping my financial need on them. So, after returning home from my tour with the Glassmen, I went to the local Army recruitment office and signed enlistment papers. I spent almost five years as an Active Duty soldier performing medical and food inspection duties.
Soon after being medically boarded out of the Army in December 1996, I embarked on my undergraduate studies while taking care of my two children. In 2001, I earned my Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree from Ohio Northern University. Soon thereafter, I reached my first goal — in August 2001, I was hired as the Music and Home Arts instructor for the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Marimor School), in Lima, Ohio. Upon completing my third year as an educator, I earned my Master of Education degree from Bluffton University.
During my third year as an educator, I set out to create a steel drum band ensemble for my students with multiple disabilities. That required at least $5,000 for the purchase of steel drums. I applied for a grant through the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation (MHOF) and humbled to share with you that MHOF honored my request. The MHOF donation allowed my students performance opportunities all over Ohio. This boosted their self-worth and provided a venue to promote “Abilities Awareness” (We felt so good about ourselves that we found the courage to submit performance requests to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, Oprah, Montel and Ellen Degeneres).
During my fourth year as an educator, I received a phone call from one of the MHOF Board of Directors. He called to congratulate me on being selected to receive the 2006 Mr. Holland’s Opus Teacher of the Year Award. I was in shock: I didn’t know the award existed; I couldn’t understand how I was selected over so many wonderful music educators and more importantly, I never imagined having to deal with the ethical questioning surrounding the acceptance of this award.
The ordeal surrounding the receipt of this award, having to conduct yearly organizing efforts to maintain the school district’s current music program and enduring the political attacks against public education frustrated me. I was spending more of my time advocating for fair and adequate rights than teaching music and home arts classes to my students. I attended labor law and advocacy trainings and shadowed Labor Consultants after-school and on weekends.
On September 16, 2006, I left the classroom.
On September 18, 2006, I started my first day of employment as a Labor Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. I entered the field of labor law and advocacy. Goal Number Two achieved.
What do you think is most unique about your story?
I am often asked why I selected music, law and acting as my three life goals. In eighth grade, I told people that “Music helps me feel better about myself and everyone relates to music. Law helps me protect myself and others. Acting helps me escape reality when times are tough and people watch what actors do. So, if I am an actor, I can be a positive influence on others.”
When I established the three goals, my vision was set externally. Meaning, I was focused on helping others. Little did I know that my goals would be therapeutic for me. They grounded me with a purpose in life. They gifted me with the sense of belonging and self-worth. The path I am on is not by accident. When faced with a great challenge, I figure out a means to make use of it in a positive way. I know I am who I am because of the many struggles I have endured. I am thankful for all of them.
Well it’s Labor Day, the day to celebrate the Labor movement. What is your opinion about the state of organized labor and labor relations today?
My core values in democracy, collective action, fairness, inclusion, integrity and professionalism are deeply rooted within me. I grew up in a pro-union household. My dad was an active union member. Throughout my five years as a music and home arts teacher, I was an active member of the Marimor Education Association (MEA) and the Ohio Education Association (OEA). I am in my twelfth year as a Labor Relations Consultant with the Ohio Education Association and I am a member of the Professional Staff Union.
It’s no secret — organized labor is under attack. I truly believe that every single person has benefited from organized labor, whether it be directly or indirectly. I know so many who have greatly benefited from unions; including management, administration and employers. As with anything, organized labor has its pros and cons. I wholeheartedly believe that organized labor is a means of creating positive change through collective action. I sincerely hope these attacks will cease and that the value of organized labor will be rediscovered very soon.
What led you to become a film producer?
I absolutely LOVE being in front of the camera. Acting is my first choice but I am falling in love with the production side — even though it is very time consuming and the stress level is remarkably high. My strategic mindset let me to become an Associate Film Producer on Knight’s End (2017). I reached out to Executive Producer Timothy Paul Taylor and asked him if he could consider casting some of the well-known talent I worked with on other productions. I’ve been nonstop since then.
What are some of the most interesting projects you are working on now?
I am blessed to be a part of many projects. Two projects that are currently in pre- production are Knight’s End and Family Tree sitcom:
Knight’s End series — It`s an adventure, drama, fantasy series based in England around 1017 AD that is centered around a young man who is determined to avenge his sister as he is called upon to destroy evil that is rumored to haunt the woods surrounding his beloved village. As an actor, I play Matilda, an inimitable, amorous and perspicacious individual longing to understand her purpose.
Family Tree sitcom — It`s a hilarious sitcom about three kids, their two dads and the outrageous family and friends in their lives. I play Carly Reedy-Atwood — the well-to-do, crazy, ex-husband collecting, meddlesome next-door neighbor.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in Hollywood?
1.Embrace the fact that it is harder to get the audition than doing the audition. If you get booked for an audition — DO A LITTLE CELEBRATORY DANCE! After the audition, you are done. Leave all your concerns and what-ifs at the door. Smile, thank yourself for completing the audition and move on. Focus on your next possible opportunity.
2.Neutralize the meaning of the word “no”. Trust me, you are going to hear that word A LOT. But hey, that’s okay! Rejection is protection and an opportunity to learn.
3.Don’t stop trying. You owe it yourself and all of us to keep learning, researching and exploring.
4.Always conduct yourself in a professional manner. I have seen casting directors reconsider talent based on how they conducted themselves at previous auditions.
5.Treat every opportunity as a teachable moment. Work and take acting classes where you live. You will soon discover this helps build your resume.
6.Don’t sell yourself or your dreams short. Everyone is talented. Recognize the talent gifted to you and use it to make the world a better place.
With all the news ways to create and distribute content, has it been easier or harder to get a steady job?
Even with all the exciting new ways to create and distribute content, securing the financial means to fund the production is so important. Producing a quality product isn’t enough to secure consistent work in this business. Establishing a solid funding network — along with the successful product distribution — greatly enhances the possibility for steady work in the entertainment field.
Have you skills as a Labor consultant helped you in your Hollywood career?
We used to be able to clearly measure the worth of a production based off of number of movie tickets purchased. That’s not necessarily the case these days. I predict increased demands for streaming, video-on-demand and Blue-ray options. I anticipate a steady growth in the number of independent productions because of the we are seeing a noticeable presence of web and mobile productions. Clearly, the acting industry is changing because technology is more accessible and user-friendly.
You are in a position of influence. How have you used your position and sill to help people’s lives?
You are correct, Yitzi. I deeply respect the fact that I am in a position of influence. Practically everyone can do something that is valuable and something that can help others. I use my position to help others discover their hidden talents so that they may feel empowered to contribute solutions to pressing situations.
Some of my most recent interactions have been with Jane Pauley (CBS Morning Show) Joseph Gannascoli (Sopranos), Cindy Morgan (Caddyshack & Tron), Jeremy London (Party of Five), Jason London (Dazed & Confused) and Cullen Chambers (Pulp Fiction)
What was that like?
I consider my ability to interact with each one of them as a gift. They are extremely talented individuals that many people may recognize. More importantly, my ongoing interactions with them are reminders that they are more than just famous people. They are all individuals who care about others and want the world to be a better place.
Jane Pauley: I met the lovely Ms. Pauley at Carnegie Hall in New York City. She presented me with the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation Teacher Award. Her attempt at pronouncing my name gifted us with a special moment filled with hugs and laughter. She is one classy person.
Cullen Chambers: Cullen has always been a part of my family. Cullen and my dad have been the best of friends since their high school days. Cullen is a laid-back and loving individual. I appreciate his random “Hey Schalet, have you considered….” phone calls.
Cindy Morgan: Cindy and I connected when I reached out to her about a casting opportunity with KNIGHT’S END (2017). Cindy and I speak often and love to share crazy stories and make-up tips with each other. I admire Cindy’s work ethic, down-to-earth personality and wit.
Joseph Gannascoli: I met Joe during the JASON’S LETTER (2017) movie premier. We were able to sit and just talk about our life experiences and share a couple of jokes. He accepted my offer to be a part of KNIGHT’S END (2017). We talk often and I can’t wait to see him in action on this set.
Jeremy London and Jason London: I reached out to both of them to see if they were interested in being in one of the projects I am working on. We communicate over the phone and through social media. Both have so much passion and energy and can’t wait to work with them on set — which will be very soon. I am very excited to connect with Juliet Reeves, Jeremy’s wife. She is extremely bright and passionate about life and possess the knack of getting people to laugh without much effort.