Celebrity Interviews: Quality over Quantity: Michael Hyatt Shines in Mississippi Damned




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Samantha Ofole-Prince

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In “Mississippi Dammed,” Michael Hyatt is impressive as ever.

The veteran actress, who has an extensive career in television and movies, is best known for her role as Brianna Barksdale on the television show "The Wire,” although equally notable is her Broadway performance in "Ragtime."

Preferring quality over quantity, Hyatt, who comes across as relatable and sincere -- all the qualities that are her strengths on screen, doesn’t have to choose perfect movies to be popular.

“It’s a matter of what is truthful, what’s written well, who you are working with, and also what is telling the kind of story that you want to tell,” adds Hyatt, who selects her roles with precision.

In “Mississippi Dammed,” she plays one of three sisters living in rural Mississippi, trying to navigate life through extreme cycles of poverty, abuse, addiction and violence, and it’s a role she found particularly disturbing to play.

“The subject matter is incredibly disgusting, but it’s a real and truthful story. It’s told in a manner that cuts out a lot of bullshit and gets straight to the point. I like to get to the story of whatever it is and get rid of the fluff. That’s exactly what this movie does."

Based on a true story written and directed by Tina Mabry, “Mississippi Dammed” takes place between 1986 and 1998 and centers around three children played by Malcolm David Kelly, Kylee Russell and Chastity Hammitte, who struggle to escape their generational circumstances. 

Hyatt proves she's got believable depth, as she takes on the role of a strong willed mother in this real life tale based on Mabry’s life, and despite an incredible performance, she did little research to familiarize herself with her character Delores.

“With writing like this, there was no research that was necessary,” she says. “It was all on the page and I trusted what was on the page and I allowed myself to go where the words were taking me. Tina writes so well that we really didn’t leave anything to chance for it was all on the page.”

A disturbing, but unforgettable drama, which tackles taboo subjects such as incest, rape, alcoholism and homosexuality, Mabry handles the volatile material with unblinking ferocity and feeling.

Filled with flawed characters, this award-winning drama is bleak, haunting, and yet still somehow hopeful.

 “Nobody comes out of this experience clean,” Hyatt continues. “Delores was abrasive and I certainly caused a great deal of emotional abuse to my daughter by refusing to accept her homosexuality. This movie is one person’s personal experience of the world.”

Hyatt, who can also be seen in an upcoming episode of Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” joins the slew of British actors vying for movie roles in Hollywood, and if she’s worried about longevity in this male-dominated industry, she’s certainly not letting on.

“I have heard the resentment of ‘Brits’ coming over here and taking the roles of Americans, and it’s the same augment that American actors have about reality television,” she continues.  “My answer to that is a Jamaican phrase my aunt once told me ‘what’s yours is yours and it doesn’t matter who comes in and comes out’.  Everybody deserves an opportunity and there is an unlimited supply of opportunity for mankind.”

“Mississippi Damned” premieres 2/22 at 8pm on Showtime. Check cable listings for other dates.

 FRI 02/25 1:00 AM

THU 03/03 2:30 AM

TUE 03/15 10:00 PM

02/02/11 TO 02/28/11


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