By: Courtney Thompson
Kyanna “Kee-Kee” Simone Simpson, a third year entertainment and media studies major from Decatur, Ga. is living her dream. She is a full-time student at the University of Georgia, but she is also a successful actress. She currently has a recurring role on the CW’s new hit series, “Black Lightning,” and has worked with an array of talented actors such as Omari Hardwick, Matthew McConaughey and Oprah Winfrey.
She began taking acting classes when she was around 12 years old. “I always asked my mom, ‘Why can’t I have 10 jobs? I want to do it all.’ That’s when it clicked that I could act and take on different jobs and lifestyles by playing different characters,” Simpson says.
Four years later, her life changed for the better.
“When I was 16, I booked ‘A Christmas Blessing’ on TV One, where I played Raynesha, a two-faced gangster. That was a really fun character to have as my first job ever,” Simpson says.
After she played Raynesha, Simpson continued to book roles in shows and movies such as “Being Mary Jane,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Fist Fight” and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
Her favorite role thus far was playing young Deborah Lacks in “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Lacks was an African-American tobacco farmer whose cancer cells were used without her consent for important medical research after her death.
“In the ‘Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ I got to play a younger version of Oprah’s character, Deborah Lacks. I was able to be in a film that told such a powerful story about African-American history and the history of America,” Simpson says.
Simpson also learned a lot from Oprah during the filming process. One piece of advice that stands out in particular is the power of manifestation.
“I always knew what the word manifestation meant, but until Ms. Winfrey applied manifestation to my life, I didn’t really understand how powerful it is. It made me understand that if I have a dream or goal, if I speak it into existence, and completely believe that it will come into fruition, then it will definitely happen,” Simpson says.
Simpson is passionate about acting, but juggling school and filming can get hectic.
“Time management is the hardest thing. Though Athens isn’t that far from Atlanta, I do have to drive back and forth a lot because I am filming ‘Black Lightning.’ A lot of times I have to fly out of town as well,” Simpson says.
She takes special precautions when planning out her schedule to make college life a bit easier.
“I decided to take strictly Tuesday and Thursday classes when I came to UGA. I also try to work something out with my professors so that they understand that I’m not missing class because I’m lazy, “ Simpson says.
She knows that she can also count on her mom and her mentors for advice so that she never feels alone.
“I usually call my mom first. She helps me with my personal life, since she is my best friend. She also understands the circumstances of the industry, and is able to help me. I also have amazing mentors such as actor Tony Vaughn and Ms. Winfrey,” Simpson says.
Self-care is also something that she takes seriously in order to stay sane.
“I have to make sure that I’m caring for myself first, and then I’ll have enough to care for others.”
When it’s time to unwind, Simpson often finds herself at a movie theater.
“I love movies. I go to the movies about 2 or 3 times a week, by myself or with others, it doesn’t matter,” Simpson says.
Simpson knows that she is in a position that most people could only dream of being in. Some of the best advice that she has received has been not to take herself too seriously. She also has some words of wisdom for aspiring actors.
“Just go for it. There will be times when things seem impossible, but it will work out in the end,” Simpson says.
In addition to having a recurring role on “Black Lightning,” Simpson will also appear in a film called “White Boy Rick” which stars Matthew McConaughey. It will be released on Aug. 17, 2018.