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August 19, 2017
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‘All I Wanted to Do Was Act’

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Born and raised in Miami, Candice Marie Singleton was introduced to acting by her parents at a young age to simply boost her confidence. Today, she’s a budding star.                                         

When Candice Marie Singleton convinced her parents to let her transfer from Dade Christian High School in Miami Lakes to Saint Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale – 22 miles north – she had an ulterior motive. She ran track and played basketball at Dade Christian, where she says the atmosphere felt like “family.” However, the Crusaders did not have a drama program. So she told her parents she had done extensive research and discovered that Aquinas not only has a sterling academic reputation but a great sports program as well.

       That was all true. The school boasts a distinguished list of sports alumni, including Michael Irvin, Chris Evert, Brian Piccolo and Sanya Richards-Ross. What Candice didn’t reveal was that Saint Thomas also has a respected drama program. That was her real motivation.

       Candice got her wish and transferred to Aquinas at the start of her junior year in 2009. She joined the track and basketball teams there. But as time went on she became disenchanted with the athletic scene. There were also off-field issues. It was not the kind of drama she had in mind when she transferred. She was already growing weary of competing in the grueling 400-meter races – “It hurts so much,” she says. College was on the horizon. She was a decent athlete but her mailbox was not stuffed with letters from universities offering athletic scholarships. She knew her parents would be disappointed if she gave up sports. But she made the tough decision. She quit the basketball team during her senior year and also gradually stopped competing with the track team. “By that point I was starting to hate sports,” she admits.

        She turned her focus to the drama program, where coordinator Jerry Seeger helped the reclusive Candice hone her talent. “He made me confident,” she says. “He would say, ‘You can do this.’ ”

       And that she did.

       She won the critics’ choice award during a district competition for the International Thespian Society, drawing plaudits for two monologues: The Pizza Girl, and a scene from the choreopoem For Colored Girls. When the announcement was made on the school’s PA system, her classmates were stunned. They had no idea she could act. They were accustomed to the reclusive Candice. Little did they know that behind the reticent demeanor was a driven young woman with lofty dreams of seeing her name atop the marquee.     

GIRL, INTERRUPTED  

       Candice became hitched to acting at a young age. But it began as somewhat of an arranged marriage.

       Starting at age 8, her parents signed her up for classes in jazz, ballet and acting. They didn’t envision her choosing a career in the arts. They simply wanted to boost her confidence and provide her with cultural enrichment. But those experiences, especially the acting, left an indelible mark. So did her father’s collection of African American-themed movies. Candice watched “Blackspoitation” movies such as Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown and Spike Lee films such as Crooklyn and Jungle Fever. She and elder sister Tamiko were also frequent visitors to their neighborhood Blockbuster, the once-prominent video-rental company that was rendered obsolete by the Netflix juggernaut. It was still the days of VHS tapes, before DVDs and streaming would take over. Candice would stroll the aisles of the blue-and-yellow-themed Blockbuster store and soak in the hundreds of movie titles. She especially took a liking to the horror section. Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play – also known as the “Chucky” series – were her favorites. Like osmosis, she soaked up the atmosphere. She began dreaming of one day being in front of the camera.

         Years later, she saw a movie that would become her all-time favorite. Good Burger was not a box-office smash when it was released in 1997, but it evolved into a cult classic and helped actor Kenan Thompson become a Saturday Night Live icon. Candice was a big fan of Thompson’s comedy partner, Kel Mitchell. She found his silly, light-hearted antics endearing. “I saw how much fun they were having, and the fact you can become someone else,” Candice says, explaining her appeal to acting. “Even the serious movies like Crooklyn, I liked how actors can become totally different people and connect with others.”

         When Candice was 10, her parents saw a newspaper ad in which kids were being recruited by a local production company offering acting lessons and auditions. It was an enticing opportunity. Candice signed up and eventually performed in a play called Scrumpy’s Winter Wonderland at the Gusman Theater in downtown Miami. She also appeared in a follow-up show called Soul City that the participants were told would appear on UPN. When the plans fell through, many accused the company of being a scam. Candice’s parents were taken aback. They told her to forget about acting and pursue other activities such as sports.

        Scam or not, the experience of being on stage and in a show business atmosphere left a profound impression on young Candice. She yearned to perform. But she did as her parents requested and chose sports. Her dad especially was adamant about Candice’s participation in athletics.

        “My dad would really try to shove sports down my throat,” she says, chuckling. “All I wanted to do was act. But he would be like, ‘We don’t have money for that.’ Then, the next thing I know I would be signed up for some basketball camp.”

        By the time she transferred to Aquinas, she had been away from acting for so long that she was rusty. But she eventually found her bearings. Looking back, she’s grateful for the sacrifice her parents made in allowing her to join Saint Thomas, albeit under minor false pretenses on her part. The daily commute was daunting. Her mom would drive Candice from North Miami Beach to Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale at 6 a.m., then head back south to Miami, where she worked as a crime analyst with Miami-Dade police.

‘A REAL JOB’

        After graduating from Aquinas in 2011, Candice chose to attend Florida State University because of its drama program. At FSU, her courses included Acting for the Stage, Acting for Film, Stage Makeup and Theatrical Design. She graduated cum laude with degrees in Theater and Criminology in 2015, then returned to South Florida to kick-start her acting career. She got small gigs here and there, but they were not enough to sustain a living. She wanted to be independent. She decided to put her Criminology degree to work and get a “real job.” She applied for a job as a juvenile probation officer. She went through the requisite training and completed the academy. She relished the opportunity to help rehabilitate troubled youngsters. It was a noble profession. But it did not provide the thrill of performing. She left that job after six months and focused on acting again.

         For actors, the profession can be wildly capricious. They could work for six months in a row and then wait by the phone or attend auditions in vain for the next six. But 2017 has been bountiful for Candice. She landed a role on the web series Blanco, about a young lady who inherits a pharmacy that is also a front for an illegal drug business. Candice plays the role of Sage, a pharmacy employee who suspects the business is not legitimate. Candice also performed in two plays – Flyin’ West, an M Ensemble production at the Sandrell Rivers Theater in Miami, and All The Way at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theater in Coral Gables.

         In All The Way, a play about President Lyndon B. Johnson, she portrayed Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. In order to play Hamer, the petite Candice donned a fat suit, changed her walking style and spoke with a deeper voice. She considers her performance in All The Way the proudest in her young career because it forced her to transform. “In film work, I usually feel like I’m just an extension of myself,” she says. “But in theater, you’re actually becoming a different person.”

         Performing live in front of an audience is also challenging. There are no second chances. Actors must be able to think on their feet and diffuse technical issues such as forgotten lines. Candice says she has experienced some glitches, such as during her performance in Flyin’ West, a play about African American families migrating west from the Jim Crow south in 1898.

         “For Flyin’ West I had to set a table and do my lines and make dinner,” she says. “Some nights I would drop forks or I wouldn’t get out the right amount of plates. But as long as you keep things together, the audience will never know.”

CANDICE GETS CANDID

          Candice’s personal website (candicemariesingle.com) features many clips of her work, including monologues and several short films. Asked what her greatest gift is when it comes to acting, she says: “I’m not afraid to go there. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable and show who I am when playing a character.”

          For her role in the short film Escape, Candice plays a woman dealing with domestic abuse. She’s willing to push the boundaries of method acting – to a point.

          “I want to do things that are truthful and that can be raw and uncomfortable but don’t necessarily cross the line for me,” she says. “Life is not always pretty. You’re not always going to get roles where you’re seen in the best light, because acting is a reflection of life. Would I do some raunchy sex scene? No. But if it’s a scene that has sex but it’s a good story and it’s within reason, and if it’s artistically done, maybe.

          “I’m more about telling the story right and being truthful.”

           With a reverence for the art of character development, it’s no surprise that Candice’s favorite actor is two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington. “I love Denzel. I know that sounds like a cliché. But he embodies every character he plays,” she says.

           As for her aspirations, Candice realizes that South Florida is hardly a show-business hub. She plans to eventually relocate to Atlanta, which has become a growing base for independent films, especially those of the African American genre. “I really don’t want to leave. I wish that Miami was booming. But unfortunately if you want to get to the next step, you have to go where the opportunities are.”

          As for how far she would like to go in the business, Candice, who has her own page on the popular website IMDB, says she’s aiming for the top. “I want to be up there, for sure. But I want to live a simple life. I don’t want to be that person that everyone knows to the extent that I can’t go to the grocery store. I don’t want to be out there where people know who I’m dating and stuff like that.

           “I just want to be known for my work.”  

    

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1 comment

  • Albertha martin

    August 25, 2017 (18:54) Reply

    Truly a remarkable story. Candice’s story is the true meaning of if at first you don’t succeed try try again.
    I think she has begun to see light ahead of that long tunnel and hopefully will b an inspiration to her parents and other hopefuls like herself.

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