Danielle Moné Truitt is a self-described late bloomer when it comes to acting. When she arrived at Sac State as a psychology major, the longtime singer had no idea she might want to be an actress as well, until a professor prompted her to join her first play.
But when Truitt set foot on the Sac State stage for the first time, everything changed. “Opening night I walked out, and I was like, ‘Yep, this is what I want to do,'” she says.
That moment ultimately led her to a brighter spotlight than she had ever imagined: Next February, Truitt (’05, Theatre Arts) will play the lead role in the new BET series Rebel, accompanied by an all-star cast and crew.
After more than a decade honing her craft in Hollywood, performing around the country, and raising a family, Truitt’s big break was a long time – and a lot of hard work – in the making.
“I’ve been here 10 years and I have a husband, I have two children, and I got a chance to grow a family in the midst of pursuing my career,” Truitt says, “and it just feels great to know know that you can have it all if you just don’t give up.”
Rebel stars Truitt as a former Oakland police officer who turned private investigator after her brother was murdered. The series is the brainchild of Academy Award-nominated director John Singleton, best known for the groundbreaking Boyz n the Hood as well as blockbusters like 2 Fast 2 Furious and Four Brothers.
Some of the industry’s top stars will share the screen with Truitt, including Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump), and Method Man (The Wire).
“The fact that (Singleton) cast actors like Giancarlo Esposito and Mykelti Williamson around me has just given me opportunities to raise my game, because they’re heavyweights in the acting field,” Truitt says. “It’s just been a dream come true.”
Truitt has traveled a long road to realizing that dream. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting full time after graduating in 2005, she quickly found out that she had to develop a thick skin to succeed in Tinseltown.
“L.A. is a beast in itself,” she says. “There are so many people telling you ‘no’ on a regular basis, there’re so many people judging how you look. … You have to really have self-esteem, and you have to really have a community of people that love and support you in your career in order to make it.”
Disney fans especially may already be familiar with Truitt, though they may not know it: In 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, she did the video referencing for the film’s animated protagonist, Princess Tiana. She lent her movements and expressions to bring the character to life.
That opportunity opened the door to a number of guest- and co-starring roles – including on shows like Fox’s Mulaney – in addition to a host of other auditions.
All the while, Truitt continued to work on her own material, started a family, kept auditioning – babies in tow – and even starred in a one-woman show, 3 Black Girl Blues, which she performed on both coasts.
No matter how committed she was to her dream, she simply refused to put her life on hold, and it paid off: This past December, she auditioned for the starring role on Rebel, and after long months of waiting, found out in April she landed the part.
“One thing to keep in mind is that there’re no guarantees,” she says. “You cannot handcuff yourself to a timeline. For me, I got married and I could’ve said, ‘I’m not having kids until I make it.’ That would’ve meant that I still wouldn’t have kids right now, because it took me 10 years.
“This industry is so hard to navigate. And the best thing to do is to stay open to life and take it as it comes.”