After a decade of persistence, actress Danielle Moné Truitt’s moment has come

Even after more than a decade as a working actress, success still can seem surreal for Danielle Moné Truitt ’05 (Theatre Arts).

“Even when I’ve seen myself every Tuesday on TV, I was just like, ‘Wow, that’s me,’ ” she says. “All those years of working hard, it really can happen if you just believe and you don’t give up.”

The time spent pursuing her dream despite the seemingly endless no’s, the challenges of raising a family while trying to make it as a professional actor, and the occasional internal voice of doubt taught her an important lesson: Celebrate every moment.

More than 10 years after she stepped onto the stage for the first time as a Sacramento State student, Truitt’s moment has come. She recently starred as Rebecca “Rebel” Knight, an Oakland police officer who becomes a private investigator after her brother is killed at the hands of a fellow officer, in the BET police drama series Rebel, her first major role. That performance has opened up even more opportunities for the multitalented, multifaceted actress.

“The subject matter of the show is very dear to my heart,” she says. “It really confirmed for me that this is my purpose. Not just to act, but to tell stories that are important to the world that we live in, for the time that we live in.”

Truitt had no plans to pursue acting when she arrived at Sacramento State in fall 2001. The Sacramento native initially declared as a psychology major, thinking it would be good preparation for law school and a career as an entertainment lawyer. But she also had been singing since she was 8 and, looking for a creative outlet, signed up for a theater class. By the end of the first week, her natural talent caught the eye of then-Professor Juanita Rice, who encouraged her to audition for an upcoming play.

The audition won her the lead role – and changed her life.

“The first time I stepped on the Playwrights’ (Theatre) stage, I just remember seeing the lights,” she says. “It was definitely a rush of adrenaline, and when I stepped on that stage, I knew, OK, this is what I wanted to do.”

Continuing to perform at Sacramento State helped Truitt build her confidence as an actor. The University also introduced her to African-American theater and art, which she says has “given me a pride about who I am and my culture and creating a body of work that speaks to helping people understand that the African-American experience in America is the American experience. It’s not a separate experience.”

‘The first time I stepped on the Playwrights’ (Theatre) stage, I just remember seeing the lights. It was definitely a rush of adrenaline, and when I stepped on that stage, I knew, OK, this is what I wanted to do.’

“She was very attentive, very astute, very intelligent, and very much a go-getter,” says retired professor and former Theatre and Dance Chair Linda Goodrich, who recalled Truitt’s performance as the lead in the play Venus, about the life of a native African woman who was exhibited as a freak show attraction during the 19th century. “It wasn’t a very attractive role as a character, but she dove right into it and gave it her all and made it an absolute success.”

Truitt also picked up unique skills such as providing the voice for a character portrayed on stage by a puppet, a situation that would be reversed in 2009 when she did video referencing for the protagonist of the animated Disney film The Princess and the Frog, lending her movements and expressions to bring the character to life.

“Danielle was always radiant, always disciplined and very committed, and I had no doubts that she was going to be a success no matter what she chose to do,” says Theatre and Dance Professor Andonia Cakouros, one of Truitt’s teachers at Sacramento State. “I knew that whatever she did in theater and film, it wasn’t just going to be about theater and film. I knew this young lady was going to be about people, and using the talents God gave her to give herself to people.”

Truitt graduated in 2005, continued to act locally with groups such as the B Street Theatre, Music Circus, and the Sacramento Theatre Company, and then in 2006 decided to take the plunge and move to Los Angeles. Suddenly a “very tiny fish in a huge pond,” she had to lean on family and friends for encouragement in the face of countless “no’s.” And no one played a bigger supporting role than her husband, Kevin.

“There were times when I was like, ‘Babe, I’m just going to go back to college and get my master’s degree in psychology, what I should have done in the first place. I shouldn’t have listened to that professor,’ ” Truitt says. “And he’s like, ‘No, Truitts don’t quit. Truitt can do it.’ That’s our mantra. Truitt can do it. We can do the good, we can do the bad, we can do the ugly. We’re going to make it through.”

Slowly, her career began to take off. In 2014, she made a guest appearance in the Rebel Wilson comedy series Super Fun Night, and the following year appeared in an episode of the sitcom Mulaney. She performed her one-woman show, 3: Black Girl Blues, on both coasts, raised her family, and continued to audition – often with her two children in tow.

Then, in 2016, she came across what seemed like the perfect part. A BET made-for-television movie called Rebel and produced by Hollywood legend John Singleton was looking for its female lead.

(Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

“African-American woman from Oakland, California, brown skin with natural hair, and I was like, ‘That sounds like me,’ ” says Truitt, who reasoned her south Sacramento upbringing was close enough to the Bay Area to count. “She was super tough and strong and fierce and beautiful and sassy and sexy. There were a whole bunch of things that encompassed her, and I thought she would be super fun to play.”

She auditioned for the casting director, then was called back to audition in front of Singleton himself, who gave her rave reviews. She left happy for the experience but, tempered by the knowledge that she wasn’t a “name” as well as a decade’s worth of rejections, she didn’t expect anything to come of it. Four months later, however, she got the call: The movie was now a series, and they wanted her to be its star.

Rebel, which aired in 2017, was more than just a professional triumph for Truitt. It was the opportunity to participate in a series focused on timely and important topics such as race and police brutality. And it was the opportunity to add her name to a dishearteningly short list: black female television leads.

“Me and a friend were counting how many black women right now are the lead of their TV show, where the entire plot is centered around them, and I think there are only five of us, out of all the shows that are on network television, cable, and online,” she says. “So I feel very honored to have had this opportunity and I also feel a charge to do what I can to create opportunities for other black women.”

To that end, Truitt has her sights set on even bigger goals: producing, directing, and working to ensure that black women are able to see themselves represented and their stories told on TV and in the movies. She also hopes to someday act on Broadway and write books. And she hasn’t forgotten her hometown. She recently brought her cabaret show Overnight Success – the title is a play on the 10-plus years it took for her to land a starring role – to Sacramento.

“Danielle is a person who doesn’t forget where she’s from,” Goodrich says. “She always comes back and gives back to the community.”

Although Rebel was not picked up for a second season, the show opened the doors to many new opportunities for Truitt. She signed with talent agency UTA, will star in The Mountaintop at in Memphis for the National Civil Rights Museum’s MLK 50 Celebration, and also is developing 3: Black Girl Blues for television. With a career on the rise, however, Truitt also is remaining grounded.

“When I’m on my death bed, I’m not going to be thinking about the fact that I played Rebecca Knight on Rebel on BET, or whether I won an award for my work or whether I had a million followers on my Instagram,” she says. “I’m not going to be thinking about that. I’m going to be thinking about my family. I’m going to be thinking about my legacy and the impact I made on people’s lives.”


Sacramento morning show mainstay Courtney Dempsey values connection to community

Courtney Dempsey ’97 (Communication Studies) says she was shy as a child, something that would surprise the many Sacramento-area residents who have tuned in every morning for more than two decades to watch her anchor Good Day Sacramento.

She always envisioned a career in print journalism. It wasn’t until, while a Sacramento State student, she landed an internship at local radio station KSFM and witnessed the rapport between the hosts that she began to consider broadcast.

“Their chemistry and the way that they worked with each other, they were having fun at work to the point where I was thinking, ‘Really? We get paid to do this?’ ” Dempsey says. “I poked my head into broadcasting a little bit more and realized that I actually do like to talk, I actually do like to tell stories, and I think I’d be OK with this.”

Things have turned out more than OK for Dempsey. More than 20 years after she walked off the Sacramento State campus with her degree and onto the Good Day set as a production assistant, she has become a morning staple in the Sacramento region, leading a unique, homespun and community-grounded broadcast that is watched by nearly 30,000 people each morning.

“The connection that we have with the community, especially when people come up to us and see us in the store, especially if they like the show, it gives you a sense of purpose, that what we do is bigger than the title,” she says. “We’re actually providing a service and we take it seriously.”

A native of Vallejo, the culture shock of moving from the Bay Area to Sacramento was tempered in her first year on campus, where she had the “best experience in the world” living in the dorms and building friendships that continue today. In the classroom, she said, professors such as communication studies’ Chevelle Newsome challenged her academically and instilled in her the responsibility that comes with being a journalist.

“Courtney was an engaged and inquisitive student here at Sac State, whose brilliance and energy always filled the classroom,” says Newsome, now the dean of graduate studies and interim dean of undergraduate studies. “Her career exemplifies the importance of a college education that includes opportunities to put theory into practice, and a learner who understands what they can achieve through hard work, passion and leadership.”

The University’s location in the middle of a top-20 media market provided ample opportunity for gaining professional experience while a student, Dempsey says. That proved invaluable as she began her career.

“There are so many opportunities to see what the world of journalism is about through internships, which I think are the absolute most important thing for a college student to do,” Dempsey says. “It helped catapult me into what I decided I wanted to do.”

A few months after Dempsey completed her internship at KSFM, one of the hosts she worked with offered her a part-time job operating the traffic ticker at a new program called, The Morning Show, which eventually became Good Day Sacramento. She held that job during her last two years at Sacramento State before being promoted to full time following graduation.

Other than a brief stint at a local radio station, Dempsey has been with Good Day ever since, staying with the program and bucking an industry trend that sees anchors and reporters move every couple of years in an often endless effort to secure a job in a bigger market.

“Because I felt connected to the show from the ground up, I always wanted to grow with the show,” she says. “Good Day is different than any other show in this state. You make personal connections with people in the area that you don’t necessarily get in other parts of the country. Why would I go somewhere else that doesn’t feel like home just to say I went to L.A., Chicago or New York? I’d rather be someplace where I feel connected.”

Dempsey’s connection to the community goes beyond the stories she tells and the people she meets while working. She has remained active in her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, serving eight years as the Sac State chapter’s undergraduate advisor. She volunteers with Jack and Jill, an organization that works to empower African-American children and encourage them to be involved in civic life and community service. And she’s an active member of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Sacramento’s Del Paso Heights neighborhood.

Because she holds such a visible and active position in the Sacramento community, she is also mindful of the role she plays in the lives of young African-American women and girls, for whom she may be one of the people they see regularly on television who looks like them.

“It’s terrifying because it’s a lot of pressure, but I learned at Sac State to whom much is given much is required,” Dempsey says. “Even though it’s a huge responsibility, I don’t consider it a weight. I consider it an anchor to ground me in this experience.”

Bryan Valenzuela painting mural as part of Wide Open Walls

If you find yourself in Midtown Sacramento over the next few days, swing by 28th Street between R and S streets to check out the mural being painted by Sacramento State alumnus Bryan Valenzuela.

Valenzuela is painting the mural as part of the Wide Open Walls festival, running through Aug. 20, celebrating street art and transforming public spaces throughout the city. His mural is part of his decade-long work to create images using handwritten text; you can read more about his work on his bio via the Wide Open Walls website and at If you look closely, you can start to see how the hand Valenzuela is painting is made up of lines of text.

You also can find Valenzuela’s work at the Golden 1 Center. His “Multitudes Converge” is a large suspended glass sculpture that presents an abstract interpretation of the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers, one of several Sac State connections the new downtown arena boasts.