Star of Sac State’s rocket-themed holiday video ready for acting career to take off

In Sacramento State’s inspiring 2018 holiday video, she is reaching for the stars as an aspiring NASA scientist whose dreams are made possible by her attending Sacramento State. In real life, the talented actress who stars in the video is headed for a more immediate goal: graduating in 2019 and kicking off her professional acting career.

The acting bug bit Monique Crawford, a theater major and musical theater minor, at an early age, but it wasn’t until she enrolled at Sac State in 2015 that her dream started to become a reality. Crawford’s first theater history class led to her first role, followed by others that have become part of a burgeoning resume. She has performed in on-campus productions of “Stories to be Told” (ensemble), “Annie” (Mrs. Pugh) and “Peter and the Starcatcher” (Molly).

She also has performed off-campus with The Fourth Wall and community theater organizations – all while balancing her schoolwork and commuting up to 90-minutes each way to and from Fairfield, her hometown.

We spoke with Crawford about her love of acting, her experience at Sacramento State, participating in the holiday video, and her post-graduation plans.

Transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Was acting always something you were interested in?

(Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

It actually was. I always wanted to act as a child. But in the child mentality, I thought you had to move to either New York or L.A., and I’m like, “Well my parents are never going to do that,” so I just kind of forgot about it. And then once I hit 18, I was in college and I was like, “Oh, I’m free now. I can do whatever I want.” It took a couple years. I was psychology major, and then I changed it after I had my first theater history class with Dr. (Roberto) Pomo. In the class you get into groups and then you perform certain scenes of whatever play you’re assigned. Afterwards (Pomo) came up to me and said, “I want you to audition for the play in the spring,” so I said OK, and I got my first role in his play, “Stories to be Told.” That got the ball rolling. He played a major part in that. I’m very grateful.

Why did you decide to come to Sac State?

I actually didn’t want to come to college at all after high school, but I got to come tuition-free to any university in California because my dad is retired military. My parents were really pushing. “It’s going to be really good for you,” they said. My mom graduated from Sac State, so I said, “All right, the only college I’m going to apply to, the only one I want is Sac State.” So that’s what I did. I got it, and I wasn’t going to take anything else.

Was being in the holiday video your first time acting on camera or film versus on stage?

No, I’ve had a little bit of experience with industrial filming, filming videos for schools. I also have done a lot of background work. A lot (of that) was in (the second season of the television series) “13 Reasons Why.” So if you watch it, you’ll see a whole lot of me. (There have been) other things, independent films, being a background extra, that sort of thing. But as far as major roles, yes, this was the first one that will be more widespread.

Did you get a lot of screen time in “13 Reasons Why”?

I did. During the second half of the second season you can see me all over the place.

When you first saw the completed Sac State video, what was your reaction?

I watched it again. I watched it once, and I didn’t know what to think, and then I watched it again, and I thought, wow, (videographer Rob Neep) really put it all together and everything blended just like he said it was going to. His work was very, very well done.

Did you get to meet the young girl who stars alongside you?

No, I didn’t. I didn’t get to meet any of the kids, but they were so adorable.

How has what you’ve learned in the theater program helped you with the acting you do on campus and elsewhere?

(Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)
Monique Crawford (center) sits with two of her co-stars as they film the 2018 Sacramento State holiday video. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

The class that helped with that the most would be Acting 3, taught by Professor Michelle Felten. We focused a lot on different methods of acting, and very minute details such as being in your environment, feeling your environment. For example, me feeling this chair (that I’m sitting in now). I feel the soft cushion underneath, and I can feel the sharp edges of the wood, this kind of warm chair; so allowing those kinds of things to ground you and to focus in on your scene partner. And so when it comes to film, a lot of it is really close up, and so that’s when you see a whole lot more of the minute details. It’s from doing all that hard work that a lot of people may not really see behind the scenes, but that’s what we did in that class.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

My original plan was to go to L.A., and I’ve seen a few performances at Cap(ital) Stage, and they were just brilliant. I loved it, I fell in love with it 100 percent. So I may be moving down to L.A. or I may be auditioning for Cap Stage to keep going with my career in Sacramento.

What advice do you have for a new student who wants to be a theater major and an actor?

To manage your time well. College is all about time management, but so much so in theater. You really have to know yourself. You get to know yourself so much more just being in the department through classes and workshops and everything. You learn how much physical activity you can take, how much mental activity you can take, how much emotional activity you can take. Manage your health as well as your time because your body and your voice are the only two instruments that you have to use. You have to keep them in tune, keep them healthy. Eat. Always eat healthy. Get as much rest as you can and really make time to keep yourself well as well as passing classes.

What do you do in your spare time?

(Laughing) We have no spare time! Besides acting, I have been dancing hula for the majority of my life. I’m a professional Polynesian dancer. I always love swimming, I love being outdoors, seeing movies and crocheting, playing chess. I’m one of the people who likes puzzles, like Sudoku. I like mentally stimulating things as well as adventures like dirt biking, jet skiing, parasailing, all kinds of stuff to get your adrenaline pumping

From princess to P.I.: Actress/alumna set to shine in new BET series

(Photo courtesy of Danielle Moné Truitt)

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.”