Long before the current debates about Black mermaids and non-white hobbits, actress Moses Ingram battled racist memes and internet trolls when she became a part of the fantasy world when cast as villainous Inquisitor Reva/Third Sister in the Disney+ series “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” part of the “Star Wars” family.
The West Baltimore native and Baltimore School for the Arts alum — also known for her Emmy-nominated role in “the Queen’s Gambit” Netflix series about a chess phenom — survived the experience. And she’s continuing her ascent in the acting world.
The 28-year-old Yale Drama School graduate will play Robyn Crawford in the upcoming Whitney Houston biopic, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” And she’s currently in Baltimore filming the Apple TV+ drama miniseries “Lady in the Lake” opposite Natalie Portman, in a role she took over after Lupita Nyong’o left the project.
While taking a break from set — and after surprising a group of students at her alma mater — Ingram talked to The Baltimore Banner about her experience filming “Lady in the Lake”; what actresses she looked up to growing up; her favorite onset work experience, so far; and even her must-eat food when she’s back in Charm City.
What are your thoughts on the racist backlash that you received for your role in “Obi-Wan” and what Black and brown actors have received for being a part of fantasy shows like “Lord of the Rings” and “House of the Dragon?”
I think what’s more unfortunate is I’ve been doing this for 18 years — and granted the world has only been seeing me the last three — but I don’t think it discredits the work that I have done. I feel like it’s so unfortunate that the world and the people who have recently gotten to know me via “Obi-Won,” most of them know me because they feel bad for me and not for my talent. And I feel like that’s the most unfortunate part. At the end of the day I refuse to give any more time — any more of my time — to people who don’t like me anyway. It is what it is, I guess.
Ingram admits to not being a fan of “Star Wars” growing up.
I didn’t expect to be a part of “Star Wars.” I didn’t grow up as a fan or even really knowing anything beyond Darth Vader and Obi-Wan. It’s such a large franchise. And so the idea that something has been around so long, and in some small way there has always been a place for me, is a beautiful thought.
But she says that the franchise has been a financial and career blessing.
Doing “Stars Wars” afforded me the money to do this little Indie film for three weeks that didn’t give me much money.
What was it like receiving an Emmy nomination for your role in “The Queen’s Gambit?”
I think it was so shocking. It didn’t occur to me [the rarity of being nominated as a Black actress]. I was just in that moment. I remember being surprised. We didn’t campaign for it. Nothing. I was only in four scenes in that show. I didn’t expect anyone to pay attention. [“The Queen’s Gambit” experience has opened a lot of doors and introduced her to a lot of people, including the “Star Wars” universe.]
Why is it important to come back to the Baltimore School for the Arts?
I think what they do is really amazing. They give teenagers a few hours of their day to immerse themselves in the arts. It was a such an important space for me growing up. Being an artist was a career option. It is important to come back because I just love for the students to know that there are 100 different ways to achieve your goals.
As you were growing up, who were the actresses you looked up to?
Locally, Dawn Ursala, who is an actress in D.C. I was obsessed with her coming up, seeing her in the theater. Also, Nicole Beharie [”Sleepy Hollow,” “Shame,” “42″]. I think the first time I saw her do anything I was 16. I tried my hardest to be the kind of actress that Nicole Beharie was. She made me think to myself, “I wonder what Nicole Beharie would do?” Jada Pinkett was of course a legend. We went to the same high school. She was almost like a myth. She once walked these halls. In particular, walking through the halls of the schools we had newspapers and Mo’Nique won the Oscar. My given name is Monique. I remember clipping that and keeping that for myself because it was Mo’Nique and Mo’Nique was from Baltimore. She won an Oscar and maybe one day I could too. I remember that day.
How has your experience been so far on “Lady in the Lake”?
It’s going well. It’s a really fun set and a great story. I’m excited for people to see it. I’m happy that I get to be the person who brings this character to life and to be home and know where I’m at. It’s really, really a good experience.
And what do you think about the recent controversies surrounding the film?
One of Ingram’s favorite acting experiences involved the upcoming biological thriller “The Big Cigar,” which was filmed in Toronto, with her “Lady in the Lake” co-star Andre Holland and fellow Baltimore School for the Arts alum Tiffany Boone.
We spent a lot of time hanging out with the crew. We just had so much fun.
Ingram’s morning routine involves music.
I love music. Music will get you there every time. When I get up in the morning, it sets the atmosphere. I pray, I listen to music. I keep space for myself.
Do you have a favorite place to go or thing to eat when you come back to Baltimore?
I go to Lake Trout in the Junction and I get a chicken box with four wings and fries, salt, pepper, ketchup. Or I get crabsticks. Because their crabsticks are also good.