Cassandra Freeman at the Florida Film Fest

Posted: April 15, 2011 in News
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By otownrog on April, 14 2011

Her big break was a Spike Lee film. She’s been on Broadway and been a regular on TV’s “Numb3rs.”

But for her latest role has  Florida native Cassandra Freeman playing a national heroine — of Rwanda. Rose Kabuye is a sort of Oskar Schindler meets Che Guevara figure, a heroine of the genocide and civil war.

“I knew about as much about Rwanda as you do, what I saw in ‘Hotel Rwanda.’ I looked at movies like ‘Shooting Dogs,’ ‘Sometime in April.’

“They call Rose ‘The Rose of Rwanda.’ I met Tony Blair he went on and on about what a hero she was.”

One thing that surprised Freeman was what local people said to her once she landed in Rwanda to film ‘Kinyarwanda.’ “They’d come up to me and say ‘What do you think of all the lies in ‘Hotel Rwanda?’ To people there, that movie, a great movie to me, is a little sensational and a lot exaggerated in terms of what a hero that guy was.

“Doing this role changed my whole life. I see their fate as not that unlike what’s gone on in America, a genocide that came from hate mongering on the radio. People in this country are making money off dividing us, just as in Rwanda.

“But in Rwanda, there are no Hutus, no Tutsis any more. They’re just Rwandan. They had to get past what they did to one another, forgive people who came after them with machetes, and basically had to ban hate radio to get there.”

Freeman, a stunning 32, uses “serendipity” to describe her acting career.  Roles have turned up, bills have been paid. She has another movie lined up for this summer — ” What We Got Away With”  a suspense thriller set in the Hamptons — following a new musical (“A Lot Like Love”) that she will be singing in with the hopes of taking it on the road.

But “Kinyarwanda” inspired her, as she did Peace Corps visits on her day’s off,  to found a non-profit, the Kassandra Arts Project.

“Kassandra in Greek mythology could see the future. I want to change the future, getting the arts to kids all over the world.”

“I feel I’ve gotten to do everything I wanted to do — Broadway, the Guthrie, working with Denzel and Spike, working with Chris Rock (“I Think I Love My Wife”). Maybe it’s time to try writing. I have a book coming out in October, ‘Why Every Woman is an Actress.’ It’s about the role playing women have to do just to get by. I feel the need to express myself politically, right now.”

Looking to her past, Freeman was born in West Palm Beach but grew up in Jacksonville.

What she really wanted to do… was play the xylophone.That’s what Cassandra Freeman auditioned for at Douglas Anderson School for the Arts. “That’s what I played in Middle School.” But she took a shot by doing a reading from “Raisin in the Sun” as well. From there, Freeman went on to get a BFA at Florida State.

“The shows they did while I was there just marginalized me,” she says. So she did more studying overseas and got into NYU for grad school. And once she finished there, another NYU grad gave her her big break.

“Everybody at NYU was always talking’ Yeah, I ran into Spike Lee in the elevator (he attended there and teaches there on occasion).’ Never happened to me.

“I showed up to audition for this movie, ‘Inside Man,’ wore a wig and everything, because I was up for a particular character. And somebody said, ‘Take your wig off. Maybe you could try for the role of Denzel’s wife.’ Spike had to meet me in person if I could wait around two weeks.

“A couple of call-backs later, I met Spike and have to do this improv with him, he’s doing Denzel’s character and I’m playing the wife. I figured ‘There is NO way I am getting this.’

“But we’re doing all this back and forth, and finally I just go ‘If you don’t do what I say, I’m gonna go cheat on you with a WHITE man.’ ‘Cut!’ End of audition. ‘Thank you.’

“I thought, ‘What was I thinking?’ So I went to LA, and Spike calls as I get off the plane. I got the role.”

Source: Cassandra Freeman at the Florida Film Fest

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