When the description “renaissance man” comes up, what flashes through your mind? Perhaps you picture an image of Leonardo da Vinci hunched over a wooden desk, working by candlelight on an invention, equation, or drawing…but not a painting. Nope. Da Vinci would not be painting by candlelight. Or maybe you think of Donald Glover, finishing up a music video, which he not only acted and rapped in, but likewise directed and produced. A “renaissance man” is a person with many talents or interests. But the problem with this definition involves the difference between a “man” and a “person.” I guess renaissance person just doesn’t sound as good, and then where does that leave a woman? There’s another word, Polymath, which works much better. Polymath is Greek for “…having learned much,” or “…a person who is an expert in various fields.” So no, the person I’m about to introduce you to is not so much a “renaissance woman” as she is the essence, the epitome of a polymath.
Jo’nez Cain-Lewis is an actor, songwriter, singer, model, and is now turning her attention towards directing and screenwriting. Yes, a polymath all the way! She is about to begin filming To Kill an Actor, in which she is a producer, as well as a lead actor, starring alongside of Angelique Bates. Some other of the films she’s been featured in including Fruitvale Station and Straight Outta Oakland. Adding to this, she will be releasing three singles “Strongholds,” “Don’t Worry,” and “Fragile.” We were fortunate to have been able to pick her brain in an exclusive interview about what it’s like to have so many different interests and talents and how she manages between all of them.
Did you always want to be an actor?
Honestly I can’t say that I always wanted to be an actress. I knew that I loved acting. That was all that I knew. I just didn’t see it as a career, because I started to do it so young. It was just one of those things I loved. I was in anything I could get my hands on. I was on drill team. I played sports. I was singing, dancing. It was just a way of life, and I didn’t think of it as anything beyond that.
How young were you when you started your creative pursuits?
I started, I want to say, when I was seven years old. I started to take acting classes, but like I said, I didn’t do it professionally, I didn’t have headshots. I was just the kid whose parents kept her in activities.
What is your favorite creative medium?
I would have to say songwriting, you know because that’s the one thing I can do no matter how I feel. I can utilize it, to change my spirit whenever I want. You just speak, write, or sing the things that are not as though they were, so it’s like manifesting wherever you want to be instead of how you currently feel.
So you’d choose music and song writing over everything else?
I would. If I had the choice…I mean, I don’t know. It would be hard to live without one or the other. But songwriting is a place that I can always survive. And this is because I am the one creating.
Speaking of creating, can you talk to us a little about your screenwriting aspirations?
I just started writing recently, and you just get into this mode where you’re reading script after script after script, and I think it-relatively speaking-teaches you how to write a script, but it definitely gives you the knowledge of the expectations for how the script should be written. But I have some stuff up my sleeve that I’m dabbling around with right now, including a feature and a pilot.
You describe yourself as an artist of faith. Can you expound upon this, in that how does faith impact your process?
It’s like the biggest thing for me. But because of it, sometimes you have to say no to a lot. For instance, I had to turn down two roles for cable, because it required me to be topless. I’m not saying there isn’t a project that I wouldn’t do that for, but it would have to be necessary for the role. But on those specific projects, my faith and conscience wouldn’t allow me to cross that bridge. I’m not a holy roller or uppity, but I do have standards.
Can you tell us a little about your role in To Kill an Actor?
It’s a movie that starts with faith and ends with faith. It talks about the secrets and ups and downs of Hollywood, the inner and outer demons you deal with while pursuing a career in the industry. The film really talks about everything, some really heavy things, like homelessness, mental illness, veterans, even child molestation. My character’s name is Denise, and she’s dealing with or wrestling with a lot of different dynamics, but those which are mostly outside of the industry.
If you could work with any actor, who would you choose?
You know that’s the hardest question in the world. If I had to choose, that would be impossible. But the top of my list is Angela Bassett, Cicely Tyson, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep…I could go on and on. All of these are at the top of my list, because they are actors who I not only admire their technique, but I admire them both on and off the screen.
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Featured Image: Keif Savage | All images provided by Jo’Nez Cain