Actress Chrystee Pharris joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss her role in Monogamy, working behind the camera, her love of travelling, and much more.
Hello Chrystee, welcome to Close-Up Culture! You are currently a co-star on the hit show, Monogamy. Can you tell us about your experience on the show and your role as Diandra?
Craig Ross Jr.’s Monogamy is an incredible show. It has been one of my most rewarding roles to date for me. Diandra is complex and has been through so much trauma in her life. She has always held it together but as you get to know her, you start to see her flaws and how she tries to navigate through them. The reason this character has been the most rewarding is because in the 3rd season you start to see more of Diandra’s fears. The audience really related to her this season and that brought me joy.
I had to do a very difficult scene as an actor in season 3. It was a masturbation scene. Yikes! We had to do something to show the intimacy between two characters without them touching because we were shooting during Covid. I have to admit I was so self conscious about it. But, I trusted the director. And I am glad I did because it became a hot topic with the fans on how they could understand my character Diandra. And some women admitted they went through what my character went through. They could relate to her pain. Reading those messages made me cry. I could have told the director I was not going to do the scene. But I’m glad I trusted him and fought through the fear. There was a reason he wrote it in the script and he was right. It told the story that needed to be told. And it helped a lot of women who had been through the same trauma as Diandra. And we were able to tell the story and be safe during Covid.
As well as acting, you also have some recent directing credits. What do you enjoy about being behind the camera?
My new joy is directing. I haven’t had this much joy in my soul since the first time I hit the stage as an actor! I just love it. Being able to pull out of an actor their best work is just fascinating to me. It’s my new passion and you will see me doing more of it. I just want to make actors see the potential they really have and to step out of their comfort zone.
You’ve been involved in some incredible projects, including Monogamy, Season 3 of Goliath, Spiderman: Into The Spider-Verse and Scrubs. What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
I am proud of my strength. This industry can be mentally taxing on you. People quit the business, get on drugs, commit suicide… they lose their identity. I have been fortunate enough to have stayed grounded these last 20 years. I have amazing friends around me. I haven’t sold my soul to make it in this industry. And I am still here and still working… 20 years later. That is a big deal. That is my proudest accomplishment. And just to add to your question. All the characters I have played- I am proud of ALL the characters. I really did do the work and you can see it. Nothing is over the top. You can still watch the Sister Sister, Kenan & Kel Moesha episodes, today and it’s still good acting. I have grown since then of course, amen for that, but I can still look at it and be proud of it.
The acting profession is full of ups and downs. What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
When the industry changes and you have to keep up. First it was myspace, then FB, and reality shows, then IG and influencers and TikTok… as you get older, you have to keep up with the trends or your career will fall to the wasteside. It is no longer just about talent- it’s about how relevant you are on social media. And for my friends who are my age and older. It’s hard for them to keep up and they are bitter. I look at it as- you have to do it. So just do it. Don’t be the old person who says “I’m not doing that. We didn’t do that in my time…” Stop living in the past. If you want to work, do it. Be creative.
What would be your words of wisdom to those making their way into the industry?
Don’t wait on anyone to do it for you. Do it on your own.
Always trust your gut.
The industry always goes up and down so find other skills in the industry that you do well. (Voiceover, directing, producing etc.). That way you are always staying creative and you are not worried about money.
What type of roles would you love to take on in the future?
Think Sandra Bullock with a Halle Berry face. That is what roles I would love to take. Romantic Comedy. I really am funny 😆 😁 .
How do you like to spend your time away from the camera?
I love traveling. I collect Pandora travel charms. I have over 18 countries I’ve collected Pandora charms from. It’s so dope to have a reminder of all the places I have been to. I also love teaching the business of acting. I know that is still a part of the acting world but teaching brings me joy and seeing actors be successful after working with me is my highlight.
What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
I want to travel more. I think when you explore more, you can be more creative. I will also be directing more which I enjoy doing. It is my new inspiration. It gives me the high I felt the first time I was on stage in front of an audience. The thrill. So it’s my new passion. I am reading new scripts to direct now. I am also creating a social conscious show as well as a website to help actors with auditions. So I have a lot on my plate. So much to do. And I only do it if it brings me joy.