Mouna Traore; Toronto;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I’m an actor, writer, filmmaker and occasional model.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to the University of Toronto and majored in Caribbean Studies and minored in African Studies and Buddhism Psychology.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
Well, I worked on several television shows and film projects while I was in school… I kinda took my time getting my degree so I could make space for my career. When I finally graduated, I took a break and lived in Berlin for several months modelling, so I guess my first gig school-free would be doing e-commerce for Zalando, an online store in Germany.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
Landing the role of Rebecca James in CBC’s hit show Murdoch Mysteries! I auditioned for it like anything else but I really had fun in the audition process. I had no idea what I was doing, with all the intimidating medical jargon I just tried to forget that it was a period piece and be my spunky flirty self. Needless to say, it worked!
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
When I came back from Berlin and I booked the role of Ali on Hemlock Grove. It was my second audition since I returned to Canada and I had so many doubts about whether I could keep going as an actor. I guess getting that gig made me feel like the Universe wanted me to push on!
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
I think my short-lived stint as sassy candy rapper Nani. I wouldn’t say it was a failure, more of a fun experiment that didn’t pan out, but it’s definitely been a source of insecurity for me. My bandmate Roney and I tried to make a name for ourselves in the Toronto music scene with limited resources and guidance and after a few years of struggling we parted ways (musically). I bounced back by focusing more on my acting career, which has always been my #1 passion and priority.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Study those who are doing what you want to do, and—if you can—surround yourself with the people who are doing what you want to be doing.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Fake it till you make it. Unfortunately, the camera sees everything
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
The barriers I deal with in my industry have more to do with me being a Black woman. Of course, women working in film and television find themselves under-represented and face various forms of discrimination on both sides of the camera but I must say my skin is a larger issue. I have been told I’m hard to light. I have been told that they went with a different ethnicity (as if casting more than one black person would be too unrealistic). I have also been told to be patient because good roles are only written for older black women.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
I would say I make a fair income. I have everything I want and need. My work as a writer and filmmaker doesn’t pay very well/at all because right now I’m just trying to make a name for myself on the other side of the camera, so anything my company makes goes right back into keeping the business afloat.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That social media is the source of our ignorance. I would argue the opposite—that it’s actually exposing more people to issues that would previously never engage with and that it’s important (yet problematic) source of current news and information.