Growing up, the T.V. helped me understand my role. It taught me how to act. Showed me how to behave in a particular situation. Made me understand what kind of things I was supposed to laugh at, when to cry, how to fit in, and what a perfect life looked like.

On any given day, I would spend hours in front of the television. Watching. Learning. Studying. Mimicking.

Mostly my teachers were comedians, usually of the sitcom variety, and dramatic actresses. I’ve always preferred actresses to actors, especially in dramatic roles.

My family possessed a taste for the dramatic. Especially Mama. Her entire life seemed to be one continuous act. She seemed to be living inside this single woman show that was part drama, part comedy, always authentically raw.

I never saw the camera crews that followed us around, but I would keep my eyes open for them. Mama must have known where they were positioned at all times because she was always playing up to them. Especially in public places. I felt bad for the bystanders who thought she was causing a scene. Their confusion kept them from witnessing the role of a lifetime.

She was better than good. I had to stay on my toes. Be ready to morph in and out of supporting characters on a moments notice. I got pretty decent at acting, never as good as Mama though. She was committed to her role. She always gave it her all. She lived and breathed her character.

My senior year of high school, I earned the award for best supporting actor for my part as Big Jule in the spring musical. Even though she wasn’t able to attend, I silently dedicated it to Mama. She taught me everything I knew about acting.

The television taught me everything else.

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