Scoring the job of a lifetime on one’s first try is a rarity, even more so in the world entertainment. But Chanté Adams did just that when she landed the role of rapper Roxanne Shanté in the Sundance Film Festival favorite, “Roxanne Roxanne.” The 22-year-old is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, and she was out and about on Thursday at Essence magazine’s eighth annual Black Women in Music event, where she took a moment to discuss her sudden rise.
WWD: How does it feel to be the star of “Roxanne Roxanne”?
Chanté Adams: “Roxanne Roxanne” was my first film and my first movie audition, too. I just graduated from Carnegie Mellon University last year. So to get a role so early in my career and with such depth is exciting. It’s the role of a lifetime.
WWD: Tell us about your first movie audition.
C.A.: Being that it was my first feature film, I was just excited to go in. I thought it was good practice. To get called back, for my first movie, it didn’t really set in until I got the final call back and I thought, “Oh, OK. This is something that could actually happen.”
WWD: How did you prepare for the role?
C.A.: I only had eight days in between the time I was cast and the first day on set. I had to research everything I could about Roxanne Shanté. I watched every video interview, every performance; I read every article and did anything that would help me immerse myself into the character. I also met with her.
WWD: What was that like?
C.A.: Nerve-racking. You’re meeting the woman whose life story you’re about to tell. It was a heavy weight on my shoulder, but I’m so happy I got to do this while she’s alive and give flowers to her while she’s here.
WWD: What did you learn about yourself as an actress?
C.A.: To be prepared for anything. I hopped from the classroom and six weeks later I was on a professional set when all I really knew was theater. I owe a lot of that to my training, to be able to do that in such a condensed time.
WWD: Were you a fan of Roxanne Shanté before getting this role?
C.A.: I knew who she was. I didn’t know a lot of her music. I’m the youngest of four. So my older siblings gave me my introduction because she’s not as popular as she was back in the Eighties.
WWD: What was the most interesting thing that happened to you while filming?
C.A.: I had to wear prosthetic braces. They were supposed to get to me five days before we started filming, but they did not get to me until I was already on set for about 30 minutes. So I had to learn to rap, act and speak in prosthetic braces 15 minutes before we filmed our first scene. I had them on the entire six weeks we filmed.