Photo credit (top/ inset): JeanPaul SanPedro
Actress, Mickaëlle X. Bizet who stars in the new season of “American Crime” recently spoke exclusively to Beautifully Said to discuss her big debut (Sunday, April 2nd), as a French Immigrant working as an Au Pair for an American Family with old traditional views. Read what Mickaëlle had to say about her character “Gabrielle Durand,” and working with the American Crime cast.
You have a very unique name. Please share with us the meaning?
“Oh, wow!” Let me see how short I can keep the answer…
My name is French, “Mickaëlle.” It’s not a popular name for girls. Growing up, I didn’t know any girls other than myself with the name but I knew a lot of boys named “Michael” (with an “h”same pronunciation in French). In the French language, words (nouns, subject pronouns, definite articles, indefinite articles, etc…) have genders. For example, a noun like “une table” is always feminine (not as in boy or girl though… for nouns) and “un sac” is a masculine noun. For names, it does have to do with gender as we know it; meaning that if you’re a male your name will be Michel and if you’re a female, it will be Michelle. Adding “lle” with names that end in “le” will make it feminine, as in for a “female”. Same with “Gabriel” (male) and “Gabrielle” (female).
My mom loved the name Michael and didn’t care at the time that only boys were named this. At school and around other kids (even when I became an adult when I think of it) people always asked me “why do I have a boy’s name? That’s weird”. But I never found it weird at all. It was my name and I was super comfortable with it. It fit me perfectly. I think she had seen it spelled with a “k” before and to make it feminine, she added the “le”. So that’s the spelling.
Now as far as the meaning of “Mickaël” is derived from “Michel” so “Mickaëlle” (the feminine version) is derived from “Michelle”. As far as biblical meaning, Michael means “who is like God?”. I’m not religious but I think (well a friend told me and then I read up on it), hehe….
Bizet is my mom’s maiden (and was my last name at some point) and the “X.” is the first letter of my dad’s last name (also my last name). I really wanted to have my dad stand tall and strong in between my mom and me. He’s my rock. He’s my everything. The “X.” is THE most important part of my name. My students call me “Ms. X.” and so do some of my friends since my being a teacher is a huge part of who I am. My teaching career has played a huge part in shaping the woman I am today. So the X represents my strong connection to my dad, and it’s a little shout out to my students. There’s much more to the explanation, to the story of my name though. It’s a beautiful, inspiring story. I’ll tell it one day; maybe in my book. Ah, my name… I feel like it was meant to be unique and mine. I love it.
You play the character Gabrielle Durand on ABC’s “American Crime.” What can viewers expect from your debut role this season?
Viewers were introduced to Gabrielle Durand on the April 2nd episode. She is a French-speaking Haitian woman who arrives in the states to become a nanny. Nicholas Coates (Tim Hutton) and Clair Coates (Lili Taylor) hire her to help take care of their son Nicky (Aidan Wallace). As you can imagine I can’t tell you too much about what will happen to her but what I can tell you is that she comes to the United States to create a better life for herself (as do a lot of immigrants, including myself) and pursue her own version of The American Dream. Unfortunately, she quickly finds out that her American Dream comes at a very steep price she wasn’t expecting at all. What she goes through happens to a lot of domestic workers. Unfortunately, it’s not new. It’s not TV. It’s not an isolated case. It’s not special. It’s alarming to think that this is all real, this is all happening in real life, like today, right now, right here, in America. VERY few people know about it though. Thank God there are organizations like the NDWA (National Domestic Workers Alliance) to give a voice to the millions of domestic workers. The NDWA works hard at enforcing fairness and demanding dignity for domestic workers who are trafficked, abused, disrespected, and IGNORED every single day. Maybe Gabrielle Durand’s story on American Crime will help a little bit; bring some of those stories out of the shadows and shine some light on them.
Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR
You are fluent in French and Spanish. Will your character also be fluent in these languages as well?
I’m fluent in French because it’s my native language so I can’t even take any credit for that. Spanish, I’m not yet fluent. I’m still working on it but I’m very comfortable speaking Spanish even if I make mistakes because I love it so much, sooo much. It’s one of my dreams to speak Spanish as fluently as I do French and English. Oh, and Créole; I’m also fluent in Créole because although I moved to France when I was about 2, I was born in Martinique, the French island. My family, we’re originally from the French West Indies. Now, there’s another language I speak a tiny, tiny little bit: German. Just like English and Spanish, I learned it in school. There’s a huge emphasis on language education in France. The thing with my German though, is that it was the 3rd language I studied in school in France and I was very scared of my teacher so I was always paralyzed in class; I just gave up after trying and trying and trying. I felt alone in my struggle. I wish I had demanded help from the teacher. I really regret giving up so sometimes I get on YouTube and brush up on it a little bit. I need to take formal classes or lessons because it’s mostly all gone.
Did you get to work with the talented Felicity Huffman and Regina King? If so, what was it like working with them?
I didn’t really get to work with them per say but once in a while, we were on set at the same time. I did learn a lot observing them from afar when they were shooting or not. They’re very sweet and open AND funny, both of them. It’s amazing how much you can learn by just watching people; especially people like Regina and Felicity who are professional actors who have been doing this for a very long time. Even when we do press for American Crime related events, I watch them and learn from them. It’s important to be professional in this business and know how to carry yourself. I get to learn from the best. And not just Regina and Felicity; I mean, I also have Lili Taylor, Benito Martinez, Tim Hutton, Cherry Jones, Tim Dekay, Dallas Robert, Janel Maloney, Sandra Oh, all those people to learn from.
The cast members of American Crime. Photo Credit: Getty
And even the newer actors have a wealth of knowledge for me to learn from; people like Richard Cabral and Clayton Cardenas, working with them means a lot to me. I love their stories. The 3 of us don’t come from much; we come from the other side of the track and we’re on the same critically acclaimed show. With our stories, statistically and with the way society thinks, the 3 of us are not “supposed” to be in this position, in this environment, experiencing the things we’re experiencing. But in reality, we ARE supposed to be here. We are supposed to be wherever we BELIEVE we are supposed to be. We belong here. We belong here because this is what we love, this is what we want and your past doesn’t have to predict and dictate the nature of your future. It really doesn’t. It’s up to you. But you have to sincerely believe that it’s up to you. You can create a different life for yourself. So, yeah, Richard and Clayton, they’ve been in it longer than me so I love learning from them too.
In addition to starring in American Crime, what other projects do you currently have in the works?
I’m writing. And thanks to my amazing manager Pam Cappetta-Brice (CSP Management) I’m auditioning and I have a couple of great opportunities that I think will have a happy ending. I’m so excited and ready to get back on set to tell new stories.
Please share why people should tune into American Crime.
American Crime is not at all what you expect from a show called “American Crime”. You hear the name and you think “procedural drama”. It’s not that at all. I think if you’re into understanding people’s emotions and journeys better, exploring new thoughts, new feelings, discovering issues that you might not be aware of, then American Crime is for you. You know what? Nah, American Crime is for everybody. We’re all human beings, souls trying to navigate this thing called life as best as we can right? We all go through so much and yet, sometimes, we forget that everybody else is going through so much as well. When I watch American Crime, I feel more connected to humanity. I feel for people even more; the show reminds me of how connected we all are. I feel for people I wasn’t even thinking about yesterday. It keeps me from turning a blind eye. Although the situations depicted on the screen are not my situations per say, a lot of the feelings and emotions derived from those situations, I’m familiar with them; you too, we all are. When it comes to our souls and their physical journeys, you know, the physical journeys of the spiritual beings (spiritual as in spirits… spirits as in souls… I’m not talking religion here) we all are… they are the same. So, yeah, when I really think about it, American Crime is a show for every soul. If you can, tune in because the show helps us reconnect.