with rising star Vladimi Versailles from the film "Mooz-lum"
The Chew Chronicles got a chance to chat with Vladimi Versailles from the newly released independent film “Mooz-lum”. The film follows the character Tariq, played by Evan Ross, through his experiences as a young Muslim in college, post 9-11. A groundbreaking film, Mooz-lum gives audiences an inside perspective into the experiences of several young Muslim Americans.
Rising star, Vladimi Versailles, portrays the character, Cedric; a complex character who struggles to understand his friend Tariq’s religious beliefs and customs. Versailles describes his character as one who “plays America”; revealing society’s lack of understanding of different ethnic groups.
Portraying such a complex character as Cedric, was not an easy task. Yet, the Philly raised actor attributes his extensive acting training and Haitian heritage to being able to identify with his role. Versailles was born in Brooklyn, but moved to Northeast Philly at the young age of 6. He describes his old childhood stomping grounds as tough, where “Crack was a serious problem.” Yet, he was able to “rise above everything with theater.” Versailles says he stumbled across his love for acting and theater, while trying to impress a girl. “I wrote a play in class to kiss a girl. She found out... But I realized that I loved acting.”
He later attended Central East Middle School, performing in several Shakespeare productions; such as Midsummer Night’s Dream and receiving rave reviews for his portrayal of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. He later attended the acclaimed Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts; which list alumni such as Boyz II Men and Jazmine Sullivan. “That’s where my world changed. I went to school with a group of people from different walks of life that came together for the arts.”
After high school, Versailles headed to New York City. Originally wanting to attend Fordham University, like the iconic Denzel Washington, he opted to enroll in Marymount Manhattan College, where he received a scholarship. Versailles wasted no time getting involved in the New York theater scene. Against the wishes of Marymount’s theater program, as a college freshman, he began to audition for Broadway shows. He describes these experiences as daunting and difficult, because of his lack of professional theater experience. “It was good, because it taught me that you have to go get something. Nobody in NYC is going to give you anything.” Yet, his perseverance paid off throughout his college years; and by his junior and senior year he was booking several commercials and even managed to graduate school early, because he was so eager to finish.
“The year I graduated was the hardest time because of the economy and all the strikes. But I booked my first gig doing a Black History tour for McDonalds.”- Yet, while working on this gig, Versailles was being considered for a role in the film “Cadillac Records.” -which created a conflict of interest with the Black History tour. “I got fired because I was already working on a show and they didn’t want me to be on this film.” And unfortunately he was eventually passed on for the role in Cadillac Records also. –Which led him to accept a job at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
Yet, in 2009, his acting career took a major turn when he booked a role on NBC’s, “The Philanthropist”. And although the show lasted only 8 episodes and his role was short lived, he was able to live in South Africa for 2 ½ weeks and work closely with producers and writers for the show. This amazing opportunity led to more exposure and him securing a manager- who received a script for a character named “Cedric” in the film “Mooz-lum”. After reading the script, Versailles became immediately attached to the role and very committed to preparing for the audition. “I started writing in extra lines that I thought the character would say….. I walked into the room and was very comfortable with the producer…I wanted to show him that I was that type of person. I knew that I had to go in with that extra stuff.”
Luckily, his dedication and acting skills paid off, and he was offered the role in the groundbreaking film; starring Nia Long, Evan Ross, and Danny Glover. “It was a great opportunity to work with Evan Ross. Evan is a really generous actor. He pulled me aside and complimented me on my acting. And I really appreciated that.” While working with accomplished actor Danny Glover, Versailles paid close attention. “Danny Glover is a great person and actor. I would watch him on set and between takes. He was so smart and eloquent. I learned it’s not about being the greatest talent but also the greatest person. Take this opportunity as an actor to touch other people.”
Yet, Versailles not only found a connection with his character and co-stars, but also with the story within “Mooz-lum”. Although the film reveals certain experiences that some young Muslim Americans may experience, Versailles drew a connection with his experiences as a Haitian American. “We hurt each other because of a lack of understanding.” To him, the film raises questions about culture relations and diversity in America. -“Where do we go from here and what do we need to do?”
What’s next for this determined young thespian- he recently wrapped on an independent film, “For Flow”; which began as an off-Broadway production and is loosely based on the play “Waiting for Godot”. The film has also been recently accepted by the Texas Black Film Festival. His other upcoming projects include roles in several other independent films soon to be released.
When asked where he sees himself in ten years, Versailles does discuss his future career goals of producing, directing, and writing, but he’s more focused on the romance of life. -“I see myself with a beautiful wife, in Italy, chilling on pineapples, and smoking a cigar. It’s not how many dollars you have; it’s the people in your life who love you.”