Adina Porter is an exceptionally talented and versatile actress. From her role on HBO’s The Newsroom as Kendra James to her most recent roles on The 100 as Indra and Underground as Pearly Mae, she has had an Obie Award-winning career to say the least. Here, we get a closer look at Porter to get her inquisitive, realistic view on Hollywood and the things that inspire her the most as an actress.
Cliché: Underground has just been renewed for a second season. How do you feel about that?
Adina Porter: I’m very proud of being a part of Underground and what we have accomplished. I think WGN would have been crazy not to renew it because of how successful it is.
Your role in The 100, which is in a post-apocalyptic setting, is very different from your role as Pearly Mae in Underground. How do you channel them both?
Well, I’m no rookie; this is not the first time I’ve had to juggle two different characters. I mean, I didn’t film them at the same time. At the hiatus of The 100, I did Underground, so I didn’t have to shoot them at the same time this time, unlike when I did True Blood and The Newsroom. That was challenging because I played two completely different individuals. In one way, it’s easier now because Indra is a warrior and Pearly Mae is also a warrior, but a different kind of warrior and she needs a different kind of strength. Indra needing a more physical strength and Pearly Mae knows when to take risks and when to pretend. I love that line that [Aldis Hodge] has in the premiere: “We’re all pretending.”
On Twitter, you’ve stated that you are an advocate for equality in Hollywood. What is your take on the lack of representation of certain groups of people?
It was in a response to some fans asking me about the lack of actors of different sexual orientations. I was responding that it is hard for everyone to get a job in Hollywood. I have been able to work pretty consistently in Hollywood and before that in theatre back home in New York. I think we live in a very exciting time where I have survived reality television. This is not an easy business. The nature of life isn’t fair. Don’t give up and be the best you can possibly be, no matter who you are.
What advice do you have for young aspiring actresses?
Because I get asked that a lot, I’ve decided to ask them a question. Why are they aspiring to be an actress or actor? And I would formulate my answer to that. The fame and fortune should not be their motivation. That’s not a good enough reason to be an actor. It is not a good enough reason to keep you going when you have to deal with all of the rejection. I wonder, do people ask surgeons the same questions? If an aspiring brain surgeon asks a brain surgeon for advice, they would say: “You know what you need to do. Study hard; you need to go to school for it. Once you get into medical school and then go through internships, become the best surgeon you can be.” Study all of the intricacies. That’s the way I went. I went to college for it and I studied acting before that, too. Study and continue to practice.
What has been your favorite role as an actress?
My favorite role is always my next role. I am more excited about making sure that I am working again and that I am challenged by the work. Indra, for example, was a different challenge for me. I didn’t realize how physical she would be. Speaking a different language was also very challenging. I just want to be challenged and that way I think I can continue to be good and continue to work—so my next role is always my favorite.
Who is one actor or actress you’d like to work with and why?
Meryl Streep would be the first one I think of. I worked with her daughter on The Newsroom and I was a bit star-struck when I met her. When she shook my hand, I thought, “I’m never gonna wash this hand—this hand has touched Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep’s DNA ran through that hand!” Meryl Streep was quoted in her new biography saying that, “When I heard them call my name, my reaction was that all of the world took a collective sigh and said, ‘Oh no, not her again.’ Being considered the world’s greatest living actress is not a compliment—it’s a curse. It is the bar that has been set that you then have to try to rise above every single time. And it is such a burden for a working actor.” I would be thrilled to work with Meryl Streep because she doesn’t sit on her laurels and she is always trying to be her best.
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Adina Porter Talks ‘Underground’ and ‘The 100’: Photographed by Quavondo