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Lana Young takes home Earl Cameron Award

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Actress Lana Young enjoys the sun in Bermuda, before heading back to her life in New York (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

When Bermudian actress Lana Young took home the Earl Cameron Award for her work on a hit Netflix series, she joked that at least this was something she did not have to “scrap for”.

“The industry is always audition, audition, audition for every role,” she told The Royal Gazette. “This, I didn’t ask for; I was just recognised by my community for the work I have done, so far. There is nothing better than that.”

She received the prize during the Bermuda Arts Council Awards ceremony on Saturday, for her role in Tyler Perry’s A Jazzman’s Blues (2022). In this tale of forbidden love and family drama, she played Ethel. Last year, she and the entire cast were nominated for Outstanding Ensemble, by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

Living in New York City, her “scrapping” has won her numerous other parts on television series such as WandaVision and Law & Order, and in films such as Your Monster (2024).

“Your chances of being born in Bermuda are so low,” Ms Young said. “That has been good preparation for a career in acting. Only 2 per cent of actors are actually able to make a living from it. I am so lucky to be one of the privileged few.”

Winning the Earl Cameron Award felt particularly meaningful for Ms Young. The late Bermudian actor Earl Cameron, one of the first Black film actors in Britain, was an inspiration for her.

“As I started to dip my toe in the acting waters in Boston at 28, I was asking myself whether a Bermudian could really do this,” she said. “Earl Cameron showed me that yes, I could do this. He was a huge pioneer, not just for Bermuda but in the global entertainment world.”

She now lives in New York City, but returns to Bermuda several times a year. She wishes she could visit even more.

“I feel really lucky because Bermuda is so small, and I feel like I have this little cheerleading squad,” Ms Young said. “Bermuda has been very supportive of me.”

To pay it forward, she is now offering a one-year mentorship to four people, over the age of 10, who are interested in acting, professionally or as a hobby. She will meet her mentees online for an hourly session twice a month.

To apply, Bermudian candidates must submit a two-minute video application stating their acting goals and what they hope to accomplish with mentorship. They must also say a little about themselves, and state if they are career-oriented or whether acting is a hobby.

Eventually, Ms Young would like to create a scholarship for someone who is career-focused.

“There are so many talented Bermudians,” Ms Young said. “I am excited to see them making themselves known.”

She feels the island is embracing the arts more.

“That is so important, because I feel like when I first started back in the 1990s, they didn’t really take art or artists seriously,” she said. “Now we are all over the place.”

She started out in the corporate world, but eventually longed for a change.

“I would be a millionaire right now if I stayed there,” she said. “Today, I am far from that, but I am happy to wake up every day. I can’t remember the last time I lamented a Monday and celebrated a Friday.”

When she first started out, she had no one in the industry to guide her. She learnt everything through trial and error.

“Now I have so much experience and knowledge to share,” she said.

The years since the pandemic have been filled with new challenges. She went a whole year between gigs, before she landed the part in A Jazzman’s Blues.

“That got things going again,” she said. “Then the screenwriters went on strike, and then the actors followed.”

Entertainment strike

From July 14 to November 9, 2023, the American actors’ union, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, was on strike over a labour dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. It was the longest strike in SAG-AFTRA history. The combined impact with the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike is thought to have resulted in 45,000 lost jobs.

Ms Young had been wanting to get back to theatre. In Bermuda, she had been in numerous Jabulani Repertory Company productions.

“It had been on my bucket list,” she said. “I had already reached most of my television and film goals. This seemed like a good time to do it, so during the strike time frame, I was in The Winter’s Tale and Pride and Prejudice, both at Hartford Stage in Hartford, Connecticut.”

She found benefits to being on the stage instead of the screen.

“The immediate feedback and raw, live energy make theatre exciting,” she said. “In television and film, you don’t have any feedback at all. You have to trust your instincts. The camaraderie of working with a cast for a long period is also something I do not get to experience with film and television.”

Her aim now is to get into a Broadway show. She has already had callbacks for two productions.

Lana Young, left, in Tyler Perry’s A Jazzman’s Blues (Photograph supplied)

“It’s a new, new territory to conquer, but I am up for the challenge,” she said.

At the Bermuda Arts Council Awards, Edwin Smith and David Knight (posthumous) received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Founder Award went to Dwayne Julian Carter Paynter and Gavin Djata Smith, while the Patron Award was awarded to Dame Jennifer Smith.

To apply for her mentorship programme, e-mail filmed applications, in horizontal format, to actorslabwithlanayoung@gmail.com by June 4. See Young’s Instagram page @actorlanayoung

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Published May 07, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 08, 2024 at 8:04 am)

Lana Young takes home Earl Cameron Award

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