“June, you’re an actor. And it was when I gave in and said, this is what I am – I got braver,” says June Carryl a Guyanese-American actress and playwright.
Her path to acting diverged from her initial plans. Rather than political science and law school, she studied English Literature in graduate school. As a part of her English literature coursework, she took a playwriting survey course with the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Playwright Paula Vogel, who invited Carryl to join the class soap opera. After encouragement from Vogel, Carryl joined the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco to sharpen her acting skills and never looked back — “there was literally nothing else I wanted to do,” she shares. Acting can be a tumultuous journey as gigs come and go, but June points out that you must brave and determined to continue the journey.
June credits her Guyanese-American heritage for this strength and drive: “I think that being a first-generation American, you see the States from a very specific point of view. You see it as an outsider and you understand that you have to do three times as well, work five times as hard to get half as far.” Being an outsider helped Carryl see the world differently, she points out that “It armed me in a way that I just think matters.”
For Carryl, this understanding stems from her “guiding stars” — June’s mother and sister. Whenever Carryl’s mom sought out something she attained it, June shares: when she wanted a house, she got a house when she wanted her doctorate, she got her doctorate. This resolve was passed down to June and her sister Joy Reid, author and host of The Reid Out on MSNBC.
As a Guyanese-American, June sees the importance of uplifting her heritage, “I started looking up Guyanese actors and writers and there’s this pride in knowing that you’re going to do stuff in the world and everything matters.” Like the Guyanese luminaries before her, June has become a successful figure in the world of acting and playwriting herself.
Carryl joined the cast of Helstrom, as Dr. Louise Hastings. Helstrom is Hulu’s dark new series that is a part of the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. Carryl notes that the opportunity to play Dr. Hastings alongside the extremely talented fellow cast members was like “getting to go to school every day. It was not work for me. It was just an absolute joy.” Helstrom tells a story that reflects the political reality of the U.S. For Carryl, the show “is about people trying to figure out who they are in the face of absolute evil and that’s exactly where the country is.” The choice before us is “literally between healing and evil, not good, but healing and evil.” Like the people of Helstrom, we must choose. She added that our ability to choose and be proud of our choice is where hope lies in these dark times.
The horror of Helstrom has lessons as we deal with the horror of systematic racism, of grappling with the horror of 8 minutes and 46 seconds. In her work, Carryl chooses to uplift the voices of the unheard. Recently June wrote and directed THE LIFE AND DEATH OF, a short, poetic piece dedicated to Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, an emerging leader in the Black Lives Matter movement who was murdered. Through working with an array of talented black women for the piece, June understood that “we are this child, and this is a black woman’s story. It is the story that happens to us over and over and over again, erasure and silence and, confined that each of the women that I got the honor to work with were discovering that too. It was a gift.” For Carryl, the ability to uplift these stories, though coming from so much destruction is deeply meaningful.
What is next for June Carryl? She is in the beginning stages of co-directing a film on being a human and grappling with guilt with talented writer Michal Sinnott. She is also writing a few plays one of which is titled N*GGA B*TCH, which is about being a black woman and how though “You’re flesh and blood, you don’t exist. It’s just a journey of a woman who keeps seeing the end of the world in various incarnations and what she comes to understand about herself in that journey.”
June’s advice for success: study Shakespeare (everything you ever need to know about acting), take a class, and never give up.
Anna Palmer is a Guyanese American writer based in Los Angeles, California