The road to stardom has been a whirlwind for The Messengers star Anna Diop.
The Senegal-born actress moved to the United States when she was 6, learned English in a summer and made the bold decision to spend a summer in New York (by herself!) to pursue acting when she was 16. It was during that fateful summer that she met a talent agent who encouraged her to move from Houston to L.A. to pursue acting, which she did with her mom in tow, and, well, the rest is history.
Diop stars in the CW’s summer breakout hit The Messengers, a supernatural show about group of individuals who are given special powers to prevent the Apocalypse. Diop, who plays Rose, is the leader of the Messengers, and holds the power of empathy. ESSENCE caught up with the frontrunner to talk her journey to fame—and what’s to come.
1. She grew up idolizing journalist Lisa Ling.
“Growing up, I wanted to be a journalist. I was in love with Lisa Ling, who’s a broadcast journalist and who travels the world. I used to read all of her articles and watch her when she’d go to China or South Africa or Australia. I thought that was the coolest job because she got to travel and tell people’s stories.”
2. Her love for acting started with a forgotten screenplay.
“When I was 12, I stumbled upon this short play about two women that a close family friend of mine was working on. She accidentally left it at the house, and I ‘accidentally’ kept it because I loved it. It was about this woman who had lost her child to the government because she abused him. After she left her boyfriend, who was a bad influence, and made changes to her life, she walked 12 miles to speak to the social worker and beg to have her son back. I don’t know what it was, but I just connected so deeply to this woman wanting, needing, her kid back, but also so deeply to the social worker who’s trying to protect the kid. I wrote biographies for each of the women and memorized both of their lines. I was just enthralled.”
3. She was offered her role in The Messengers less than 48 hours after auditioning.
‘I had gone out for this show on Fox, but after seven weeks, I found out that I didn’t book it, and I was devastated. Maybe two weeks later, I get a call for same-day audition that I have to be at in an hour I just go in, do it and book it within two days. That audition was for The Messengers. It literally happened overnight.”
4. Viola Davis is her queen.
“I love Viola Davis. I call her ‘Queen.’ I think she’s phenomenal. She’s so raw and so bold. When I first saw her was in Doubt, and she just changed everything for me. Her performance was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I think she’s phenomenal. I also love Lupita because she opened the doors for me. When I was going out for The Messengers, they wanted someone similar to Lupita because Lupita was hot at that moment (and she’s still hot!). Her being her opened doors, so she’s always someone who I’ll love and appreciate.”
5. She’s a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic (but she’s currently single!).
“My favorite show right now other than The Messengers is this show on A&E called Married at First Sight. It’s where this group of people get married the same day they meet each other, and they just follow their progress after that. I’m a huge, huge hopeless romantic, but I am super single right now! I decided to be single about two years ago after I got out of a really difficult breakup. I just decided to take time for myself and focus, and in retrospect, it was the best decision I could’ve made because so many opportunities came from me focusing and just letting that go.”
6. She credits Whoopi Goldberg for showing her on-screen diversity.
“There’s room for everyone, and everyone is wanted and needed. Whoopi showed me that. When I first saw The Color Purple, it was so huge. That was the first time I had seen myself, my mother, my aunts, women that I had known my whole life on-screen. It gives us hope, and it gives us confidence”
7. She wants to study theater.
Theater was something that I always wanted to study. L.A. is so TV and film-focused, which is great, but I’ve always wanted to study theater, and I’m taking this summer to do that. I’ll be spending four weeks in London at the British Academy of Dramatic Arts. But before that, I’m taking a trip to Spain and France! All of those countries are heartbreakingly close to one another, and I can’t go all the way to London and not visit Spain and France!
Catch Anna Diop in The Messengers every Friday at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.