From Loving to Hunger Games, Actress Meta Golding has the role of a lifetime
Photos By Edward McGowan
Once in a while a role comes around for an actress that they were born to play. For Meta Golding, that role is Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights icon who refused to give up her bus seat. Behind the Movement, the story of the three days that led up to the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, is airing on TV One just in time for Black History Month and the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“The Civil Rights movement has always played a big role in my consciousness and in my parents’ consciousness,” says Golding. “So, when they came to me with the script, I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’ This is an immense honor playing an icon of the Civil Rights movement, a person who means so much to the black community and the world, really everywhere.”
A Definition of Courage
The actress, whose movie credits include two Hunger Games films, found playing Parks a bit daunting. “At first, I was like I couldn’t do it. It was a tremendous responsibility. But then, I realized that, even though it was an honor to play her, it wasn’t like I just woke up and got to play Rosa Parks. I’ve made a lifetime commitment to my craft and to play someone of this largess, even though we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, I had the training to dive right into it and trusted that it came to me for a reason. I really did think that.”
Golding, who has appeared in numerous high-profile television shows such as Colony, House, Burn Notice, CSI and Criminal Minds, looked at the role and her hesitation and added a bit of a reality check. “I finally put things in perspective and I thought here I am trying to find the courage to play Rosa Parks. What about the courage of Rosa Parks? She and the other Civil Rights participants had much more courage than me, playing a role.”
Golding used her training to bring Parks to life. She noted that while Rosa Parks’ picture is well known, there is very little film of her talking, and information about her life prior to getting on the bus is scarce. “Mrs. Parks was someone who walked the walk and was really committed to the dignity of human rights,” says Golding. “She was a seasoned activist long before she refused to give up her seat. There was a strategy in their actions because the 50s was a very dangerous place for black people in the segregated South. They had one shot [to make an impact] and the leaders needed someone who people could trust and feel could handle being the face of the boycott.”
She wants the show, which also stars Isaiah Washington, Roger Guenveur Smith, Loretta Devine and Shaun Clay, to not only entertain, but also teach. “I wanted to play her with dignity and as much heart as possible, but I wanted the audience to get how she sounded. I want this to be a teaching tool in the future for history classes, besides hoping it does well on television and for me; this story is bigger than all of that.”
A Woman of the World
Golding grew up in a household dedicated to helping others. Born in India to an American father and Haitian mother, she spent most of her childhood living in the U.S., India, France, Italy and Haiti, while her father worked for the United Nations and for several food relief organizations. During a long stay in Italy, she represented the country as a figure skater but an injury foiled that skating dream so she eventually went to Cornell University and majored in drama and government relations.
Despite her successful and busy career, Golding hasn’t forgotten her roots and feels that in today’s political climate it is even more important for one’s voice to be heard. “I don’t struggle at all about using my voice,” she says. “My mother is Haitian and I feel that people don’t know a lot about Haiti. People don’t know the amazing contributions Haitians have made to this country. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and I encourage people to find out about it. Haitian history is American history.”
She believes it’s her responsibility as an artist to “reflect what’s going on in our culture and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a film about an American heroine is being told now. It reflects what is needed during this challenging time. We should have more pride in our history. I embrace it and am inspired by it.”
Her civic work is currently focused in Haiti where she is helping to build schools and “overcome the epidemic of homelessness, not just in Haiti but the U.S. and elsewhere.” She also has volunteered at an orphanage in Mexico and helped rebuild a school in Ecuador.
As for the Hollywood “issues,” she is firmly on the side of pay equity between men and women but also between women of color and white actresses. “I really admire Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer’s friendship and how Jessica used her power to empower her co-star and get Octavia a pay increase — and pay equity with Jessica. I’m really admiring her.”
Golding, who is fluent in four languages, loves to travel and always makes sure she has electrical converters, vitamins and hand sanitizers with her. “I hate to get sick, and I use the hand sanitizer all the time.”
As far as shopping, it depends on the location. “India has amazing shopping. If I’m going to Hawaii, I’m not going to shop so much because they don’t manufacture as many things. There are so many places I want to go but right now, I’m thinking about Cuba. I’ve never been there and would love to visit. I went on a beautiful trip to Thailand and went to different islands. Experiencing the southeast Asian culture was a real highlight.”
Although she had other starring roles, she admits that they “got lost in the shuffle,” so Behind the Movement should bring extra attention to her and her career. “You just do the best and you hope that people actually see it, but I’m lucky on this project that people are interviewing me and shining a light on the work and the story. You never know when something is going to land.”
Whether the show brings Golding a bigger star on her door is not as important to her as having her work make a bigger impact and having a voice. “I want to be able to be in a position to create content and be a person who can get movies green lighted. I want to tell stories that aren’t being told. All I wanted to be was an actor and I’ve had ups and downs and I’ve had to fight and I’ve had an army of people by my side.”
She says her role as Rosa Parks came at the right time in her life. “I started to wonder if my work was going to have more meaning and that’s why this project is so important, because it’s bigger than me. It’s truly been an honor to be a working actor.”