For those who don't recognize Aliyah O'Brien's name you would recognize her from her many roles in “Bate's Motel”, “Smallville”, “Supernatural”, and “Rookie Blue” just to name a few. O'Brien's star is rising rapidly and she is set to star with Eddie Cibrian and Rachel Bilson in Andrew Marlowe's new television show “Take Two”. Marlowe was the creator of the show “Castle” which showcased the lives of Richard Castle and Detective Kate Beckett (whom my dog is named after and O'Brien said I needed to have this in the story so here it is.)
So, needless to say I am thrilled to see this show and over-the-moon that O'Brien is a series regular. O'Brien says, “My character, she's awesome. I play Detective Christine Rollins and she's a second grade detective on the LAPD. She's really formidable, which is a great word that one of our creators Terri Edda Miller says is her favorite word to describe Christine. She's a boss. She works hard. She earns the respect that she gets, but she's also a little sassy and has a sense of humor too, which is awesome when that sneaks in. She's really morally driven. She wants to uphold justice and she works her butt off to make sure that happens.”
While O'Brien didn't do any ride-alongs to help prepare for the role, prepare she did, in ways I couldn't have imagined when I think about the work actors do. She says, “It's an interesting thing being an actor. So much of it is based on your imagination and then you're cobbling together all you know about life and what you watched on TV, what you've seen in real life, and all you know that is just inherent in you. And, then you dig a little…for me mostly I like to journal about the character and as the character. And then also I think about what her backstory is. I also got to sit down with the show runners and say, hey what do you think? What's the history? Where does she come from? I got great intel from them. But, for me I'm a very intuitive, visceral actor so I like to just sit and close my eyes and create a whole world in my head that is Christine that isn't on paper…and then to be honest, this character just kind of comes easily to me. Who she is is not a stretch.”
Instead of having a recurring role this go around, O'Brien is a series regular in “Take Two,” “…I'm in almost all of the episodes which is fantastic. It's really nice to get to ride a character's story line through a season and hopefully many seasons because we often don't get the chance to. It's usually just an episode or two and then you want more. You want to see where it goes. Every script is like Christmas. What do I get to do, you know? We get equally, if not more excited, than you guys do watching the episodes when the script arrives in our inbox.”
There are moments in life that will shape and define who you are as a person. I've always been in tune with music (I was a roadie and a drummer), movies (I was a production assistant on two independent films), photography (I was a photographer for Sony Camera and Olan Mills), and writing (lyrics, poetry, and for two LGBT publications thus far). I loved every minute I got to be creative because I was being true to myself, to a certain extent. Inside, I was holding onto two secrets that also shaped and defined who I became and am trying to change today.
One secret I won't discuss because I've made peace with the situation and learned all about forgiveness in the process. The other secret I will discuss only because actress Aliyah O'Brien gave me the strength and courage to do so. I had an abusive relationship with a girlfriend where I was beaten, raped, and had a gun pointed at my head and the trigger pulled. For me, there was no “life flashing before my eyes” or making peace with myself before the click of the trigger being pulled back was heard. By the grace of some higher power and for whatever reason unbeknownst to me, the bullet didn't leave the gun but the repercussions have reverberated throughout my life for over a decade. Instead of being relieved I went into self-destruct mode. I was a cutter, I drank heavily, I got in with the wrong crowd and started snorting dilaudid. It was bad. Very bad. So bad, I'm amazed I'm still alive and speaking of the incident today. I eventually turned my life around and cleaned my act up and was acceptable by society's standards. But, somewhere in the hustle and bustle of life I lost who I was. I didn't know who my “true” self was and I didn't know self-love because I had never experienced it before. Then I started following O'Brien on social media and because of her posts I took the first step into my journey of self-love. This interview became so much more than an “interview” for me. It became a trans-formative experience full of acceptance and compassion from someone I've never even met. But, I digress.
O'Brien was in perhaps one of the most important same-sex relationships ever portrayed on television. She played forensic pathologist, Holly on “Rookie Blue”. It will go down as having a lasting impact on the gay community because it showcased love is love and didn't focus on garnering ratings because two women were “hooking up.” O'Brien says, “It's so important to me that we showcase same-sex relationships in that way on TV. It's really beautiful to know that you are doing a good job of it.” She continued, “ We have to work with the words and the script that we're given so if the writing is good and the story is good then it's not that the pressure is off, but you just get to show up in that world and do your best to play it true. I didn't feel like I had to fight anybody about what kind of story we were telling cause the story was being told beautifully with the words and it was a gift just to play it. It still goes down as my all time favorite role because of the kind of story that we got to tell and of course because working with Charlotte and the whole Rookie Blue family was the best.”
Anyone that follows O'Brien on social media will see her talk about self-love, acceptance, and having compassion for oneself. She is trying to change the world one person at a time with self-love so I was curious if this lifestyle ever played into her career. She says, “It's all one and the same for me. Being an actor is the vehicle for being an artist with a larger reach in the world through social media and -just because you're seen more-it's a platform to share, to spread the message of self-love and championing each other and just raising the vibrations of the world in general. So they kind of go together in tandem. Let's say for example, I'm not spreading self-love in the movie Maximum Conviction but, people will follow me because of that movie and maybe, just maybe they follow me on social media and something captures them and they get inspired by some of the stuff I'm sharing and it causes them to think a little bit differently about themselves or how they treat people and you know it has some sort of an impact…I know, just to bring it back to Holly and “Rookie Blue”, I garnered the most beautiful fan following from that role or that show specifically because it attracted a certain audience and a lot of people came to me because of “Rookie Blue” but stuck around because they're these amazing people, predominately women, but some men too, that are just yeah self-love, yeah let's champion each other, let's create community, and let's raise each other up. I get so emotional when I talk about that because it's so beautiful.”
Labels seem to be a big thing in the world now. People in the gay community have to worry about basic human rights such as marriage, being able to adopt, and now with Trump being able to serve in the military all because of a label. O'Brien says, “Labels just box people. We label things because it makes things easier for us. It simplifies…but the problem is then you label something and you don't see the whole picture. You don't actually get to know the truth necessarily of someone. I think labels just make us feel safer sometimes but really there's so much connection and aliveness beyond just boxing something up.” O'Brien continued by saying, “I love first dates and I mean that in the sense like friend dates or you know any time you're first meeting someone because there's so much to uncover and to know about the person…it's just you dig and discover and I think it's really important to always be non-judgmental and not assume you know. We're all so multidimensional and multi-faceted as human beings I think it's crazy to assume that one person should be one sexuality or another…why does it matter? It even annoys me – to take it out of sexuality- when people make assumptions based on what you do for work. I often don't tell people I'm an actor if they don't know I'm an actor because all the sudden I'm somebody else to them when I tell them I'm an actor. They label me as something and they stop seeing me as “Aliyah” and just being curious about me as a person and all of the sudden now it's about my acting and what have I been on. That's where labels are dangerous…”
I compare O'Brien to a lighthouse whose beacon of light shines out for all the world to see and she brings everyone home to safe harbor. O'Brien's message of love, acceptance, and compassion is what drove me to look inward and truly see how I wasn't being the “real” me. I was portraying myself as someone the world wants me to be and sacrificing my “true” self in the process. I was a ship lost at sea until I saw O'Brien's light shining through. Her words on social media ring true to fans and showcase just how special and rare O'Brien is in today's society. Not to mention how she is so talented as an actress it's ridiculous.
Towards the end of the interview I told O'Brien my story. The story of myself that no one knows but me and the people involved in the two incidents and now whoever reads this story. I shared this with O'Brien because she has an amazing ability to make you feel accepted regardless of the guilt or shame one carries. O'Brien allowed me the chance to affect change within myself without passing judgment, but by offering encouragement and love instead. Based on the responses to her social media accounts, I'm not the only person she's had this affect on.
So, what's her advice to those who are seeking self-love? O'Brien says, “First and foremost it's so important to have compassion for yourself and I know we throw that around a lot, but really recognize that you are doing the best you can and where you are is not your fault. If it is your fault because of actions you took, you're a human being and life is hard so have compassion for yourself.” She then shared one of her morning routines with me. “One little thing I do everyday that I think helps -because I really do think it's the little daily things- I stand and I root my feet so I feel like I'm connected to the earth and I put my hand on my heart and I say, 'I'm willing to love myself deeply and fully today.' I take that minute to feel it in my heart. To feel like love and light are radiating out of my body and I just connect with me. And I say, 'I'm willing to do that today for you.' I think the little things like that are the beginning and are kind of everything in a way. “
After our conversation I had one more question that was more out of curiosity than that of an “interview” question, would O'Brien change anything about her past to change her future? Her response, “100% I would not change a thing because everything I've done, every mistake I've made, every good action, bad action, they all made me who I am today and taught me a lot about myself and I really like who I am and where I am in my life right now. So, I wouldn't change it. I'm really grateful to have an arsenal of life behind me.”
Buddha once said, “A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” O'Brien has renewed my faith in humanity and she continues to do so one person at a time. With O'Brien on your side you really can't go wrong. So let your light shine through because we only get one life and you never know whose life your own will affect.
Photo credit: Simon Karmel