As someone who believes that a higher purpose drives every single person, Mignon's spirituality and eagerness to learn about human connection shows in her work.
Spanning the country from the east coast to the south to California and back again, Mignon, who now stars in Tyler Perry's hit BET show Sistas, has followed her path to get her stories told and herself seen.
Let's go back to the beginning. Was there a moment when you were younger when you knew you had to express your creativity?
There were several beginnings, but I think the earliest beginning was when I was three years old, watching Muppet Babies and really identifying with Miss Piggy! You know how in the opening credits, she's accepting an Academy Award? I would watch that and think, "Oh yeah, me too!" It was this knowing without knowing. So much so I made my brother Kermit the Frog!
That was the earliest beginning, knowing that's what I do…I'm an actress!
So you recognized that you were a star?
I don't think it was that I thought I was a star. It wasn't really an ego thing. I just believe we're all here for a purpose and messages get to us in certain ways. And if people follow their path, then they in turn inspire someone else.
Jim Henson, not giving up on Muppet Babies and just following his path - even though I don't know if a lot of people know the Jim Henson story - but people thought he was crazy and he stuck to his guns. And somehow his creation of Miss Piggy spoke to me as a three year old who had no clue what being a star was.
Honestly, I feel like that's how God was reminding me of why I came here and what I'm supposed to do. If that makes ANY sense…
It does! Speaking of your childhood, tell us more about that…
I was born in D.C. and we left when I was three. Then we moved to Frankford, Delaware where we lived in a double wide trailer. My dad had taken a job at the church there and our trailer was about 300 hundred feet from the church.
We lived down the street from a chicken farm and we only stayed there a little while, just long enough for my little brother to be born. Then we moved to Louisiana and then we finally moved to Augusta, Georgia. We were there from the time I was in kindergarten to the time I graduated high school.
So when people ask me where I'm from, I have no clue because moving around so much, I did not identify with Augusta at all and neither did my parents.
You went to Pepperdine for college. Was there something about California that spoke to you?
I had gone to stay with my aunt and uncle for a summer when I was 10 and again, I felt like I was being reminded of why I'm here and what I'm supposed to do. They were in Vegas and they loved to entertain, My uncle was very gregarious. We drove to L.A. and visited UCLA. I had never been there before and I thought "Here. I'm supposed to be here!"
And fast forward nine years. My uncle had said "Try U.S.C., I know some people there." But he did not have the pull that apparently we needed.
So I wound up doing a year at Georgia State and this woman suggested I apply for Pepperdine. They have a Church of Christ scholarship, because that was the religious tradition I grew up in. And I thought, "Alright, whatever!" I had never heard of Pepperdine! But I got in and they had just started a film program three years or so before I got there. So it was really all kind of kismet.
It's funny how you look back and see how God was moving things around so I'd stay on my track.
I watched your short film, 42 Seconds. Can you tell us what inspired that?
So I lived in L.A. with two of my friends who were actresses. My friend you might know, Michelle Weaver, she was the lead on Love Is and she was just in the show Council of Dads. So she's on the top bunk, I'm on the bottom bunk. Our other friend Jamie is cattycorner to us. We're in this one bedroom apartment in Hollywood. And I would take the train - yes, I'm one of the few weirdos who would take the subway in L.A. - to work.
So one particular day, I was feeling so tragic. I suffered from migraines since I was eight. I board the train and there's nowhere to sit. But there was this seat next to this man and he said, "Yeah, come in." And I remember sitting next to him. And his presence, I don't know how to explain it, felt very warm and healing and soothing and very contradictory to what I was feeling.
His energy was just incredible. We didn't say a word to each other, we didn't touch. I wasn't attracted to him or anything, but sitting next to him was this very inspiring moment. This inspired 42 Seconds, about a woman who's obviously in this very tragic position. Then she sits next to someone and their energy became seen as warm and healing. Obviously, in 42 Seconds, she kisses him. I just, you know, dramatized that.
Moving ahead to your current show, had you always wanted to work with Tyler Perry?
I moved back to Atlanta in 2016 after doing my time in L.A. Everyone kept asking me, "Have you tried reaching out to Tyler Perry?" Like it's just so easy to get access to him! And I said, "Just call him right up? Okay guys!"
To go back, I was at the Produced By conference the P.G.A. holds every year. And I was working it as a manager of the volunteers and I had a break in my schedule. So I went to the talk where Ava DuVernay was moderating a sit-down talk with Tyler Perry. And I felt so moved and again, I felt like God was talking to me to go to Atlanta.
At that point, he had just bought Fort McPherson and he said "Hey guys, Georgia is the place." He was almost giving people insider information. And his story really resonated with me and I felt like he was talking to me in a specific way.
And so I pulled the trigger six months or so later to move back to Atlanta. I wanted to fill out this application form on his website but I just never did it. I thought, "No, this is not the way to do it. Don't send an email to a random server that he's not reading."
And then fast forward to April of 2019 and I see that they're posting series regular and lead roles. And I thought "This is it. This is my part." And that's when I felt like everything came full circle.
Let's talk about your character of Danni on Sistas.
When I first read Danni, I thought, "Whoa, she's a lot!" Then I thought "Oh, okay. I know what to do with her."
I was really broke before I got that part and was basically taking acting classes on YouTube. I was watching as many interviews of actors I admire as possible and I saw an interview with Ben Stiller. He was saying, "I don't care how big a character you're playing is, you have to ground them in reality. You have to figure out what they're motivated by. Ground them in their motivation of how they see the world and then you create this bigness from there."
That's what I did with Danni, and I kinda reached into my own personal history. Danni is me, circa the end of high school till 24. Just says the wrong thing at the wrong time whether it's true or not. I really found a way to relate to her rather than judge her and look at her as this "big character." I wanted everything she did to be justified and to make sense and have it come from a very specific place.
If you had a bucket list of actors or directors, anyone you're dying to work with?
Directors I'd love to work with? Ava DuVernay keeps coming into my head, obviously. Denzel is obviously a dream too. I don't necessarily have a wish list because I just trust that what's going to happen is what's supposed to happen. I mean I thought Oscar de la Renta was gonna make my wedding dress but he died 10 years ago, you know what I mean? So I stopped having a lot of expectations about who to work with!
Anything else in the works?
I'm actually writing my own pilot right now. I want to treat it as an anthology. It's a period piece and it speaks about generational trauma in kind of a magical realism way.
The first episode would start with the matriarch of a specific family. And by episode four of the anthology, it will be about one of her descendents in modern times or early 2000s.
It's something that came to me as I was trudging along in L.A., right before I got the part of Danni. This woman didn't really follow her dreams and in very many ways, because of so much tragedy she had, she had a lot of wants and desires, but there's a very specific event that happens to her.
And I hope to make this within the next year! I know that I will, because like with 42 Seconds, I will find a way. Hopefully sell it and get the money for the rest of the anthology! So yeah, that's what I'm doing!