Updated: Jan 7
Karen D. Neal is an upcoming American actress, expeditiously moving her way into the film industry. Karen entered the industry in 2019 as a background talent, finding herself featured in many major productions. She landed her first principal role in Irreconcilable Differences, the film, as Estelle Monroe.
When did you decide that you wanted to become an actress?
In 2014, I was cast in a stage play, landing a role as the feisty, heroic secretary to a manipulative manager of a famous four-girl R&B group. I spent many hours and a number of years preparing for production. Just eight days away from opening night, production came to a sudden halt. I’d met and befriended the late Maxine Nesbit, a former actress, best known for her role in The Skeleton Key as The Voodoo Lady. Mama Maxie, as I lovingly called her because this is who she became to me, verbally and inspirationally urged me to pursue the acting industry, insisting I possessed a raw talent held by few discovered stars.
I submitted for my first background talent opportunity and was accepted for my first booking. I played the role of a fan, waiting to get an autograph from a professional baseball player. I was completely clueless as to all aspects of acting. I just know I felt so rejuvenated while I was acting out scenes. I was just happy. They paid on the same day and I received 68 dollars. I remember being so happy that I received money for having fun.
While driving home, I received a call from the casting director. The producer and director had seen me on film and requested me back the following day, as featured background talent. I was so naive about the industry, I didn’t realize this was the beginning of a catapult of features, opening the doors to a principal role in an indie film. I’ve been featured as background in many major productions. I never submit for these features, but once I am booked, I go in with passion and the roles flow.
Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influence of all is my deceased maternal grandmother. Her words still ring in my ear and she passed away in the mid 80s. Also, I would have to say Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. They tie in second place, each for their own reason.
What is your greatest strength as an actor?
My passion to create. Each time I am in front of the camera, I get to create my own unique book inside any scene I am involved in.
How difficult is it to establish yourself in the film industry?
It’s very involved, but not difficult. I landed a principal role within one and a half years and that’s including the six-month shutdown from covid. I think I have been highly favored.
Get featured! - Heart Of Hollywood Magazine
What's your dream, your ultimate goal? Do you feel like you're on the path to this goal, or do you feel as if you already achieved that dream?
My dream is to land a contract, to get a movie deal or a major TV series. The ultimate goal is to create generational wealth, while making a difference in the world.
Tell me a little about yourself as a person.
I’m a late bloomer when it comes to living out my dream of acting. A lot of people had to leave my life to make room for my big vision. Amongst the losses was a 34-year marriage. I chose peace over a plague of unhappiness. I worked as a nurse for 25 years and walked into the office one morning, to the news of my position being terminated from the company. Ironically, my only sister had been diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, with a prognosis of 10 months to live.
What seemed like a loss was a gain. I would spend every day with my sister, every day that she had left to live. She lived 10 and a half months, passing on November 29th, 2012. My mother took ill one month later and became bedridden. I continued to live off of unemployment until the benefits expired in 2015. After my sister’s passing, I wrote and self-published the first of several books. I continued to care for my mom, while taking on a private patient for a few hours every other night. My mom passed on June 29th, 2018. By this time, my dad had lost his ability to see. My dad now needed me full-time.
I had been with my then-husband for 32 years and seen our son off to the Coast Guard. We lived in a 5-bedroom empty nester home on 18 acres of land, with a man cave and an acre pond. My husband didn’t want my dad to come live with us, yet my dad could no longer live alone. He was 80 years old and blind, but still had a viable life, despite having lost a child and a spouse to death. He was a strong man, but with the loss of sight, he needed me. On December 31st, 2018, I moved my dad into a fixed-income apartment complex. To him it was a mansion, compared to the infested rental home where he previously lived. The space was far smaller than what I had become accustomed to, but my dad’s comfort took precedence over my own.
I began acting in October of 2019 and began taking day trips to Atlanta, 112 miles west of my small town, as I began getting booked on more and more productions. In October of 2020, after accepting that my marriage was a mere façade, I asked my husband for a divorce. He agreed that our life together was no more. I had found peace in acceptance. We signed the papers at the beginning of November and that was the day I realized our marriage was a bond that I had to sever.
I found myself an emotional mess for weeks, hiding my pain from my dad and the public, only crying on my bestie Ebony Granger’s shoulder, by phone. She moved to another state, but our bond only gets tighter with each battle we face. I made plans to travel the necessary seven hours to visit her, making sure my daddy was provided for over the course of the four-day trip. I received the news of the finalization of my marriage. On January 10th, 2021, after 34 years of union and an additional four years of living together, a 38-year toxic relationship had ended. I called my dad daily while I was out of state, noticing a hoarseness in his voice the second day I was away. This issue progressed. I ended my trip on the fourth day and drove home to check on my dad. He insisted that he was fine, but my instinct knew better. My dad was diagnosed with covid on January 19th, 2021, passing on February 11th, 2021. The day I was born into the world, my daddy left it, 56 years later.
I’ve been busy rebuilding myself from the inside out, becoming a stronger version of myself and an inspiration to many people throughout the world. I heard once that every burial leads to a new birth. I’ve had many losses this year, but God has blessed me by simply allowing me to still stand, and yes, he has blessed me with the birth of a new life.
What is your message to your fans?
Thank you for being such an inspiration to me. Their excitement for me inspires me to go harder for everything. I love each and every one of you dearly.
Photography: Brian Christian
Connect with Karen
Google: Karen D. Neal
Subscribe to our magazine
Become a Heart of Hollywood Motion Pictures Member