Want to know how to exactly turn all the r’s in the English language into w’s? As in “woom” for “room”? And want to stretch all the words that end into “out”, including words like “clockout”, “lookout”, into an extra syllable?
Well, there’s more to a traditional Haitian accent then that, and award-winning actress and coach Sacha Elie is there to help you! Let’s find out more about her training program!
Kreyolicious: What do your parents think about your career as an actress?
Sacha Elie: Well my mom was always very supportive. She just wanted to us to be happy following our passions, my father, wanted all four us to either become a doctor or lawyer.
I’m the child that has followed the least traditional route when it comes to my career and I think there are moments still today that makes him scratch his head. Growing up, my father emphazied that his children would go to good schools to land good paying jobs.
But as we know the world as changed and what worked for my parents’ generation is almost instinct. So, it took a lot of years sticking to my guns to have my dad do a complete 360.
In fact, I had this major audition the other day for this major network, and I was so nervous, I picked up the phone to call him, and I told him that I wasn’t going to do it! He shouted back at me, (with his Haitian accent) “GO to the audition Sacha! Go!! You can do it!” So, if that is not a 360, I don’t know what is.
Kreyolicious: So you have a Haitian accent workshop. Why do you feel that it was a necessity to create one?
Sacha Elie: It is necessary because nothing existed. As an actor of color that is classically trained, the training is rooted from a European concept. I think now things are slowly changing to include all parts of the world, but when I saw representations of my culture in films or on stage, I would get so frustrated.
It often felt like a slap in the face, when I would see, Haitian characters, being played by actors who spoke with a Jamaican accent (remember Bad Boys 2?), or a West African accent or something in between. Now, I’m sure those actors did their best, but accurate representation is important.
I realized that actors, casting directors, directors, and producers, everyone on both sides, had no idea what an authentic Haitian accent sounded like?
Now, I’ve had to play and audition for many variations of an African accent, but when I googled how to do a Haitian Accent, I realized there was no source for actors to reference.
My video is not just for actors, it’s for people behind the scenes as well, to familiarize themselves with our culture. I see it like this, if I came in auditioning for a role where the character was British decent, but on action: I opened my mouth and spoke with an Irish vernacular, or a Scottish accent, I think the director, producer, casting director would feel insulted that I did not take the time to do my proper research on the role and on the clear cultural and historical distinctions between the two countries.
I think that my, How to Haitian Video, creates that distinction that so often, gets blurred when it comes to roles in all black nations. My video gives the respect the Haitian culture needs and should have without having to say it! It’s mere presence up levels how people who are not familiar with the Haitian culture approach a Haitian role.
Kreyolicious: How did you develop your methodology?
Sacha Elie: I developed it in graduate school. After learning IPA and its appliance to different dialects from around the world we were asked to learn and teach a new dialect as part of our final project in our voice and speech class. I immediately chose the Haitian Dialect because in my research, there were no official IPA lessons that other the dialects had, so simply out of need, I chose the Haitian dialect.
It’s taken me a few years to discover the best methodology as an accent coach. When I first began, I taught in a way that was very technical, text book method. Later I developed a method to combine technique with my own personal craft as a performer.
I think I have a unique advantage as a dialect coach because, I’m also an artist. So, I understand the inner critique that so quickly creeps in as actors when we get so worried about being “authentic” and getting it right, that we often forget that our unique individuality is “authentic” enough!
I’ve recently incorporated into my courses breaking these mental barriers because once the mental barriers are broken, and the belief that all the actor has to do is just play, then the easy part is learning the technique of the accent.
That’s the advantage I have as a performer. I understand the mental and emotional hula-hoops an actor as to take on either for an audition or for a role that they are playing…Which is why I’ve created an online course that breaks down the Haitian Accent for the actor.
We live in an age where immediate accessibility is embedded in our daily lives. I’m a working actor and teacher, my schedule can overlap, which is why I wanted to be able to provide 24-hour accessibility to my clients at their convenience.
Kreyolicious: Do you network with other people of Haitian descent in LA?
Sacha Elie: Yes! I recently served as a mentor for one of this years, 2018 (where I was also on the scholarship committee) Hollywood Fringe Scholarship winner, Ella Turennne, solo show, ‘Love, Locs, and Liberation’. I also know and work with another Los Angeles Haitian-Americans. We are a small community here, but we are working around the clock to create a platform for ourselves.
Last Updated on November 10, 2023 by kreyolicious