Meta Golding humbled by playing Rosa Parks

Rick Bentley, Tribune News Service on

Published in Entertainment News

Meta Golding has rolled up a long list of TV and film credits over the past 20-plus years. Each role has meant something to her, whether it be just the simple fact she's getting paid for doing what she loves, or she's part of a production that has the power to touch lives. Her work in "Behind the Movement: The Rosa Parks Story" falls deeply in the latter category.

The film -- being broadcast on TV One in honor of Black History Month -- looks at the preparation that took place during three intense days in 1955 between the evening when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., city bus and the launch of the bus boycott that became a major mile marker in the fight for racial equality. The film looks at how a group of everyday people decided the incident was the right time to take a stand for their civil rights and demand equal treatment.

Golding plays Parks, a role she considers one of the most significant in her career.

"This is a tremendous honor. I think I have been profoundly moved and profoundly changed by learning more about Mrs. Parks. I know how much she means to so many, many people. She has been a symbol for many people," Golding says in a telephone interview from Montgomery, where she's attending a special screening of the film. "Not only did this role move me to walk in her shoes a little bit to understand the bravery and the dignity and the elegance of this incredible woman, but I hope this film will make people want to learn more about her and add to her legacy."

This is the first time Golding has played a role based on a real person, and that made her approach the work with a great amount of respect and feelings of responsibility. Her plan was not to do an impersonation of Parks, but do her best to get across the pride, determination, conviction and courage Parks showed.

The key for Golding was getting across the dignity that was such a part of Parks.

"From reading about her, I learned that she thought the dignity of being human was so important," Golding says. "She always wanted to instill that in others. She was also a woman of deep faith, so I tried to go to her church and enter into playing the character from a spiritual perspective.

"I think Mrs. Parks always saw the dignity and the beauty in life and in human beings. That was what I really wanted to get across."

The one moment during the filming that helped Golding bring all the elements together was the shooting of the scenes where Parks refuses to give up her seat. That sequence was shot in the actual bus Parks was riding the night she helped spark a change in history. It was the first time Golding had been on a set where the extras were weeping because of the significance of that moment.

Golding knew about the boycott but didn't have a broad knowledge of Parks beyond the bus incident. During her research, she learned how Parks had been an activist for years before the incident and that her life over the following years was filled with so much backlash that Parks and her husband had to move out of Montgomery.

Part of that can be explained by the fact Golding was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and lived in the United States, India, Haiti, France and Italy. While living in Italy, Golding competed as a figure skater, but an injury ended her skating career. That's when she found acting.

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"When I stopped figure skating I felt like not having something I was passionate about doing just didn't fly," Golding says. "I started doing theater because I had all of this energy, this dedication, and needed to put it somewhere.

"So, for better or worse, I have always been passionate and focused. Sports and artistry can give you real drive especially when you are young."

The leap from the ice to the stage felt natural for Golding because when she was competing in figure skating she was performing in front of large crowds. Her non-skating credits since then include playing District 2 tribute Enobaria in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2." She's also worked on "Criminal Minds," "The Tomorrow People," "Dark Blue," "Colony," "Burn Notice," "JAG" and "Day Break."

The thing Golding has the most pride in when it comes to her career is the diversity of work she's done. That wasn't by design, but just what she considers to be her good fortune to be considered for and land parts as diverse as being a contestant in a game being played to the death or a major figure in history. Golding laughs and says her reaction to every role she lands is it's "a miracle" to get to go from one project to the next.

Getting the chance to play Parks was the most meaningful part of working on "Behind the Movement: The Rosa Parks Story." But Golding stresses the production was also a blessing because of the cast and crew. Emmy Award-winning actress Loretta Devine plays civil rights activist Jo Ann Robinson, Isaiah Washington is civil rights leader E.D. Nixon and Shaun Clay plays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Besides the cast being very illustrious, I think we all felt just so honored to be part of telling this story. We were all moved to just be there," Golding says. "This role means a lot to me, my community, my friends, my family."


7 p.m./6 p.m. Central Sunday, TV One

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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