Actress Mekia Cox launched her career at the age of two and has been a triple-threat ever since. She’s best known for her work on One Tree Hill, CSI:NY, Half & Half, Bones, Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Gotham, Key & Peele, Almost Human, Leverage, Common Law, Necessary Roughness, The Mentalist, 90210, Undercovers, Mob City, Battlefield America and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Currently, she’s appearing in three major network dramas ABC’s Secrets and Lies, NBC’s Chicago Med, and TVLAND’s Impastor. Talk Nerdy With Us recently chatted with Cox about dominating Fall television and what it’s like to work on three wildly successful shows.
You performed your first solo song and dance when you were two years old. What inspired you pursue an entertainment career at such a young age?
I think it was actually that moment. (laughs) It’s funny, because my mom sometimes tells me, she’s like, “Just say you were three, because people wouldn’t believe two.” I’m like, “Yeah, but wasn’t it two and a half?” She’s like, “Yeah.”
My parents saw something in me at a very young age, which was great. They were able to help me foster it. So, I did a solo song and dance when I was two and a half, and the story I always tell is that apparently I walked off stage and I jumped into my mother’s arm, and I was like, “Mom, I really liked it up there.” They saw that, and they said, “Okay, well, great, you know, we’ll keep you in dance classes.”
Then eventually I moved into singing, and then acting, and I had amazing parents who allowed me to pursue my passion and supported me along the way, which is awesome.
Is there a videotape of this? Do you remember it at all?
You know what is actually hysterical? My first memory is of that.
Yeah. After that, my second memory is at six years old. I don’t know… I do remember being on stage. It was a solo, but there were two elves next to me. I almost wanted to say women, but they were probably teenagers. At the time I’m two, so I’m thinking they’re women. I guess it was a Christmas show, maybe. The two women were kneeling. I can still see it, I remember it, they were behind me, and they were kneeling. I guess they were just there in case I forgot something. But that is definitely my earliest memory.
There’s no video, which is surprising because my dad was actually, he started off as a photographer; then he moved on to videography. He taped everything. I’m surprised there is no video of that, but that was before he really got into shooting video. So no video of that, unfortunately.
You studied theater in college, but did you perform theater in high school too?
I did. High school was really where I realized that musical theater was what I wanted to do. I had performed all of my life, and in that genre, my very, very first professional job was at age seven. I was dancing at Disney World. (laughs) I thought I had hit it big. I’m like, “I made it, this is it.” For a seven-year-old, that’s amazing. Yeah, that was my first job, and that was dancing and singing as well.
It was probably in middle school that I really started to focus a lot of my energy on singing as well. It probably wasn’t until high school that I got more so into the acting. That’s when I realized, “Okay, this is what I wanna do.” Musical theater is what I should study, and then I went to Florida State for a musical theater.
You’re currently on three different TV shows (Secrets and Lies, Chicago Med, and Impastor) that are airing right now, but filming wise, what did you work on first?
Secrets and Lies came first, and then I went up to Vancouver to shoot Impastor. And Chicago Med is shooting right now. I’m now in Chicago, shooting that.
Well, let’s talk about Secrets and Lies first then. Tell me about your audition process for it.
Let’s see. I had two. I went in for my first audition. I had gone in for a few auditions for a few different things that week, and I felt really good about the other three. That one, in particular, I think because I cared so much about it, from the moment I read the script, I knew that I really wanted that role, and so because I cared so much about it, I felt like I did a good job, but I really wanted to blow it out of the park. I wasn’t sure if I did that in that first audition, you know what I mean? I think that’s just something that actors, we have. All the stuff that we really want, we think, “Well, I didn’t do as good as I really wanted to do.”
But then I got called in to test not too long after that. It was only one or two other girls and me, as far as I know, and we got to audition for the producers and for Barbie Kligman. The test can be rather nerve–racking at times, but there’s something about certain rooms. As soon as I walked to into that room, everyone was super kind and down to earth, and it was a warm room, which was really nice. I felt comfortable, which is great, because it allows you to do what you’re supposed to do as an actor.
Did you watch the first season?
Yes. You don’t need to watch it; however, I did watch it because I just wanted to know the style of the show. Juliette Lewis’s character, she is still the lead of this season as well, I just wanted to get a better sense of her. Especially because my character does know who she (Detective Cornell) is, I wanted to understand her nature. So I did watch the first season.
You’ve finished filming the season, correct?
So you know if Eric Warner is guilty or not?
(laughs) Oh yes. Yes, we do, yeah. But, it’s funny, because we did shoot it so long ago now, that I’ve forgotten stuff. You know what I mean? When I’m watching, I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s right. That did happen.”
How early on did you find out if Eric was truly the murderer?
I don’t know if I can tell you that. (laughs)
Okay. Well, in the episode we just saw, Amanda is no longer Eric’s lawyer. What can you tease about her upcoming arc?
I’m trying to think of what I can say without giving anything away. She is a sensitive being; I feel like. I believe she gets very involved in her brother’s life because she cares very deeply about her brother. She cares very deeply about both brothers, but I think the younger brother, Patrick Warner gets on her nerves sometimes.
She does have this close connection with her older brother. I believe you get a little bit more of an idea of their relationship as the show moves on.
What was your relationship like off-set with Michael Ealy?
(laughs) He acted like a big brother. He did. He was always making jokes and getting on me about certain things. It did feel like he was my big brother. Which is nice, because that’s what he is supposed to be.
He’s great. For him to be as successful as he is, and clearly as beautiful as he is, he’s a down to earth, just a fun guy to be around, which is super great.
What’s something about Amand that we don’t know (yet)?
Eventually, you’ll get to understand a little bit more about her on a personal level, and you’ll get to delve into the relationship between her and her husband, which will give you more of an indication of who she is.
There are a lot of Chicago alums on Secrets and Lies. Did they give you any advice/recommendations/warnings before you left?
Have fun! (laughs) Charlie Barnett used to work on Chicago Fire, and he had nothing but good things to say about the cast and his experience while there, and he was right! So far my time here has been fantastic!
Moving on to Impastor. You show up in the third episode. What can you tease about Jasmine (if that really is her name)?
Right! That says it all right there. She’s an interesting character. You’ll be able to tell as soon as you see on her screen. She’s mysterious, but she comes in there, and I think she shakes up Buddy a little bit.
How many episodes will your character be on Impastor for?
What was it like joining the cast since they had already been together for a whole season? Were they very welcoming?
Yeah. I have been lucky to work with some really great, excellent casts. They were super welcoming. I mostly worked with Michael Rosenbaum. Everyone I met was just very sweet and down to earth. Of course, I was up in Vancouver, which is gorgeous. I was happy. My time there was great.
It can be awkward sometimes coming into a new group, a new set of people that have already been established, but this team of folks welcomed me in, as well as the team of folks that I’m working with right now (Chicago Med). It’s the same of sort thing. They’ve had a season together before I came and joined the cast.
I’ve been lucky to join some really nice, welcoming casts.
Obviously, Robyn’s very different than Jasmine, so how do you mentally go from one character to the next like that? What do you do to prepare for characters?
I try and figure out their backstory as much as possible. I try and find those areas in which I can connect to them on a personal level. I guess we’ve (actors) been trained for this, doing this since I was young, so it’s easy for me to go in-between different characters. I do think that Robyn and Amanda have clearly more in common than Jasmine. I think regarding their careers, they’re both very similar women. They’re overachievers. They both have a need to prove themselves. I think where they differ is in their family relationships. Amanda loves her family. She loves her father; she loves her siblings. Not that Robyn doesn’t, but she and her father have unfortunately had an estranged relationship. They’re working on that, but it’s been hard to reconnect and redefine that father-daughter relationship.
For Chicago Med, did the writers give you a backstory, or is it a backstory that you created on your own?
A little bit of both, but there is a little bit that they … The other thing about this experience, as opposed to Secrets and Lies, was, I actually had a lot of time with Amanda. I was cast fairly early in the casting process, so I still had a few weeks before we started shooting. I got a chance to sit with her and learn who she was. I even ended up speaking with someone who I had met, who has a podcast, and is an attorney as well. She has a podcast called Trial Lawyer Confidential. I went and sat with her. I met with her, and she took me to court.
It was fascinating and eye-opening. I had time then. With Chicago Med, I believe I was cast on a Friday, and then I had to fly in on a Monday. I didn’t have as much time with her. Once I got here I tried to ask as many questions as possible so I could find out more about what they wanted from her, and what her backstory was, and all of that.
Can you tease your upcoming romance with Dr. Rhodes? How’s the elder Dr. Charles going to feel about it?
What I can say about this burgeoning little romance is that it is not approved of by her father. But I think she actually might find it amusing that it gets under her father’s skin and she might toy with that fact a little bit.
How has it been learning the medical jargon?
It’s extremely difficult to remember, because it’s words that you’ve never even heard of before. It’s all about repetition. Otherwise, it’s hard to wrap your brain and your mouth around those words. For me, as I’m cooking dinner, or breakfast or cleaning, or whatever, I’ll just continue to say my lines over and over and over again. So that I do not have to think about it when it’s time actually to do those lines.
Have you shadowed a doctor or anything like you did for the role of Amanda?
No. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to do that. I wish I could have. I did become friends with a doctor randomly on a plane ride home the last time I was up here shooting. (laughs) I ended up going back to LA for a little bit. On the plane ride home, I ended up sitting next to a woman who is a physician assistant. We talked a little bit. I asked her questions occasionally. I actually have another friend up here who’s in medical school, so I’ll ask him questions sometimes. I haven’t had a chance to shadow someone, which would be nice. Maybe if I get a few days off I could find someone just to do that.
As if having three showing wasn’t enough, you also have your own production company. Tell me a little bit about making Little Man Productions, and how that came to be.
Little Man Productions is a production company that I have with … It was originally started with one of my best friends that I went to college with. Her name is Detra Hicks. She writes original plays, and I just thought her writing was so great, that I was like, “People need to see this. People need to hear your work.” I remember mentioning to her one time that my dad had said something about me being on the other side of the camera, and he could see me as a director, and I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t really know if I could do it.” She was like, “I could totally see you as a director.” I was like, “really?” She was like, “yeah.”
We decided to start this company together just to see what we could do. We also brought on another friend of mine, Melissa Emrico, who ended up designing our sets. We just started off doing original plays around Los Angeles. Then we also became part of another company that I have, that is called Broadway at the W, but we’re going through some changes, and our new name is going to be Forty Two Seven. That started out of my need and yearning to be on the stage, to be able to perform, to sing and dance more. I just don’t get to do that as much out in LA. We actually started out at the W Hotels.
There is one in Hollywood that is right across the street from the Pantages. We have two shows. We have a show that I actually perform in, and that’s our big-name show that happens upstairs. We have another show (LA Unplugged) where performers from the Pantages Theatre will come and do a few songs of their choice.
We started in Los Angeles, and this year we recently moved to the W in Times Square as well. We’re trying to eventually move out to other cities and expand as much as possible. We’re still in the early stages. We’re in year two, but it’s exciting, and it’s going well.
My last question is, since our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, what do you nerd out about, or what brings out your inner nerd?
I am a huge podcast lover. Any and all podcasts. This American Life, Serial, StoryCorps, a lot of those NPR ones I enjoy. I am a nerd when it comes to these podcasts. I really do listen to them a lot.