At the tender age of two, Mekia Cox performed her first solo song and dance on stage and she hasn’t exited stage left since.
Despite being so talented, so early, Cox never felt like she was in the spotlight because she followed in her big brother’s footsteps — he landed a role on Nickelodeon when the Cox family moved to Orlando, Fl.
That brotherly inspiration led the Virgin Islands native to pursue a career in singing. She graduated from the Florida State University’s Musical Theater program with a Bachelor's of Music. After graduation she toured with the musicals, Fame and Smokey Joe’s Cafe.
Landing her first television role as Faith Banks in One Tree Hill was only the beginning of a dream for Cox.
Cox has made guest starring roles in CSI:NY, Half and Half, Bones and was chosen as one of the two female lead dancers in Michael Jackson’s "This is It" Tour.
She currently plays Amanda Warner in ABC’s Secrets and Lies and she recently made her season debut to NBC’s Chicago Med as Robyn Charles in late October.
NBCBLK Contributor Sedria Thomas caught up with up-and-coming actress Mekia Cox for a discussion about her new role on "Chicago Med", dancing with Michael Jackson on the 'This is It' Tour and her rising career.
NBCBLK: It’s obvious you’re a triple threat! From dancing, acting to even singing, but you earned a Bachelor of Music degree from FSU. What made you get more into acting rather than using your voice harmonically?
Mekia Cox: I think it was an accident honestly. It wasn’t something that wasn’t purposeful. I mean I love all three equally, so it was sort of go wherever the journey took me and it happened to take me out to L.A. first. I did "Fame" and then I did "Smokey Joe’s Café." And I was in the musical theater world. So I always just assumed that I would get on stage first but it is kind of happening the other way around.
You are an up and coming actress but who has helped you on your journey?
Well I mentioned one, my very first dance teachers, Linda Reiger was a staple in my life from a very early age and we still connect and talk occasionally. But I have looked up to Audra McDonald for a long portion of my life because I came from musical theater and she made the move to do some television stuff and a little bit of movies. I mean she’s just an amazing actress to me and someone I aspire to be like. And of course Phylicia Rashad is always someone I looked up to as well.
Let's take it back to 2009. The year you were hand-picked by Michael Jackson to be one of the two female lead dancers for the “This is it” Tour.
Yeah, that was it and still to this day and probably always will be one of the best times in my life and sort of the pinnacle of my dance career. I can tell you this, I was not expecting it. There’s a video in particular where you can see when they first told us we would be touring with Michael Jackson; my knees just gave out. At the time I was sort of fairly new to the dance world. I wasn’t one of the dancers that worked with these choreographers many times. I think the good part of that was it took the weight off me because I was like, I was just going in there to have fun, I was auditioning for Michael Jackson and that’s cool enough.
So when I actually got picked, I actually did not know that it was actually Michael who picked me until later and the choreographer, Travis Payne, he says it in the documentary. He was saying that Michael had said ‘look at that girl, who is she, she’s a diamond in the rough,’ in his words. And so Travis barely even noticed me apparently. He went back and looked at the videos and was like, he’s right that girl is good or good enough.
So that was a dream I had when I was a kid and I didn’t think it would come true but it goes to show you know you got to chase your dreams and believe that they will happen and for me they actually did.
You first appeared on the October 13th episode of "Chicago Med" then will reappear on Nov 3rd. How did you get this role?
This is the role I had to put myself on tape. This is the first role I been booked off a tape for actually. I had to put myself on tape and I sent the tape into casting. It actually was a very quick process especially for taping it. I put myself on tape I sent it in and then in the next couple days I was cast and a couple days after that I was flying into Chicago.
So it was all kind of quick in the way in which it happened which is cool because all of a sudden I’m in Chicago. But it also can be hard because you don’t get as much time to learn your character and to sit with your character but you do what you can and you just sort of learn on the fly.
You only been on cast for a little while but how is it working on the set?
This is one of the best sets I feel like I ever worked on. "Chicago Med" is one of the nicest sets I worked on. They were extremely welcoming. Oliver Platt is amazing and he’s always, he’s a brilliant actor and he’s been doing this for a while but he also is very respectful of the other actors and he ask questions a lot and makes sure I’m ok with his decisions. It’s been great and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with this new cast.
You’re a young black actress living in L.A. How is it obtaining roles as an African-American woman and is their certain things that sometimes holds you back?
Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald, they are women who are strong independent women and they tend to play those type of characters. And I think just in general those are the type of characters I’m drawn to. Now I’m not saying I will never play someone that is cracked out. If it’s a good role and a good script and there’s a journey to this character, I think that's more of what I'm drawn to.
I happened to play a doctor and a lawyer in these two shows and I think it's nice. It’s nice to be able to be in this space where I can show others that this is possible. It is possible for you to be a strong independent black woman in these positions.