BY TAI PERKINS
EDITED BY: ROXANNE LIM
PHOTOS BY: YAMS
“I remember going in and doing the best I could possibly do - then I booked it.”
As the Next Jeneration production team is setting up for Donshea Hopkins, it suddenly dawns on me that one of my favorite characters was killed off from my favorite TV show. You don’t realize how invested you are in a fictional show until you’re faced with real emotions. As time progressed and the team made everything absolutely perfect for
Donshea’s arrival, I was faced with those real emotions. Gracefully walking in with a big bright smile, pink hair, and hugs for everyone, she arrived with her mom and her friend. It’s cold in New York City, so that was the icebreaker.
Donshea Hopkins, known for her role as Raina St. Patrick on the STARZ hit drama series Power, is a triple threat.
Acting is a given but Donshea also raps and sings, with a side of figure skating and producing.
Next Jeneration: Let’s start from the beginning: We all know you started talking at about 9 months old. Tell us that story.
Donshea: Well, obviously I don’t remember what I said but my mom tells me this story a lot – Mom, what did I say? (pause) My very first word was ‘TV.’ Honestly, it was just my calling from the beginning.
Next Jeneration: From 9 months old, you knew that you wanted to be in entertainment?
Donshea: Right, I knew that I wanted to be on TV.
Next Jeneration: Not only do you act, but you also rap and you also sing.
Donshea: I rap, I sing, I write, I have produced - I do a bunch of things.
Next Jeneration: Multi-talented! Before you entered into the entertainment industry, you were a figure skater?
Donshea: I still do figure skating, just not as much as I used to. I used to professionally figure skate, now I just do it more for fun – recreational and hanging out with friends. Season 2 of Power, I broke my right arm while I was skating at a figure skating competition. From my shoulders all the way down to my knuckles, I shattered my entire arm. My agents told me I couldn’t skate anymore, at least not while I was on the show. So, that was the end of that for a while. I started figure skating before acting but even then I remember my ice skating and dance coaches at the time were like ‘She really needs to be on TV.’ They would always tell my mom that. It was just there from the beginning.
Next Jeneration: From the beginning (in agreement). You started acting at 4 years old, and your first show was Sesame Street. How was that? Every kid wants to be on Sesame Street.
Donshea: I know! It was really a dream come true. I know people say that about a lot of things they accomplish, but at the time that was my number one dream come true. I watched the show every day, when I got up, before I went to bed. It was definitely always on the TV. The special thing about it was, I got to work with a new character at the time, Abby Cadabby, and no one had ever seen her or met her, so I was the first kid to meet her and work with her. I just remember everyone being really really nice. I loved the behind the scenes part of it because a lot of kids – the other kids that were there – they just started crying because they realized it was a puppet and everything was made up. For me, I kind of knew that going in, so to see everything and how everything was put together, it was an eye-opening experience for me at the time. It was really really cool, and just from that moment on - I knew I wanted to do this every day.
Ahead of her time, for sure. Unlike the rest of the young actors on the PBS show, Donshea knew what she
was in for. Although she was only 4, she knew that acting was her calling and with the support of her
mother, she set out to live her dreams. At only 16 years old, Donshea has already starred in some
Next Jeneration: After Sesame Street, how did you end up on shows such as Power and Orange is The New Black? What was that process?
Donshea: There were tons of national commercials in-between that. It’s really
the same story for Orange and Power. I auditioned for Orange probably 8 times.
I auditioned for them a lot in season 1, for a lot of the flashbacks. Every character that had a younger them in the flashbacks, I auditioned for probably every one
of those. I remember saying ‘I don’t know, these characters aren’t me. They just don’t remind me of me. I know I’m
doing a good job but what am I
doingwrong?’ My mom said, ‘You’re
not doing anything wrong if they
keep calling you back in.’ In season 2,
there was Monica and I said ‘She is
really funny and I really like this
character.’ I remember going in and
doing the best I could possibly do –
and then I booked it.”
Next Jeneration: Will you be on the
Donshea: I can’t say, but definitely
tune in. It’s going to be absolutely
amazing. I think a lot of people will
get closer. It’s going to be fun.
Next Jeneration: We like to consider
Power as your break-out role. Since
Power, how have things in your
Donshea: Things have been so crazy. It’s like a lot of people actually know my name, and they don’t just call me ‘Raina,’ now they call me Donshea or Donshea Hopkins. That’s kind of the crazy thing, I’m just walking down the street and someone shouts my name - I think ‘Wow! They really know me.’ People that I admired are kind of starstruck about me, and I’m starstruck about them and that’s the crazy thing. When I worked on The Bobby Brown Story, everyone on the cast knew who I was and I was in shock. Even Bobby Brown knew who I was, it was really amazing. I remember the first time I met him, he said [referring to her character’s death] ‘They shouldn’t have done that to you.’ I think the cultural impact, and just the impact it’s had on pop culture has been really insane.
Next Jeneration: Have you ever considered doing behind the scenes work like directing?
Next Jeneration: What was your directing debut project?
Donshea: My director’s debut was my first music video "It Was All a Dream." The concept was to pay homage to The Notorious BIG and Brooklyn while incorporating undiscovered young talent from all of the five boroughs. I even brought in young talent from out-of-town to show how music can unite people of all backgrounds.
Next Jeneration: Wow that's amazing! I have to ask, being so young doing this, have you ever dealt with animosity in the industry because you’re a young woman? Not taken seriously?
Donshea: Unfortunately, more times than I can count on one hand and I’m only 16. Absolutely.
Aside from acting, Donshea has been turning heads with her budding music career having released a new single.
Next Jeneration: Do you have any influences in the music industry?
Donshea: It’s honestly been a crazy ride thus far. Everyone who I’ve worked with has given me some life lesson, whether it was good or bad. It’s something that I think of every day.
Next Jeneration: Speaking of music - what’s next?
Donshea: Right now with my music I have a new single ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing,’ which came out November 16th. As for everything else, I have no idea. We’re trying to put together a Christmas show. Last year we did one and we gave away about 3 thousand toys. We donated to the shelters in Brooklyn.
Next Jeneration: Wow! That’s awesome! Are you working on any new projects regarding film and TV?
Donshea: I can’t really talk about it, but it’s going to be really exciting. I might be reprising a role, but again I can’t say which one. It’s going to be exciting.
Next Jeneration: Before you go, do you have any advice for the Next Jeneration of "Donshea Hopkins?"
Donshea: I just say keep going for it. Find people who have similar interests as you, that support your ideas and your passions and keep them close to you. Whether that’s your parents or your friends. If people don’t support those dreams, it’s okay to cut them off. That doesn’t mean that you don’t love them or appreciate them in your life, you just have to cut them off to focus on your growth. So, keep going at it and honestly, your voice matters.
As well-spoken and smart Donshea is, you almost forget you’re talking to someone who is only 16 years old and filled with so much wisdom, class, and charisma. My favorite character from my favorite show was reborn at that moment.
At the end of our interview, Donshea remembered her time on the set of The Bobby Brown Story when she visited the Dr. Martin Luther King memorial. She left the Next Jeneration with these words that she learned at the memorial: “The young people started the revolution, and they’ll end it.”