This edition of Talking With focuses on actress Ajarae Coleman, who stars as a woman dealing with a miscarriage and all the emotions that come with it in the dramatic short film, “Divine Mother.”
Ajarae is also an executive producer on the project, looking to create something that could potentially help anyone feel less alone after a pregnancy loss. “Divine Mother” hit the festival circuit this summer at LA Shorts and has been building momentum, most recently winning ‘Best Screenplay’ and ‘Best Editing’ at Treasure Coast. They’ve also partnered with Colette Tisdahl Foundation and Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Canada (PILSC), allowing the film to be used as a training tool.
Previously, Ajarae has appeared on "Scandal," "NCIS: New Orleans," "I’m Sorry," "2 Broke Girls," "Revenge," and "Days of Our Lives." She also has become a prominent entrepreneur helping actors around the world take ownership over their career through her membership organization, The Table.
To learn more, we are Talking With Ajarae Coleman:
Tell us about your role in “Divine Mother”.
AJARAE COLEMAN: In "Divine Mother," I play the role of Aneka, a woman on a road trip with her husband through the American southwest, who finds herself navigating the painful miscarriage of her second pregnancy. The narrative of the film is rooted in the honest storytelling of a highly personal loss, but also extends beyond that to shine a light on racial biases in maternal healthcare. It was a juicy role as an actor, because I was able to traverse the emotional landscapes of excited anticipation, disbelief, intense sorrow, raw anger, and ultimately, hope.
What helped you the most in bringing this character to life?
AC: Miscarriage is more common that many of us realize, with up to 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in loss. So it’s incredibly sad, but unfortunately not surprising, that many of my close friends have experienced losses of this nature. What helped me the most was their generosity and openness in being willing to talk to me about their very personal experiences with loss. It was important to me that we portray this story authentically, and so I used firsthand accounts to inform my own imagination work. I learned about the intense physical and emotional journey that the pregnant person experiences, and also that it’s very common for people to feel so isolated in their grief. As a culture, we rarely talk about pregnancy loss, and when we do, we often minimize it. With this film, we are hoping to help change that. We want to start conversations around this topic that affects so many of us, and we want people who suffer these losses to feel seen, and to feel a sense of community. They are not alone, and there is nothing “wrong” with them.
Where do you start when preparing for a role? And does that change depending on the genre or other factors?
AC: When I prepare a role, I start by trying deeply understand (or create, if necessary) the character's motivations, desires, and fears. I start with a detailed script analysis, drawing conclusions and making connections with the writer’s words. For this project, I had the privilege of collaborating closely with Erika Navarro, the writer-director, so I was able to ask questions along the way and get her insight. To bring Aneka to life, it was important to understand not only the personal experience of losing a pregnancy, but also the challenges that Black women face as they navigate the healthcare system. I wanted all of that to be present in my performance in the film, even though it is not specifically stated. Depending on the genre, my preparation might vary – a comedic role could lead me to explore timing, behavior and physicality, while a more dramatic one, like "Divine Mother", requires a deep emotional dive and a ton of imagination work. At the heart of every role for me, though, is a willingness to empathetically step fully into the essence of this person… to find where the character and I intersect as human beings, and build from there.
Why did you want to be part of bringing this story to the screen?
AC: I have known the writer-director Erika Navarro for years, as we worked on another project together over a decade ago. She is incredibly talented (this screenplay has already won “Best Screenplay” during our festival run), and I was thrilled and honored that she wanted to write something for me to perform in. But beyond, that, “Divine Mother" resonates with me profoundly because the story highlights a subject often shrouded in silence and shame – pregnancy loss, especially within the Black community. One of my missions in life is to build community, and help people feel less alone. I see this project as an avenue to do that and also to initiate critical conversations, and advocate for systemic change, not only in the healthcare system, but in all systems that impact people of color – Black, brown and indigenous communities. For me, this film is about increasing awareness and empathy, and encouraging activism among viewers. The message is one of hope that we can get better as a society in helping people navigate these kinds of losses.
Do you have a favorite moment or scene from the film?
AC: It’s so hard to choose a single favorite moment! But one scene stands out for me, where Aneka fully displays her rage. Oftentimes, Black women feel we are not allowed such raw expressions of anger and emotion, because we are always fighting the “angry Black woman” stereotype. But, of course, we also deserve to fully process and transmute our grief and pain. This scene was a moment of catharsis, not just for Aneka, but for every viewer who has faced such loss. For me, it also represents one of the core messages of our film – the intertwining of grief with unwavering hope.
What do you hope audiences take away from “Divine Mother”?
AC: I hope audiences leave the theater with two things - a sense of empathy and a call to activism. Empathy for those who have experienced pregnancy loss and an eagerness to change the narrative surrounding racial biases in healthcare, from whatever angle they can.
It's both staggering and heartbreaking when you delve into the statistics surrounding miscarriages. Up to 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 2-5% of people will face the anguish of two consecutive clinical miscarriages. And Black women face almost a twofold increase in risk of miscarriage compared to White women. Even when you level the field by considering lifestyle factors like smoking, diet, or exercise, systemic racism emerges as the glaring differential. It's a deep-seated issue that affects bodies of all genders, significantly increasing the likelihood of miscarriage. So, my fervent hope is that when audiences watch "Divine Mother", they not only empathize with the personal story of Aneka but also get a sense of the systemic issues. It's not just about individual loss; it's a clarion call to recognize and combat these systemic issues.
When you’re not on-screen, you help fellow actors with their careers. What can you tell us about that?
AC: Before I entered the world of performing professionally, I was a teacher; I served in the Teach For America program. That teaching spirit and love of sharing knowledge has never truly left me. As I started my creative career, I quickly realized that we as actors need specific tools if we hope for any chance of success in a very challenging industry: we need information we can trust as we grow our careers, plus a supportive community of artists. We need systems to stay accountable to ourselves, and ways to network with other industry professionals who can hire us. Perhaps most importantly, we need mindset support as we deal with the ups and downs of this career.
So over the past decade, I've grown and nurtured a global community of actors who build their creative careers with this kind of intention. My coaching membership is called “The Table,” and we provide all of these resources. I believe that when actors are empowered to become industry leaders, we can change the world with the stories we tell, and this is my way to advance that vision.
It’s so much fun to see how the relationships that we have started online with The Table have grown into amazing projects and friendships in real life as well. It’s a very special corner of the internet.
Best piece of advice you ever received?
AC: I feel like we’re often looking for advice outside of ourselves. “What did this influencer say?” “What does the media report?” “What does this guru think?”
I think the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten has been (ironically) to learn to go inward and trust my own counsel.
I think we can all agree that learning to cultivate and listen to your own intuition is important. It’s definitely a practice though, because we are being constantly bombarded with advice and other people’s opinions. I have a twice daily meditation practice that has really helped me in this area, and I believe it’s the key to my creativity.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
AC: "Divine Mother" is more than just a film to me. It's a movement, and a testament to the enduring spirit of countless people who have suffered unimaginable loss. I feel deeply honored to have been a part of this project and I invite you to join us on this journey!