LIVING Camille Hyde made history as the first black Power Ranger, and is an environmental scientist by trade. Jack Yan speaks with the versatile American actress
Photographed by Lindsay Adler
Modelled by Camille Hyde
Styled by Cannon/the Only Agency
Hair by Linh Nguyen/See Management, using Amika
Make-up by Joanne Gair/www.joannegair.com using Danessa Myricks Beauty
From issue 41 of Lucire and the January 2020 issue of Lucire KSA
Camille Hyde has wanted to act for as long as she can remember. By following her path, she’s been the first black Power Ranger, filmed in New Zealand, and has scored increasingly wider audiences in TV series as her career grows.
The 26-year-old actress, who hails from Washington, DC, never had any doubts about what her profession would be. Unlike those who discovered their calling later in life, after finding themselves or training in a particular area, Hyde says, ‘When I was young I just knew … I just remember being so young and knowing and thinking that people just know. It was always like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to be an actress one day,” and I love animals, so I’m going to do something with them, but those two things were core values and areas of interest in my life from three or four years old.’ Hyde credits being in touch with her spiritual side, able to see the signs and to reflect well.
‘I remember being super-young and knowing I always had to be in the school play, so at kindergarten, I was in the school play, first grade, I was in the school play, second grade, I was in the school play. Not one year went by when I didn’t do a play or musical, and it was never a question of whether I was going to do the play, it was which one this year? The spring musical or the fall play? I think the best way to describe my early years of consciousness was very tenacious.’
She remembers having a love of dogs as a child and wanting to go to friends’ houses where there would be dogs; she recalls insisting to her father that they stop at pet stores as as child so she could connect with the animals; and she has a very strong affinity with horses, something that continues to this day.
‘I started riding at three years old. I lived really close to a barn in Maryland, and my Mom started taking me to the farm when I was super-young just to feed the horses and get out of the house.’ As young as 15 months, Hyde would hold a carrot flat in her hand, kept it still, and let the horse eat from it. ‘She said it was the most fearless behaviour she’s ever seen from a baby that young, to have this huge horse open his mouth and, you know, dribble its big lips on my tiny hand and I just didn’t even quiver.’ Her mother brought her to ride horses when she was old enough, knowing that being around horses would lift her spirits.
‘Also growing up I dealt with bouts of … clinical depression … but horses always helped to bring in that kind of competitive yet understanding, and empathetic environment … The empathy of being around these very sentient, aware, conscious animals that have so much power yet so much softness and curiosity … was always really a great escape for me.’ That love saw Hyde start an equestrian team at her college, Chapman University in California, which she attended after departing from Washington, .
‘There’s no life that I could picture without me riding,’ she says, ‘so I spent about a year building that programme from scratch, and it’s still functioning and going strong. There was the nationals this year; I remember when there was just a little baby club and now they’re competing at a national level.’
Whilst at university, Hyde read environmental biology, becoming an environmental scientist, after having decided she would not pursue veterinary science.
That course, too, was an example of Hyde being very aware of what she felt her path should be. She describes the process as ‘following all of those little seeds of potential in my life and following through.’
She says, ‘I started theatre when I was four and I was constantly also trying to develop knowledge in something I wanted to contribute to the world. I thought, “You know, I want to be a veterinarian,” at first, so I was always thinking along the lines of the sciences, [namely] biology. But as I got older I became more drawn to my work as an actor, than dedicating all my time studying science and medicine, which pretty much takes up all your time if you go to vet school. I decided to study the environment and how to mitigate environmental issues while I was pursuing acting and studying acting outside of my university.’
The study gives Hyde more credibility when she talks about the environment: she isn’t a celebrity throwing her weight behind a cause, but someone who has a formal degree in the area. ‘It was [an] innate choice for me to act but also to study something that I can use my platform and my voice for,’ she says.
‘That was my plan: I wanted to know my stuff and be actually able to contribute, being the face of something while also being the intelligence behind.’
Given her love of animals, Hyde wants to help our Earth’s biodiversity. ‘I love animals and I’m dedicated to preserving the species that we have left … mitigating the mass extinction that humans are pretty much driving right now. That’s certainly the name of the game for me and it’s really good to know that’s specifically what I want to do, because attacking environmental issues is such a huge thing …’
Hyde believes people are capable of doing far more than they believe, and that all can ‘push the limits on how many things they can do and how to incorporate different areas of life into their own.’ After a couple of tiny roles, she was cast in Power Rangers Dino Charge (2015) whilst a junior at college. That saw her move to Auckland, New Zealand, where various Power Rangers series had been filmed.
As Shelby Watkins, or the Pink Dino Charge Ranger, Hyde became the first black actor to be cast, after 22 seasons of the Nickelodeon show.
‘I was there for about a year. It was great. I lived in Herne Bay and got some time to explore around winter, a few different places in the North and South Islands, so it was a good experience for me.’ She loved the country’s Bay of Islands, but names Queenstown as her favourite destination (see Stanley Moss’s feature here). ‘It was just so gorgeous and picturesque, every single place, every single location in that town, you have a beautiful view, so it was kind of hard to beat.’
Hyde didn’t stop her education for the role. ‘I had to study [for my degree] online and did my courses in between having to go to set and record and do my voiceover … I was kind of like a student by night and actor by day and it was a crazy time, but … I did it, I graduated on time, it all worked out.’
With hindsight, she isn’t sure how she managed to juggle both but is very glad she did. ‘That’s something that I’m really grateful to have, the tenacity to kind of take on different things and really follow them, go for them 100 per cent in order to manifest certain things through them.’
At the time, she had no idea she had broken a colour barrier in the long-running series, till someone brought it up well into the season. ‘Obviously, it’s something I carry with pride, and I always appreciate, but I didn’t go into it thinking that was something that I had to uphold. I was just doing that job the best that I could and connecting with children all over the world, and that was the thing that drove me every day.’ The only pressure she placed on herself was to make children happy, knowing they would tune in on Saturdays in the US and pretending to be Power Rangers during the week.
She headed to Los Angeles to continue her acting career, and diverse roles followed. Hyde received praise for her role in American Vandal in 2017, a Netflix ‘true-crime satire’.
She says, ‘Everything in this industry happens for a reason and every job teaches you something, and is on a different level of exposure. Power Rangers … was exposure [to] young kids who just wanted joy and feel good and that was great for what it was. Moving on to American Vandal, I got to explore something completely different that was dictated by purely just raw comedy, and the ability to take a role and do what you want, sometimes beyond a script and sometimes just improvise. That gave me so much liberty and freedom.’
It’s her next role in Katy Keene, as Alexandra, that Hyde is particularly excited about. The new series débuts on CW on February 6, and she expects even greater exposure to a more global audience. Katy Keene is a spin-off to Riverdale, an ongoing mystery series on to its fourth season for 2020.
‘It’s probably my favourite project I’ve worked on. I have a huge team of amazing, talented actresses, actors, the writers—the same writers from Riverdale and Sabrina—and they’re just incredible in what they’re creating. It’s a show that’s touching and real, and appeals to so many different emotions that anyone can relate to, and it’s really going to change a lot for me …
‘I make sure I spend a lot of time on [Alexandra], making her a person that people can connect to, because she starts off as a villainous-type character and within every villain, there’s a hero. I always try to find the hero in her, so that people can relate to that part.’ Hyde says everyone has a darker side, and they can be misunderstood for who they are as a result. That is something she plays on. ‘At first you’re going to be like, “Why should we trust, like or follow this person? Why should we care about her? She’s mean.” A lot of people will see some of their selves in her and address some of their internal blockages that cause those types of behaviours and feelings through seeing how she transforms.’ There is a character arc for Alexandra, something which she had not tackled in her previous roles. She cites this as one of her favourite aspects of working on Katy Keene. She’s also excited about the cast: ‘They’re so talented and specific in their own ways, I think we have a lot of break-out stars, and [it’s] going to be a fun, fun ride.’
Hyde is upbeat about her new series. ‘It’s going to be really hard to know what exactly I’ll be doing, but it’s definitely the start of a lot of great work and great projects … manifesting during my off-time. [I’m] really just trying to connect to the world through this character. Hopefully we have a really good run and we get to keep making these stories for the world to see … This is really, really such a special show and something I’m truly in love with, so working on it for years to come is something that I’ll be glad to do.’
That off-time Hyde mentions could well be modelling: she had promoted PETA and vegan furs before, and came into contact with House of Fluff and by extension, this magazine. And through it all, she manages to stay humble. ‘I really believe that anything that does happen to me in my life came out of humility, knowing that I’m no better or no less than anyone else, and the second that I stop acting like that, I’ve surrounded myself with people who will bring me back to reality. That’s the most important thing to me … Sometimes you get influenced by society and social media, and what other entertainers are doing. It’s just really easy to lose yourself and through my friends, meditating, my family, my Mom who’s super-spiritual and always reminding me to be compassionate and humble, I’m really in a good place to stay who I am and stay grounded in those core values.’ •
Jack Yan is founder and publisher of Lucire.
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