Editor’s Note: Check out our overview of BlerdCon 2023, including a video showing key points of the convention.
Actresses Cree Summer and Rachel True were two of the celebrity highlights at the sixth annual BlerdCon Convention. Lines of enthusiastic fans wrapped around the second floor of the Hyatt Crystal City Hotel as the Blerd icons engaged with their audiences in light banter, signing autographs and taking photos.
Their panel discussion was moderated by MSNBC’s Jason Johnson. The political commentator and professor asked Summer and True their reflections on their career, family and the longtime friendship they have with each other.
True, who starred as Rochelle in the horror cult classic The Craft (1996) talked about the challenges in breaking through Hollywood as an actress of color. “They weren’t looking for anyone black. It was supposed to be an all-white cast. I had to elbow my way in there.”
Summer, who played Freddie Brooks in the highly popular TV series Different World (1988-1993) has had a long and prolific career as an animation voice over actress, and she is known for voicing Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Tiff Crust and Queen Vexus from My Life as a Teenage Robot and Cleo from Clifford and the Big Red Dog.
The Canadian-American actress grew up listening to rock and roll, reading comic books and became infatuated with science fiction and fantasy. She talked about while growing up being called white because of her interests, further emphasizing why the convention is so important to her. “I couldn’t in my wildest dreams could have imagined a BlerdCon in the early 90’s when I was coming up,” Cree stated. “It’s so nice when the freaks come together.”
“I was told I wasn’t black enough,” said True. “There were many of us growing up who had interests all over the place who were told, ‘Well that’s not what we do as black people.’”
“I’m glad that we are breaking that because our blackness is certainly not defined by the comics, or the movies or even the music,” added True, who reflected that growing up her father played rock and roll in the house.
Summer talked about her father, Don Francks, a Canadian actor and singer who did cartoon voice overs and was the inspiration behind her entry into the entertainment business. In 1990, Summer landed a role in Tiny Toons Adventures when she moved from Toronto to Los Angeles.
Johnson briefly shifted the discussion to the increasing inclusion of the LGBTQ community in Hollywood, asking for their reflections of the struggles and progress they have witnessed.
Summer starred with legendary actress Jennifer Lewis as a lesbian black couple in the 1995 TV series, Courthouse, which lasted for one season. She recalled the restrictions on the intimacy that was portrayed on screen. “We weren’t allowed to kiss. How about that for how far we’ve come?”
True recounted recently how a black male friend of hers pushed back with her, stating that he felt the emergence of LGBTQ characters generally, and black gay female characters specifically, is an agenda perpetrated by whites. True retorted, “Maybe it’s just that these stories couldn’t be told before. Maybe that it’s these silenced voices that are finally getting to tell their stories.”
Although Johnson guided the discussion of new and upcoming dramas that featured black characters, Summer and True both expressed their interest in playing more Sci-Fi and Fantasy roles. “I want to play something witchy,” Summer asserted.
One audience member who is an inspiring voice over actress, shared her experience hating her voice, asked what she could do to overcome it, further asking if there was ever a time Summer hated her own voice.
To a burst of audience laughter, she responded, “No,” further elaborating her parents consistently told her that she had a beautiful voice. “As a parent you can love your children into believing they are as beautiful as they are,” Summer stated.
True, who had a different familial experience, talked about how one could, through re-training one’s brain into positive reinforcement, develop an appreciation for one’s own voice, the practice of saying over and over “I like my voice.”
“One thing about being a voice over artist is that you do have to love your voice, and the only way to love your voice is to listen to it all the time. The more you indulge in hearing yourself, the more you know it, the more you can manipulate it,” Summer added.
Summer is starring in Marvel Studio’s TV Series, Ironheart which will be released this fall. True is featured in the series Harlem, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.