Danielle Deadwyler, photo by Phyllis Iller

Star of critically-acclaimed ‘Till’ received an MFA in Creative Writing from Ashland in 2017

Published on Nov. 16, 2022
Arts and Culture

Danielle Deadwyler’s acting career has taken her from the Atlanta stage in her hometown to many parts in television and film, including the lead role in the recent movie “Till.”

Earning a creative writing master’s degree in 2017 from Ashland University has helped in her journey toward movie star status and talk of possibly winning a Best Actress Oscar with “Till.”

“The potential of teaching and writing were given, however, I always sought to incorporate the degree into my art practice,” Deadwyler wrote during her busy schedule recently responding to email questions. “It has surely enabled me to play structurally in crafting my personal writing, scripting for my performance works and expanded my analysis of works I’m privileged to read.”

One of the works she was privileged to read was the movie script for “Till,” which came to theaters across the country in October.

The 40-year-old Deadwyler portrays Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old whose gruesome 1955 murder in Mississippi by white supremacists helped spark the civil rights movement.

“ ‘Till’ was an all-consuming great service and joy to experience,” Deadwyler wrote. “Community was the center piece of this portrait of an American leader and hero in Mamie Till. I started with a poem in diving into the love shared between Mamie and Emmett. They are indelible figures in our psyches, and now, with the film ‘Till,’ may we feel their love and legacy reverberate always for the fight for justice.”

Deadwyler, who also has a Master of Arts in American Studies from Columbia University, chose AU for a second master’s degree because of its low-residency program and congruence to her family lifestyle.

“I wanted to continue my education, yet had a unique dynamic that fit best with at home rigor and summer residency flexibility,” she wrote. “There was also a creative direction to the use of the MFA amongst cohort members, which was significant to my goals for the degree as well.”

While Deadwyler has had many small roles in TV and film after breaking into the Atlanta stage scene in 2009, as well as a number of other prominent roles, including in the Oprah Winfrey Network primetime soap opera, “The Haves and the Have Nots” from 2015 to 2017, Netflix’s 2021 western film “The Harder They Fall” and HBO Max’s post-apocalyptic drama miniseries “Station Eleven” running from late 2021 to early 2022, she was a relatively unknown until “Till.”

Christian Kiefer, the director of MFA at AU, said he is happy the university was able to help Deadwyler with her rising acting career.

“We are so proud of and happy for Danielle,” Kiefer said. “Pursuing an MFA at Ashland helps students reach for deep truth, the kind of truth that exists in the human heart, and Danielle’s performance in ‘Till’ is exactly that in action. She is the very best of us.”

According to Deadwyler, the experience was something she won’t forget.

“I found the MFA program to be intimate, rigorous and flexible,” Deadwyler wrote. “I loved the experience of our cohort, residing together in summers, and writing and revising together throughout the semesters at home. Our professors and speakers in summer and during the semesters were brilliant, expansive writers and thinkers … always pushing our work and our thinking on craft.”