Showrunner and Creator of Covenant Kaye Singleton Shares The Importance of Discipline to Make Life Changing Moves

Black women! That’s the sentence. That’s the statement. That’s the luxury. Did you by chance see the Emmys? Here’s a quick rundown for you. The Sheryl Lee Ralph, Dee from Moesha, the original Dreamgirl won an Emmy for the first time. Congratulations to such a fantastic legend. Zendaya won. Quinta Brunson won. Lizzo won. Black women are taking up space and I am 100% for it. Another Black woman doing her thing and taking up space unapologetically is writer/producer and actress Kaye Singleton. 

The actress has taken on a variety of roles on hit shows and films such as Sistas (BET), Claws (TNT), Don’t Waste Your Pretty (TV One), Tales (BET), American Soul (BET), and Dumplin (Netflix). (All of these are amazing. But Dumplin had me crying.) You might also recognize her from Tyler Perry’s The Oval as Simone, the beautiful, intelligent, and cunning wife of the Vice President of the United States. In 2020, Kaye secured her first production deal as a first-time Showrunner and Creator for the highly-anticipated upcoming anthology series – Covenant – which premiered on October 14th, 2021 on AMC’s allblk. Covenant’s unique take on bible stories stands out for the network as it’s quoted to “create a world of thrilling, suspenseful drama where characters and stories of the bible are thrust into a vicious dystopia of present-day, real-life situations.” 

As a multi-faceted creative talent, she is committed to telling culturally authentic stories for, about, and that explore, the beautifully diverse experiences of Black Women. And guess what? I had the privilege of speaking with her in detail on her take on the creative industry, how she got her start, and more. 

Check it out here. 

Kaye Singleton I started acting in 2016 or 2017. I quit my corporate job which was in marketing for some luxury liquor brands and decided to pursue acting full time. It was crazy to my family because I had a salary and benefits and all of that.

And then I was struggling. I had to get a little side job as a bartender, but I kept that dream alive. And when I actually booked my first recurring role on Saints and Sinners, that’s when I was like, okay, you know, maybe I should start to take this more seriously. By 2018 I was taking writing classes because I had already gotten tired of auditioning at that point. And I wanted to see more stories that were from us; from a woman’s and especially a black woman’s perspective. I took writing classes. Two years before, because I don’t wanna make it seem like I just jumped into acting without taking classes, so two years before I moved to LA. I was in a two-year conservatory called Stella Adler, which was amazing. But after the writing classes, I pitched with a few different studios actually, and Allblk so graciously took a chance on me and we were able to do Covenant. And I don’t think at the time I realized how huge of a job and responsibility being a showrunner was and how much weight was on your shoulders.

I commend every single showrunner in the business, especially female showrunners and especially first-time showrunners. It was a very arduous experience because I had to learn so much along the way. But it was such a blessing too. Once I took the writing classes, I did two short films which are what got me in front of Allblk.

And I wrote some scripts and entered them into screenwriting contests and won a couple of them. So those were those steps along the journey, which got me into the room. And so they said, okay, we see your concept. We see the work you put into it. “Let’s do a show.” And that’s how Covenant came to be. 

You have done so much! You mentioned that in 2016, that’s when you started. What really prompted you to go into acting and the arts and entertainment industry?

Kaye Singleton I was gonna give you the whole glamorous answer. But here we go. So I booked a little side student film when I was in Atlanta before I moved to LA and I was terrible. I was the worst actor. I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing, but it was so much fun. And I got so much out of it. I asked myself is this something that you really wanna do? And from that little student film, I decided because I’m ‘type A’, whenever I want to do something I go full steam ahead, so from that little student film, I said, okay, I want to learn the Adler technique, which was what prompted me. 

Being at that two-year conservatory prompted me to read The Power of the Actor (Ivana Chubbuck), and want to take classes with Ivana Chubbuck and get to her master class. And so anything that I take on, I want to do so with the most amount of respect and responsibility about that craft as possible. So it was that little short film, I don’t even remember the name of it at this time, but that student film really prompted my love for it.  And I said I want to put my all into this and see how far it can go. And as far as writing, I’ve been writing since I was like eight years old. My mom still has books and stories in all these notebooks where I had written little novels and whatnot. It’s just a full-circle moment. 

Right. And to do that means that you have so much discipline. When you hear discipline and you hear motivation, what do you think of it?

Kaye Singleton You can’t go away from not putting in the work. I know a lot of people think based on social media that people become stars overnight, or they become masters at their craft overnight. No, there is a lot of time. There’s a lot of money. There are a lot of classes, that it took to get from, you know, point A to point F. I always think in the way of critical thinking where there are not just points A to B, but what’re the next steps ahead. If I want to be on a show or even lead a show or write a show, what do I have to do to do that? And to not be afraid of the work. I think in this new age we want to bypass the work that it takes to put into it. And so, you know, I went for years and sat in classes and then took more years of writing classes and I’m still a student. I still listen to a bunch of writing podcasts and read a bunch of books on writing and how to format a screenplay. I keep diagrams up in my office pertaining to structure to make sure I’m following the principles. So yes, there is a huge amount of discipline and you can’t bypass it if you wanna be great. 

I was about to ask you, are you still a student? Because I know many people, once they get to their spot, they’re like, okay, I don’t need to do anything else, but I think it’s beautiful that you are still a student. You mentioned that when you left your corporate job, everybody was like, “um, ma’am, no”. And I get it, the acting industry is a little bit unreliable yet lucrative. We don’t really know what’s going to take place. But you also mentioned that your personality is ‘type A’, so when you have your mind to something, you go for it. Did you have to persuade your family that this is the right thing for you to do though?

Kaye Singleton I tell you I’m so blessed to have my family; my mother and sisters and my dad. I’m sure they were whispering amongst themselves. I’m the baby, but they never really, gave me or even put seeds of doubt into my mind. “They’re like, oh, okay. That’s what you’re doing next. Yeah. Okay. Okay. Well, you know, keep us posted, and let us help you along the way.” And my dad actually paid for my first short film. He’s still waiting to get a check, but you know, it was the belief and the support system that helped me get here. If I didn’t have them and their continued prayers and support, I don’t think I would’ve been as successful as I am. 

That is amazing. A lot of people, however, don’t get that support. So what would you say to those people who want to branch out into the arts and entertainment industry or even media at that?

Kaye Singleton You have to create a village in your community. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to move back to Atlanta. I went to college here. This community, this film community and theater community, the actors and producers and directors, we work together to build something beautiful. The majority of people in the Covenant are friends of mine. They did me a favor by doing the show below their quote. And so you have to have people that you can rely on. You have to have mentors. And so in order to have mentors and to have friends and allies in this business, you have to get involved in the community, whether that’s the acting community or directing or producing. I think that’s very important. And sometimes it takes for you to volunteer. Yeah. And that’s what a lot of people don’t wanna do. They don’t want to volunteer their time first. So if you don’t have family support, you create a village of your own.

That is really great advice. What is one thing that you live by? Like a quote or even scriptures. 

Kaye Singleton There’s always a blessing in the trial. I can’t say that enough, Covenant was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. From pre-production to writing all the scripts, because we were in a pandemic and I didn’t have a writer’s room. Now that I didn’t want one. But I had to write all the scripts and then pre-production, and then rush, rush, rush to production, and then wrapping. I had to figure all this out along the way. It was my first time. You don’t realize the extra costs. And if you don’t plan for those extra costs, it can become quite expensive. There was post-production and deliverables and legal stuff. The process was hard at the time but I realized that it was a wealth of knowledge. It felt like going to UCLA for filmmaking or graduating from New York Film School. But there’s always a blessing in that. And if you can find the blessing in the trial of it all you will find what you need. Instead of just looking at something, whether that be with a friendship or a workplace or in your family, instead of just looking at it like it’s a negative situation, find the blessing in it. Find the lesson in it. 

That is so beautiful! I’m happy that you mentioned a writers’ room. I will be on social media and people have so many different mixed emotions about it. How important is having a writer’s room for you?

Kaye Singleton I love it! My director from Saints and Sinners for the last few seasons, Courtney Miller, and the showrunner Nigel were so instrumental in this next step in my process because they let me be in the writers’ room as an assistant. I was an intern in their writer’s room for Saints and Sinners. Being able to learn that process and see it firsthand was invaluable at the time. Cause I didn’t know I was gonna be thrown right into a show. And I think writer’s rooms are so important because you need different perspectives. You need to have different walks of life, and different experiences in one room. That is one of the things that I wish that I had this first time around that I’m gonna try and make sure that I have going forward. And to make sure that we have a budget to pay writers because writers are so important to the production as a whole. 

There’s an article in the LA times about broadcast TV, slowly, going to streaming, which means fewer writers’ rooms, fewer writers as a whole, and less training. And, you know, I think it’s unfortunate overall because we need those rooms. And so, as I said, we have to be able to create a village to keep that.

Yes. I definitely agree with you. Thank you so much for this conversation. It’s utterly enlightening. Before I let you go, what is that one thing you want to tell the readers? Do you have anything coming up that you’re working on or anything that will spark inspiration that encourages readers to go forth and move?

Kaye Singleton Well I hate to quote something from a reality show, but that Melody Holt said, “Go, don’t wait on anybody to tell you, it’s your time”.

Tyler Perry talks about this as well. You gotta create your own seat in acting and filmmaking. You’re gonna get a thousand nos. I can’t tell you how many nos I got. But you have to keep going. Don’t wait on any studio, any network, or any other entity to give you the validation that you need. I had to branch out and do the first two films by myself to show that I had what it took to be in this business. Fight for your seat. Create your own table. Push the gas. Don’t procrastinate anymore. And I’m guilty of it myself, but just keep pushing.

This conversation is truly inspiring. If you needed a reminder to step out and show up unapologetically and put in the work, this dialog was for you. Be sure to check out Covenant on Allblk, and check out Kaye Singleton on all shows and films she’s been featured in (even if the season is over, run it back!). And follow her on Instagram @kaye.s as she has some amazing things coming up. 

Ashley Gipson

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