Houston filmmaker discovers rising star in child actress, 11
HOUSTON - People can often recognize talent when they first see it, and for actress and filmmaker, Denise Mone't, it was when she saw Kori Michelle, 11, audition for her movie Bissonnet.
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Though Kori was auditioning for a role as a younger version of Mone't's character in the film which will be coming soon to the streaming platform, Tubi, based on the Houston street with the same name, she sadly was not picked. However, the 11-year-old made such an impression that Kori still remained part of the project.
"She did an amazing job!" Mone't explains via Zoom. "She didn't actually fit the character that she was auditioning for, because the character needed to play the younger version of me, and we don't look anything alike; she had these beautiful green eyes, she's so tall, but she did so amazing that I wrote her into the movie."
Kori, meanwhile, sits modestly as she tells FOX 26 it wasn't her first role but in fact, started just a few years ago at 8-years-old.
"I think I was like an extra for like, this business movie, and I was just in the background," she says. "And it was pretty fun, but it was very cold outside, and it was like raining, and I was up until 3 or 2 in the morning."
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Born and raised in Houston, Kori notes she was living in Thibodeaux, Louisiana with her mother, but came back to "follow her dream." A sentiment that Mone't knows all too well.
"I am originally from Houston; born and raised," she says. "I lived in Atlanta for a couple of years when I first started pursuing my acting, but I moved back like Kori said, you know, Houston is where it's at, so we're out here living our dream."
To help the up-and-coming film star, Mone't adds that she was blown away by Kori's performances in subsequent films like Ring Widow, as background characters, that she wrote a movie that would allow her more screen time.
"She did such an amazing job in the Ring Widow, and it was only a small part in that movie," Mone't explains. "I told her at the premiere. I said, 'Kori, I'm gonna write a movie just for you,' and I remember her saying she was so excited, and she probably thought that I was just talking, getting her all excited about it."
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The movie, Who's Watching Us, is expected to premiere on Tubi but as of late April 2023, does not have a set date.
However, for viewers looking forward to her film Bissonnet, which we covered as part of our FOX 26 in Focus: People for Sale series, this movie focuses on crimes against children and hopes people will walk away with a more keen sense of awareness after watching it.
"Make sure that you know, you keep an eye on your kids because you just never know who's watching them," she says. "It kind of plays into that film as well; Just making sure that you're aware of your surroundings, aware of who you have around your kids, and who's watching your kids."
As haunting as the message may be, the film nonetheless, carries the same genre as Mone't genuinely enjoys writing about.
"I love thrillers!" she exclaims "I love Suspense Thrillers. My movie The Ring Widow that's on Tubi is a Suspense Thriller. Dirty Thirty is in the queue to be released any day now, and that is also a Suspense Drama, so any type of suspense, that's what I love to write."
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None of this frightens Kori though, because, for her, it was just another day at work.
"I know, it's like, not real, and I'm just playing my part," she says confidently. "And I'm just really into my character most of the time. And so I'm like, ‘oh, I can do this. This is easy.’"
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As a former educator, Mone't is used to working with children and notes challenges that any teacher might have, but has had a different experience working with young actors.
"They are up for anything, and I didn't get any pushback," she says. "They were just ready to be up to 2 or 3 in the morning filming these scenes doing these stunts, so we had a good time; I didn't have any issues at all working with these kids."
Despite serving, essentially as the inspiration for the film, Kori maintains her humility by recognizing how helpful Mone't, who she affectionately calls "Ms. Denise," is at becoming a better performer.
"Ms. Denise is a very good director, producer, everything," she says. "And I was so excited to work with her again, and every time she tells me to do something, I'm like, 'OK, let's go with that,' like, 'that's a good idea.'"
Meanwhile, Mone't continues to uplift Kori and the rest of her cast and crew but reiterates how they're just getting started!
"I love working with her," she concludes. "I'm looking forward to working with her again and all the other Houston actors that I've worked with, and I'm just excited about these projects that are coming out!"
Mone't's latest films including Bissonnet, Dirty Thirty, and Who's Watching Us, will be premiering on Tubi later this year. Ring Widow, however, is currently streaming, also on Tubi.
About Tubi: Tubi has more than 40,000 movies and television series from over 250 content partners, including every major studio, in addition to the largest offering of free live local and national news channels in streaming. The platform gives fans of entertainment, news and sports an easy way to discover new content that is available completely free.
Tubi is available on Android and iOS mobile devices, Amazon Echo Show, Google Nest Hub Max, Comcast Xfinity X1, Cox Contour, and on OTT devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Vizio TVs, Sony TVs, Samsung TVs, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S, and soon on Hisense TVs globally. Consumers can also watch Tubi content on the web at http://www.tubi.tv/.
Tubi and this television station are both owned by the FOX Corporation.