Monday, May 2, 2011

Diary Of A Single Indie Soap Award Winner: Monica Calhoun Part One

If soap fans want to enjoy continuing stories that truly entertain, educate, and inspire, then they need look no further than the prolific indie soap opera DIARY OF A SINGLE MOM. I personally challenge anyone upset about the state of daytime television to watch the first episode and try not to get pulled into the lives of Ocean Jackson and her friends and family. A large part of the success of this series lies upon the aforementioned narrator, played with exquisite brilliance by Daytime Emmy-nominated and Indie Soap Award-winning actress, Monica Calhoun. Please enjoy this exclusive new interview with the talented artist, and learn how DIARY came about, what she draws upon creatively, and the fascinating backstage elements that have made this show such a success.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It is so wonderful to meet you Monica. I would like to start by congratulating you for winning the Outstanding Lead Actress in the 2011 Indie Soap Awards for your role as Ocean Jackson in DIARY OF A SINGLE MOM.
Monica Calhoun: I am grateful. I thought it was a joke when they sent me the text messages but after doing some digging online I said, “Oh, okay, I did win an award. Sweet!”

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: This was the second year the awards were given out. WE LOVE SOAPS TV is one of the few sources that recognizes excellence in continuing stories told exclusively for the Internet. DIARY OF A SINGLE MOM won for Outstanding Series last year and this year.
Monica Calhoun: Yes, I remember that.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You were not able to be at our ceremony in New York City. Would you like to tell us your acceptance speech here?
Monica Calhoun: I am grateful for all of the experiences and all the women who were single parents. I have hoping to be able to channel their experiences with the character of Ocean Jackson. I am grateful it brought an award. We are grateful to you for putting a spotlight on programming that is helping to heal and teach and educate. With that in mind I am very grateful to accept that award.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Who are the women who have inspired your portrayal of Ocean Jackson?
Monica Calhoun: My mother comes from a family of eleven. Six boys, five girls. My mother and my aunt were single parents. Both of their families turned out okay, I think I’m an okay kid. I have a younger brother and he turned out okay too.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So you grew up knowing firsthand how hard it is for a single mother.
Monica Calhoun: There are so many degrees and levels to the phenomenon of single parenthood. I don’t think there is a media spotlight for parents on different degrees of the economic spectrum. In DIARY OF A SINGLE MOM you see a woman who is completely rebuilding her life and stepping away from an abusive relationship, and you see her mentally and physically trying to raise her two children. Then in some respects she befriends these two women going through similar circumstances. Economically they are all basically surviving. I think everyone is just surviving no matter how much you have in your savings. Ocean becomes like a mother hen to all of them and I think in season three they explored who is going to be her emotional mother hen as opposed to just relying on her mentor.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What kind of feedback have you gotten from viewers?
Monica Calhoun: It varies. It’s hard to describe it because I really don’t go out and about, I stay to myself a lot. But I’ve read the comments and I’ve gotten some great responses. Then I get some not-so-great responses and I want to say, “Did you get the point? We all go through struggles. It’s all a matter of how you get through those struggles.” That’s what draws me to this project overall. It’s a teaching tool to push people beyond whatever road block you’ve stumbled upon in your mind that keeps you oppressed in believing that you can’t move beyond a certain circumstances. With Ocean, she had to finish school, she had to do that to move forward and be an asset to her children, who were 100% smarter than her.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In the first episode Ocean states that the only way her life will ever change is if she changes herself. That is very much in alignment with the kind of therapy I practice. We have to be the change within ourselves before we see change manifest outside ourselves. Have you heard from mothers who are in this struggle?
Monica Calhoun: Yes and no. I can see their comments on the website. I don’t join in the conversations. When I ride the bus I see different women. I don’t know if it’s because of the web series itself but it seems like everyone has jumped into their skin and become more comfortable with walking down the street with their children. Men and women. I love watching people and enjoy having a conversation off the cuff with someone I don’t know. I have noticed that when I'm sitting on a bus stop, someone will come up with their kid, and the little kid is smiling. I see guys with two kids, and there seems to be more comfort. I don’t know if it’s directly associated with DIARY, but it’s just something I have noticed.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you think that has to do with a change in your own energy since starting on this show?
Monica Calhoun: I don’t know if that’s just a universal thing that people are more into their kids now, like really into spending time with their kids and wearing their kids like badges of honor. For me it was the norm to put my son in the stroller and proudly walk down the street talking about him. He’s my kid. He is visually impaired so there is an extra added mothering I do with him by nature. I am trying to teach him the things that I’m supposed to rely on the school to teach him and to double up on his development so he can stand up on his own and flow through society.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How did you learn about this project?
Monica Calhoun: They called and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. My agent called and said, “They are doing a web series.”

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you know what a web series was?
Monica Calhoun: No. I had to ask, “What is a web series?” They explained the idea behind it and, I thought that was really cool. This was in the beginning of the “massive awareness explosion” of how to use the Internet beyond what it had been utilized for in the past. I thought it was a great opportunity for a variety of things. From an actor’s standpoint it gave me an extra reel that someone could watch whenever, however, if-ever.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You have been working in films and television for most of the past twenty years. You were nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 1993 for your work in a CBS SCHOOLBREAK SPECIAL ("Different Worlds: A Story of Interracial Love").
Monica Calhoun: Yes, that’s wild. Then I started doing a lot of independent films. The idea of new media was exciting. It was about getting my feet wet, getting my foot in the door, learning about the craft of acting, production, and the ins and outs of what it means to be part of a film.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What have the biggest technical differences for you as an actress between doing a web series and doing an independent film?
Monica Calhoun: Time. We did each season in eighteen days.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You did each season of DIARY OF A SINGLE MOM in 18 days?
Monica Calhoun: Yes.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That is amazing, considering the Season Three episodes were much longer.
Monica Calhoun: Yes. In feature films it’s different, depending on the film. Yet the same attention to detail was paid in those eighteen days to putting together DIARY OF A SINGLE MOM.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you get any rehearsal time at all?
Monica Calhoun: No, the rehearsal time is within the process.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Within 18 days, under that pressure, you are able to convey so many layers of emotions verbally and non-verbally. Web series are unique because you have to tell so much story in such a short span of time, and you need actors who can convey so much meaning and non-written dialogue in their face.
Monica Calhoun: That’s a major challenge. I want to get all the layers within a short period of time so that it all makes sense so when the editor sits down and pieces if all together that you see a full arc in each scene.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Are the scenes filmed in order?
Monica Calhoun: No, nothing is filmed in order.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So you are doing a tremendous amount of story, in 18 days, out of order. Yet you provide Ocean with such continuity and intensity.
Monica Calhoun: That is the challenge.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How in the world do you do that?
Monica Calhoun: It is a challenge. I’m relying on everybody who is part of that. From my fellow actors to the wardrobe to hair and make-up, relying on the entire process. And the director and the cinematographer. It’s relying on the team to maintain that continuity of the look and the emotion. That is the challenge and the beauty at the end of the day. You can look at say, “Okay, I think I met that challenge.”

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I would say you meet that challenge!
Monica Calhoun: I try.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back for Part Two when Calhoun discusses crafting her character, the future of DIARY, and how she is similar and different to Ocean Jackson. Will DIARY eventually show up on a certain mogul's new television network? Will Ocean ever give Mike a chance? Find out in Part Two! Until then, catch up on DIARY OF A SINGLE MOM and enjoy one of the most uplifting and enlightening pieces of entertainment you will see this year.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist in New York City who specializes in treating depression, stress management, and grief/loss issues. He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at For more information about scheduling an appointment or a speaking engagement, please email him at [email protected].


  1. Great actress and a wonderful show. I hope the project continues.

  2. Has Martha Byrne seen this show?