EXCLUSIVE: Actress Sydney Tamiia Poitier on Carter, rejection and getting into character

Sydney Tamiia Poitier is the daughter of legendary film icon Sir Sidney Poitier and actress Joanna Shimkus, known for playing Sam Shaw in Canadian TV series Carter alongside Jerry O'Connell. Here Sydney explores being a second generation actress, getting into character and dealing with rejection in a Mandy News exclusive interview.

6th November 2018
/ By James Collins

sydney tamiia poitier carter actress tv film acting WGNAMERICA

Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got into acting.
My name is Sydney Poitier Heartsong and I am an actor living in Los Angeles. I am the daughter of two actors so I imagine it is in my genetic make-up. Although it may be a bit of nurture as well as nature. Growing up around such creative people probably primed me at a young age to love storytelling in all its forms. I wasn’t allowed to act professionally until I finished college, so I stuck to school plays and the like, but started to pursue a professional acting career as soon as I graduated.

***** Read our interview with The House with a Clock in its Walls child actor Owen Vaccaro *****

How did you get involved with Carter?
I got involved with Carter the “old fashioned” way. My agent asked me if I wanted to audition for a new show shooting in Canada with Jerry O’Connell and the rest is history.

Tell us about your character in the show, and your process of becoming the character.
I play Sam Shaw, the detective in the fictional town of Bishop and the childhood best friend of Harley Carter, a famous Hollywood actor who has come home to get his life back on track. My process was fairly simple because she was pretty evident on the page. I heard her voice right away. Then there were some logistics to work out such as police training, and learning to handle a gun to help bring more authenticity to the character. 

She is somewhat similar to me, and I was able to bring a bit of myself to her so that the process of becoming her felt easy and natural and continued to evolve over the course of the season. It’s not always that smooth and easy, so I felt lucky to have a character that I could easily identify with.

***** Check out our interview with Carter show creator Garry Campbell *****

What is a typical day, if there is such a thing, on the set of the show?
A typical day starts very early and ends very late. In the case of this show, where I’m in almost every scene, it can feel like a whirlwind. We move very fast and shoot a lot of pages each day in order to keep to our schedule so it can be exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. 

The earliest part of the morning is spent in hair and makeup going over all the lines for the day, there is a half hour for lunch after we’ve shot for six hours and I try to spend that time with my three-year-old because our days are so long and I don’t get nearly enough time with her. When we wrap, usually after 12-14 hours, I go home to eat dinner, learn lines, go to sleep and do it all again the next day!

sydney tamiia poitier carter actress tv film WGNAMERICA
Sydney Tamiia Poitier and Jerry O'Connell in Carter

What are your plans for the future, are there any other projects you are allowed to tell us about?
My plans for the future will hopefully include a second season of Carter. I also just played a role in a new Amazon Prime series called Homecoming with Julia Roberts and Bobby Canavalle which is really interesting and I believe comes out this month.

What advice do you have for young people wanting to get involved in acting?
The advice I would give anyone going into acting is twofold. One, work on your craft; get training, do plays, workshops and showcases. Do whatever you can to hone your skills and get as good as you can because there is a responsibility in storytelling as an actor and I believe you have to honour and respect that. 

Two is get a good support system in place. This business can be brutal, and while it isn’t ever personal it is still very difficult to endure the inevitable rejection. For every yes there will have been a thousand nos and that can take a toll on anyone, particularly the sensitive souls that often are called to do this work. Having support is essential because it can become difficult at times to see the forest through the trees and you will need other people that have your best interest at heart to help you stay on course.

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Luke Cockram


Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. It's always helpful in my opinion to understand how other people get into character. That is the beauty of acting afterall; That we can keep learning and developing our styles, so thank you.

Parwiz Mohammad


Haven’t watch the series yet but soon will watching it. Hope time will get a chance to work with Tamiia one day.

Yvonne Davidson


This is an amazing crime show! Sydney and Jerry are so personable and interact with BG like no Principals ever have! Watch this show filmed in North Bay Ontario.