Sharna (Ms. J) Jenkins. A native of the historic Harlem, New York, she is the founder of Theater in Motion and Ms. J Script. As a writer, director, and producer Ms. J. is a voice for the silenced actor and theater lover who uses her gifts to speak through and for the people. As a student of the arts, Sharna has studied opera, jazz, musical theater, and theater writing. She began scriptwriting directly after high school, writing her first off-broadway play. For more than fifteen years, Ms. J has written, directed, and produced several theatrical off-broadway productions; “Sleeping Generation,” “Daddy’s Girl,” and “Like Me Love Me Love You.”
She’s worked with numerous schools in the tri-state area and Long Island bringing her theatrical experience to forge an anti-bullying creative assembly. Her recent series, “Sister’s Keeper,” has amassed over 4 million views on Amazon Prime. Ms. J has several screenplays, television scripts, and film shorts waiting to be unleashed, and she’s just getting started. The Chicago Defender had the pleasure of sitting down with her to discuss her recent and upcoming projects.
Chicago Defender: How long has Theater in Motion and Amsjscript been in motion?
Ms. J: Theater in Motion has been in “motion” since 2010. This is the theater company I work with. Ms. J Script became an official name for me going on two years.
Chicago Defender: What is the inspiration behind your work?
Ms. J: I get inspiration from a lot of different areas. I’ve always penned myself as a writer for the actors. I know a lot of up-and-coming actors, and I think about how they look for substance. They’re looking for key things to speak about and be apart of. I think my biggest inspiration are human beings themselves. I think about what someone may be feeling internally. I know that people are visual, and when we see and hear something that’s visually moving, I know it will generate emotion. So, my biggest motivation is people in general. I like to think about what people are thinking about.
Chicago Defender: Discuss your work with teens? Is there a particular school or school district you work with?
Ms. J: No, there isn’t. I started my work with youth on Long Island because that’s where I live. My first inspiration for working with youth in this area was getting teens from different towns in the surrounding areas in one space to work together. I’m from Harlem, so I didn’t know about the unsung rule that you “can’t” come to certain other towns if you’re from one town. I just thought that was a silly way to be, so my thinking was to get everyone in the room. Regardless of what town you’re from, we’re all human, we’re all black and brown, and that’s the driving force to make a connection. That’s how I initially started this work. Then I became a part of the Boces Arts and Education program on Long Island, where I created an anti-bullying assembly where I go into elementary, middle, and high schools with actors. We do improvs based on bullying other hard decisions young adults have to make. People began to hear about the program, and I began to branch out into other parts of the tri-state area.
Chicago Defender: Sisters Keeper, what was your motivation to write this script?
Ms. J: I know someone who was starting his streaming platform, and he wanted to begin with content. He wanted to have a series that people could tap into right away. So, he knew that I was a writer and came to me. I told him that I would not do or write “another show.” I can give you some elements from popular shows, but you must trust me with the route I will take with this show. So, Sister’s Keeper is based on a film short that I wrote. The film short was called Flying Out. It was about a brother and sister who lost their mom quickly to cancer, so they had to figure out how to survive with just the two of them. So, I looked at the film short and said I could turn this into a series. So, in the series, you get the elements of violence and drama; the most significant focus of the story is the love between the brother and sister and the personal tribulations they experience while trying to live the lives they want to live without having their mother. They also struggle with staying true to themselves while trying to be there for each other. So, you see, the battle that they have and bringing in the human love story was the inspiration for this show.
Chicago Defender: Will there be a season 2?
Ms. J: People ask all the time when season 2 is coming out. They don’t say “will there be,” but they demand to know when it’s coming out. I’m currently writing season 2, and I’d love for it to be a season 2. With this being a new show, I’m humbled. To receive four and five stars on Amazon Prime, four million views, I sat and said to myself there’s no way I can’t write season 2. So yes, there is a season 2 on its way.
Chicago Defender: What do you believe has been your most successful piece of work?
Ms. J: What I firmly believe is the most successful pieces of work are two pieces. I have a play that I wrote, produced, and directed called “Like Me Love Me, Love You.” There’s a recorded version of it on YouTube under my theater company name, Theater in Motion. That was one of my most successful pieces of work. We did a small college tour with it, and then we were off-broadway in Manhattan for two years. The feedback we get from audiences shows that the message from this production is moving people. The other successful piece is “Sister’s Keeper.” I challenged myself to bring that human element to everyday situations. So, I think this one is a successful piece for me too.
Chicago Defender: What are some upcoming projects for you?
Ms. J: I’m actively preparing to shoot a new film short I wrote called “Waiting.” It’s a 30-minute film short I’m excited about. It’s about a young black woman who’s an entrepreneur, and you see her struggle with why she loves the way she loves. Her backstory shows her childhood and why she loves men the way she loves them based on her relationship with her dad. It’s a cool piece, and we’re preparing to shoot it this October. Along with this, I’m still working on season 2 of Sister’s Keeper, and I’m fine-tuning another piece I started years ago so I can “shop it.”
Chicago Defender: What messages do you want people to receive based on your work?
Ms. J: I love this question so much. When I give this answer, it’s really simple. I always want people to walk away with a sense of togetherness, a sense of community. So, I always have a feeling of wanting people to feel together no matter what the play or films are about.
Liz Lampkin is a Lifestyle, Love, and Relationship writer. Follow her on social media @Liz_Lampkin.