Yolonda Ross

No 'Stranger' to landing big projects

HOMETOWN: Omaha, Neb.

FAVORITE ACTORS: Don Cheadle, Faye Dunaway, Jessica Lange, Alfre Woodard

NEXT PROJECT: “The Antwone Fisher Story”

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF 10 YEARS FROM NOW?: “Hopefully I will have made two of my own movies because I write. I’m really working on one of them now to get it into (the) Sundance writing lab. Probably down the line I’d like to direct because I’m a control freak.”

WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ACTOR?: “I needed that outlet. I’m creative and emotional in a lot of ways and being able to get things out of you in that way is really cool to me. I like to become someone else. I like to convey.”

When Yolonda Ross landed the lead role in Cheryl Dunye’s “Stranger Inside” (which premiered on HBO in June), she had but a few “New York Undercover” and “Third Watch” episodes, and some musicvideo appearances under her belt.

At the time of her “Stranger” audition, she was working as a buyer for a New York boutique but had a good feeling that she would land the lead.

“Everything was just coming to me so naturally,” Ross recalls. “I felt that this one was going to happen.”

Ross certainly couldn’t have predicted the impact of her powerfully understated performance. As Treasure, a young black lesbian who struggles with meshing the fantasy of her estranged mother with reality, Ross wowed Sundance Film Festival audiences and landed the breakthrough actor award at the New York Film Festival.

“‘Stranger’ wasn’t about us being made up or pretty,” Ross says about the prison-set story. “It was all about what the emotions because nobody was there to be looked at.”

These days Ross is looking good on top of myriad commitments. Not only is she playing a cop on Fox’s “24,” she’s preparing for Denzel Washington’s much anticipated directorial debut, “The Antwone Fisher Story,” as well as Allison Anders’ next project, “Satisfied Minds.”

The Anders project, in which Ross will be playing a member of an all-girl band, has been a long time coming. A little over five years ago, when she was working at a New York store called NaNa, she sold the famed indie director — whom she recognized because of her hand tattoos — some hair color.

“I told her I had just started acting and had a videotape from class and she told me to send it to her,” Ross says with a bashful chuckle. They kept in touch and hooked up this year at Sundance, where “Stranger Inside” and Anders’ “Things Behind the Sun” bowed. And how things change: Anders wrote the “Satisfied Minds” part specifically for Ross.

Between jobs, Ross is adjusting to her newfound fame and is even making an impression with her family.

“My little sister is classic,” Ross says. “After ‘Stranger,’ she said, ‘Finally you’re speaking’ because I’ve had so many extra roles. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I talk throughout the whole movie.’ “

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