“Born a baby black girl with hoop dreams Versatility propelled me now I’m shooting scenes” – From “Mrs. Pusherman” by Robyn Hood
Miriam A. Hyman has been storming out of the gates for years, both as an actress and now as a Hip-Hop artist. After graduating from the Yale School of Drama in 2012, Hyman landed a recurring role on CBS’s Blue Bloods. She has also been featured in shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, The Rookie, Orange Is The New Black, SMILF, NCIS, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Master of None as well as the upcoming seasons of The OA Part II on Netflix and HBO’s High Maintenance.
Hyman most recently landed a supporting role in the 2019 MGM and Warner Bros. film release of The Sun is Also a Star, and will be featured in the upcoming film Brittany Runs a Marathon produced by Tobey Maguire, and also the new Netflix film, The Laundromat, directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Meryl Streep. Now, she’s set to join the Off-Broadway World Premiere production of Socrates directed by Tony Award winner Doug Hughes.
In addition to acting, Hyman spent years as a dancer and choreographer, and has added to her triple threat credit by taking a shot as a Hip-Hop artist under the rap moniker “Robyn Hood”. Her music projects include the international release of her EP For Higher and two mixtapes, Sweet Sixteen and Journey of an MC.
Her latest single “Mrs. Pusherman” was also released internationally and will be followed this coming winter by her first full-length album of the same name.
While her success is relatively new, Hyman’s approach to achieving success has been consistent throughout her life – never stop pushing the envelope. The key to her approach is that when confronted with a challenge, she does not say “No”!
Growing up in West Philadelphia, Hyman was determined to escape poverty.
“I was raised in a two-parent home, my parents were married and educated. They were very positive. They owned their home. My father had an associate degree in Journalism and was a publicist for the late, great Malcolm X. My mother was always in school and eventually earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. She taught us to reach higher. As far back as I can recall, my parents were always pro-education,” Hyman told me.
“I knew that we were poor. I knew that I didn’t want to repeat the cycle. I wanted more than what my parents had when I reached their age. I didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck or reside where there were abandoned houses surrounding my home, even if I owned it. I didn’t want to grow up trying to make ends meet. So it was a matter of, how can I rise above my current circumstances? I was motivated at a very young age to want more from myself, and to want more for my community at large.” Being the baby girl of seven, she realized at a very young age that she wanted to take the negative circumstances and make them positive.
Hyman embraced the concept of “pushing” as a metaphor for the mindset and effort she needed to have to achieve her goals. She feels that one way or another, we are all pushing in our life. The question is, whether we are going to push for constructive as opposed to destructive things.
“You can’t even have a baby without pushing. As a child, you have to be pushed out into the world. Someone has to push you out. So, we start getting pushed from birth,” she explained. “And what does that mean? Well, there’s negative pushing. I’ve never been interested in selling drugs or drug paraphernalia. Then there’s positive pushing – pushing myself out of my current circumstances – using what I had to get what I now have.”
This was no easy task, as Hyman did not feel like there were many people around her who succeeded on the level to which she aspired, but she was careful to watch the behavior of others – particularly her siblings – to find clues for pathways to success.
“My siblings were the best examples a kid could have. Through their actions and guidance, they taught me what to do and what not to do. Many of my peers weren’t as involved in extracurricular activities as I was,” Hyman said. “I felt alone in that way. I had a lot of peer pressure to do things that were negative, but thankfully I had siblings. I observed their successes and failures. I took what I saw from them.”
It was perhaps fate that Hyman eventually found success in acting and music. Hyman is the much younger cousin to the late singing sensation Phyllis Hyman, and also to the late Earl Hyman, a Broadway and television actor, who played the father to Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show. “Acting and music were in my blood before I even knew I wanted to pursue them.”
Her most immediate inspiration came from watching Jada Pinkett Smith in the movie A Low Down Dirty Shame as a child. Pinkett Smith played the character Peaches, boldly and fiercely played by the then rising star – and Hyman readily identified.
“It was her chutzpah, it was her energy. It was her drive. It was her determination in this particular role to be the very best at her occupation, which was the assistant/sidekick to Keenan Ivory Wayans,” Hyman explained. “When I exited the theatre, I said to my mom, whom I had begged to take me to see the film, “That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Hyman was inspired at that moment to become an actress.
While Hyman described her parents as being extremely supportive, her mother’s reaction to her dream of becoming an actress was not as supportive as she had hoped. This was when Hyman started to realize that she was not adept at taking “no” for an answer.
Her mother’s response was: “I don’t know, your brother seems more likely to be the actor in the family.” It was moments such as these that encouraged Hyman to push.
“I felt a bit slighted,” Hyman described. “It was at that moment that I became less concerned with proving myself to family members, teachers or peers. I challenged myself to work towards making it happen – so that I could see it for myself, and in turn, my community would. I knew my mother wanted the absolute best for me and she stated that if I wanted to pursue acting, I needed to be the very best actress I could be.”
“I’ve been acting ever since.”
At the age of 13, Hyman joined a children’s company called the Rainbow Company under the direction of the American Music Theatre Festival. As a freshman in high school, she toured Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware performing inspirational plays for other local elementary, middle and high schools. Although Hyman’s primary desire was to act, the choreographer of the theatre company was thinking big – consistent with Hyman’s worldview – and suggested Hyman expand her repertoire to dance.
“Initially I just wanted to act. But she said, ‘You can do so much more than that.’ At the time, I didn’t fully understand what that meant. I didn’t realize what I was much more capable of,” Hyman recalled. “A few years later, I became the choreographer for that same company – because of the push, drive, and willingness to commit to honing my skills and just saying, why not?”
It was at that point that Hyman solidified her perspective on how to push by saying “Yes, and.” She described how this mentality was utilized to get the most out of a scene in which she was acting. Soon it became a more generalized life philosophy.
“In acting, you say ‘Yes, and.’ If you’re improving, in order to make a scene effective, in order to tell a story and let the story go on you have to receive and give, much like talking and listening” she said.
“When I was in high school, I started going to see plays. I was introduced to the theatre by just doing it initially. I would look at Playbills and search the actors’ bios to see what schools they attended. I wanted to know where they trained to be so skillful. I became curious. It was the first time that it really clicked … There was a place that I could potentially go to hone my craft. I continued to see Yale School of Drama (YSD) listed as their place of education. It became like a common theme amongst the talented actors I respected and admired,” she explained.
“In addition to the actors that came to work at the regional theaters in Philadelphia, I began to find out that individuals such as Angela Bassett, Meryl Streep, Courtney B. Vance, and Paul Giamatti – these heavy hitters – had also attended YSD. I pondered and inquired what one would have to do to enroll in such a prestigious institution. I didn’t know how I would ever be so lucky to attend such a sought-after program like YSD. However, instead of being fearful or scared of wanting to take on that challenge, I began to research over the next couple of years how to make it feasible.”
Hyman eventually attended the University of the Arts in her hometown of Philadelphia to obtain her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree but set her sights on how to further her training. Hyman decided to pursue an education at the Yale School of Drama, just like the theatre and film actors she revered. However, when she sought the guidance of her theatre director, she was met with doubt yet again.
“You know NYU would be really good for you. Yale would be great if you could get in.” her mentor replied after Hyman expressed her interest. “All I heard was the ‘if’,” Hyman said.
“She was trying to motivate me, but all I heard was that I may not have the potential to get in. So, I applied to Yale, and Yale only. In my eyes, Yale was the best and I only wanted to go to the best.”
As time went on, Hyman was not only acting but also performing as a Hip-Hop emcee. She was inspired to start writing Hip-Hop lyrics while performing in Richard III at the Public Theatre in NYC. “It was the first job I booked right out of grad school, so I moved to NYC and began working off Broadway. I always loved Shakespeare – his bars, verse, and pros. I started writing clean lyrics to instrumental Hip-Hop beats,” Hyman said. “Hip-Hop was always a motivating force in my life. I wanted to write material that highlighted the positive elements of Hip-Hop music, so I listened to other great emcees and taught myself how to rap, to be expressive, witty and thoughtful, and to have fun while riding the beat. I wanted to educate while I entertained on the track.”
She explained that in the same way that people had a limited view of her own capabilities, the negative stereotypes portrayed by some current Hip-Hop artists may have had the same limiting effect on her community. “One of the reasons why I started writing was because of what I wasn’t hearing on the radio. Some of the mainstream music that we hear today, specifically in Hip-Hop music, is derogatory towards women, even towards men. There’s a lot of negativity, a lot of drugs and alcohol – sometimes the messages we are promoting are the things that don’t elevate us as a people or as individuals,” Hyman described.
“We’re selling these products, we’re selling this image to our youth, but it’s not benefitting them in any way, shape or form. “It’s actually giving them the wrong ideas and concepts of how to operate in the world as thriving citizens.”
Rather than try to keep her acting and Hip-Hop audiences separate, each with a narrower view of her talents, Hyman tries whenever possible to combine the promotion of her talents.
“I have an audience that is only aware of music, an audience that knows primarily about my acting, and an audience that’s aware of both, and each audience becomes more interested when they find out about the other,” she said. “Sometimes, on my social media pages I’ll drop a song and then I’ll put up an acting clip of me playing basketball, and sometimes I might loop my music in with the clip to show my dual ability.
“And then people say, ‘Nice – is that you?”’
Hyman encourages people to give children as many opportunities as possible to have a wide knowledge base and range of skills, and she is hinting at where she might be heading as she notes that successful entrepreneurs tend to be involved in a range of ventures.
“I don’t have any children, but if I did, I would introduce them to traveling, different languages, sports, and the arts early on, so that by the time they were adolescents, they’d be versed in multiple languages, exposed to theatre and have left the country multiple times. They’d have some stamps on their passport. They’d play a bunch of different sports and instruments,” Hyman explained. “So, now you have a variety of things that you can do. You can go and focus on all of them or just one. Versatility is key.”
“You meet very few entrepreneurs that do only one thing.”
Whatever she does next – Hyman will keep pushing, and using her “Yes, and” mentality to break down barriers put in front of her. She hopes others learn from her example and does the same.
“Now, we start to broaden our scope a bit. I think there were a lot of odds against me, but I never limited myself. I never put myself into a box. In my music, I push the concept of respect. Bar by bar I tear down the walls that suggest we are merely stereotypes,” Hyman described. “No one is one-dimensional. As an actress and a musician, my goal is to uplift and educate via entertainment. I strive to work very hard so I won’t be in a position to make do and just survive – so I can thrive. Having options is necessary. We’re not limited. People may try to limit us.”
“But we’re not limited.”
“One of the reasons why I started writing was because of what I wasn’t hearing on the radio. Some of the mainstream music that we hear today, specifically in Hip-Hop music, is derogatory towards women, even towards men. There’s a lot of negativity, a lot of drugs and alcohol – sometimes the messages we are promoting are the things that don’t elevate us as a people or as individuals,” Hyman described. “We’re selling these products, we’re selling this image to our youth, but it’s not benefitting them in any way, shape or form.
Photography: Kelsey McNeal, Edits: Mark Hill, Creative Direction: Timeekah Murphy, Designer: Alani Taylor, Makeup/Hair: Tiffany Dimanche, Styling: Fabienne Ami