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Dianne Dixon looks to make her mark

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Another Jamaican born actress, Dianne Dixon, is looking to stake her claim in her chosen profession.

She has been cast in the Emmy-winning web series We Speak New York, which kicked off its second season at the Museum of The Moving Image in Queens, New York, last Wednesday.

We Speak New York is a drama series about the lives of working-class immigrants who come from all over the world and make New York their home. The show is created by the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs and the City University of New York. It is designed to assist adult immigrants for whom English is a second language in improving their understanding of the language, as well as to learn about their rights to city and community services. The show deals with topics as diverse as workers and immigration rights, the struggle to make ends meet in New York City, family issues and early childhood education, among other topics.

Dixon, appears in the episode Cesar's Journey as Nana Aidoo, an African-born ESL (English as a second language) teacher who helps guide a group of frightened and unsettled immigrants achieve a better understanding of American life through her work with them inside and outside the classroom.

Dixon describes her as a “wise, thoughtful and humorous woman with great empathy who remembers all too well her own arrival and difficult adjustment to life in the USA as an immigrant, and who uses her own stories and experiences to support and inspire her students.”

For Dixon, an actress who has become renowned for her affinity with difficult accents, the role was yet another opportunity for her to “speak in tongues”. In a career spanning nearly fifteen years, she has played characters from throughout the Caribbean , all over the United States, as well as from both east and west Africa.

She has never had formal dialect training, but has always had an extremely sharp ear and a talent for imitation.

“Everywhere I travel, I always pay special attention to the local dialects — the rhythm, cadence and music in the voices of the people,” she said. “And I've always been a very good mimic, so I pick up on that easily and it just lodges in my memory, ready to be to be rolled out on the right occasion.”

Having visited Africa, Ghana in particular, on several occasions, for her, the character of Nana was like coming home.

“I just felt that I knew Nana Aidoo very well,” she said. “I've met women just like her on so many occasions during my trips to Africa. And our amazing writer-director George Lavoo, really gave me the licence to create her in my own way, very organically, and I hope viewers will feel that sense of authenticity when they see the show.”

We Speak New York premieres on June 1 and can be seen online at www.nyc.gov/wespeaknyc.