Oak Park actress Ceoria Coates says it's never too late for Hollywood

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

She'll be 87 years old next week, but Oak Parker Ceoria Coates is still waiting for her big break.

Coates, who since 1984 has appeared in television commercials, print advertisements and even a show on FOX, says she's not one of those people at auditions who comes away crying. She's learned over the years that she can't please every director, but she continues to try out because it's a fun thing she can look forward to. And Coates said it's not too late for her to make it big.

"I'm still waiting for Hollywood to pick me up," she said with a laugh during an interview last week at her home.

Coates said she had acted in plays at her church and during high school in Flint, Mich., where she was raised. But it wasn't until she and her husband moved to Boston that Coates became more serious about the industry. While working in real estate, a drama teacher who lived in a building she owned told Coates she should consider going into acting. The woman was a member of what is now the SAG-AFTRA union — Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists — that represents media artists. She thought Coates would be a natural, and told her there were not many black people her age that were involved.

Coates went in to audition for a role in a commercial where she played a mother whose son was coming home from the Army. She said everyone else in the audition looked like they had been in the business for years, but Coates decided not to get too made up like the others. During her try-out, the director pretended to be her son, she said, and "I gave him the treatment." Coates said she threw her arms around him with all the enthusiasm she could muster, holding nothing back. It worked.

After that, Coates began to get more offers, appearing in a promotional ad for a Boston television station, commercials for TJ Maxx and CVS and a mystery series. In a PBS documentary, she even played the mother of the research chemist whose African American family was the first to move to Oak Park, Percy Julian. She joined AFTRA as she began to get more principal roles, and got an agent when she moved to Oak Park in 2006.

Coates said she was never told by any director why they wanted her for a specific role, but she thinks it's been because of her energy and expressions. She recalled a commercial she did for Kraft, where a young boy tried to take her bottle of ranch dressing. She said the production team laughed hysterically as she told the boy to get his own bottle and playfully hit him with her cane.

In 2011, Coates played a disgruntled Nigerian woman answering the door to the police in the crime drama, The Chicago Code, which aired on FOX. In addition to her three words of dialogue, Coates said she took her time to look through a peep hole and answer the door in a surprised manner.

These days are a little busier for Coates, who is also a member of a senior bowling league and a water aerobics class. She's now part of the SAG-AFTRA senior radio players, a group that performs recreations of old radio shows. The group has a free show coming up Feb. 26 at the Chicago Cultural Center.

She's still going to some auditions when her agent calls, but she's also spending time with her two granddaughters. And when she does audition, Coates said she remembers that it has to be fun.

"You can't take it personally," she said about not getting chosen for every role. "You have to have fun and you never know what a director is looking for."

Reader Comments

10 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

anthony drew allen from Flint, Michigan  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 1:44 PM

Call us at 386-569-7991 or 810-210-5072. address 14 Red top lane palm coast, fl 32164 (tina) 2117 Barbara Dr. 48504 FNT Anthony Allen. Huggs N Kisses and miss you dearly!

anthony drew allen from flint  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 1:40 PM

Aunt Ceoria, I was just bragging about you today about your ad from Sovern Bank in Virginia in 1991! Please call Tina and me today when you see this post. Tell Thomas I am very delighted to know he is practicing law. Love you both deleriously. Your Nephew, Anthony

ALVATINA WILSON from PALM COAST,FLORIDA 32164  

Posted: February 19th, 2013 10:36 PM

PLEASE CALL ME AT 386-569-7991 OR EMAIL ME AT ALVATINA@MSN.COM

ALVATINA WILSON from PALM COAST, FL 32164  

Posted: February 19th, 2013 10:31 PM

Hello Aunt Ceoria, I see that you are still living your dream, that is wonderful. You look fantastic! Please get in touch with me as soon as possible. Thank you and God Bless.

Barbara Eaves from Maywood  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 5:18 PM

Hi Ceoria Great article about great spirited lady

Rochelle (Kev's big cousin) from West Medford, MA  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 4:26 PM

What an inspiration, greatest attitude, hands down!

KEG Skull from Boston  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 4:11 PM

at 87 she is just getting started. I wish her well. Keep up the great work!

K2theJ from Detroit  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 1:51 PM

Ceoria, you look as beautiful as ever. I am so happy to read this article. Remember me when you hit the big time in Hollywood.

Leslie C from Chicago - Galewood  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 1:36 PM

Ceoria is an awesome lady!

Thomas Coates from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 1:06 PM

What an insiration, still pursuing it at 87, with valuable words to live all aspects of life by: "You can't take it personally ... [y]ou have to have fun."

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