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Corinne Massiah opens up on 9-1-1, working with Angela Bassett - and finding her voice

Corinne, 19, stars as May Grant

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Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis - Los Angeles
Los Angeles correspondentLos Angeles
May 2, 2022
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At 19, 9-1-1 star Corinne Massiah has spent more than half of her life on TV screens, and all while continuing her education and now finishing up her freshman year at UCLA.

Exclusive: 9-1-1's Oliver Stark breaks down future of Eddie and Buck's relationship after heartbreaking episode

For five years Corinne has starred on the Fox first responder drama as May Grant - the teenage daughter of Angela Bassett's Sergeant Athena Grant - and fans have seen the actress take May through heartbreaking high school bullying storylines to her current role in dispatch after deferring college, with viewers most recently watching her struggle to decide whether to go back to school or keep working.

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The parallels between May and Corinne are obvious; two young women who are driven and smart but also curious and finding their place in the world.

"Whatever May was going through I was most likely going through it with her," Corinne tells HELLO!, adding: "We grew up together."

Exclusive: 9-1-1 Lone Star's Natacha Karam talks season three's 'personal drama' and challenging her own expectations

Exclusive: 9-1-1: Lone Star actor Ronen Rubinstein shares what he really thinks of TK’s 'traumatic' storylines

Despite a world in which there are myriad social media platforms to choose from, Corinne has been notoriously private.

But as she steps into adulthood she is ready to begin using her voice and speak out about causes that are passionate to her - Black Lives Matter in particular - as well as, yes, interacting with the fandom.

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Corinne, 19, has been on 9-1-1 since 2017

I didn't realize you were at UCLA. Are you a freshman?

I have five more weeks of being a freshman! I love it, and now the season has wrapped I can be a full-time college student which is nice just enjoying class and exploring campus.

You've been acting for much of your childhood though, what was the impetus behind going to college?

I've been acting since I was eight and so it's all I've known, school while acting, and it would have been weird for me if I just stopped school knowing I could have done another four years.

Plus now I have developed my own routine when it comes to school and wor - I have a lot of self discipline when it comes to assignments and getting up in the mornings!

I also never wanted to end up regretting it, so let's bust these four years out! And UCLA was always a dream. 

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The teen is also studying at UCLA

Thinking back to joining 9-1-1, what was it about this character you loved?

It was always so easy to play her, whatever she was going through I was most likely going through it with her.

We grew up together, and the conversations May was having with her mom Athena, I was having with my mom. I had such a deep connection to her.

You work really close with Angela Bassett as well which must have been such a strong reason to say yes? What has she taught you?

At the time I didn't understand the gravity of who I was working with! I was 13 but my mom was like, 'No this is Angela Bassett, ' and she showed me movies and then I realized, 'No pressure!'.

Angela goes into every scene totally open minded.

She waits for the director to tell her their thoughts and then she plays with it. I have always respected that; all directors have their own style so it's important for actors to not just come in with a set way of thinking about how they will do something.

Angela is very fluid, and if she realizes she can't do something she will move on. It's a beautiful masterpiece.

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Corinne stars as May Grant (far right)

May has had some really powerful storylines especially in season one, and now we’re seeing her journey into adulthood - how much input have you had over the years with her storyline?

I have had no input, the writers have just gone off wherever they think May can go and I am totally behind it.

I was surprised they have this huge vision for her and I am thankful, and it's awesome that they thought I was capable of playing her.

In last week's episode FOMO we saw May and Eddie bonding over past trauma and finding their meaning. What was it like working with Ryan?

I loved it - I loved working with Ryan so much. We are never on screen together, but with Ryan it was a totally different energy in the room, it was so cool.

He said to me, 'This feels like we're really acting,' it was so good, and he is so funny. We have crossed paths on set and will always say, 'Hey,' but it was so cool [to work with him].

Exclusive: 9-1-1 star Oliver Stark shares thoughts on episode 11's shocking kiss

WATCH: 9-1-1: Eddie and May bond over past trauma

Monday's episode May Day will see dispatch go up in flames, what can you tease about the episode and what it means for May in particular?

I don't want to spoil too much but I think everyone will be on the edge of their seats, it will be a tearjerker but May perseveres.

May has been putting off making the decision about whether to attend USC and it's so interesting how May's journey really crosses over with your own personal life.

I was just about to say that! I also got into USC as well so it was, 'college and acting?' I will do college, so, 'USC or UCLA?'

Everyone on set asked if I was mad that May is going to USC, and it would have been so better if they shot at UCLA - I could walk out the dorm 30 minutes before call time.

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Corinne will take center stage in season five, episode 16

What are your favorite moments from the last five years?

I love the connections I have built - I love Peter [Krause], I love Oliver [Stark], Aisha [Hinds] and Angela. Being the youngest it can be hard to build that connection but they have been so warm and welcoming and open, and I am constantly learning.

And I really loved filming May Day. Peter and I talked and said, 'This episode is so good.'

There were a lot of stunts involved and it was so well orchestrated, the director Juan Carlos was so welcoming and open to me - it was the most control I ever felt I had in an episode.

He would text and ask if I wanted to change anything, so this was my best experience of the five seasons.

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Peter Krause stars as Bobby Nash, May's step-father

This is your first stunt episode, right?

100%! I came off the episodes and had bruises all over my knees, and if that is a spoiler... well!

They offered me knee pads but I said, 'I played volleyball for 10 years, I know how to land' and then the next day I looked down and they were black and blue.

You’re not super active on social media, is that on purpose?

I have always been more on the private side, and I am also not a big picture taker!

But I just turned 19 so before that I was a minor and I knew I wanted to stay off it so I didn't make any stupid decisions, or say anything stupid, or have anything taken out of context. I am not afraid to talk about things but some things are better left unsaid.

But now, I do want to interact more with the supporters - so I need to start with pictures first.

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'I have always been more on the private side,' says Corinne

Would you like to use your platform for activism? Is there something you do feel passionate about?

Black Lives Matter. I have an entire highlight on my Instagram page talking about that movement, and police brutality, and the death of George Floyd, and that is what I am very passionate about.

When I came into college, I was declared as a political science major but it was too much for me, it was too ugly, so I feel like sociology keeps me focusing on society and movements.

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Do you and the cast talk about the fan reactions to episodes on set? What are your thoughts on the Buck and Eddie relationship and the reactions?

Yes we do talk about fan reactions, often between scenes and it is funny.

As for Buck and Eddie, I don't think anyone is opposed to it, no one has bad-mouthed it on set. But it is all up to the writers, actors will do whatever the writers tell us to do, but I think they are open to anything, no one would shut it down.

What's next for May in a possible season six?

There are so many avenues they could go down and I hope I could talk to them about it, but I trust what they have in mind and if she stays in the call center or goes to college they would write in a way that would keep her involved.

Why not have May do both?

Exactly! I am doing it!

9-1-1 airs on Mondays on Fox at 8/7c. Photos by DaMarko GianCarlo for FairfaxCopenhagen.

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