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Teyonah Parris' heart-wrenching journey before Mad Men

Shanee Edwards is a screenwriter who earned her master's degree at UCLA Film School. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her TV pilot, Ada and the Machine, is cur...

Primetime Emmys: Mad Men's Teyonah Parris on getting told "no"

We caught up with actress Teyonah Parris on the Emmys' red carpet. The Mad Men actress told us being there was a dream come true.

We asked Teyonah Parris — known for playing Dawn, Don Draper's secretary on Mad Men — if she used to dream about being at awards shows as a kid.

"I would sit there... and just stare at the awards: the Tonys, the Emmys, Oscars, all of it! Like a lot of little girls, I had this dream in my spirit and in my soul to tell other people's stories and I'm so blessed to be able to walk that out and be here, at this moment."

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We asked her about her own personal journey and if she ever considered giving up acting.

"At any point or at every other point along the way? In this industry, you get told no so much. I remember moving to Los Angeles, this was maybe three years ago, and having the hooptie car and not knowing if I would make it to an audition. Staying on a twin-sized bed and sharing a room with my 12-year-old cousin because I had to come to LA and I had to give this a try.

"To be where I am now, I'm so grateful and I don't take it lightly or for granted that I'm here. And also to be here with my peers! There are some girls here that I went to high school with, to college with.

"Danielle Brooks from Orange Is the New Black, and Samira Wiley. I went to high school in Greenville, South Carolina, with Danielle. Samira, Danielle and I were all at the Juilliard School together. So to grind in those hallways, in those windowless rooms — it's so hard to fight to get the training we desired and to be here together and all nominated for our respective shows — it's amazing."

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We wanted to know what kept Parris motivated. "I had a teacher in high school who said, 'This isn't for you, you should probably look into other avenues.' That was the first time I had ever experienced that level of rejection. My stomach sank and I went to cry to my mother and my dad, and they said, 'Get yourself together, pick yourself up and keep moving. Who is he? God is the only one to tell you where to move and how to move forward in this world and that man doesn't have any say over your destiny.' It's hard as a young person hearing that. But, by the grace of God, I picked myself up and I kept going."

We asked Parris if she ever contacted the naysayer to make sure he knew he was dead wrong. Watch our video to find out what she had to say.

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Teyonah Parris can be seen in the upcoming movie Dear White People in October.

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