RESPECT.: Have you always wanted to be an actor?
Yes, I have vivid memories from the age of five that I wanted to be an actor growing up in North Carolina. I would spend my weekends and summers with my grandmother, who lived in a rural area of North Carolina. I have memories of sitting in front of her television on Saturday nights and watching Love Boat/Fantasy Island on ABC. I would look at the television set and I did not really know what it was at the time, but I wanted to be a part of it. I decided to pursue a career in the business and I landed my first role as a child actor. I landed a series regular role on a show called “Sparks” filmed out of the local CBS studios in Raleigh and my character was a teenage time traveler.
RESPECT.: What institution did you receive your training?
I went to the University of North School of The Arts located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It is a part of it is a UNC university system, but it was an arts conservatory, meaning you had to audition to be accepted. The process can be rigorous. In fact, my drama class started with 33 students as freshmen, but upon graduation, only 13 us of finished. I obtained my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and decided to travel to London to further study Shakespeare. It was all an intense experience.
RESPECT.: You started your professional career back in 1985 as a series regular on“Sparks.” How has your acting techniques change from where started until now?
As I’ve gotten older I started to realize all the advice my teachers shared in class was true. In terms of not trying so hard and that you as an individual are enough. Thankfully as a young actor, I did not fall into the trap of mugging and “overdoing” it. I also think it helped that the television program I was on wasn’t nationally syndicated. It was just statewide, so when I traveled out of the viewing area, not many people knew I was an actor when I went out in public. What has changed is growth, maturity and simply getting better at something the more you do it. Honestly, just knowing more. For example, if I’m facing a certain character that might be out of my normal comfort zone that my natural instincts aren’t guiding me, having the training to know to lean on the text and concentrate on what the role needs to do to service the story within the project, helps out tremendously.
RESPECT.: What is some advice you would give your younger self if you could?
I think what I would say is “Really try to enjoy the journey and the development because that’s all it is, a process, there isn’t a destination.” In addition, I would tell my younger self to get out more in New York. I had a great agent coming out of school when I moved there. I lulled myself into an unproductive way of thinking that the agents were handling my acting auditions and career. I would advise my younger self to get out there, stay out there, hustle and always keep pushing for yourself. That is what I would advise myself to do.
RESPECT.: You are currently a part of the pilot “Beyond the Badge” can you tell us about your character?
I really enjoyed this role. It was kind of presented to me at the last minute, but I’m glad I was offered the opportunity. My character name is Trey Jackson and he is an undercover police officer who has some training in therapy. He leads a therapeutic class for police officers struggling with the emotional toll of the profession. It is a confidential setting and they share the stresses of the business and how they might deal with that stress constructively rather than turn to self-medicating or disruptive behavior. So, my character tries to lead a group of individuals dealing with those issues. Trey and the lead character, played by Don Wallace, find out one of their commanders might not be corrupt and they intend to take action. Don and I have worked together many years ago on the set of “Die Hard with a Vengeance” starring Bruce Wills and Samuel L. Jackson. So, I am excited to be a part of this great project and I’m glad to be working with Don again.
RESPECT.: What intrigued you about this project and how is it different from other projects that you have been a part of?
It was a great script and a buddy of mine, Christopher J. Moore, is an executive producer on the project. Chris and I have worked on a couple projects in the past. He reached out to me about the role. I told him to send me the script and the rest is history. I also loved that the project is independent and for myself being an independent filmmaker, I wanted to help a fellow artist bring their vision to reality the way many artist friends have lent their talents to help me. It was an opportunity I could not pass up.
RESPECT.: You have been a part of some great film and television, “Girlfriends”, “Charmed”, “Men in Black”, “Criminal Minds”, “Being Mary Jane” and “Die Hard with a Vengeance” to name a few. How have these roles help you grow not only as an actor but as a person?
I have been very fortunate to be a part of so many projects. That has helped me grow tremendously not only as an actor but as a director. When I’m not working in front of the camera, you’ll most likely find me in the video village (the area where the director sits watching the action monitors) studying and trying to see what some of the other professionals in the field are doing. For example, when Steven Spielberg arrives on set it is like a machine. Everything is laid out, mapped out long before he arrives. He and his team are masters as preparation. And I’ve just benefitted from working with really smart and talented people like. Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil. I worked with Salim on a couple of episodes on Soul Food (TV Series). And I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Mara and Tracee Ellis Ross on “Girlfriends”. So when I got the opportunity to work with Tracee again on Blackish it was a real pleasure. So when you ask how has it helped me as a person, I think all these amazing work opportunities just re-enforces what a blessing it is to work with great people, doing what you love to do and how much those blessings need to be appreciated.
RESPECT.: You have director credits on your resume as well as a writer and producer credits. Do you plan on creating more of your own content in the future?
Yes, I am in the middle of a couple projects with a cast mates from For Better or Worse. We have a new web series that will be going into production soon called “Brothers in Law”. The series follows two black attorneys in Los Angeles and their up and down journey in the legal world of Hollywood and the City of Angels. The project has a kind of “Ally McBeal” & “Entourage” vibe to it. I am involved with some other short film projects that will be going into production soon. Last year I directed the pilot and 2 episodes of a new multi-camera sit-com Mi Casa Mi Casa” stars comedian, Michael Coylar.
RESPECT.: What does the recent Netflix signing of Shonda Rhimes what does that mean to you knowing they give creative freedom to its directors and producers in comparison to old Hollywood?
I think that was an excellent move on her part. I’m curious about she will be producing. n a lot of ways she has been limited under the restrictions of network television. With this move to Netflix, she will have creative freedom to create and express her voice and tastes in full. She won’t have anyone looking over her shoulder.
RESPECT.: What type of music are you listening to nowadays?
Honestly, after watching “The Defiant Ones” documentary on HBO, I’ve been pumping a lot of Dr. Dre. Also, probably a little Funk Jazz is flowing through the rotation, really whatever is on my shuffle.