Good day good people! Im
Now that were all acquainted and Ive told you a little bit
about myself and why I do what I do, lets dig in and talk about how I do what I do – shall we?
In my travels, a lot of folks have asked me how they can get
into acting, some serious and some not-so-serious
(which is absolutely tragic to find
out once youve already spent your energy helping them, but thats a rant for
another day!) and to be quite honest, theres really no one guaranteed path.
Some people pop out of the womb performing, get discovered by their own parents, and are lucky
(or unlucky) enough, to be peddled around from agency to agency at the ripe old
age of three until they start landing gigs.
Others are discovered on the street simply because of a
certain look or quirky quality, and are catapulted into fame overnight. Thats
called being in a ridiculously right place at a ridiculously right time – but
the chances of that happening are about as great as peeping Obama riding a
horse upon a mountaintop while drinking whiskey from a boot. And so, that
leaves the rest of us – actors that are just like me – who in order to keep
working, must work the audition circuit tirelessly.
What exactly is
Well, as I mentioned before, after I landed my first role, I
began working the audition circuit nonstop – from NY to ATL
to L.A., traveling mostly on my own dime and running into a host of characters
from the eccentric, to the downright rude, to people who turned out to be angels
on earth. And these auditions would range from paid work to unpaid work, large
productions, small productions, film, television, stage, commercials, etc.
Now, you might be asking yourself why anyone in their right
mind would fly across the nation to audition for anything small or unpaid; but
the reality is that for a new actor, in every audition, casting call, or
production landed, lies potentially priceless networking opportunities, as well
as opportunities to practice and perfect your craft.
It was my very first acting coach, Robert G. Christie of Columbia, MD,
who told me that Samuel L. Jackson, his Morehouse classmate, made it big in
this industry simply by being everywhere at once. He hustled. He grinded. He
lived out of suitcases. And when he wasnt hustling or grinding, he was
training, which is still grinding. I
took that bit of information to heart, and although it has certainly begun to
pay off, it hasnt been all rainbows and gumdrops.
Ive auditioned for Pat Moran, Kadeem Hardison, Clifton
Powell, Eddie Murphy, Malik Yoba, the writers and producers of The Wire, and countless directors,
talent scouts, and casting agencies. I landed my current agent through an
audition in New York
last year, and have performed myself into lead roles that were already spoken
for. Ive also been sent away without a call-back, and at times have been
called back for several readings for the same role, and still didnt land.
Sometimes, not landing a role can be as simple as not having the exact look a
production is searching for. And other times, someone else just might be the
better actor. Or you just sucked
that day. We all have those days. I know I have.
Its definitely work that you must be 100% committed to, with
the thick skin to match the commitment. And when you are sent away, you simply must be willing to pick yourself right
back up, and go at it full speed for the next audition. The people that Ive
read and performed for are largely professionals, and I respect that they have
their legitimate reasons for making the decisions they make. But there was this
one time, when I was invited to read for a certain casting agency in Los Angeles, which shall
I walked in, and upon receiving my sides for the movie,
decided right away that it wasnt something that Id particularly like to do.
As they put it, the film would be somewhat of a Girls Gone Wild meets Jackass.
Enough said, right? Well I politely explained to them that I wouldnt be
interested in pursuing the role, and they understood, but insisted that I read
anyway, just to get a feel for me for any other projects they might have on
deck. The agency really liked my look, so I stayed and read. And by the end
of my audition, I had booked another reading with them for a different
Fast forward to later that night I received a call from one
of the agencys staff members inviting me to a private party in Beverly Hills, given by
the agencys owner and a pretty well-known comedian who would be working on the
next production with them. Did somebody say party?
Hey, sounded cool to me! But of course, being the intuition feeler that I am,
I decided to call my cousin and take him with me as a chaperone.
To make a long story short, the mansion was deserted when we
drove up – no music, no laughter, no rows of cars parked in the front. So,
feeling brave and a little bit silly, we decided to go Colombo and started
maneuvering behind bushes, pulling up onto window sills, and peeking into the
back windows. The only signs of life were the lights on in the kitchen and a
few half-full champagne glasses, and I decided that we should leave, when the
front door opens and the agency owner steps out with The Comedian behind him.
A little startled, I introduced myself, along with my
chaperone cousin, and was promptly told that he would not be allowed in,
because Mr. Comedian had requested me specifically. When I asked what that
meant exactly, I was questioned about whether or not I had a bikini with me
for the hot tub. (Insert the straightest are
you kidding me? face ever, right here!) So I told the agency owner that
this was not what I had in mind when I was invited to a party, that I would
not be entering the home without my chaperone or other guests present, and to
have a good night.
That next morning, I received a phone call, and my audition
was cancelled. In cases such as that, good
But I will say that for every negative experience, there are
dozens of positives. Like my audition with Malik Yoba a good friend and very
talented actor/published writer for example. You may have recognized Malik
from New York Undercover, Cool Runnings, and Why Did I Get Married. Hes also heavily into the stage play
circuit at the moment, and has his own successful theatre company.
A few weekends ago, I was invited to hang out in New York and
read for his upcoming film Whats on the
Hearts of Men, adapted from stage play and novel. Having the chance to read
for him and receive the honest feedback that many new actors literally crave was absolutely amazing. We had a
great time hanging out, and chopping it up, and needless to say, he was the
consummate professional – offering great performance advice and a never-ending
well of positivity.
At the culmination of my audition weekend, I asked Malik
what he most looks for when auditioning new actors for his productions, and he
“When auditioning actors for any part, regardless of
how large or small, I always look for truth.
I look to feel the underlying emotion, color, substance, and texture of what I
perceive the scene or moment calls for. Even if the dialogue is exposition [explaining
the facts, or pure information without any inherent emotional content] I look
for truth. For me, truth is everything. I find the reason many actors don’t
work as much as they’d like, is because many of them just say words without
tapping into any inner emotional life. For many, their characters only live on
the surface. After all, act is a verb that means to be.
And thats exactly what I mean when I speak of the priceless
Everywhere at once. Thats me.
Until next time
Love, Hip-Hop, and Film,
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