I never intended to become a Hollywood actor. Maybe I thought about it in my youth but growing up in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s, made Hollywood seem like a distant world.
As children, my sister Donna and I performed on a variety show at Immaculata High School. We did some dance. Variety shows were big deals. Kids from throughout the neighborhood and the school participated. But that was it until high school and Miss Hilda Horn, my speech teacher, had me do a walk across the stage near the end of a school play. I wanted a part in the play and she wanted me in the play, but I was playing football.
I did readers’ theatre in college with Dr. Overstreet. It was fun. Again, football limited my time.
After college, I made a new discovery, one that would feed my soul, community theatre. Not just any community theatre, this was theatre at a very high level. The only professional thing we didn’t do was get paid. Still, I loved it. Working in management at BellSouth/AT&T, I’d shuck my suit every evening and head to the theatre for a rehearsal.
I was back working on a team goal.
There’s a feeling I’d get before playing a college football game. I describe it as an inner intensity that allowed me to run faster, jump higher and never get tired. Theatre rekindled that for me. Backstage, before the show, you hear that audience buzz, the sound of anticipation. It is a major high. Fences, Master Harold and The Boys, I’m Not Rappaport, American Buffalo, Ali were all highlights.
So how did I get to Hollywood?
I was discovered (ha!ha!) doing community theatre in Birmingham, Alabama at the tender age of 31, ancient for a beginning actor. Shirley Crumbley, a casting director, called one morning after the previous evening’s performance. Shirley said the director Milton Bagby was doing a film in town. He had been at the performance the night before and wanted to write me into his film. I said yes! That was it, simple and easy. I did the part. Met some people I still know today and went back to my job.
Before long, with the connection of an Atlanta Agent, I went before Carroll O’Connor to read for the part of the city councilman in the television series, In The Heat Of The Night. I won the part. We shot the show in Covington Georgia. For the next six years, in a recurring role I played Ted Marcus. I learned Television. Plus, I got to keep my job and live at home!
After that series wrapped after 6 years, Miss Ever’s Boys and Big Ben Washington came calling. Miss Ever’s Boys for HBO shot all over the Atlanta area. I was Big Ben! It was a high level production with Hollywood stars at the top of their game, Alfre Woodard, Lawrence Fishburne, and director Joe Sargent. It is a great piece of work.
So how did I get to Hollywood? I’m getting there….
joyce, my wife and I attended the Miss Ever’s Boys premier in Los Angeles. We love premieres. They are big parties with a lot of dress up fun. You dress up. You stroll down the red carpet. People take your picture. Everybody is beautiful. Heeeyyy!
After the film, we feasted on good food, and acting compliments. Then… Todd stepped into the picture and altered our lives. Two weeks later, I was in Los Angeles with Todd as my agent.
I was in and out of Hollywood for the next 13 years. It was a great run, NYPD Blue, Fight Club, ER, Boston Legal, Jeepers Creepers 2, commercials, and theatre. I worked up and down California. After 13 years, Hollywood followed me back to the South. It moved to Atlanta and all over the Southeast. I’m back with my original agent. I do my auditions in my office, e-mail them to my agents and they put me in front of the decisions makers. Oh yeah, I still feel that quiet intensity.
So, that’s it. That’s how I got to Hollywood… and back!