My life as an Actor
Clearly, I don’t remember taking that picture but I think I’m off to a pretty
good start, don’t you? 5, maybe 6, a student at Scott Avenue elementary in Whittier CA, 35 miles or so southeast of Los Angeles. Son to Ruby and Ulysses, youngest brother to Rosetta, Madelyn and James. Only African Americans in an
all-white neighborhood in the 70’s means we stood out. (stories later) Had to get on with it.
4 Decades of Showbiz
The Teens - Chips
So, it shouldn’t be hard to pick me out of this crowd. Whittier Junior theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz. With my sister being an accomplished track and field star and living where you feel constantly on display, overachieving is one’s only choice. Starting with gymnastics, and quick sense of humor (a defense mechanism), I quickly made my way from community theatre to the sets of TV shows like Chips and Harper Valley PTA. Growing up in Southern California helps.
The Twenties - The Bodyguard
Age 14, 1st photo shoot. I was enrolled at the KANE-BRIDGE academy for young actors in Studio City CA, the summer before entering high school. Run by actresses. Patricia Kane and Betty Bridges (Todd’s Mom), it was a place meant to not only teach kids to act, but, also the business of show and how to behave should you luck out and be one of the chosen few. Mrs. Bridges set me up with Mr. Roscoe, of the Screen Children’s Guild Agency. Meant to be an Extras agency for kids, it’s where I got my first glimpse into the inner workings and how things are put together. I loved it, plus, we got out of school and only had to sit in a mock classroom for a couple hours.
The Thirties - To Sir with Love II
Age 16, I am attending the Cine workshop, a series of seminars with panels of industry professionals, headed and created by PBS’ Topper Carew. While sitting in the audience listening to people like Rosalind Cash and Clyde Kusatsu, talk about the trials of the business and being the clear youngest attendee, a woman sat next to me and began to ask me questions. “What are you doing here?” How did you get here?” In a nice tone, but I was focused on the panel and dreaming of sitting on it one day, I may have been a bit curt. The panel then proceeds to call this woman on stage to join them as a member and to share her experiences as a talent agent in Hollywood. That is how Cynthia Robinson became my first agent. I spent 5 years with her, from 16 to 21. Auditioning and never booking. Until our last week working together. I booked a What’s Happening Now and was finally able to give her a commission check. An amazing feeling.
The Forties - Gary Unmarried
By the time I had this photo shoot I felt well trained with a pretty good knowledge of how to pose. Agent turned manager, Carmella Gallien, was handling me and had a real belief in my talent. It was that photo that got me working pretty steady in Hollywood. I had studied in London and USC, theatre, and attended endless workshops, cold reading classes, improv classes and performed for audiences made up of only my parents. My career went in 2 stages. Before The Bodyguard and after. I was doing well before, booking quality episodic parts on TV shows and the occasional bit in a movie (Mel Brooks cast me in Life Stinks) After The Bodyguard, I worked with Sidney Poitier, Mike Nichols, Denzel Washington, Tony Scott, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Bullock, Lynn Whitfield, Lesli Glatter, Andy Griffith and too many more. It was about a 12- year jaw dropping ride.
The Fifties - Conan
After the passing of my parents and Carmella, things took an obvious change for me. This pic was taken right in the middle of all that. Still trying to hang in there, I’ve booked some cool gigs since, including the honor of working with the great James Burrows on Gary Unmarried, twice. The Conan sketches are a genuine blast and make me feel about once a year as if I’m not completely out of it. Traveling has been an enormous replacement, but I’ll always hold a special place in my heart and memories that will always fill me to bursting.