As this world continues to shift and change, making us wonder what will happen next, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions, and taking notes on what is really important to me – as an artist and as a human being. How did I get where I am today? and What is the path I’m on now?
I grew up on a ranch outside a tiny village in Northern New Mexico, where my paternal grandmother’s side of my family has lived for centuries. Here, I was witness to the annual castration and branding of young calves. This horror was enough to make up my mind to head for the city as soon as I could. After high school, I attended a university in the United Kingdom where I not only got to live in another country for two years but I was also introduced to the work of Russian director,Vsevolod Meyerhold. His spectacular revolutionary theater was the early seeding of my passion for theater, for social justice, and for the idea that the two can go hand in hand..
After leaving England, I moved to the city of angels, where I believed I would live since I was a child. I studied Meisner at Playhouse West with Bob Carnegie and Jeff Goldblum where I got a real feel for the truthfulness of the moment—and the power of the story to transform lives both on stage and in the audience.
For years, I was mostly focused on a career that was a lot of 99-seat waiver theater. Some of it was really fantastic. I lived with the notion that most people in Los Angeles were just like me – going to classes and workshops, trying to meet the right people and having drinks at Residuals.
I was working as a temp at The Wave newspaper when I met some people who challenged that idea. These people were not in “The Biz.” They were mostly African American people. They were community newspaper people who cared about community issues. I started hearing stories from them such as how common it is in their world to be stopped by police and asked to produce receipts for things they had in their car. This was the beginning of an education that I hadn’t learned in school.
I continued that education for two years in New York City, where I also studied Meisner again at The Acting Studio with James Price. I did some Off-Broadway theater there in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. I also worked as a temp again at Columbia University Law School where I became good friends with the inimitable Kellis Parker – first black professor at Columbia Law School and one of five black students who integrated the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I returned from New York shortly before September 11, 2001, because a temp job I had in the World Trade Center had been cancelled.
Back in Los Angeles, as the horrors of that day were replayed again and again on television, I thought of how close I had been to being in that building. It was also clear to me that the powers that be in the world would stop at nothing to ensure that they would always remain as the powers that be and that these same characters were about to use this terrible act to make sweeping changes that would consolidate their own power and take a chunk of ours.
In the following days, months and what turned into years, the conviction within me grew that there was nothing more important than the fight for social justice.
The act of raising my voice for civil rights, environmental wellness, womens’ reproductive rights and economic equality easily dwarfed the business of bumping up against an industry where I was finding it hard to get even a few lines on a television sitcom.
I spent some twelve years giving every possible moment as an organizer in the movement for social justice – producing forums, film screenings, conferences, spoken word and musical concerts, and large and small demonstrations from 50 – 150,000 people.
The experience was incredible. I got to travel the world and see and hear things that few actors in Hollywood have.Though I’d do the sam again, the reality is that this hurt me in terms of my timeline in the business..
Today, the writer/showrunner has revolutionized television. We still have far to go, but now, more than ever, the stories told on the small and the big screen represent the broad spectrum of human experience, as well as the American scene. It is a golden age in television history, and I want to contribute my gifts to the magic that television and film can create.
Now, I see my acting career in a different light. I bring this long-held dream of standing in the shoes of another and living that truth. The stories I want to tell will build bridges and transform lives. I bring all the passion I had for the movement for social justice to my work as an actor.
What I am seeking now are partners who are convinced as I am that this work is paramount… creative people who are looking to tell the same kinds of stories,so that together, we can touch hearts and minds, and maybe change the world—even if it’s just one project at a time.