Where do I start?
I started acting (seriously, before I was just acting-a-fool) when I was 14 years old, when I started attending Cleveland School of the Arts in Cleveland, Ohio. There, under the direction of Dr. Scott Miller, is when I was introduced to the craft and the art of acting. Though, at first, I rejected the work; at that time, I was a very angry young man, dealing with an absent father, sexual abuse and suicidal thoughts, amongst other things. And my mother suggested that I audition for this art school and I got in. Bam! Thus, the journey begins.
I remember walking into this man’s class, 9th grade, and he was trying to take his theater class thru their first warm -up. He said, “put your feet shoulder length apart, close your eyes, and breath.” I was like, ok, I can get with this. Then he was like, “okay now we are going to warm up our vocals.” Then he proceeded to try and make us make all these strange noises and sounds, and I was like “Hell no! this ain’t acting!” I was asked to leave class that day, but I came back.
My mother, Dr. miller and countless of other people saw something in me, that I couldn’t see. They saw that I had gift. And I am SO GRATEFUL that they did, because they didn’t give up on me even when I wanted to give up on myself.
Anyway, I make it thru the 9th grade (barely) but, I did. Fast forward to 10th grade. I started to take the craft a little more seriously at this point. It just so happened that Denzel Washington was directing Antwone Fisher, and his story just so happened to take place in Cleveland, and, they needed a bunch of kids for the movie. So of course, casting comes to the only performing arts school in Cleveland to look for young talent. Long story short, after 5 auditions, I was casted as an extra in the family scene of the movie. And at 15 years old, the first paying acting gig ever, all I can say, I was pumped!
I remember being on-set for the first time, standing under the tent with all the other extras, seeing craft services, the trailers. I remember the makeup, the costumes and how excited I was to be there. I remember walking on set, having the Denzel Washington places all the actors, giving blocking and the first time he said “ACTION!” and I remember the moment that changed my life.
On the very first take, after “ACTION” the camera-man started making his way through the house with his steady-cam. All the principal actors are saying their lines: “I’m your auntie so-and-so,” “I’m your cousin,” so on, and so forth. The Camera gets to me, and I just smile. I’m an extra. I don’t have any lines. The Camera-man starts to move on, and then I hear “CUT!” And, then THE. DENZEL. Washington. Came, up, to, me, and, said, “why didn’t you say anything?” and I was like, “I don’t have any lines” then he looked a little confused, then he looked at me and says, “Well, make something up.” Then I thought for a second and said “I’m your cousin Jason. Much love, much love.” Then a moment, he looked at me and said, “I want you to do it just like that every time.” I was no longer and extra! I was a principal. I got trailer, and a new contract! I’ll never forget what he said to me. “I’ll see you again one day.” I’m still waiting, but that moment changed my life. I realized right then, I wanted to do this for the rest of my life!