By Taroue Brooks
How did you begin your career as an actor?
I started off doing church plays in DeRidder, LA. During my senior year, I played the lead role which received a lot of praise and high review & I caught a serious case of the acting bug. Albeit, I was already enrolled To attend our Lady of the Lake college in Baton Rouge Louisiana. My mom, my grandmother, and my aunt, were all physical therapist assistants and it was a two year degree $45,000k/yr right out of school. In my third semester I decided to drop out and on my way back from dropping my classes in speaking with my advisor there was an ad on the radio for a company called pro scout. They were seeking actors that were interested in trying to make it to Hollywood so I showed up and I performed, ended up going to Dallas to the second round & speaking with a talent agent who said he saw potential in me but that I wasn’t ready. He told me to get on craigslist and look up acting jobs and start there. So when I got back home, thats what I did. I found Green Lantern was filming in New Orleans and they were looking for extras. I applied, and ended up working two months on it. I networked and met the niece of agent….the rest is history
What type of training have you had thus far?
The foundation of my training originates from Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. They taught me the basics and I just continued to practice my teachings. I still take several acting classes throughout the year. You can never stop growing. I prefer to be ready than get ready when the moment comes.
What has been your most exciting experience as an actor and why?
My most exciting experience as an actor was when I was afforded to bring my mother on set with me. It was for the television series “Claws on the TNT network. ”My mom has always been my biggest supporter since day one. I had been on this journey for about 8-9 years. Even though my mom had seen my work, as in the finished product, she had never seen my work live, filmed & in the moment. And it’s something truly magical to behold, watching a crew & cast members make a movie, tv show etc..I’m grateful she was able to experience my hard work, and her investments in me pay off. It’s a memory that we’ll cherish forever.
Tell us about your character in the hit movie “Queen & Slim?
I believe my character played a very pivotal role in the flow of the story. I played a Black Cop. If you haven’t seen the movie already, queen and Slim are on the run from law-enforcement after Slim shot and killed a police officer in self-defense. They’re hiding out in a car that Slim hotwired inside of a garage and there’s a police unit on every corner. I hear a scream like someone’s crying and I attend to the noise. I hear a car crank and lift up the garage and there they are. Queen and Slim, I have them both but in the moment, im torn. I’m looking in there eyes & I can see myself. And me being a black cop, I’ve heard the racist jokes within my unit, I’m aware of the unjustified killings of black & brown people by the hands of police, that’s probably why this character became a cop. That was my drive for him. And also my character being called ‘boy’ by his white partner added a little motivation for letting Queen & Slim go. But in that moment it’s like “Naww I ain’t turning my people in, f*** the badge.”
How do you stay motivated in such a competitive industry?
I’m motivated by the thrill and seeing the growth within myself. There’s so much work behind the scenes, hours upon hours, auditions after auditions, let downs after let downs, no auditions, they’re teachable moments. They’re all lessons. You have to be an optimist in this profession. My glass is always half full. And when you finally book a role, it’s the highest form of organic happiness. It brings tears of joy.
What advice would you give to someone who seeks to become an actor?
One, I’d ask them, do you want to be a celebrity or do you want to be an actor. The ones who seek fame & fortune and ignore the craft will fall to the wayside. But if you’re serious, I’d tell them to disband their mental timeline of success. You have to be comfortable with the journey. If you’re able to accept the highs and the lows, then you can endure. Its all about the perseverance, stay hungry, stay training, stay ready and when the time comes, you’ll be prepared. A favorite bible verse of mine is Ecclesiastes 9:11 “ Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but TIME AND CHANCE HAPPEN TO THEM ALL.”
Where would you like to see your career in the next five years?
In God’s hands…..alongside Shia Labeouf & Will Smith.
Andre D. Shanks was born, Andre De’Sean Shanks in Schweinfurt, Germany. Andre spent much of his early life moving with his parents around the country living in New York, North Carolina, Louisiana and abroad due to his father’s active role in the military. He and his family moved to DeRidder, LA, where he graduated from DeRidder High School, and decided to call the city home. It was not until his senior year of high school, when his youth pastor gave him the lead role in a play did Andre begin to think about acting. Andre had caught a serious case of the “acting bug.”
Andre was already enrolled at Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, LA, to study Physical Therapy. After three semesters, he dropped out of college to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. His introduction to the acting industry came from an advertisement heard on the radio that was seeking talent and through that, met an agent by the name of David McDermott who gave Andre his starting foundation. He worked as an extra and non-paid actor in indie films for two years, also stating while shooting Green Lantern, “I would spend the night in my car and take showers at the truck stops. New Orleans was an unfamiliar place and I didn’t know anybody at the time.”
In 2010 Andre found talent representation in New Orleans, LA. It was a rough start to his acting career, full of disappointments, but in 2012, things began to look up. He booked his first principal role in the television series “Breakout Kings” in the episode entitled “SEALd Fate.” The following month, Andre decided to further develop his skills and mold his craft as an actor. He enrolled in to the Winter Intensive Program at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York City. Since then, with God on his side, he has booked national commercials, television episodes and a role in the Oscar winner “Best Picture” “12 Years A Slave”