By Taroue Broooks
Tell us about your education.
I attended Morehouse College for undergrad and completed my master’s degree at Georgia State University. Interestingly enough, while drama was not my major at Morehouse, I was able to enroll in a course at Spelman College after the bug bit me again after many years which led to me later attending a drama program at the University of Oxford in England in 2018…undoubtedly one of the best experiences and decisions of my career.
What inspired you to become an actor?
Growing up in New Orleans, my family was heavily comprised of musicians…in fact mostly everyone in my family is musically inclined in some way, shape, or form which is impressive and slightly intimidating at times. However, I knew early on that while music was at the epicenter of my being, as I too played in marching and symphonic bands from elementary school through college, something else was ever so forcefully tugging at my artistic heartstrings. I cannot quite remember the details of how it happened, but I do recall my elementary school drama teacher taking a vested interest in me as a young actor in the drama program. We worked hard over a period of time during and after school because I always wanted to learn and play and she was always so willing to teach while still holding me accountable…and boy did she hold me accountable one good time that I will never forget, but that’s a story for another time. Quickly, I found myself in a starring role in nearly every production the program would put on each year following…which I was and still am very grateful for because I credit those experiences and my first drama teacher for my true and unwavering love and appreciation for the artform of acting. I remember one show in particular though, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” where I played the titular role of the Grinch and we performed the show twice for the student body during the day and that night for our families after rehearsing for weeks…sidenote, back then I had, and still have, a very strong support system in my mom, family, and drama teacher which allowed me to flourish in those moments as a true artist…and my mom made my costume which I still remember her staying up late-nights crafting to make sure it was perfect because she was not going to let her baby go out half-stepping…as she did for every performance we had. However, one thing I remember so vividly though is the joy that I had in that very moment of being on stage to entertain the audience that chose to pay attention to me for this brief moment in time. I even remember that for research purposes, my aunt gifted me a personal copy of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” so I could study my role…that’s how serious it was. “Our job as the artist is to create an undeniable work-of-art that demands the audience’s attention which is not due to us simply because we are on a stage at this very moment, but rather because the life we are truthfully living is so captivating that they find it humanly impossible to turn away”…this is how I can best summarize the impact of that very moment on my artistry…the moment I knew “you’re on to something kid…stick with it!”
What are your rituals before an audition?
The moment I receive new audition material, I typically work through the material to be sure I am clear on what is happening in the moment and that I am truthfully connected; then I work with my mom or brother to get a feel for the rhythm and hear their outside interpretation of the scene which really allows me to play, and sometimes laugh way too much. Afterwards, I typically link with my coach, Jemal McNeil, to hammer out the material and truly bring this thing to life…and finally I drop it and do something else to let my mind relax. In the hours leading up to the audition, I pray and then typically do a light warmup to free myself and prepare to simply have fun in the moment…and then I avoid contact with anyone, with the exceptions of my reps, coach, and mom, just to avoid breaking my creative space with outside influences…life will still be there when I am done.
What advice would you give someone who seeks to become an actor?
Study…study…study…and then let it all go and live! Ok, let me clarify…I am an academic and very analytical person so I have found that for me, I can get lost in the weeds or formulas if I think on things too long…”study long, study wrong”…so when I say let it all go, I just mean becoming an actor for me meant becoming in tune with myself and trusting the instincts that are within me gifted by God because that is what I bring to the table. My lived experiences and truth allow me to play freely, but my training allows me to repeat those authentic moments take-after-take. Unfortunately, as adults, life has happened to us so our childlike state is encapsulated within our adult bodies, and in my opinion, the studying we undergo is to unlock the little boy inside of us that played make-believe with dragons or the little girl that had tea-parties with a room full of people that only she could see…that level of imagination is what makes the work fun and most of all captivating. I believe that if you want to excel at any artform you have to study the technique, but when you’ve executed that level of dedication to the work and committed yourself to the technique of the craft, let it all go and trust yourself, which is some of the best advice I have received…it is in that freeing moment that you become comfortable in your competency to live, breathe, and play freely, but most of all fail loudly because studying and learning the craft assists the artist in “playing” make-believe realistically. I would also say have a reason for pursuing the artform…whatever that reason is for you and be very specific and honest with yourself because that sense of purpose will root you along the highs and the lows of the journey. Also, be willing to be vunerable publicly because in your unique experience is where your power resides… don’t waste time becoming anything other than what and who you are at this very moment because somebody is waiting on you and your story…don’t miss the opportunity to authentically change someone’s life through representation because it matters. I thought for a very long time if I gave “them” what “I” believe they wanted the stars would align, but it was not until I gave them authentically “who I am” knowing in my heart I gave the moment my absolute best that God let me know with all certainty that I was ready. “The moral: be you, be true & be kind…the world will adjust, even if not at this very moment, stay true to your journey, because at some point the world will be forced to change with the times and then the spotlight will be on you…the question is will you be ready?”
Tell us about one of your roles.
I am currently working on a project that I am very-very proud of because it speaks up for the Black Lives Matter movement and the guy I portray is a fearless and unapologetic educated-millennial…a truth seeker and freedom fighter in his own right who’s only mission in life is to seek justice for those without voices. I am very proud of this project and I am very proud of him! I would be remised to have an opportunity of living as an artist and not use my voice with the purpose I believe this project allows me to do, in a small way, and be a part of a greater conversation of the freedom and equity that we are all entitled to as Americans but only a fraction of the population realistically experiences. I have personally experienced a few very tense and close encounters with law enforcement both within the U.S. and abroad which I have rarely shared over the years, but I have become very aware over time that silence regardless of the reason makes one complicit in the wrong narrative…this is why this particular project has left an invaluable mark on my humanity. We so often live-in fear of what our words could bring unto us and the backlash that may ensue because of it, but as we have seen, our silence has delivered us darker days on a silver platter than our voices ever could so the time has yet again come when we must be unwavering in our pursuit of justice, equity, and our humanity. “He” is the walking embodiment of getting into “good trouble” and it is my hope that his journey can help to reshape the narrative of what it truly means to be a young Black man in America.
Where do you see your career in the next five years?
That is a tough question because over the years I have planned my career and nothing, I mean nothing, has gone according to plan only for me to relinquish control to God only for him to step in and provide me with opportunities far greater than I could have ever imagined myself. It’s almost like he was saying my dreams were too small…“nah bigger”…so I tend not to think far outside of the present moment much anymore. What I will say though is that my goal in life is to be a good human and when coupled with my career, I want to continue to truly tell stories of those men that are often forgotten or written off within society…not the stereotypical Black brothers that many people liken us all to who too have an untold story that “many people” never truly get right, but rather the hardworking blue-collar workers and those guys lives that may have gone off track because they are simply human and misunderstood. I guess if I could pray for anything over the next 5 years, it would be that God would continue to allow me to build upon the foundation he has provided me stable enough for a career of longevity and allowing me to dive into roles that allow me to tell the untold stories of our daily unsung heroes and their not so average but rather magnanimous lives.
Instagram & Twitter: @MrMarkAnthonyB