Education: Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, UNC Charlotte
Hometown: Durham, NC
When did you first become interested in Theatre?
I first became interested in theatre in 10th grade when I was presented with the option to select my electives. My options were between debate and drama. I picked drama. On the very first day of class, as we began what was essentially a table read of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, I knew then that I wanted to become an actor.
What projects are you currently working on?
A new film I worked on has just been released called Chameleon. (You can watch and purchase the thriller #ChameleonTheFilm on iTunes and other digital platforms >> http://apple.co/2Zl5iMS.) At the beginning of 2020, I wrapped up shooting a feature film called Neurotic Beauty. Then, a week prior to the pandemic, I had just finished shooting a short film named The Good Teacher. Both are in post-production and have no release date in sight. In addition to those, I had been cast to portray an African soldier named Kasim in another short film titled The Interview. However, COVID-19 had other plans and this production is on standby. The good news is I’ve been using this time at home to continue working on my television pilot.
Can you tell us more about the movie you just finished?
Chameleon is the story of how a struggling ex-con and his unpredictable accomplice scam superficial trophy wives and their rich older husbands in self-obsessed Los Angeles. I play the role of Peoples, the bartender who tips our protagonist onto the wives of these wealthy men. It was written and directed by Marcus Mizelle, who also has North Carolina roots. The film falls under the suspense/thriller genre and has a great plot twist.
What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
My favorite project back at UNC Charlotte was Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Kelly Ryan in spring 2010. It was a two-man show performed in the Black Box featuring McKinley Faustin and myself. What I loved about this play was that Kelly pushed us to be ourselves and find truth in each scene, which allowed me to be funny, intelligent, emotional, and confrontational whenever the script called for it. I had so much fun, not only during the performances, but especially throughout the two month rehearsal period where I learned that you can make some of the best art out of being uncomfortable.
Chameleon will always be one of my favorite projects because I loved filming in so many great locations. Whether it was the swanky Sunset Boulevard restaurants or the downtown rooftop, to even the seedy airport motel, the location scout helped create an incredible experience because all of these places help to become another character in the story. Neurotic Beauty is another project I really enjoyed because I was cast as the comic relief, and the director allowed me to play around and have a lot of fun with the character. I also had my first on-camera fight scene, and I can’t wait to see how that turns out.
How did your education at UNC Charlotte prepare you for where you are today?
My education at UNC Charlotte prepared me for where I am today because both the craft and business of acting require a lot of discipline. Studying for tests, writing essays, having to read plays like Oedipus Rex, and learning the script for plays in my dorm room while my friends were going to events on campus or parties wasn’t always easy for a guy like me who loves to have fun. But, I knew I had to put in the work to accomplish the goals I set. I realized I had to separate myself to stand out. And because I was the only black male in the entire theatre department when I first got to UNC Charlotte in 2006, stand out I did.
What advice would you give prospective students looking into the Department of Theatre?
The best advice I could recommend for all prospective UNC Charlotte students is to understand the importance of balance. You can get the education, prepare for your future, and still have a good time. There are 24 hours every day; if you can dedicate at least 20 hours every week to your studies, you should be on the Dean’s list (if not the Chancellor’s list) by the time you graduate. People always talk about how college is so fun or “the best years of your life,” and for me, that was indeed the case. However, I think that finding a way to prepare for your post-graduate aspirations and keeping in perspective the importance of living in the moment is fundamental to a fulfilling college experience. So often we focus on our end goal and what we need to accomplish in order to get there, opposed to appreciating the journey. Celebrate the small victories along the way. Balance is key. LEVEL spelled backwards is still level.
Photo of Daniel Tolbert from UNC Charlotte Department of Theatre