Interview with Actor Antonio D. Charity

Actor Antonio D. Charity

Actor Antonio D. Charity

ED- With the great number of students of the Arts studying our magazine we feel that it is a good idea to present to them an experienced actor from time-to-time. Experience lends to the education needed to become a success in that craft and actor Antonio D. Charity gives much credence to that saying. Antonio, what was the greatest influence for you in your career and what training did you undertake to make it such a success?

ADC- I suppose the greatest influence in my career was the earliest influence. My high school drama teacher, Wiley Powell, was the first to make me believe that I was a good actor. He gave me the courage to pursue a career as an actor. His initial support and encouragement served as the springboard for all of my subsequent success. I prepared for career success by fine-tuning my acting skills on stage. I have an extensive theatre background. I majored in Theatre at Howard University. I moved to New York after college and performed in Off Broadway, Off Off Broadway, regional, and community theatre productions. I have been a member of theatre companies in New York City, Virginia, and Los Angeles. The stage has been the birthplace of all my artistic growth. I usually do at least one stage production each year. I continue to get better at my craft with each play.

ED- In the mid-1990’s you first appeared in ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ and ‘The Prosecutors’. This was quite an achievement for a beginner. How did this give you encouragement towards your career?

ADC- I was cast in “Homicide” while I was still enrolled in college. It is impossible to overstate how beneficial this was. I was hired as a guest star for a critically-acclaimed prime time TV show while I was still studying acting. My goals for life after school actually began manifesting while I was still in school. An acting career was no longer just a dream. It became reality. I was a professional actor, a member of the Screen Actors Guild. It was a wonderful opportunity and a foretaste of what was to come. I moved to New York (with my SAG card) after I graduated from Howard, and soon I was cast in the pilot “The Prosecutors”. I had only been in New York four months when I booked that job. In fact, “The Prosecutors” was my first audition with my first agent. Talk about exciting!! I thought I was destined to become rich and famous in no time. This was very encouraging.

ED- During that same period you took off, appearing in four episodes of ‘All My Children’, three episodes of ‘The Corner’, as well as appearances in ‘As the World Turns’ and ‘100 Centre Street’. Tell us about these shows and the parts that you played in each.

ADC- I was cast in “All My Children” as a customs agent, an airline clerk and a cop in Jamaica. The casting director auditioned me the first couple of times. After that he would just call me and say “I got a job for you”. These roles all had fewer than five lines. I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Lucci, and I worked with Kelly Ripa in a scene. I played a guard on “As the World Turns”. The roles were all very similar. The sets of both shows were pretty much the same to me. The cast and crew were nice. They used multiple cameras on both sets. I would show up in the morning to rehearse the scenes. Then I’d come back after lunch to film them. In “100 Centre Street” I played a witness who was being questioned by the police. It was a legal drama from writer/director/producer Sidney Lumet. “The Corner” was a 6-part HBO miniseries about life in the inner city of Baltimore. My character was a hard working, honest man among many addicts and criminals. It was directed by Charles S. Dutton. It was a great experience. At that time I was most excited about travelling via train back and forth between NY and Baltimore. “The Corner” received 3 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Directing, Outstanding writing and Outstanding miniseries.

ED- From 2000 through 2003 you appear in many top television series that were being aired during prime time. These included multiple performances in ‘Law & Order: SVU’, ‘The Wire’, ‘Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn’. You were also on ‘America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back’ and ‘It Runs in the Family’. Please tell us in detail about the many roles that you played in each of these.

ADC- I played a couple of different characters on “SVU”. I first played an angry protester in a brief crowd scene. Later I played a cop. The cop role required me to chase a suspect and jump on him. That was actually a lot of fun. I played a corrections officer named Dwight Tilghman in a recurring role on “The Wire”.  My character brought drugs into the prison. Eventually he was arrested after someone planted drugs in his car. There was a scene where I got to eat barbeque ribs. I especially enjoyed that scene because I love to eat!! That was the first and only time I’ve ever eaten on camera. I’m looking forward to doing it again…and again. “The Wire” was written and produced by David Simon, the same man who wrote and produced “Homicide” and “The Corner”. It was the third time he had hired me for one of his projects. It is very important for actors to develop relationships with writers, directors and producers. It is a great benefit when you’re hired by a director or producer who you have worked with before. In “America’s Most Wanted” I played a criminal, a real life criminal that was still on the run. I got to carjack someone, fire a gun, and beat someone with some kind of stick or pipe. That was actually a lot of fun. Bad guys are always fun to play. “It Runs in the Family” is a film starring Michael and Kirk Douglas. I played a jogger who almost runs over Kirk Douglas. I got to scream at him for getting in my way.

ED- The following season saw you in roles for ‘Something the Lord Made’, ‘Law & Order’, and ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’. Describe your work in these and tell us a little about these productions.

ADC- The HBO movie “Something the Lord Made” is the television project that I am most proud of and grateful to have been in. It is the wonderfully inspirational true story of Vivien Thomas, a Black medical researcher at Johns Hopkins University. I played a college admissions officer who unfortunately was an obstacle in Thomas’ educational pursuit. The role of Vivien Thomas was played by Mos Def. I did voice over work on the Grand Theft Auto video game. I was the voice of a couple of different characters. What I remember most about that project is that they used a young boy that I was mentoring at that time to be one of the voices. I was a mentor in the Big Brother Big Sister program, and I took my “little brother” with me when I recorded the voiceover for GTA. They needed a young boy’s voice and asked if it would be okay to use his voice. He was more than willing to do it. He had a great time. It was an experience unlike any he’d ever had. They gave him a copy of the game. His name is included in the credits. That’s something he can always point to and say, “Hey, look what I did!”  That was one of the highlights of my time with him. On “Law & Order” I played a detective who was killed in the line of duty. I worked on it for several days, but was never actually seen in that episode. In one scene you see two cops in a squad car listening to my voice through a wire that I a wearing during a drug deal. Then you hear gun shots. When they arrive at the scene I am dead in the street. However, you only see my body on the ground, at night, on a dark street, at a distance, from the point of view of the cops who arrive on the scene. It is too dark and too far away for anyone to see my face and recognize who I am. The next time you see me I’m completely covered with a bloody sheet. We spent another day just taking photos of me with other cops, photos of me buying drugs while working undercover, photos of me and other cops posing with confiscated guns and drugs, etc…. But none of those photos were actually used in that episode. So I worked on the show for 3 days, but I was never actually seen in that episode, not really.

ED- Your next spate of projects included ‘The Salon’, ‘Che Guervara’, ”Law & Order: Trial By Jury’, ‘Charmed’, ‘Cry Wolf’, and ‘Nip Tuck’. These were soon followed in 2007 in the television movie, ‘House M.D.’, ‘The Shield’, and ‘Life’. Tell us about the various roles and how you were able to keep the character’s personalities separate for them.

ADC- In “The Salon” I played a pro athlete, and I was in my first and only “bedroom” scene. The other actress and I were in bed with the covers over us. That role was unique for me. I had never even held hands with a woman on camera. So being in bed with a lady made this role very different from all the other roles I’ve had. I played a cop in “Law & Order: Trial By Jury”, “Cry Wolf”, “Life”, “House” and many other projects. I’ve played cop roles more than any other kind of character. These cop characters were all pretty much the same. So I did not have to create new characters for each of these projects. I was basically doing the same thing over and over. Some casting people seem to have “typed” me in that way. Getting them to see me in different ways is sometimes challenging. “Che Guevara” was a low budget independent film. I played a peasant. This character was unique for me because he was an African living somewhere in Central or South America. I had to use an African accent. The accent alone made this character easy to distinguish from other characters I’ve played. In “Charmed” I was part of a demon security force. This was also very different from anything else I had done on TV. So I never had any trouble trying to distinguish the various characters I portrayed. I did the same basic cop roles over and over again, and the other roles were already written with very distinct differences.

ED- The year 2008 seemed specifically hectic for you with parts in so many well known shows and films such as ‘Channels’, ‘Marco Polo’, ‘For Heaven’s Sake’, ‘Over Her Dead Body’, the shorts ‘Orange Alert’ and ‘Fly Like Mercury’, and television shows like ‘Numb3rs’. Which was your favorite among these and tell us of some of your fond memories with them.

ADC- I have a fun and interesting story about “Over Her Dead Body”, a film starring Eva Longoria. I played a security guard at an airport. At that time I was actually working part-time as an overnight security guard at an office building in Hollywood. I worked on that job overnight on a Friday and got off work early Saturday morning. I also had to be on the movie set at the airport in Ontario early Saturday morning. I had to leave my “real” security guard job in Hollywood and rush to the set at the Ontario airport to play a security guard in the movie. So I arrived on the set wearing my “real” security uniform, and I had to immediately go to my trailer and change into the airport security uniform that they provided for me. I thought that was kinda cool.

ED- For the next two years your appearances were in such notable productions that included ‘Hydra’, ‘Chuck’, ‘True Blood’, and 1 episodes of ‘Medium’. Tell us about these and how you retain so much energy for your work.

ADC- I never had to do more than one job at a time. On most of these productions I only worked a couple of days. And they usually happened several weeks or even a couple of months apart. So there was never a time when I felt overwhelmed or too tired because of the jobs I booked. Most of my energy was spent hustling and pounding the pavement trying to get work. The pursuit of work was far more stressful and time-consuming than the actual work itself. I still get tired from trying to get auditions, trying to find a good photographer who is affordable, trying to get a good agent, etc…“Hydra” was particularly fun for me. It was a monster movie on the Sci-Fi Channel. I love sci-fi!! I got to fight the imaginary monster in one scene. We filmed that particular scene at the beach. I had to shoot the multi-headed hydra and then get bitten by it. Of course, there was no monster for me to see. The monster was added in post production using special effects. So I just had to imagine it. I threw myself into the air and landed on the ground as though the hydra had attacked me and tossed me around. That was really fun, even with all the sand in my face.

ED- This year is not even half over and yet you had parts in ‘Southland’, ‘The Lawyer, The Thug, & the Princess’, ‘The Cape’, ‘Bones’, and ‘Torchwood’. Apparently television cannot see enough of you. How gratifying do you find your work, and please tell us about some of the new projects that you are working on?

ADC- I love to act!! And I never allow myself to forget just how fortunate I am to be able to do it. Every acting opportunity I get is a privilege. I am never happier and more content than I am when I am on the set or on the stage. It feels like home to me, like where I belong. Right now I am performing on stage in a new play called “The Birthday Present 2050” at the Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz. So far I’ve got a couple of more TV projects airing in the near future. One of them is an original made-for-TV movie called “Carnal Innocence”. It will air on Lifetime. I play a suspected serial killer. There is a killer on the loose. My character is the local handyman. I’m quiet, not very friendly and sort of mysterious. So naturally some people suspect that I am the killer. I will also appear in an episode of “Torchwood” on the BBC and STARZ. I play a by-the-book airport security guard in a couple of scenes. This year has started very well for me. I expect to have booked even more jobs by the time anyone reads this interview.

ED- Antonio, most everyone would think that you have seen it all, but we believe that you will have a long and prosperous career still ahead of you. We want to thank you for your time with The Eerie Digest, and sharing your work with all of our readers. We wish you continued luck and hope to hear from you again in the future.