TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine loves to do interviews with actors in all stages of their careers. Often we reveal actors in their early stages, but more important to those actors we interview those with more experience. Our next celebrity is very important to us as he has had years of experience to share with those new to the craft. Actor Mark Christopher Lawrence has been plying his trade since the 1980’s, and the lessons he can share with those just starting out is invaluable. Mark, please tell us about your earliest acting experience, and the training that you received to pursue your career.
MCL – My first acting experience was in high school as the learned professor in the play Bus Stop. Like most actors, it was during this first experience that the “Acting Bug” bit me. Once bitten the passion for the craft was ignited in me and I found myself seeking out opportunities to learn and play on the stage.
Theater brings with it a unique opportunity for actors, in that, there are variables that are beyond our control that must be accounted for and overcome in order to be successful on any given night. For example, the audience is a very different beast for every performance and it often times brings into the theater with them a very different set of realities, pressures, fatigues, and mindsets. Other actors on stage with you have very complicated lives outside of the theater and sometimes those complications find themselves onstage in the form of energies that affect the set performance of an actor and ultimately the set performance of the play. An actor’s daily life outside of the theater affects one’s strength, stamina, beliefs, and sensibilities and in turn lends itself as a variable agent to your performance. I recognized these variables very early on in my career and sought out intensive training.
My training consisted of a solid base of structured classroom work and performance learning in the BFA Acting program at the USC School Of Theatre coupled with workshops in the Black Theater Workshop at the Los Angeles Theatre Center and professional work also at LATC. Acting opportunities with seasoned professionals early in my career has proven to be an invaluable experience. This experience has lead to friendships and connections that have helped to propel my career to where I am today.
TAEM- In 1988 and 1989 you were first seen in ‘Caddy Shack II’ and ‘Listen to Me’. Tell us about the parts that you played in these well know films and some of the other actors that you played along side of.
MCL – Actually my first job outside of theater was in 1984 with an appearance on the critically acclaimed television series ‘Hill St. Blues’. ‘Caddy Shack II’ was my first job in a feature film, which was actually shot in 1985 and starred the hilarious Jackie Mason. Marsha Warfield and a gang of working actors made up the crew of construction workers that were my scene partners in this film.
‘Listen To Me’ was a special project to me, because I attended USC on a debate scholarship and the writers used competitive debate as a springboard for the plot of the film.
TAEM- You went on to play roles in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ and ‘Child’s Play 3’ and landed a role in the television series, ‘Roc’. This was quite impressive start for many actors. How did you cope with the rush of these first major showings?
MCL – IMDB did not exist when I started acting professionally and when it came along only ‘Guest Star’ roles or better were listed there. As a result, many projects that I was involved in earlier in my career not listed on IMDB. So, there wasn’t really a rush of success. My career has been slow and steady. However, I will say that I’ve always tried to keep myself surrounded by strong and grounded people. People who are real friends whether you are working in the industry or cleaning houses they will tell you the truth about you. This is the source of my ‘Coping’ mechanism.
TAEM- In 1992 you made the transition to television and we first saw you in ‘Designing Women’, Evening Shade’, and the first of two episode of ‘Seinfeld’ that you were to appear in. How was this switch to you from previous roles on film?
MCL – As I stated earlier, Television was my first job out of theater and the transition was actually tougher from theater to TV, because of the size of the performance in theater. Film and TV performance sizes are very similar except for sit-com, which tends to be a little larger. Over the years I’ve been able to bounce back and forth pretty seamlessly.
TAEM- The television movie ‘Fear of the Black Hat’ started you off for the following year, and you also had roles in the TV series ‘In Living Color’ and ‘Martin’, followed by another television movie, ’12:01′. Tell us about these venues and the themes behind the movies.
MCL – ‘Fear of a Black Hat’ is a feature film that was spawned from the little known short film ‘The Trial of NWH’. Rusty Cundieff used the short film to shop his writing and the production company ITC saw it and wanted to shoot a feature. We shot the feature in 1991 and it sat on the shelf at ITC for two years while they restructured, then ‘Fear of a Black Hat’ opened on ten screens nation wide and is now a cult classic.
My guest spot on ‘In Living Color’ was brief but funny I played Mr. T in a sketch with the talented Jamie Foxx playing Bill Cosby.
’12:01’ was a lot of fun to work on. Jeremy Piven and Johnathan Silverman were great to work with. The film is basically a TV version of ‘Groundhog Day’… A much better version with lesser stars. Haha!
TAEM- You also starred in a number of television shows beginning in 1994 with ‘Murphy Brown’, and went on to eight episodes of ‘The George Wendt Show’ and four episodes in ‘The Show’. You also appeared in ‘Coach’ and ‘The Third Rock from the Sun’ as well as ‘Crimson Tide’ and ‘Tales From the Hood’. How exciting was this period of your career, and how did you cope with playing so many different characters?
MCL – This period in my career was a very exciting time, because all of a sudden I was really a working actor with no day job and many opportunities coming my way. I was in all thirteen of the produced ‘George Wendt Show’, but the network only played eight before it was canceled. Alongside of the TV and film roles were many TV commercial roles, which really paid the bills while I chased this wildcat of a dream that is Hollywood.
TAEM- Not one to stay idle you appeared in 1997 in ‘That Darn Cat’ followed by ‘Sprung’. You topped that off with appearances in ‘Sister, Sister’ and three episode of ‘Men Behaving Badly’. In the following year we saw you in two movies, ‘Caught in the Spray’ and ‘Senseless’ while playing roles in ‘Kelly, Kelly’ and ‘Malcolm & Eddie’. Please tell our readers about this period in your life and the experience that you gained from it.
MCL – Really this period was just a continuation of the previous period, because when I wasn’t working in television and film I was still working on stage and in commercials and voiceovers and as a stand-up comic. As an actor you just want to work and do your best each time out no matter what you are doing and this period was clearly about me getting better and hitting my stride and all areas of my career and talents. I learned during this time that you have to approach every opportunity as if it were your last. Which is the way I approach my work today. I am working TODAY. Tomorrow is not promised to me.
TAEM- To end the decade with a flare you played in ‘Molly’ capped by the TV movie ‘Shake, Rattle, and Roll: An American Love Story’ where you played the role of music icon, Fats Domino. How important was this for your career?
MCL – I’m not sure that those roles were as important to my career as a vehicle to catapult me forward as it was to me as a real confidence booster. It was very important in building on my view of myself. And it was very important in recognizing that my talents are such that I am capable of playing any role and/or competing with anyone in this field. The understanding of self worth is paramount and plays a very important part in building a solid career.
TAEM- You leaped ahead in 2000 with a slate of roles in such venues including ‘Retiring Tatiana’, ‘Touched by and Angel’, ‘Malcolm in the Middle’, Planet of the Apes’, ‘Emeril’ and ‘K-Pax’. With your longevity in films and television thus far, what lessons can you share with our readers at this point in your life?
MCL – By this point in my career I had a true understanding of what my strengths and weaknesses are and this was a time in which I took time to challenge myself and build on my strengths and strengthen my weaknesses. Yes, I studied more. Workshops are your friend, because the more you can do, the more you get to do.
TAEM- Since then you appeared in television shows and film with sixty-nine credited titles racked up so far. Notable appearances in ‘The Mullets’, ‘Crossing Jordan’, ‘Reba’, ‘Christmas with the Kranks’, and ‘Chuck’ topped the agenda added by so many other popular shows and films. You just played in the film ‘Sock Babies’ that was recently completed. Where do you see yourself five years from now, and what other productions are you looking to work in?
MCL – Currently I am producing filmed and live entertainment. More specifically, I’m producing comedy shows that merge music and stand-up comedy. I’ve partnered with the ‘House Of Blues’ in San Diego to produce a series of monthly shows in their venue, but this is only scratching the surface of what I am striving to do. I’m putting together a pitch for a travel show with Rashidi Hendricks, a producer friend in New York. Also, I’m developing a television show idea and a live show for Las Vegas with writer/director Rusty Cundieff. I’m working out the kinks for the launch of a new MarkChristopherLawrence.com website/media channel. So, five years from now I see myself as busy as ever with many projects of my own in many different venues and media outlets. I will be performing and producing and directing and in all that finding time to just be me… Mark Christopher Lawrence as diverse and stimulating as ever and continuing to grow. Many Blessings!
TAEM- Mark, we are honored that you have agreed to this interview with The Arts and Entertainment Magazine and we are quite humbled by your impressive repertoire to date. We know that our readers will be delighted to learn all about you and gain the experiences that you shared with us. We wish you much luck in everything that you do.