“Enjoy the process!” Don’t put so much focus on the end goal, enjoy each victory along the way. So many times at the beginning of my career I didn’t enjoy the small things because I was focus on the bigger objectives. We miss out on life that way.
As part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jock McKissic, born in Opelika, AL. His mother Cynthia D. Smith took notice to his love for entertaining early. Jock began acting in church & school plays at age 7. His love for the craft would continue to flourish, but took a back seat to sports once he reached high school. During his tenure at Clemson University, McKissic would occasionally join the improv team on campus for events. In 2012 he found his way back to the camera on USA television show, Necessary Roughness. After retiring from football later that year, Jock took on acting full time. His resume continues to expand, but not only as an actor; as a writer and director as well. Jock McKissic is well on his way to becoming a household name.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Absolutely! Thank you guys for collaborating with me to do this. So, I grew up in Opelika, AL. It’s a small town near Montgomery, Tuskegee, and Auburn University. When I was a kid it was a population of about 20k, now it has grown by at least 10k. My mother, Diane Smith raised my older brother of 6 years, Terrell “Thai” McKissic, alone for the most part. She was married to our stepfather, Robert Dubose, for about 4 years, and that marriage is a huge part of how I have an ample amount of men taking on the role of dad to kids they didn’t father. He and I have developed a stronger relationship in recent years, due to me never having a relationship with my biological father. I grew up living the best of both worlds I’d say, with my mom living in town, and my grandmother living hundreds of acres w/ a farm. The chores and duties that we had to perform instilled hard work in us. I remember being 8 years old, and explaining to my friends, using an outhouse, and carrying bales of hay to our cows, and they looked at me as if I was from Saturn lol.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was six years old, and I’d was a huge fan of Shaquille O’Neal, Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington, and also Oprah Winfrey. My grandmother and great-grandmother would often watch Oprah’s talk show, and I’d sit down and watch as well. One day it clicked for me, she was interviewing an actor and was extremely excited about their career. I knew the impact that she had on the people in my life, so if I could have that impact on someone like her one day, I’d for sure impact my family. The idea of entertaining like Eddie Murphy and Shaq became a dream I wouldn’t let go of. I made up in my mind that I wanted to go to the NBA and make movies in the off-season.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’ll do you one better, I’ll tell you two. I was sitting home watching tv when a casting director called me and said that she wanted me to double someone who was 7’0. She told me that I was the tallest person she could find that was also a similar build to this person. I agreed, and the next day I got to the set of a film titled “Blended”, and that 7’0 guy, was Shaquille O’Neal. There I was about to work with my childhood idol for three days. I shared the impact he had on me as a kid, and he was extremely receptive and took me under his wing immediately. I’ve worked with him twice since then. The second story is just as dope. I received a last-minute audition for a show called Greenleaf. I did the audition and sent it in about 30 minutes later. Three hours later, my manager, Gail Tassell called me and told me that I booked the role. She went on to explain to me that the scene would be with…….Oprah Winfrey! I got to set the next day and I was in awe for about the first 10 minutes in her presence lol. I finally got enough courage to explain to her my childhood story, and she absolutely loved it. These two events taught me, “When you’re crazy enough to believe in your dreams, without doubt, everything comes full circle.”
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was booking a headshot photographer for 35 dollars. I was struggling financially then, so 35 dollars seemed like a gift from God at the time. When I got the pictures back, I realized that I got exactly what I’d paid for. Lol — they were okay pics for social media maybe, but nowhere near headshots! I can laugh about it now because I know better.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m currently in New Orleans, La for the next 5 weeks shooting “Your Honor,” a TV series that’ll air on Showtime in December. I play Alan Underwood, who is the bailiff to Judge Michael Desiato, played by Bryan Cranston. Another project that was interesting to shoot was a film I did with Tate Taylor called, “Breaking News in Yuba County,” The film stars Allison Janney, Mila Kunis, Regina Hall, and Juliette Lewis. My character is Lenny, and he owns an independent news company, with Mila Kunis as my star reporter. I’m also currently producing a feature film in South Carolina, called Haunted Trail. Raven Magwood is the writer and also my producing partner on that. It’s a horror film surrounded by a group of college friends that visit a haunted trail, and things go way left field!
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
The first reason it’s important is because for years we’ve witnessed Hollywood be dominated by one group of people, and with new people come new ideas.
Secondly, everyone deserves to see themselves. Millions of people turn to entertainment for an escape from their lives, and it’s always captivating for the audience to see someone that they can relate to. The problem is, the diversity amongst the audience is far greater than what is presented.
The third reason I feel it’s important is it holds everyone accountable. If one group of people is telling all the stories then the margin for error is huge, but the diversity will check that at the door. When each group is represented, the margin for error or misrepresentation decreases.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. “Be comfortable being yourself.” I’ve been an outlier most of my life standing 6’6–6’7 weighing 300lbs most of the time. I wish someone would’ve told me to embrace that from the beginning.
2. “People want to work with people they like.” As actors, we go through the wringer trying to be “right” for the part. In all honesty, you can be a phenomenal actor and a horrible person and never work. By being a nice person and not dimming my light has got me 75% if not more of my work.
3. “The audition is the job!” A lot of times as a young actor we focus on getting to set, and overlook the opportunity of getting auditions. I’ve been offered roles at later dates from auditions that I did but didn’t book.
4. “Enjoy the process!” Don’t put so much focus on the end goal, enjoy each victory along the way. So many times at the beginning of my career I didn’t enjoy the small things because I was focus on the bigger objectives. We miss out on life that way.
5. “Don’t be afraid to say NO!” I feared the word NO for the first few years of my acting journey. I would always accept every single thing that came my way. The truth is, it’s okay to not be okay with something. As artists, we’re told no daily, but we hate telling others no.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Don’t let acting become your sole identity. I feel a lot of artists put so much pressure on themselves because they don’t focus on anything outside of acting. This causes us to go to a slump when acting isn’t going well. I myself, place a lot of focus on my company that I’m part owner of called “Elevate Your Grind”. It’s a motivational company that Jeremy Gray, Jonathan James, and myself started, also known as EYG. We sell apparel, and also do motivational and keynote speaking. Gray started a non-profit called The Curtis House, which I sit on the board of as well. The non-profit is a physical house in a low-income community that offers, yoga, tutoring, mentorship, and gardening for the youth. These things have kept me busy when I’m not acting and they allow me not to burn out on my passion.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have a dream to build homes for the homeless in several major cities in the U.S. The homes/buildings would act as a halfway house, so to speak, but to work the homeless back into society. I would provide them with on-site medical staff, counselors, and partner with different companies to offer them employment. This has been a dream of mine for about 6 years.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m an extremely grateful person, so I could list people for days lol. I’ll name a few. So, of course, my mother. I wouldn’t be half the man that I am had it not been for her. A host of Aunts, Evonne Fraizer, Cynthia Wilson, Nida Singleton, my Uncle Greg Smith, my grandmother, Mary D. Smith, and many more for my childhood foundation. Since I’ve started my career I’d have to say, Dwayne Boyd, my first acting coach, who help me build my confidence as an actor. My manager Gail Tassell, who took a chance on a kid with zero credits, and now 32 credits later, we’re still grinding. Mark Ellis, who is a well know sports coordinator and director. Mark gave me my first shot in the industry and has helped me grow continuously. Brock Lawerence, who is an extremely successful businessman. He’s given me advice and accepted me into his family over the past 5 years. The final person I’d say is Dee Finch. I met him through a friend in 2011, and he started mentoring me and helping with everything I could ever imagine. I remember having to join SAG before I could film “Blindspot”, and at that time I only have a couple hundred dollars. I called him and he loaned me the money before I could finish the sentence.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I am a Quote guru, so I have tons. One that comes to mind right now is “Remain Curious.” — Brian Grazer. It’s a simple quote but a profound one. Our entire childhood, we’re basically conditioned to learn curiosity is bad. When we asked our parents questions or our teachers questions that they didn’t know the answers to, they’d often change the subject or brush it off. Over time we learn that being curious is frowned upon. Brian’s book, “ The Curious Mind” allowed me to see, that the most successful and fulfilled people are simply curious. They ask questions about things and genuinely care about the responses. When you’re curious about things, you learn more. The more you learn, the more ideas you’ll form. The more ideas your form. The more limitless you become.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
This is for sure something I’ve thought about. I always say if I could have Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner with 3 people who would they be.
I’d have breakfast with Denzel Washington. I’d imagine he’d have some great suggestions in LA. He’s one of the first actors that I looked up to growing up, so it’d be an honor to have french toast with the GOAT lol.
For lunch, I’d like to sit down with Mike Tyson. I feel like Mike is not only one of the most iconic people on Earth, but also one of the most interesting.
For dinner, I’d like to dine with the great Jamie Foxx. Jamie is one of the most talented people to live in my opinion. He’s my favorite actor, and entertainers in general. It would dope hearing some of his legendary stories over dinner.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!