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Persistence, perseverance and positive attitude are how this rising actor pulled off being in two places at once, with Samuel Smith

Samuel is a New York based actor and graduate of Alabama State University with a B.A. in Theatre Arts.


Samuel is a New York based actor and graduate of Alabama State University with a B.A. in Theatre Arts.

Sam furthered his education at Brandeis University where he earned his M.F.A in Theatre Arts. Shortly after graduating he moved to New York City and started teaching Theatre Arts to school children with an underlying thought of helping to build their confidence and communications.

As an actor Samuel can be seen as a recurring guest star in Shades of Blue on NBC with additional credits on House of Cards, Daredevil, The Inspectors, The Blacklist, The Good Wife, Leftovers, Elementary and Person of Interest.

What are your hobbies, favorite places to visit, pet peeves?

“Let’s start with my Hobbies. I love to push the limits of who I am and what I can do through meditation, playing ball and creating with my hands. I was introduced to the idea of quieting the mind in grad school. The practice helped to calm me in class and it was cool, but I didn’t realize what I was being introduced to at the time.

“It wasn’t until I graduated and was living in Brooklyn that I started to research what was possible with the mind. Learning new skills, learning faster, breaking old habits, gaining new ones, healing the body; I mean the list is endless but the gateway to it all was meditation. Now I’ve made it a daily practice and I continue to see great results. Leading the list of benefits has to be living stress free, so it is definitely a go-to hobby, if you can call it that.

“Playing football and basketball has always been a passion of mine, so much so that I wanted to go pro for years but when I got to college my focus shifted and acting won my heart; which means it also got my heart. As a young man growing up in Miami with great weather year round you could always find me with a ball in my hands. So now I play football and basketball whenever I can find a game.

“I also like creating things. I’m fascinated with how a person can take simple objects or things and with enough time, imagination and attention make a totally new thing out of them. It can be anything and I’m always willing to learn.

“My favorite places to go have always been somewhere with large bodies of water, and topping the list is Miami because I can not only get beautiful beaches, but I can also get family. My career doesn’t allow me to get home as often as I would like but making it to the beach and seeing my hometown family and friends never gets old.”

Tell us about you when you’re not acting.

“When I’m not acting I’m teaching theatre and empowerment to students in East New York, Brooklyn.

“I’m also one of the leaders of MBK, (My Brother’s Keeper) in District 19, along side Dr. Thomas McBryde and Curtis Smith (they call us Smith and Smith). Empowering the youth is deep in my heart and I feel it is needed no matter your walk of life.

“Learning how powerful you are regardless of your current situation and conditions is key to being successful. I enjoy helping students find their voice and then gain skills that can help them for the rest of their lives.”

Can you tell us something about you few people know?

“Not many people know that I was a trained dancer.

“As a kid I performed in musical theater and I also did a few musicals in undergrad. When I first moved to the city I danced with Creative Outlet of the Brooklyn Dance Company.

“People are always surprised to see me do a crazy dance move. It’s not something they see coming.”

Do you have any exciting projects going on right now?

“Yes, I do. I was recently booked in an independent project See You Yesterday. It was written and directed by Stefon Bristol and is Presented by Spike Lee: Two Brooklyn teenage prodigies determined to outwit fate and role-play as God build makeshift time machines to save one of their brothers from being wrongfully killed by a police officer.

“I’m also in development of two pilots that I will be producing: Swipers with Barnabus Crossby and Hollah with J Kyles. We are on track to start shopping them by next fall.”

Many people say success correlates with the people you meet in your life. Can you describe two that most impacted your success and why?

“Two people that most impacted my success would have to be Dr. Tonea Stewart and my mom.

“My mom has impacted my success greatly because of the values she instilled in my sister and I early on. I mean as a kid learning how to give and receive respect was big, not only to adults, but to my peers as well. She taught us how to speak to adults and how to respect authority.

“My mom recognized some of her shortcomings and vowed not to allow my sister and I to have them. Like shyness for instance. My mom was afraid of public speaking, so she put my sister and I out front early, so we wouldn’t have a problem speaking when the time or opportunity came about. She also involved us in everything she could, so we wouldn’t have time to be in the streets and wouldn’t be afraid to try new things. We were the only kids on the block doing modeling, judo, choir, me football and basketball; my sister cheerleading and track. She did leave time for us to have ideal minds.

“The second person was Dr. Stewart. When I got to Alabama State University I promise you that Doc stood 10 feet tall and could do anything and often was expected to. She could direct a show, teach classes, have speaking engagements, be a professional actress, a full-time wife and mom and still help build a set, if needed.

“Doc taught her students that you do what you have to do to get it done. She often stated African proverbs or just words of wisdom that would always be just what we needed to hear. I can still hear her saying ‘tall trees catch much wind’ or ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that gets you there. It’s what you know that keeps you there’. Doc taught me Alchemy. She taught us how to just get it done, no matter the time restraint or the given material.”

Leaders always seem to find ways to overcome their weaknesses. Can you share one or two examples of how you work outside of your comfort zone to achieve success?

“I remember getting an audition for the movie Cadillac Records. I was in Miami so I couldn’t actually make it to the audition, so I asked if could do it when I got back. The lady told me no it had to be in by that day. She said email it to me and hung up.

“That would have been fine if I knew how to do it. For this audition I had to play the guitar. I didn’t have a guitar. My guitar was in my living room in Brooklyn, New York. I did have a camera on me and the only thing I could think to do was to go to a music store, which I did, the local Sam Ash store. I pulled a guitar off of the wall and had a friend record me as I played. That audition in Sam Ash in Miami, Florida was good enough to book me a role in Cadillac Records. It was one for the memory book. I still have the audition and you can catch it on YouTube.”

The concept of mind over matter has been around for years. A contemporary description of this is having mental toughness. Can you give us an example (or two) of obstacles you’ve overcome by getting your mind in the right place (some might call this reframing the situation)?

“This question reminds me of a commercial I used to see when I was younger. The commercial stated you’d be surprised what you can do when you need it to get done. You have to put it in your mind that you can and will do it.

“The mind is an amazing thing. I remember booking the television show Shades of Blue and also booking the Sleepy Hollow. I had to shoot them both in the same week in two different cities (and states) but they were days apart so there should not have been any conflicts. But alas there were.

“When I finished shooting Sleepy Hollow on Tuesday in Atlanta the director said Sam it’s a wrap. See you on Thursday. I thought to myself no you won’t. I’m done. So, when I left the set that day I called my manager and asked why the director said that. She said she would call casting and look into it. Turns out this one-day shoot was actually a two-day shoot and they indeed needed me back on Thursday of that week.

“I was scheduled to be on set Friday morning at 9 am for Shades of Blue, which I couldn’t miss. To make matters more challenging, my call time for Sleepy Hollow was 3 p.m. I didn’t wrap until 2 a.m. Friday morning and had to book a flight back to New York. I was able to get on a 5 or 6 a.m. flight. It was a bit of a blur, but (the flight) got me to New York and I was able to head directly to set and make my call time. Boom, done.”

What are “3 lessons I learned from my most memorable failure?

“Persistence, perseverance and positive attitude.”

What unfiltered advice can you give aspiring actors regarding how to avoid common mis-fires in starting their career?

“Don’t wait or depend on others for your success. Build a great team. If find an agent or manager you want to work with pursue them. If you aren’t booking the roles you know you can handle start writing and shooting those characters yourself. Show the world you can do it!

“Set clear intentions and expectations (goals) for yourself. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you can’t or won’t make it. That is all up to you. Never stop learning and never stop reaching for your goals.”

What is the best lesson you’ve learned from your worst boss?

“The best lesson would have to be money isn’t everything. Making great money is good but loving where you work and who you work with is even better.”

What is one “efficiency hack” you use consistently in your life to keep your time and mind free to focus on your strengths and passions?

“This is an easy one. An efficiency hack I am consistently using is meditation. Learning to clear my mind and let go of problems and the issues around me has allowed me to focus on the task at hand.”

All actors, musicians or athletes have sleepless nights. We have a term we use with our clients called the “2 a.m. moment.” It’s when you’re wide awake and thinking not-so-positive thoughts about your business choices and future. Can you describe a 2 a.m. moment (or moments) you’ve had and how you overcame the challenges?

“I remember almost being put out of my Brooklyn apartment and the stress had been weighing on me. I was so close to be being put out that I received a call saying that the Marshal was coming to lock me out, and the Marshal did, in fact, come. I spoke to him and he granted me and extension.

“I couldn’t pay the rent. I was three months behind and my new job wasn’t starting until September, and it was early July. So, I prayed and asked for help. When I got up, something said move the furniture around. I didn’t know why but that thought came to mind and wouldn’t let go. ‘Make it yours.’

“I never started really living in this apartment because when I first moved there it was six of us and although it was only me there now I never really owned it. I got to moving things and cleaning and when I was done I felt like it was my apartment. Mine. That next day I started making calls and putting deals and agreements together that secured me in that apartment. I still live in that same apartment today.”

What’s on the drawing board for your next venture?

“I have two movie projects coming up but I’m most excited about the two babies of mine, Hollah and Swipers. We are, as we spoke of before, look at shopping them next fall.”

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

IG: @ActorSamSmith

Twitter: @ActorSamSmith

Thanks so much for joining us Sam, this was great!

Originally published at medium.com

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