ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s going to take a lot of work on your part to find success in doing the things that you love, but you’re also likely going to need support from other people in order to achieve that vision. A tall mountain to climb, but what a view at the top.
This week on “Black Men Sundays,” host Corie Murray interviews Roderick Lawrence, an actor and producer who co-founded Black Man Films and currently stars as Ike Turner in “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” on Broadway.
His film “Silent Partner” was a “COVID baby,” he said, a foundational project that he developed in large part through tricky circumstances wrought by the pandemic.
“I was doing a play and that was cancelled, I was supposed to do another show and that was cancelled. I was kind of going on my own mental health journey and just discovering what that means for us and I stumbled upon microaggressions and the effects on like, Black male mental health in our everyday life, and like, how many spaces and places I was dealing with microaggressions,” he said. ”I called my producer partner, Selma, and my co-founder of Black Man Films, and she was all about the film, and then, you know, she came to me and was like, ‘Have you ever thought about a production company? Have you ever thought about having one?’ (...) We do have things out there now, but I don’t think they represent us, I don’t think all of them do, you know? So we have this mission, and she asked me, if I did have a production company, what would that be? And the first thing that came to my mind was Black Man Films.”
From Cleveland, Ohio, but currently based in Harlem, Lawrence told Murray about what he overcame, seeking everything from friends to funding in order to realize his dreams. In spite of the resistance he endured on that journey — given also that he wanted to be an actor while his brother became a doctor and his sister an engineer — Lawrence may just tell you, humbly, that he’s been blessed.
“I’m blessed to have a super supportive family — very, very hard-pressed family on, like, being great and being the best at what you do, but very supportive nonetheless. That being said, Black folks have not been afforded the same luxury as white folks in things like generational wealth and in things like deep college family history and all of these things. So, when Black folks spend all this money on their kids to go to decent schools and their kids go to college, they don’t want to hear about being an actor,” Lawrence said. “These white kids get to explore because they have the luxury of it not being the end all be all, like, it not being their last coin that put them through college, and not being, you know, all of these types of things. So, the lack of support in families in our community is out of just like, what you’ve been seeing, what you’ve been shown, what you see and what you know, and how hard some of our parents and some of our peoples worked to get out of that space.”
Now that Lawrence is where he’s at, however, he jumps at opportunities to address disparities rather than complain about them. What’s key, he said, is surrounding yourself with people who you trust.
“I got active about everything I had an issue with in the industry because I thought I could do it better, and if I didn’t, then I would have stayed away, but like, I got active about it. I was like, ‘Oh man, our stories are being either written by white people or directed by white people,’ so I got active about that and I found the best director and I found best co-writers to get down with me, you know? I got active about, like, there weren’t enough of us behind the scenes and the sets, you know? I got active about finding the best Black grips and the best Black ADs and second ADs and all those things, I got active about finding these brothers and sisters who are phenomenal and we put together this project instead of just sitting around,” he said. “I can complain about it, but like, that doesn’t do anything for me after a while, you know? It doesn’t do anything for any of us. Get active and hold yourself accountable about the product.”
Hear the full interview in Season 3, Episode 6 of “Black Men Sundays.”
Black Men Sundays talks about building generational wealth. Check out every episode in the media player below.