In 2015, I gained a small part on Hell on Wheels (Season 4, Episode 5 – “Struck”). As a Black actor, the opportunity to become a successful actor is extremely limited despite one’s talent and drive. Roles available to Black male actors are often influenced by stereotypes and preconceived notions about Black masculinity. I played the role of a freed slave, who earned a living by working on the railroad.
This is one particular reason why I have always adored Nollywood, whether the films are locally produced in the rural areas of Nigeria or if the films are produced by larger, mainstream productions, Nollywood filmmakers illustrate the intricacies of Blackness and African identity and I can easily relate to these films. I have always been inspired by Tyler Perry despite the criticism he faces from the Black community, because of avenues he has created for Black Actors and Actresses and how he's able to showcase African American narratives from his perspective.
I hope that the BIPOC community will continue to draw upon our own agency and counter-narratives to amplify the voices of our members. While this role was empowering in that I was acting out a part of history where Black Men were experiencing some freedom and independence, I hope to act within other roles and productions that represent the diversity of Black Male Life.
“Put God first in everything you do…Everything that I have is by the Grace of God, understand that. It’s a gift...I didn’t always stick with Him, but He stuck with me.”
- Denzel Washington