announcer: "Theatre Corner" is brought to you by California Center for the Arts, Escondido; University of Cincinnati, Helen Weinberger Center for Drama and Playwriting; Dell Cerro Tax; Backlot Pictures; The Mental Bar; and viewers like you.
announcer: Please welcome to the stage, your host of "Theatre Corner," michael taylor.
♪ ♪ Silence your cell phone, you're about ♪ ♪ to enter the "Theatre Corner."
♪♪ michael taylor: Welcome to "Theatre Corner."
I'm your host, michael taylor.
"Theatre Corner" is an interview series dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the national theatre scene.
Tonight we're filming in front of a live audience made up of theatre students at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, California.
So silence your cell phones, folks, you're entering "Theatre Corner."
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ michael: Our guest today is actor Tommy Hobson.
Let's take a look.
James McCune: Do they know you let Annie be attacked?
Because of what she saw and what Douglass knows, of what I know.
You've been using them as your personal monsters, protecting your damn diamonds, to hide and horde what belongs to these people.
michael: All right.
Let's welcome Tommy Hobson.
[audience applauding] [audience applauding] michael: That was intense Tommy Hobson: Yeah.
michael: You know, a lot of actors that I've interviewed, I found out that they're actually introverts.
You know, it's amazing how many introverts and--but yet they can--especially in theatre, they can come out and do amazing things in front of huge audiences.
Where are you at on that?
Tommy: My mom is so shy that she once gave an oral presentation in high school, and she put on a tape recorder and put up a picture of herself, and then she left the room.
I'm not that bad, but I'm pretty close.
When I told my parents I wanted to do this for a living, the shock was that the kid who, you know, would sing and dance as long as no one was looking at him wanted to get up on stage.
And, you know, but I said, for me, it's still like the place I'm the most comfortable.
michael: You've been performing since you were six years old?
Tommy: Yeah, I joked with my buddy the other day.
He's 32, and I was like, gosh, my SAG card is older than you.
michael: What is that like--I mean, basically, being on the stage in front of the camera for that many years.
Tommy: It's strange to--at six years old to tell your parents what you want to do with your life.
And to be lucky enough to have parents who were like, "What?
Oh God, really?"
But who also helped me figure out the healthiest way for me to do it so that I could be a well-adjusted adult.
You know, they--all the horror stories that people read about all the time from kid actors, I don't have any because my parents-- it was about what I wanted, it was me who wanted it.
They were like, "Whenever you wanna stop, we'll stop," you know?
But they were always there, I was never alone.
It's--now, it's like a warm blanket, and I'm--and I am just grateful every single day that it is what I get to say I do.
You know, that it's a big scary business and it's not guaranteed, but it's been very kind to me.
michael: Your foundation is theatre.
How do you think that that serves you?
You know, as you've moved into television, in film, what do you--how do you think doing theatre perhaps even enhanced you as an actor in the other mediums?
Tommy: TV and film are what I fell in love with, but knowing what I know now, like theatre is for me, it is the base of everything.
It's the foundation.
I always tell people like the great thing about TV and film is, if I mess up, we do it again.
The great thing about theatre is, if I mess up, we have to figure our way out of this.
There's--I can't start over again, we have to, you know, and that's been my great, great love.
And when I go in to do like a-- I'm currently doing a multi-cam show.
Multi-cam shows are theatre except instead of, you know, an audience here, there's four cameras.
But--like, when I started doing multi-cam, I was like, "Oh, I've done this.
This is theatre."
I know how to play out, I know how to do all these things.
I also think that it's easier to bring someone down than it is to build--to pump someone up.
I know how to play the back row of a theatre, and I can give you that performance.
I also know how to take that performance now and make it for television or make it for film.
But I think the theatre training really helps me just to trust my instincts and theatre listening.
Like theatre really makes you listen and listening is like the sweet sauce of acting.
You know, like I always tell people, like, acting is not an individual sport, it's a team sport.
And we are all at home doing our individual work, and when I show up to work, whether it's on a stage, in a theatre or on a stage at a TV set I have to then surrender the work.
Know that I know the story, but I have to listen, and that's--I think the greatest gift theatre's given me is the story.
You can tell the same story eight times a week for years, but it changes slightly every day because you are different every day.
And so, I can't just give the performance I gave yesterday because michael might say something differently today, and I have to, you know, be present and, you know, give you the answer with the same old line, but give you the answer for the way you posed the question today.
So I think theatre has taught me just to listen and to stay present.
Tommy: And so you mentioned the multi-cam show, which is called "That Girl Lay Lay."
michael: You've--that you star in.
Let's take a look at that show.
Bryce Alexander: All right.
Let's find these scorpions.
[screams] Was that a scorpion?
Marky Alexander: No, just a pretzel.
But you got a nice vertical for a man of your age.
Bryce: So what are those for again?
Marky: Those are sticky straps specially designed to catch scorpions.
Bryce: Well, I don't know about scorpions, but they caught me.
Marky: Don't worry, I got this.
I'm just gonna keep this one on.
Why don't you listen?
michael: Very good.
Tommy: Thank you.
michael: And so what is an approach to, you know, this kind of acting?
Tommy: I--you know, it's funny.
I have a bunch of friends now.
There's this really crazy thing that happens in TV where like, no one believes something will work until it does.
And then once it works, everyone wants the thing.
And then, so my boss, God rest his soul, David Arnold, he fought so hard with the network.
He said, these young people will care about these parents if you let me make them into real people.
And that's what he did, and that's what we are.
And so all my friends now are calling me to be like, "Hey, I got this breakdown for this new TV show.
And the breakdown is basically you on your show."
And so they said, "What's the secret?"
So the secret is that no matter how absurd the thing is, it is serious to that person.
And so you have to be able to find the funny while being real.
And people think, especially on multi-cam, it's easy to sort of let it fly away from you, but it has to be specific, you know.
That like, I--you wouldn't--like jumping over the couch was not scripted.
I just said, "He's supposed to be looking for scorpions with his son.
He's terrified of this bug.
He can't believe he has to do this.
And what if I jumped over the couch?"
And they were like, "You can't do that."
And I was like, "I practiced it at home.
I think I can."
You know, and we did it 'cause I thought this would be funny for that guy.
Like, this show has really been a gift.
It's really taught me, like, no matter how absurd it is to be sincere about it.
michael: Let's go to the audience for questions.
Paul: Hello, my name is Paul.
I'm an acting student from John Paul the Great Catholic University.
I was really intrigued by you talking about the present moment.
As an acting student, that's been really big for me, but something that I really struggle with is staying in the present moment because, you know, you just have, like, your lines and the other characters.
Like, what is your advice for really staying in the present moment and letting people affect you?
Tommy: I think for me, that goes back to the listening.
Listening is something that you can use as an activity.
We're always busy trying to think of, like, "Oh, what should I be doing next?
Should I be, what should I--" Like, sometimes just listening will get you past all of that.
Yesterday I was filming and I was having trouble remembering a line and the acting coach on the show, she said, "Just listen to what she's saying.
Your line is in the line she says."
And I was like, "Oh yeah.
I was so busy trying to think about the note you gave me before of trying it a different way that I forgot that.
Like the--just listen to what, you know, she's doing."
I--there's a story that a friend told me in college 'cause I went to Yale undergrad and the Yale School of Drama Kids.
I was really adults.
I was very close with them.
And they went to see a play with Vanessa Redgrave, and afterwards, there was a talk back and she had this big monologue where she was so emotional and it brought the house down every night.
And they said, "What's the process?
What are you thinking about?
What are you going through?"
She said, "Oh, well, what was it today?
I think I am--well I was wondering if my husband remembered my dry cleaning because we have that premiere tomorrow night.
If he didn't get the dry cleaning, then I don't have an outfit to wear."
And the student said, "What?"
She said, "Well, it's life, isn't it?
I didn't walk into the room knowing that I was going to have this devastating news and have somebody I was just thinking about--I was just going through my regular life 'cause this is happening to this person in real time."
And I was like, "Wow, that's so simple."
But, so, you know, sort of profound, like, you know, it is hard to stay in the moment, but sometimes just go back to the listening, but also just don't be scared to not plan.
michael: So Tommy Hobson, thank you so much for coming to "Theatre Corner."
Tommy: This was fun.
michael: I really appreciate you.
Come back again, sometime.
Tommy: Appreciate you.
michael: Tommy Hobson.
♪♪♪ michael: Our next guest is Marcus Henderson.
Marcus, please come out.
[audience applauding] Marcus Henderson: Hey, hey, hey, hey.
♪♪♪ michael: Marcus.
michael: Actually we--we actually have a reel for you that we could play right now.
Marcus: Oh really?
male: Car one to dispatch, a smoke showing on a three story wooden structure.
Car one in command.
Ike Crystal: Woohoo!
What are the odds, huh?
Granville Smith: Man, I don't like this.
And why is that Crazy old lady staring at me from the top window?
Ike: I can't remember if that's a cardboard cutout or a real ghost.
Rumors are, this place is, like, haunted for real, for real.
Look man, let's just find the fire so we can get the hell outta here.
Ike: No, yeah.
It's right here.
Granville: Man, what the hell was that?
Ike: Dude, you just punched an employee.
Granville: I didn't mean to, you know, this is type the type of--that freaks me out.
michael: So that's a clip from Tacoma FD.
michael: On TrueTV.
Marcus: That's right.
michael: What's your experience on that show?
Marcus: Oh, man.
One of the coolest experiences I think is, like, meeting real life firefighters.
Marcus: And really, like, getting the appreciation for what they do in real life.
You know, we are on this show, and the show is supposed to be about firefighters in the rainiest city in America.
So they're fighting boredom more than they're fighting fires.
But the actual job that these guys do day in and day out, saving lives, being there, being servicemen for the people, I think is really important.
And that's something I've grown a greater appreciation for over time.
michael: Marcus, please tell a story about how you became an actor.
What--how did you choose in college-- Marcus: Woof!
michael: --to become an actor?
Marcus: I was playing football at Alabama State.
And, you know, one of the days where we didn't have any practice or anything that night, we ended up going downstairs to the lobby of our dorm.
And they have these like, you know, poster boards where, you know, people put different events and stuff.
So we saw that there was auditions for the dramatic guild, you know, and I--you know, at the time, you know, wasn't really much to do on campus.
So it was like, "Well, let's go over there.
Maybe there are some attractive women that we would be able to find and talk to."
And what ended up happening was that I went over there and I saw for the first time people who were actually serious about their craft.
And I had no idea what was happening.
I mean, we went through those doors and it was like opening up the world of eyes.
There was people singing, dancing, doing monologues.
I had no idea what any of that stuff was.
And so I went--I took a number, I went in there and they told me to tell a story because I didn't know what a monologue was.
And they said, "It's basically just a story where you just talking by yourself."
And I said, "Okay."
So he said, "Tell a story."
So I told a story about on campus I had got into it with one of the guys who were in the Greek life.
And I stepped on the grass and I wasn't supposed to step on the grass, but, you know, I was like, "I paid too much money to go to this school to say I can't step on grass, man."
You know, so I--it was a nice little story, and I understand why everybody was laughing at the time either.
I was confused 'cause I was really angry retelling the story, and they were all laughing and yucking it up.
And so I think that gave me a real introduction into like, you know, how funny I could be, I guess.
And I didn't do any production that first year.
I just did security, but I couldn't help being at the top of the theatre and watching down at the stage and noticing that people couldn't do two things at once.
You know, that we were rehearsing "Phedre" at the time, and the direction for the young lady was to say her line and walk across the stage at the same time.
And she couldn't do it.
And all I thought when I was sitting up there at the top of those bleachers was, "Man, just do it.
Just, that's so easy."
And before you know it, I just felt like, you know what, if I ever get the opportunity, I'm gonna see if I can do it.
And sure enough about three months later, one of the professors at the school was directing "West Side Story."
And he came to me and said, "You, you look like a manly man, and we need manly men.
Would you like to be in 'West Side Story'?"
And I was like, "Yeah, sure.
All right, well, I'll do it.
Whatever you say."
And I went in and did it, and it was like being on the team again.
It was like I had my part to play.
I had my role on the team and in order to win the game, we all had to do our parts.
You know, so it really--it felt like that again.
michael: Marcus, you actually attended Yale School of Drama for MFA.
michael: Which is not a small thing.
I mean, you--you're always pretty modest about it.
But tell me, what was that like as a Black man, attending such a prestigious school.
I think for me first of all, I didn't even know where Yale was when I applied.
Okay, that's how ignorant I was to the process.
And he said, "Yale."
I'm thinking that it's like castles and drawbridges and horse and carriages, all this kind of stuff.
And then all of a sudden, man, I just saw Black people everywhere.
And I thought, wow, this is weird.
It's a lot of Black people here, but I'm in Yale.
It was something about that made me feel more comfortable.
It made me feel like I was like, I was going into something that I recognized, you know, as opposed to walking in a complete trap.
And I said, "I gotta go here."
And it was a line of Black actors going down, Ernie Hudson, Courtney B Vans, Charles Dutton, Angela Bassett, like, just--it was like, "Oh my God, this is where I gotta be."
And so I went there, man.
And that experience, you know, three years of being in a cave, just being told you're a terrible actor and, you know, and trying your best to figure out the system.
I would say that my experience was very unique.
michael: Speaking of unique experiences, you starred in Jordan Peele's movie, "Get Out."
That little movie.
michael: But--that little movie.
But your part, there was one particular part that you sparked a "Get Out" challenge.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
michael: Let's take a look at that.
[crickets chirping] [crickets chirping] [crickets chirping] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Chris Washington: [gasping] ♪♪♪ both: [laughing] Marcus: Yeah.
michael: Sparked a trend.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah.
That's--it is an interesting thing, man.
You know, like when something like that happens and you're not expecting it.
Marcus: You don't know that it's gonna happen, man, the internet do, that's--it's undefeated as they say.
You know, you can't control what's on there and you just got to be grateful for whatever good can come out of it.
michael: Let's talk about that role though.
Because you--that wasn't a simple role because there was some complexities in your character.
I'm obviously a Black man that is playing a white man, that's playing a Black man.
So there's a little bit of a mystery to that I think that Jordan really wanted me to explore.
You know, one of the best notes that I think he gave me, and I've talked about it before, was that he told me, you know, imagine you're at a party and you got a secret.
Nobody can know the secret, by all means, all costs.
Nobody can know the secret, but so badly, you want to tell it, you know.
michael: Tell me about working with Quentin Tarantino.
You were in the film "Django Unchained".
Marcus: "Django Unchained".
michael: That had to be a unique experience because he directed the film.
Marcus: Yeah, it was.
It's interesting, you know, when I was younger in my career there was a lot of talk around, if you're Black in this business, there's only a few ways that you'll really break in and that's playing a thug, that's playing a drug addict, or that's playing a slave.
And I felt, you know, I didn't--I wasn't very conscious.
I gotta admit, I wasn't very conscious of my decision because I was just coming out of school.
I felt like, "Oh man, it's Quentin Tarantino."
And, you know, he had done "Inglorious Bastards".
And I felt, and I was in love with that film in a way where I was like, "Man, I would love to see, like, a Black version of this."
Sure enough, a few years later, here he is coming out with "Django".
And so I was like, "Okay, yeah.
You know, let me figure this out how I can be a part of this thing."
It was fun, you know.
But as I get older, I don't know how I feel about being in that movie, to be honest.
You know, I get--I feel conflicted.
I'm thankful, I'm grateful for the opportunity.
I'm grateful for the people that I met and the experiences that I had on it.
When I look back on it, I ask myself, "Was it worth it?"
You know, I'm still gonna say yes.
Marcus: Just because it, brought me to where I am now.
But I definitely had some major reflecting to do when I think about that film.
You know, the first take of that movie, I can remember I had to go to the bathroom, but I didn't know how it all worked.
You know, like they--and he rolls on film and that's expensive.
Marcus: So I'm sitting behind Jamie Fox, and all of a sudden I feel that thing.
I was like, "Oh, I gotta go to the bathroom."
You know, under my breath.
But Jamie heard me, he said, "Oh man, hey, this dude gotta go to the bathroom."
And then they say, "Cut, get him unchained."
You know, 'cause I'm literally locked up, man.
Marcus: You know, and so they have to come unchain me before, you know, I use the bathroom on myself, man.
And it is a little embarrassing, you know.
But I have a lot of great memories.
Me and Jamie played chess every day.
Like every minute we were there, we were just playing chess pretty much, you know?
And he was a really cool dude, told a lot of funny stories, great advice, but overall I'm glad I did it.
Wouldn't do it again, but I'm glad that I was a part of something that, you know, for whatever reason, he'll live in history and I'll be a part of that, so-- michael: Very good.
Marcus: It's okay.
michael: And as you know, we have some students here in the audience, and so at this point, we'll take some questions from the audience.
Earlier in your interview you mentioned that you were kind of in a space of hesitancy because you were surrounded by people who you perceived as more dedicated or maybe more talented.
And so you kind of, you know, you weren't fully going for it yet.
How did you bring yourself out of that space of hesitancy and into action?
Marcus: You can really learn from other people's mistakes.
Like I said, that young lady, you know, when she was on stage that day and she couldn't do the-- you know, to me it was a simple task.
But, you know, some people, it might not be so simple to say your line and walk at the same time.
But, you know, to me I was like, "Wow, if that's a direction, I know I can do that."
You know, like, so when you get that--when whatever in your brain says, "I know I can do that," you better follow it.
Because that's half the battle, confidence.
And the only way you get confidence is through experience.
If it feels right to you and you know in your head, you got that thing in your head that says, "I know I can do that."
Oh man, that's easy.
You just gotta--that's your cue.
michael: Very good.
michael: Thank you so much for coming to "Theatre Corner."
Thank you for coming here, it very good to meet you.
Marcus: Oh man, I love it, I love it, thank so much.
michael: All right.
♪♪♪ michael: Thank you for joining us for another episode of "Theatre Corner," and we'll see you next time.
♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ announcer: Support for this program comes from the KPBS Explorer Local Content Fund, supporting new ideas and programs for San Diego.