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Actor, Charles D. Clark on FOX TV's Series, "Empire" & HBO MAX, "Charm City Kings" is on Fire!

Who is Charles D. Clark and tell me about how you got your start in this business of Hollywood?

I'm from Virginia but I grew up mostly in North Carolina. My father, who was a military man, died when I was six years old from a fatal accident. Although I had a great mother, as a little boy growing up and going into the teenage years, I was devastated. So, consequently, it led me to the streets where I joined a gang, began dealing with drugs, and living a very chaotic lifestyle. Because of my lifestyle choices, at age 22, I ended up with a 7-year prison sentence. One of the blessings that came out of this is that after being in prison for three years, I found God. At that time is where I found my purpose in my identity. I became aware of all the hurt and pain that I had blocked within from the loss of my dad. I discovered why I was doing all things that I was doing on the streets, the devil's work.

Now, about eight months before my release date, my grandmother came to visit me. Mind you, she never visited me while I was locked up. She wrote to me, I called her, and I understood where she was coming from. That was good enough for me. My first time seeing her, after being locked up, was the day of my release. My aunt and uncle brought her. I wanted so badly to hug my grandmother and hold her.

Well, when she was in the visiting room and my uncle was feeding her, my auntie came over to me and said nephew look at me. She said your grandmother is dying, has three brain tumors and dementia. She went on to say that right now, your grandmother thinks this prison is a military base and you are your dad. So, for the entire remainder of this visit, you must act like your dad. She made me realize how important it was that I don't say anything other than that, because if I did, it would put a strain on her health.

So just imagine my grandmother dying and me having to become a man that was already dead, my father. I literally had to mask my pain, the pain on my face, my tears, and my emotions. In that moment, I had to take all the previous collective information that I learned from my grandmother, extended family, and close family friends and utilized it to answer any questions that my grandmother randomly asked me. She definitely was convinced that I was my dad. So, when I do my speaking engagements; I always accredit my grandmother for giving me my first audition in acting. At that moment was where the actor in me was born.

So, when my grandmother left, the correctional officer told me “Charles, whatever you do you leave out of here you need to become an actor because that was an “Oscar” moment. For you to embody your father so much so that your grandmother believed it, that’s a natural gift”.

So, I said to myself, you know what? I'm gonna do this. I was released from prison in 2009 and I landed my first gig for a short role that same year. I would go on to work at a Mental Health firm as a behavioral specialist and suicide counselor. While I worked there, from time to time, I had a few short gigs. It was a lot of going back and forth until the TV drama series “Empire” aired. I tried to land a role on the show while the show was in a second season going into their third season but, I found it to be difficult.

I say this because I didn't have an agent and, I was still trying to learn the ropes of the acting game in Hollywood. So, I thought to myself, I can get in by doing “extra” work.

At the beginning of season 3 of “Empire”, I drove to Chicago seven times in one month, and never get seen. I remember there was this one scene that I was in, but it was only a quick blur. That turned out to be a blessing because, on the eighth time, I was upgraded to playing “Shyne’s main goon enforcer on “Empire”. And that's basically how I got started.

What are some challenges you have experienced on your creative journey thus far?

Self-doubt. Sometimes in the acting world, you feel like if you're not in the demographic or in that market in Hollywood, LA, New York City, Or even Atlanta, that is almost impossible if not impossible. Also, I dealt with people doubting my ability to make it in this business. So-called family and friends. I don't necessarily think it's because I wasn't talented enough, I just think that some people don't want to see you do better than them or have the opportunity to do so. What's sad is that they don't realize is that when you're being blessed you can bless them as well. That's what we're supposed to do as children of God citizens of Christ.

Physically, I'm back here in there were only a couple of you know projects going on here, nothing big. Shows like “The House of Cards”, the ID Channel, TV One stuff which is still decent but the big TV shows and movies I had to travel to those auditions. I had to travel even I was doing extra work because I thought I could get upgraded from being an extra to having a speaking line or something of the sort. I was willing to chase those dreams, but it almost killed me.

With “Empire”, I drove there seven times in one month after a 14-hour drive for me. It’s a 28-hour drive turn around. Before “Empire” upgraded me, there were times where I drove 14 hours to be on set for another 12 hours and then drove back 14 hours to be on another set for another 8 to 10 hours with no sleep. In fact, I was so tired that several times, I almost ran off the road, I almost ran off a bridge, I almost hit a big tree, my car broke down in terrible snow and rainstorm.

There were times when bills needed to be paid and money was tight so, I would eat peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches, oodles and noodles, or a can of soup. It was just so much that I wanted to give up. Also made it difficult is that I have a daughter, but I needed to provide for. But I always believed that if it’s not worth dying for you shouldn't do it. But there is a commonsense approach to that. But, through it all, I've learned that a struggle is a blessing that’s being birth. Right now, I feel like God is using me to birth that blessing for his glory. Once I realized that God gets the glory and that everything that’s happened in my life was not to destroy me, but make me stronger, I become an inspiration and testament to how great God is. Sometimes I even felt as though God wanted to use me to be strong for those who were not.

I have to admit, I still have those times when it's hard especially when you began to elevate. A lot of people think hey it's no problem. But the more successful you become, the more problems you have because the enemy does not want you to reach your highest peak. He doesn't want you to get the concept of what your purpose is. For the record, it’s people like my sister Gina Carey, who inspired me to do what I've done from day one.

tell me about some of the movies you’ve appeared in?

I did everything from cameo appearances to supporting roles until I landed my first lead on “Empire” in which I had reoccurring roles for two seasons. I would have to say that” Empire” was a show that Launched my career. Working with Taraji P. Henson, Exhibit, and Terrence Howard, who are some of my biggest inspirations in Hollywood, was incredible! There are so many on my resume. I just show up to do my job, and keep it moving. Playing the role of “Shyne's Main Goon”, was big for me. That was the role that opened the doors and gave me respect in Hollywood.

With that being said, I think it's important to give a shout out to Steve D'Amato, Sanaa Hamri, and Carlito Rodriguez. They are the three people that really believed in me. From there, I was in a “Miss Kim productions” movie, “53206”, where I had the supporting role “Detective Albert”.

For this production, I want to give a shout out to, “Miss Kim and Steven Curtis” who were both blessings in my life.

I played the role of “Brutus”, in “Volkov”, on Amazon Prime in which I want to also give a shout out to, Elysium Productions CEO and founder “George Dibble” his wife “Candice “and Westly Who brought me on for my first lead role. Also, I want to thank the entire “Volkov” cast and crew.

“Volkov Origin”, which we're shooting now, is a spinoff of the TV series, “Volkov”, shown on Amazon Prime. Additionally, George brought me on as a producer. George is like my brother his wife Candice, who is like my sister. They are the most beautiful and phenomenal married couples I’ve run across. They’re like my family.

I was on “Harriet” They kept both of my scenes, but it wasn't about me, it was all about “Harriet” and her history. But it was great to be in that amazing film! Shout out to my sister, Cynthia Erivo. We're pretty close.

I've been on like 14 “ID Channel” shows, “The Evil Stepmothers”, The Perfect Suspect” and many more. “Discovery” and “The ID channel”, showed me a lot of love. I played a “lead detective” on “TV One” which also gave me a lot of love. I played in a movie called, “Pray 4 My Awesome”, where I played the role of “Detective Burton”. I want to acknowledge the director and the film, “Warren Leight”. I have a lot of detective roles in my repertoire, that's why I'm trying to get on “law and order”. Also wanted to acknowledge “Ice T”, who is also one of my mentors. He Is the only black actor in the longest run on a primetime show, law, and order.

Special shout out to my amazing brother, friend, and mentor DeVon Franklin who is a big part of my testimony. Thank you DeVon for showing me how to discover my greatness and purpose for God ! Blessings to you and your Queen Meagan Good Franklin who is one of my inspirations as well. #TeamFranklin #CharlesDClark