Co-starring with Burt Reynolds in "Cop and a Half," Norman Golden lll is best known as Devon Butler. In "There Are No Children Here," starring Oprah Winfrey, Norman has starred and co-starred; he played Pharaoh Rivers, Pip alongside Patrick Stewart and Gregory Peck in "Moby Dick." and many more big box office movies.
After an impressive career as a child actor, Norman attended college. He holds an AA in English and is pursuing a BA in Liberal Arts with a creative writing concentration. His hiatus allowed him to develop skills in music and writing. Norman has a broad range of artistic interests, including film and music. It was my pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with this kind-hearted, talented individual about his past and his future goals. This is what he had to say.
Hi Norman, how are you doing today? I am doing well. How are you?
I am great; thank you so much! It's nice and warm out here in the UK. I don't remember being this warm since I moved out here a few months ago. What part of the world are you living in? I’m in California.
Awesome! The weather is fantastic in Los Angeles. Right now, it's a May grey/June gloom thing, so today, it's a bit overcast.
I see. Were you born in LA.? Although I was born in Racine, Wisconsin, I was raised in Los Angeles.
Do you have siblings? Yes. I have two older sisters, and we are all four years apart.
Wow! How awesome is that! Around the age you had your blockbuster movie success, children generally focus on playing with toys and going outside with their friends. Being so young, what about movies that drew you to that area of interest? Children generally have vivid imaginations, and everyone has an artistic side. Some more than others, meaning not everyone will use that creative side to make a career of it. But make-believe and playtime all stem from our imagination.
Thus, for me. My make-believe and imaginary side dominated. Also, I was fortunate to have a family that supported my desire to act. Everyone was supportive, from my parents to my siblings and other relatives. I remember running around the house, playing, and going through make-believe scenarios. My younger sister would also join in, and my uncle, when he would come over, would also play along. That was their way of showing me support.
In many families, when you have more than one child, and one child has a particular interest that stands out, it can lead to sibling rivalry and even family division. What steps did your parents take to minimize the impact of that situation on the "Golden Family." Again, I think it depends on the parenting those siblings have. We have amazing parents! Unfortunately, my father is no longer with us. He passed away a couple of years ago.
I'm so sorry to hear that. Thank you. He and my mom ensured we all had a chance to be the baby. Therefore, we were all treated equally. Nobody was favored above the other.
Obviously, some things are beyond your control regarding how people perceive things, even children, but my parents did their best to ensure we all had our individual space. Because of that, there was no clashing of that nature. There has never been a time when I didn’t feel supported by my parents, family, and siblings. We all supported one another.
My mom and dad always told me that I could do great things with my career and be catered to on the set, but when I came home, they would say to me that I was not acting and had chores. I had to take out the trash and ensure my room was clean. So, I'm grateful that my parents raised me that way, instilling great values within us because it kept me grounded.
What were the sacrifices your parents had to make to make sure that you were a success in your acting career? Both my mom and dad worked for the airlines. My mom was a flight attendant. They loved what they did because they enjoyed traveling. So, when my career started to blossom, unbeknownst to me, because my parents were so outstanding, my mom left her job to be there on set with me because kids must have a guardian on set. My dad kept his job to keep the money coming in to pay the bills.
To them, I was their child, Norman Golden 11, not a commodity or a money-making machine. Their perspective of how I would move about in this industry differed from those within it (Agents, Managers, etc.)
My parent's goal was to create a safe space for me within the industry so that I became different from many child actors who have reached adulthood. They would not allow me to be taken advantage of in any compacity. Although it was not easy, my parents made it look effortless. Therefore, I have great admiration for them and their parenting!
I never met your parents, but I'm sure they were remarkable in how highly you regard them and how well you speak of them. That's amazing! When did your life change as a child actor, and from your perspective, did you fully comprehend what acting would do for you? At that time, I had no idea where following the acting path would take me. In the same way that other children had an interest in playing little league, baseball, or basketball, I was drawn to acting. Children do not generally make money from sports, but I was able to make money and travel from acting.
All I wanted to do was do something that felt good and something that I was interested in. I realized this was much bigger than I thought when I was at the Universal Amphitheater. They invited kids from the neighboring schools to attend the premier they held for the public in the Universal Studios backlot.
After the film concluded and I signed autographs and talked to people, we went to the parking lot where eight school buses full of children expressed their admiration for the film and my depiction of the character within it. They were even quoting lines from the movie. I waved to them, and at that moment, I realized that something special was happening in my life. I finally realized this was bigger than anything I had ever experienced, especially being that young.
Then came the interviews and all that followed. In time, I became accustomed to the process. However, going from being a fan to having fans at that time represented a significant change.
Norman, your film history is quite impressive. Can you name a few of the films you were a part of and some of the actors you've worked with? Sure, Cop & ½ starring Burt Reynolds. The late great Ruby Dee was also in that film. She played my grandmother, so I was grateful that I had the opportunity to work with her. I also was in "There Are No Children Here," starring Oprah Winfrey, who played my mother, and Maya Angelou, who played my grandmother in that film. And I played "Little Pip" in the remake of Moby Dick starring Patrick Stewart and Gregory Peck. I've also worked with Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Wesley Snipes, and other great talents.
Being so young and thrust into an adult world, how was your experience? How were you treated? You know, Gina, it boils down to the type of parents you have and the people that you have around you. The same goes for adults. Because my parents were diligent in making sure that I was protected and no crazy things were happening, my treatment was good.
My older sister had to go in as my guardian a couple of times because she was available to do that. And, of course, because they saw that she was my sister and not my parents, they tried to take advantage, but my sister held her stance and refused to allow them to make me do something we were uncomfortable doing.
Can you give me an example? Yes, there was one time when there was a wardrobe change at the last minute. My sister disagreed and was adamant that I would not wear what they wanted. She told them they would have to figure it out because she was unwilling to compromise.
What were they asking of you? It was a scene with me and another kid playing my brother in the film. There was a discrepancy regarding what I would wear in a bedtime scene where they wanted me in boxer briefs. My sister said, "My brother will not be half-naked on TV." She didn't care what they thought of her. She said yes, I am the older sister, but now I'm playing our mother's role, and my mother would have said the same thing. She refused to release me to the set until they brought the wardrobe person to the room.
Ultimately, I was in a robe in that scene, and the other boy wasn't because my sister spoke up. So, it's who you have in your corner watching over you and ensuring you're treated with the utmost respect and dignity.
They tried it, but I'm glad your super brave superwoman sister rescued you. I'm sure you are grateful for her until this day. Yes, I am.
I love it! That's great! Norman, have you ever been asked to say anything against your moral values as a child actor? Yes, on many occasions. However, I respected the writer and the story they wanted to tell. Still, as a young actor, I also understood one of the principles my grandma taught me: never compromise myself for money. She would say, "If you're ever asked to do something you're uncomfortable with, you can always say "No."
So, yes, there were many times when the writer wrote something I felt uncomfortable saying.
For example. I did a period piece film set in 1948, and it was a scene where the 9-year-old kid, who I was to portray, was supposed to confront the principal about a decision made regarding an art piece that was supposed to be submitted to an art fair.
The principal, of course, did not submit it due to racial discrimination. I didn't understand it fully because, at the time, I was a child, but after reading the script on our way to Dallas, I thought to myself, " Hmm, A black kid in 1948 would not confront an adult in such a way, given the time and the way things were back then. It just was unheard of. And, if he even got it in his mind, it would be quickly changed because the consequence of disrespecting an adult was to bring about two to three spankings before he got home. Then when he got home, there were more awaiting him. After that, you wouldn’t do it again. I knew that because I was raised in “old school.” (laughs) You know.
Oh yes, I know all so well. I'm from that generation of parents that didn't play with disrespectful kids. (laughs) Yes. So, I talked to my mom about it, and she said if you're uncomfortable, speak to the director and see if something can be done, like a rewrite.
And again, I'm the type of actor that will go along with the script without causing any problems, although some actors are quite different. Some will rewrite based on their vision of what they feel the character should say, but to me, that is disrespectful to the writer.
So, I brought it to their attention, and Bill Duke, who was in Menace ll Society, directed Hoodlum and had done loads in the business; I had a conversation with him regarding the matter. They met with Westly Snipes and the powers that be, and they all agreed that my point regarding the child's approach toward the adult was not authentic to that era. #
So, instead of us having to change the writing, I suggested that instead of me being sassy or confrontational, I'm inquisitive. To me, it lands better. He wouldn't have been sassy then, but he could ask questions. Although asking a question to an adult was still considered taking a liberty, it lands better on the listener instead of a sassy approach. So, it happened, and many parts were offered to me, but I turned them down because they didn’t align with what I believed in and my parents.
How well did you transition from childhood to adulthood in the film business? Again, I had the fortune of having amazing parents with the foresight to see that day coming.
When you're a child, you're fresh and just out there doing what you love, but when you become a teenager, you start smelling yourself, as the old folks would say. Do you remember that? (laughs)
Yes. I remember that! (laughs) Yes, so for me, my parents allowed me a space where I could develop into adulthood out of the spotlight. That allowed me to get through those teenage years privately without external ridicule. Your true fans will understand the changes and still support you because they live vicariously through you.
Some fans want to see a perfect image of you so that they can idolize you, but others will give you a break and are cool with giving you a pass with mistakes that you may make.
Also, during that transition, my older sister was getting married and starting a family, so my parents wanted to support her as they did all of us. So, it was her time for all of us to rally around her in support. Therefore, when my childhood career ended, it came at a time when we had a lot of exciting things happening in our family. So, unlike many child celebrities who transition to adulthood in front of millions of people, I did so privately.
Sounds like you had great parents! Yes, and by the time I got through my teen years and became an adult, I had plenty of time to decide what my adult life would look like.
For me, I was never interested in stardom. Some people think everyone wants fame, but for me, stardom was not my pursuit. People go on to have great careers without being an "A" lister celebrity. They may not be all over the place, but they know who they are and what they want.
The only way I could cultivate that was to be taken away from it for a time. That was probably the best thing that could have ever happened. We were a family before that happened and will always be a family. I'm big on family.
Tell me about your thought process today. I want to pursue my career as an adult, but I do, but it is not something I need to do because I did it as a kid or to try and recreate the former glory. Although I've done other things and succeeded in them, my passion is still acting, writing, and producing.
The industry has changed vastly from when you were a child and became digitalized. Many people are building their careers, using their finances and marketing strategies to get their products out. How have you used the digitalized methodology to your advantage in your current film social media era? I think it's a great opportunity. My wife and I discussed this same thing a little while ago.
Back in the day, an actor's goal was to get signed to a studio, and once you'd accomplished that, they paid you a salary and gave you a place to stay and a car to drive. After that, you've made it.
The problem with that method is that you need more autonomy regarding the roles you want to play because you signed a contract to make 40 films, and in those films, you do what they tell you to do. Unfortunately, taking the route that will make you rich and famous results in losing your freedom and being under someone's heavy hand control. Honestly, how long can you sustain that?
In today's world, you have a better opportunity, especially for people of color, to tell your story how you want. Also, as an independent, you have complete control over your career and the material you choose to be a part of. That’s a big thing. But, simultaneously, I'm not knocking anyone who's decided on that path.
I hear you. Like most music today, many of the films are missing something. Many of the stories told are less interesting to me these days. Also, I remember many independent films even growing up, they were funnier, and the stories were more impactful. Yes. I want to see the film Industry come back to that instead of what we've been seeing in the last ten years, repeat, repeat. Where is the creativity and vision? Everything is so much about money that you lose the value and luster of life in it. That's what creativity is all about. And it's not that it is completely gone, but it's just that you don't see it as much now.
Lower-budget films like I'm Going to Get You Sucka and "Meteor Man" may have been a bit laborious, but it was fun because they were in their element, and that's a good thing.
Nevertheless, the upside is that independent filmmaking created more opportunities for new and fresh onscreen talent and new movie, screenwriting, and production ideas. I hope to see more of that emerge. I'm in favor of populating the industry with people who have unique voices.
Currently, what's happening in your creative journey? What's the scoop? Well, I have been working on writing and creating my project.
I started writing and creating my project because there was a lack of creativity within the available roles. I didn't fit into "the type." In other words, I couldn't be typecast in the parts I was interested in, only the ones I wasn't interested in.
That experience made me realize that I wanted to create my own thing. I've always enjoyed writing. I started writing at age 9. In my downtown, away from the industry, I developed and cultivated my other talents, including writing.
So, now I'm focused on writing, producing, and directing my projects. Currently, I have two projects out that are on Amazon Prime. They are both short films. One is called "Misperception," and the other is "Hollywood Kid." I co-wrote, produced, and starred in "Misperception." "The Hollywood Kid" is part of my larger project. Recently I've been talking to a few financiers about turning it into a series.
What's it about? The series is about my experience trying to get back into the industry after being a former child actor. It will shed light on returning to the business after being out of the loop.
I also talk about how my fame, or a lack thereof, affected my family and the sacrifices they had to make for the success of my career. So, that's my crown jewel.
Lastly, I have another independent film in development that I am producing, and we are close to closing the deal for financing. If all goes well with that process, we plan to go into deep production this coming August. Then, I'm producing a feature film about a guy that works at a business development company. He gets tasked with replacing his old community with apartment complexes and storefronts. He's a little trepidatious because he's been doing this, but now that it's gotten to his community, he feels some way about it. The movie aims to show how black men and women are perceived in a professional setting other than entertainment in real estate, banking, etc. I have a couple of other projects on the sidebar, but these are a few currently my primary focus.
Norman, can you leave tomorrow's actors and filmmakers any words of wisdom? Never compromise yourself. To achieve that, you must know who you are. Be a whole person because when you're met with people asking you to do things that don't align with your values, it's easier to say no. Never sell yourself short. Just like some men have been asked to wear dresses and said no because they knew who they were, they were unwilling to compromise on what they felt was proper within themselves. They still have careers and stand up for what they felt was right for them. So, know yourself, never compromise and have fun in the process.
Another thing, be happy. Happiness is not tied to fortune or anything superficial or outside of yourself. Absolute joy is when you can be satisfied in the face of anything, good or bad.
Well said, Norman. I've enjoyed speaking with you today. Thank you so much for this interview. I pray that God. I will bless you and your family that the Lord will keep you guys safe. I pray that God's will be done in your life and that He will bless the works of your hands, be it done according to His will. I want you to know that I'm so proud of everything that you have achieved throughout your years. I'm proud of your noble transition from childhood to adulthood and of you for being a fantastic father and husband. I want you to know that I'm rooting for you, and I want to see God bless you in many ways. I'll be watching to see all the beautiful things coming for you in the future. So, it's been an honor. I thank you with all my heart. Thank you so much! I appreciate that! That means a lot.
And you keep standing firm. Stand on your faith; as you said, never compromise. I'm a firm believer in that. And I know that if you continue that mindset, God will bless you tremendously. Also, continue to be a light in this industry because the world needs as much of that as possible. That's the goal when. You said it right because many people say the industry is bad, but it exists for a purpose. More people than me say we can do this without all the nonsense we've experienced. It is possible. This is why I stand for being that light, for sure.
Amen to that. Many people in the business want a positive change in every leg of entertainment and our world. You're not alone. Well, Norman, God bless you, and you take care of yourself. Thank you, Gina. You too.
Buy The Indie Post | Norman D. Golden II | May 20, 2023 Issue Vol 3 Softback Magazine on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C51XDBM8