Los Angeles is home to Hollywood; the land where dreams come true. Though the challenges faced by African Americans in Hollywood are great, every day, Black folk pack up their lives and move to Los Angeles in pursuit of their dreams. However, little is known about the inner workings of “Black Hollywood”.
Los Angeles’ network of Black actors and entertainers is thriving and vibrant. In Los Angeles it is not uncommon to find that your waiter, insurance agent, postal worker, cashier, or lawyer is also a struggling actor. There are those who toil in the trenches daily, studying their crafts, making auditions while maintaining jobs, families and community connections. They struggle with issues of artistic integrity while carrying the weight of our images on their shoulders. Take classes in between shifts and engage in the craziness of simply trying to book work.
On Saturday, February 4, 2012 more than 600 (though the instructions said only 300 would be seen and more than 1,000 responded) mostly African American actors and singers waited patiently in line at Stage 52 Playhouse to get a 60 second audition in front of one man— Don B. Welch.
Soon to be a household name, Don B. Welch, an actor and singer turned playwright, author and producer, is creating opportunities for people of color to work. Several years ago, the Philadelphia native at the encouragement of friends, including megastar Will Smith, relocated to Los Angeles. He had gained quite a bit of success locally and it was time to step it up.
Welch is the author of 2 published novels, has written and produced more than 19 original stage plays. He is working on his 3rd film, “Love Buddies” and his 1st film, “The Bachelor Party” is available on DVD. He is presently in negotiations to move into film and television next. Because of this actors, new and seasoned, compete for the coveted roles in his productions.
While it is difficult to get the energetic and enigmatic Mr. Welch to sit still for very long, we managed to get him to respond to a few of our questions:
SENTINEL: So when did you find your voice, how did you come to understand your calling?
Don B. Welch (DBW): “I knew from a very early age that I was given something special from God. I just did not know what it was or what to do with it. That took some time.
SENTINEL: How do you feel about being compared to Tyler Perry or referred to as the next Tyler Perry?
DBW: “Hmm, that has been happening for several years now. It used to bother me, because we really are nothing alike. His journey is his journey and my journey has been mine. But, I have come to understand that the general public needs a comparison. They need to be able to identify what one does with an example that is easily accepted and understood. So, it’s fine. I respect Mr. Perry’s journey, he has worked very hard to do what no one else from this genre has been able to do in the black community.”
SENTINEL: Do you encounter criticism? If so, what kind? What is your response?
DBW: “I’m sure I do, but I rarely actually hear it. Probably because I don’t allow myself to be around any negativity and then I remove myself immediately. I accept criticism, especially if it is constructive and helpful, if not, I turn away.”
SENTINEL: What is next for you? What is your 3 to 5 Year Plan?
DBW: “Wow, so much. More stage productions, films, but really excited about my newest production, “My Brother’s Keeper”, starring Loretta Devine, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Vanessa Williams, Flex Alexander, Chico Benymon, Jason Olive and Ernest L. Thomas. I do have a 5 year plan, but I choose to keep that a secret….. for now…(smile) (My Brother’s Keeper is appearing at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, March 30 and 31. For ticket information please call Inglewood Tickets at 310-6400, Ticket Master 800-745-8000 or at the Wilshire Ebell Box Office)
SENTINEL: While you have been able to cast major Black Hollywood in your plays, you are known for mentoring others. Why is that so important to you?
DBW: “Well, it’s very important for me to give back. Aside from it being in my nature, the bottom line is, I never got any help. Not really. I had no mentors really in the industry. I had people who I admired, but I broke down my own doors. I didn’t have any one come on board until I started to make a name for myself. Until I started to prove that I was really doing something and in this field (entertainment) for life. That’s when Will Smith (a family friend) came to my aide. He saw something special and he saw that I was good, very good and very determined. So he became my lifeline and the reason I moved to LA.”
SENTINEL: You never sleep and always seem to be in production? How do you take care of yourself? Keep going?
DBW: “I go to the gym regularly, (the treadmill knows me by name) and take MANY vitamins, I read novels and biographies to relax, especially late at night.
SENTINEL: Are there any final thoughts that you would like to share?
DBW: “Not really, except, thank you and God bless you and your readers.”
To learn more about Don B. Welch please visit www.donbwelchproductions.com