Calling thespian J. Bernard Calloway, a newcomer or fresh face would almost be insulting. He is a trained and seasoned Broadway trailblazer whose talents have graced the stage for years.
Two of his breakout roles were in the musicals “Guys and Dolls,” as “Nathan Detroit,” and in the holiday classic “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” as the “Grinch,” both at The Old Globe in San Diego.
Calloway was the first Black man to bring these two iconic characters – typically played by white actors — to life.
But most subscribers to the streaming platform BET+ will know Calloway as the patriarchal figure “Terry Carson” on the hysterical and thought-provoking sitcom “The Ms. Pat Show.”
Co-created by and based loosely on the life of stage comedienne Patricia Williams, aka “Ms. Pat,” season one of the Ms. Pat Show is currently airing on BET+ with season two premiering on Thursday, August 11, 2022.
Calloway, a native of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, was playing football at Alabama State University when he was enchanted by the magic of the theatre. He says he grew up around a family of performers, music, and the church.
His first stage was a house of worship performing in seasonal plays. Then while playing football in college, Calloway formed his own musical group. A young woman heard him singing and encouraged Calloway to audition for an upcoming play.
He went on to star in several of the school’s productions, which prompted him to abruptly quit football and change his major from accounting to theatre arts. Since ASU, Calloway has enjoyed a vast international career in the theatre.
In addition to Guys and Dolls and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, a few of Calloway’s other theatre credits include “Memphis the Musical” (Original Broadway Cast, Tony Award for Best Musical), The Good Negro and Head of Passes (The Public Theatre), and Hadestown (New York Theatre Workshop).
When asked, “If any playwright could write the story of your life to date, Calloway says his first pick would be “the theatre’s poet of Black America, Mr. August Wilson.”
“He [August Wilson] speaks to our [African Americans] human condition,” said Calloway. “He is just one of the great storytellers, and he would do my timeline justice.”
Although Calloway’s roots are in the theatre, he has parlayed his illustrious theatre career into television and film.
His television and film credits include “When They See Us” (Netflix), “City on a Hill” (Showtime), “Wu-Tang Clan: An American Saga” (Hulu), “Law & Order,” “Blue Bloods,” “Luke Cage,” “The Breaks,” “High Maintenance,” “Person of Interest,” “Elementary,” The Taking of Pelham 123, Man on a Ledge, Anesthesia, Big Words, and The Girl is in Trouble.
Now he is one of the stars of a critically acclaimed BET+ sitcom, The Ms. Pat Show.
The show centers on “Ms. Pat’s fictional family, the Carsons: Pat (Ms. Pat); her husband (J. Bernard Calloway); her sister (Tami Roman); and Pat’s children (Brittany Inge, Vince Swann, Briyana Guadalupe, and Theodore Barnes).”
Calloway had this to say about the show, “I am not trying to be cliché, but since the beginning we’ve been compared to Roc and Rosanne by people like Kim Fields… People get to look at the African American experience through Pat’s perspective.”
“You’re going to laugh; you’re going to cry and you’re going to be moved,” he added. “It will create a conversation between people who would otherwise probably not even speak to one another. It’s not just about making you laugh but it’s about touching your soul.”
“Our showrunner and producer Jordan Cooper, our ‘young king’ is making history,” said Calloway. “He is the youngest Black showrunner in the history of television. One of his heroes is Norman Lear from All In The Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, and the Jeffersons.”
“I’m not hating on any other sitcoms, let me say that but our format is very, very different,” Calloway continued. “That is what our show is influenced by, the shows his [Cooper’s] mom had him watching. He was able to take Pat’s life but fictionalize it and give it an authenticity of the human condition.”
The Ms. Pat Show has also been “blessed” with an outstanding round of directors such as Mary Lou Belli, who’s nominated for an Emmy for the show, Debbie Allen, who directed the pilot, previously mentioned actress/director Kim Fields, and Kelly Park.
Calloway says he and his castmates are truly like another family. “I love our cast, seriously! Me, Pat, Tami, and the kids genuinely like and respect one another. We’re in a group text.”
“For BET to create a platform for her [Ms. Pat] to be herself is the biggest and best thing ever,” said Calloway.
When reflecting on his character from the show, “Terry Carson,” Calloway says he wants to enjoy every moment of seeing Terry evolve and connect with the audience, especially Black men.
“Let’s see how Terry evolves each day and deals with the situations that life throws at him,” said Calloway. “I want to touch men’s lives, and I want to give back to our culture to empower our people.”
“I hope that’s what Terry does for those men,” he added, “those brothers watching the show who are fathers, who are husbands, and be that rock and voice of truth.”
In the future Calloway hopes to earn the opportunity to direct an episode or be a part of the show’s writers’ room. He says he wants to “understand how it all melds together.”
Calloway is excited to let fans of The Ms. Pat Show know that Season 2 premieres on August 11. Season 1 is still currently streaming on BET+.