"We were dancing on lunch tables..."

When Charles IV attended SHINE nearly two years ago, he had one goal in mind: to become an actor. Little did he know that after arriving, his dream would come true! A finalist in SHINE Winter 2014, Charles has since moved to Los Angeles and landed principle roles in many commercials including campaigns for K-Mart, Gogurt, ESPN, and Nike. Recently, he was featured on the upcoming Nickelodeon sitcom Homeroom, and at the ambitious age of eleven, has no plans of slowing down his career. We caught up with Charles and his dad Charles III to discuss the ins and outs of show business and the importance of seeking Christ first when making decisions.

When did God call you to be an actor?

I remember it was at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was during the school season, and Dad was working in DC. All the long hours, and he just decided why not go to Disney World and have some fun? So we were at the Epcot Center, and at one of the attractions that they had, there were all these different people dancing on a stage, and I just felt like that was something that I wanted to do. I thought it was interesting. I told my Dad, “Why can’t I become an actor?” At first he kind of dismissed it a little bit. I was four-years-old, and he was like, he’s just caught up in the moment. So I reminded him at five years old, “Okay, I want to become an actor.” (laughs). Finally at six, I kept telling him I wanted to do it. That’s when he said, “Okay.” It was Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday weekend, my Dad was looking through different auditions online, and the first thing that popped up was AMTC. So he told me if I could remember a few excerpts from Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech, he would let me go to an audition. I spent a couple days memorizing, and when I had it, we went to AMTC and I did the audition. That’s how I got started.

What did you enjoy most about SHINE

I think it was the support system that we had, because everybody was always nice and kept helping us along the way. That was the biggest thing for me. Everybody was so supportive. It was just a really nice community and I enjoyed how I was able to be around so many nice people.

You have done plenty of commercials including spots for K-Mart, GoGurt, and Nike. What was your favorite spot to film?

My favorite commercial so far was probably K-Mart. I had to dance for the audition, so I went on YouTube to find a few different dance choreography clips that I played with, and I based my audition off of that. It was a two-day shoot, and there were a few different professional dancers there, so it was really cool getting a chance to meet them. Also I didn’t know it was going to be a rap thing- they had live performers rapping at the shoot. But I really enjoyed it, because I had no previous dance experience, and that made it so awesome, getting the chance to do something that I had never done before. It was basically just hip-hop and a little bit of freestyle. The first day was training, getting ourselves familiarized with the dance that we were hired to do, and the second day was when we really got to do the fun stuff, shoot all of the dance moves, and film at a real school in a real-life cafeteria. What was so crazy about it was that we were dancing on top of lunch tables (laughs), and they had sand bags out if any of us fell off. A lot of the kids in the commercial were saying things like, “Do a back flip on the table!” And I’m like, “…nope!” (laughs).

How do you prepare for an audition?

Well, usually we get the breakdown of course, and then I try to research the producers and the director and see what type of different projects they’ve been on, so when I go into the audition, I know what they’ve done. Then I try to research my character so I can really grasp and understand who the character is. Like at the Gogurt shoot, my character was a fast-paced real estate agent type, so I went online trying to find different clips of fast-paced real-estate agents. The casting director said that probably in twenty to thirty years, my character was going to be a “get-rich-quick” salesman. Something of that nature. So I tried to find videos of different people that were like that, and that really helped me become that type of real estate agent.

You recently had a guest-starring role on the Nickelodeon sitcom Homeroom. Tell us about the show, and what was it like playing a character on TV?

Oh yeah! It’s a new show that’s supposed to be coming out in January, I believe. It’s supposed to be really good- the basis is two brothers have the same homeroom class, and they try to co-exist together, even though they have a rivalry. It was really a blessing, because I had never been on a sitcom or anything like that before, and I saw some of the people there that were on previous shows on Nickelodeon. So that was definitely a different experience. I was playing one of the characters in a flashback that was a skater in the 80’s, so they had me dressed in this wool sweater in ninety-degree weather (laughs). And I learned a crazy elaborate trick where I skated across a table and hopped off a fountain!

(To dad, Charles III) How did AMTC prepare you to be a parent in this industry?

Charles III: There was so much information that was given to us from the first day of Charles’ launches, as far as how we should conduct ourselves, what to look for, what to be careful and cautious of. I believe the information really prepared Charles and myself to be able to deal with what we have encountered thus far along our journey. Whenever Charles and I are surrounded with true believers, it helps us, encourages us, and keeps us ever mindful of our walk with Christ. It keeps us always cognizant of the fact that we don’t have to sell out or compromise to be successful in this industry. You don’t have to take any kind of role that’s going to compromise your faith and your walk with Christ, and AMTC really helped enforce that.

How do you help Charles IV stay focused and balance his schoolwork with all of his auditions?

Charles III: My main focus is to keep him grounded; to keep him humble, and to realize all his blessings are coming from God. Not taking away anything from his natural talents that God has blessed him with, but this is such a competitive industry, even for kids. He has to always be aware that his blessings are formed from God, and that he has to be respectful, and stay true to the teaching of Christ, what God has called him in.

What advice would you give to parents looking to start their kids’ careers in entertainment?

Charles III: I would encourage them to do their homework and research on this industry, because it’s a serious commitment on the part of the parents, and not only the parents, but the other family members as well. I would also encourage them to get all the training they can. For instance, enrolling in an improv class, or good acting classes. I would encourage them to get as much training as possible, because this is a very competitive industry, and your kid being cute and adorable is not going to make it. They’re going to have to be very well trained, they’re going to need all their training to make it in this industry, and they definitely have to stay prayed up.