Words and Images by DeWayne Rogers for Steed Media Service
The Scene –
Quietly nestled in the heart of Atlanta’s posh Buckhead community, the luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel recently played host to emerging talent Columbus Short. Though his stay in town was brief due to a whirlwind press tour for the upcoming holiday flick This Christmas, the talented entertainer did slow down long enough to talk shop with rolling out.
It has been over a year since we last sat down with you. How has starring in Stomp the Yard, which was No. 2 at the box office, changed your life?
It’s amazing how one role can change you entire life. Before I did Stomp the Yard, I was just another actor that needed to work. It didn’t really matter what the role was, I was just trying to be in the movies. At that point, beggars couldn’t be choosy, and I was just trying to make it. So, I paid my dues operating in that manner. But starring in Stomp the Yard gave me the flexibility to begin to get more selective with my roles, because the offers started to come more frequently. It seemed liked everyone wanted to work with me once those box office numbers rolled in. So now, my whole focus has been on choosing the right roles to enhance my career. That mind-set started with This Christmas. I’m so proud of the work that was done on that film.
click to see this photogallery
Which one of your roles has been the most fulfilling thus far?
When I can look back at my résumé, I am so proud of the work that I did on Stomp the Yard. But when I look at my work on This Christmas, I can be equally as proud. I don’t think that I can put one over the other, because they are both really good projects. I am so happy that the days of me having to do fluff are behind me. Now I can just focus my attention on doing good movies.
So now that you have the flexibility to be choosy with roles, does that mean that you are working less now?
Honestly, I’d rather not work than to do a project just for the sake of doing it. Besides, I want to write, direct and produce projects as well. That’s where I’m looking to go with my career. I want to be at the Golden Globes or the Oscars, and have Meryl Streep lean over to me and say, ‘You are a fantastic talent.’
In order to avoid being pigeonholed in one type of role, do you have to be conscious of the parts that you choose to play?
Let’s be honest, there are certain people that get hired just to be ‘that guy,’ so they don’t mind being pigeonholed in a certain type of role, because that’s just who they are. But then on the flipside, you do have certain actors that can be choosy, because they have the ability to be a chameleon. When I say that, I’m thinking of people like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, or Don Cheadle. My goal is to be held in the same light as actors on that level. So while I think that part of it is the roles that you choose, I also think that your skill level as an actor also plays a part in whether people pigeonhole you or not.
So do you and your colleagues talk about this kind of stuff? Do you have ‘actor meetings’ where you can discuss the science behind choosing roles?
Of course we do. I mean, think about it. What do corporate dudes do when they get off work? They get together, and they discuss business strategies and discover ways that they can advance even further in their professions. It’s the same with us. You have to keep a core of strong actors around you. Like with me, I surround myself with people like Idris Elba, Keith Robinson and Laz Alonzo. We keep each other in check, and we discuss ways to take this thing to the next level. We are striving to be that next wave of actors that Hollywood looks to. Like today, you have phenomenal actors like Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne, Don Cheadle and Forest Whitaker. They are all a part of the same peer group. We are the new class that are not only learning from them, but also learning from each other so that we can be ready to carry the torch and represent in Hollywood.
You mentioned that you were a part of the new class in Hollywood. Well, why don’t you become a teacher and grade yourself on your efforts thus far.
Wow. That’s a great question. Let’s see: On hustle and grind, I give myself an A plus. On patience, I think I’ll give myself a B. On professionalism, I’ll give myself an A. And on balance, meaning how well I’m able to juggle my career with my personal life, I would have to give myself a solid B plus. I used to be a C minus in that area, but I had to learn the importance of being a whole person. It’s great to be a wonderful talent that the whole world loves, but if the rest of you is jacked up, then your success doesn’t really mean as much.