Words by DeWayne Rogers Images By Hiltron Bailey for Steed Media Group
Ever had a dream? No, I’m not referring to the ones that greet you on a nightly basis once you close your eyes to officially put an end to your day. Instead, I’m speaking of the kind of dream that won’t even let you sleep. It takes hold of your entire being and refuses to let go — not even momentarily. It’s the kind of dream that pushes you to the limit, forcing you to accomplish things you once thought were impossible. Well, have you? Have you ever had a dream? Think about that for a moment…
The Setup 8:45 a.m.: Good morning! Have u done ur interview with Morris yet???? U better get a pic and autograph 4 me???
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There was no misinterpreting my sister’s early morning text message. She, like so many other women, adores Hollywood heartthrob Morris Chestnut. So I knew what was at stake, and certainly didn’t want to let my sister down — even if it was for something as trivial as securing an autograph. But what is it about Chestnut that makes him so appealing to women? Is it because they consider him to be tall, dark and handsome? Maybe. Is it because he’s been able to achieve and maintain a relatively high level of success in Hollywood, which is considered by many to be a virtual burial ground for the hopes of aspiring entertainers? Perhaps. Or maybe the appeal lies in the nature of his profession. You see, the big screen offers us a fascinating perspective on people. We watch them, and then begin to love, adore, and even lust after them.
But is it really the actual person that we’re falling for? Of course not. Instead, we’re guilty of falling in love with the characters they so expertly play, which leaves us lacking any real notion of who they really are. Maybe that’s why Chestnut was so excited about starring in the Christmas flick, The Perfect Holiday. For him, not only was the project great, but it also granted him the opportunity to finally portray a character that he could actually identify with.
“First of all, let me say that this movie is great,” he began while flashing his trademark smile, which would have probably made my sister lose consciousness. “This was a great opportunity for me to do a fun holiday movie. I had never done one before, so I saw this as a chance to make a project that people would add to their collection of favorite holiday movies. But then there was the other side of the coin — the part that made me really want to do this film. When I looked at the character, I could definitely relate to him. He was a struggling songwriter looking for an opportunity to get his big break. I could relate to that journey, because I remember when I was a struggling actor searching for my one chance to show what I could do. Opportunities would come along where I thought to myself, ‘yes, this is it. I’m finally going to make it big.’ And then for whatever reason it wouldn’t work out and I would be left scratching my head. It would be so frustrating.”
The Rude Awakening
Now back to that dream of yours. Once you’ve finally decided to act on it, things usually get interesting from that point on. Despite your own personal belief in your dream, you still have to convince the rest of the world of its validity, or in Chestnut’s case, the studio execs who ultimately make the decisions. Unfortunately, this plan doesn’t always go smoothly, which is something that he’s experienced more times than he cares to even think about.
“You have to have really strong character to make it in this world, and even more so in Hollywood” Chestnut explains. “I’ve seen this industry eat people, chew them up, and spit them out. There is a tremendous amount of rejection in this industry, and if you’re not able to deal with it, then it will have a negative effect on you. For me, I’ve learned not to get too excited when something good happens, and at the same time, I don’t get too down when things happen that are bad. I try to stay pretty even-keeled throughout. Because throughout my time in this industry, I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve been back up, and I’ve been down again. So I think that I’ve learned how to handle it all pretty well now.”
Handling rejection is one thing, but how you adjust to your mistakes goes a long way in determining just how far you ultimately get. It would be foolish for us to look at Chestnut, and assume that because he’s starred in movies ranging from Boyz ‘N the Hood to The Best Man, that he has things figured out, and that he’s no longer capable of making mistakes or missteps along the way. It’s quite the contrary. What you will find instead is a man who embraces his mistakes, and uses them as fuel to further propel him on his never-ending quest to accomplish his dream.
“When I make a mistake, it really motivates me for the next time,” he continues. “Now I still make plenty of mistakes. To this day, I’ll go into an audition, and I’ll make a choice that probably wasn’t the right one. But I’ve been able to learn how to go through things and still bounce back from them. I think it’s just in my nature. I hate to sound cliché, but when the going gets tough, the tough really get going, and that’s what I that probably wasn’t the right one. But I’ve been able to learn how to go through things and still bounce back from them. I think it’s just in my nature. I hate to sound cliché, but when the going gets tough, the tough really get going, and that’s what I do.”
The Need To Feel Alive
You’re a lemon. Like a bad car. There is something inherently defective in you, me, and all of us. We’re all lemons. We look like everyone else, but what makes us different is our defect. See, most gamblers, when they go to gamble, they go to win. When we go to gamble, we go to lose. Subconsciously, us lemons f*ck sh*t up all the time on purpose. Because we constantly need to remind ourselves we’re alive. Gambling’s not your problem. It’s this f*cked up need to feel something. To convince yourself you exist. That’s the problem. –Al Pacino, Two For the Money
Is that true? Do we only feel alive when our backs are against the wall? Do we purposely sabotage ourselves so we can make a great escape in the end? Some of us may never give ourselves an honest evaluation on this point. Oftentimes, the mirror’s reflection offers truths that many of us aren’t ready to hear and accept. In Chestnut’s opinion, though, such revelations are necessary.
“I don’t know what it is about me, but the harder things are for me, the more focused I am,” he reveals. “The easier it is, the less focused I am. That’s the only thing that I haven’t been able to conquer just yet. I don’t know how to maintain that edge all of the time. The only time I come with that edge is when I come across some disappointment, or some let down. When things are going well, I don’t have that same edge, and I don’t think that my work is as good. Honestly, that’s why I think that my work has fluctuated in the past.”
But aren’t we all guilty of that, at least a little bit? Even I have the propensity to ease up and turn on the cruise control when things are going well. But that’s the antithesis of true greatness, and a sign that maybe we aren’t ready to fulfill our true potential just yet.
“I honestly think it’s human nature for us to act this way,” Chestnut counters, as we continued to delve into the topic. “In sports and in entertainment, the elite manage to always have that edge, even if they have to create in their own minds that it’s them against the world. They just have it, and it never goes away. Me, I don’t have that yet — hey, I’m just being real with you. I actually think it’s something that is either in you, or it’s not. I want it though …”
Have you had a dream? It seems like Morris Chestnut has, and despite the instability of the industry that he’s married to, or his own personal shortcomings, he’s determined to see it through until the end, for better or for worse. What about you?