Rolling Out

Harold Dennis talks acting, inspiration and immersing himself in the art

Harold Dennis – Photo Credit: Justin Harris Photography

One thing is certain: there is no shortage of talent in Chicago. Chicago-filmed shows like “Empire,” “Chicago PD,” and “Chicago Fire” have tapped into this deep pool of talent. As a result, the attention spills over to the independent film scene providing a unique look into the essence of Chicago. These independent films are cast with many of the city’s best actors and actresses. We spoke with one of the most revered actors on the scene today, Harold Dennis. We talked about his obligation as a creator and fully immersing himself in the art.

Tell us about yourself.

I am an actor residing in Chicago, credited with over 100 independent shorts and features. I am a fresh face. I recognized early in my career that being an actor is a never-ending maturation process and a responsibility. I like to think of myself as an artist at work painting pictures for the mind. My creative obligation is to invite the viewer not only to be entertained but to fully engage the character I’m presenting.

What is it about what you do that makes you unique?

I’ll read a script knowing that it will reveal its mysteries. I’ll add processes such as intentions, secrets, physical mannerisms in a combination and format that can’t be duplicated by another actor.

How did you get started in your profession?

I imagined being an actor on television and in the movies as a youngster.  My parents took me to the cinema to see such movies as Coffee, The Mack and Superfly. My father talked of his sister, actress Marian Rolle (niece of Ester Rolle), and her world travels with her one-woman show “Desiree”. I found myself on stage in a play in second grade. It felt good, but I forgot my lines.  When a senior in high school I was invited to do a spot on the television game show “Know Your Heritage”. The cameraman made it a point to tell me I had a nice camera presence. Years later I saw my high school band teacher, the late John Watson Sr., acting in The Fugitive, Groundhog Day and Soul Food. I realized that acting in film was a possibility for me. Mr. Watson was the first individual that I personally knew who was acting in film. I enrolled in the beginning and advanced courses to study with the late Harold “Okoro” Johnson, co-founder of the Eta Creative Arts Foundation. I was so inspired during my very first class that I decided I was going to be an actor for the rest of my life. In 1998 I was cast in the blues musical “I Was There When The Blues Was Red Hot.” I stayed with that show for 171 performances. I fully immersed myself into the art and there was no going back.

Harold Dennis – Photo Credit: David Stephens Photography

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of what you do?

My challenge now is to remember to be still and exercise the rule of patience.    

Who are the biggest personal and professional influences in your life?

My personal influences are God, my parents, Harold and Sudie, and my children, Taylor and Jasmine.  And, my dearest friend, Claudia Johnson.  Professionally I am inspired by Denzel Washington, Harry Lennix, Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Sam Jackson, Forrest Whittaker, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Halle Berry.

Tell us about the last book you read. Why did you choose it?

“Story” because it gives a crisp glimpse into to mind of a writer.

What encouraging words do you have for our readers.

Imagination is an ingredient in creation. Commit to what it is that you desire to do, be and have. Most importantly, enjoy the ride.

Harold Dennis Twitter: @99filmsonthewal

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