By: Monteque Pope-Le Beau
Edited By : Colleen Page
Images By: Dwight Turner
The year is almost over and the film festival season is at its height of excitement. Everyone is wondering where those great Oscar winning gems are going to come from. The Art Of Monteque ran into one of those wonderful gems, actor Dwight Turner. If you can’t place him that’s okay because you know him as that guy. The one who’s always cheerful or the one who’s misunderstood, or the one who’s making your side’s hurt because you’re laughing so hard and the one who is searching for the meaning of what’s happening to him. Dwight Turner is that guy. He has a wonderful and skillful way of connecting with the audience. Making sure to take the audience on a journey with him; he is truly a wonderful thespian and The Art Of Monteque had the honor of having a conversation with him during the craziness of the festival season.
Thank you for giving us the time to speak with you.
Dwight Turner: It’s my pleasure.
What was your family life like growing up?
DT: I grew up in a very small town in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. It was very Mayberry. Everyone knew everyone. I did not experience problems with drugs and violence that many kids experience today. It was a pleasant and uncomplicated way to grow up.
How and why did you come to be an artist?
DT: I was always acting, singing, drawing, and being creative as a young child. The artist was always there. I eventually chose acting as a way to express my art to others.
What inspired you to follow this path?
DT: I love people and I love portraying people and telling their stories. I believe that we have experiences through the arts that improve our lives.
Was your family supportive of your decision to become an artist?
DT: No. My mother and father were against it. They originally thought it was a “hobby” at best until I moved to Los Angeles. They were terrified something terrible would happen to me. My father passed away some years ago and my mother has become supportive. There was a turning point where she realized my passion for acting and therefore threw her support behind me.
Did mentors play a big role in your artistic development ?
When did you know this was what you were meant to do?
DT: I did my first play when I was eight. The audience cheered and I was hooked. But even before that, I feel like I always had the acting bug. I was the kid who would gather the neighborhood kids together and put on a show. Later in life, when I returned to acting, I fully realized how much I missed and needed it in my life. I am and will always be an actor.
What was or is your “Dark Nights Of The Soul” as an artist?
DT: My realization that it is more important to express my art as an actor than to have a secure, 9-to-5 job. I have held full-time positions that paid very well, but they never gave me pleasure like acting has. They simply paid the bills. And for me, that was not enough.
As an actor what is the driving force behind your work and what is your process?
DT: My driving force is the desire to bring life to the character in a way that affects others. My process is this. When I get a script I read it several times. Then I begin to make decisions about who this character is and what the circumstances are that surround this character before, during, and after the character exists in the scene. And most important, I strive to feel what the character is feeling in that moment. To live as the character for that brief period of time and then let it go.
What about your career in the arts do you love and what about it do you hate?
DT: I love that each job is a different experience with a new character and new people. I hate the non-linear nature of the career. Most careers have a 2+2=4 pattern to them. But not acting. Everyone has a different path and nothing is a certainty.
With what is going in the world and the attacks on arts what keeps you motivated?
DT: I love what I do. I love acting. Therefore it is easy for me to keep motivated.
Looking back do you having any regrets or things you would do differently?
DT: I would have returned to acting sooner. I landed an online producer (Content Programmer) position at Warner Bros. that took me away from acting. The position required 100% of my time and left no time to pursue acting. It was an amazing rollercoaster ride and I am thankful for the experience. But I would have returned to acting immediately after leaving Warner instead of starting an online company which I ran for years.
It is truly extraordinary what you have achieved in your life and I would like to commend you on your accomplishments.
DT: Thank You.
Okay, lets change the mood a little and just for fun put you in the hot seat!
DT: Sounds like I’m in trouble.
No, it will be fun!
DT: I guess I’m going to have to trust you on this
Okay, lets get down to it. What is your favorite food?
DT: A medium rare filet hot from a wood fired grill, a nice glass of red wine, and a dark chocolate dessert.
Very nice. What is your favorite place?
DT: Santa Monica. I love the city in which I live. People walk here. I love walking down Montana Avenue for a bite to eat or a coffee. I love riding my bike to Palisades Park and looking out at the ocean. The sunsets here are amazing.
What is your favorite theatrical piece?
DT: Pippin! I was invited by one of the producers to see the new version when it hit Broadway. I was mesmerized!
What are you passionate about?
DT: Happiness. I know that may sound odd, but I thoroughly enjoy being happy and seeing the people around me happy. I am a very empathetic person and there are many unhappy people on this planet. I wish I could change that. I hope that my acting brings a smile to an unhappy face or, at the very least, makes them forget they are having a bad day.
What is your favorite destination to travel to?
DT: The Islands of Hawaii. There is something about the air infused with the smell of the ocean and tropical flowers that makes me feel at peace.
In your free time what do you like to do?
DT: I like to bike the Santa Monica beach path, take in a good movie, or eat an amazing meal. I am a foodie.
A real foodie?
What is your favorite memory?
DT: I was in the middle of the jungle of the remote Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica last year. I was following a family of Geoffroy’s spider monkeys who were traveling through the tree canopy. There was one monkey who stopped and peered at me through the leaves above. I stood below and watched as this beautiful creature, who was directly above me, broke off a leaf as large as my head and carefully held it below the canopy of leaves in my direction. He or she carefully released the leaf and watched me as it slowly twirled its way down to me. I caught it and held it up so the monkey could see. It watched me for a minute as if it were waiting for me to eat the leaf before joining its family who had moved on to the next trees. I will never forget the look in its eyes. There was an intelligence there. Unforgettable.
What is your least favorite memory?
DT: My father passing away.
I’m sorry that is something that is always hard to handle!
DT: It is, but it’s getting better.
Who is your favorite author?
DT: Stephen King. He has a way of telling a story that sends shivers down my spine. I began reading his books at age fourteen.
Nice selection! Now who is your favorite poet?
DT: Edgar Allan Poe. I like being scared.
He is the best at it.
Who is your favorite artist?
DT: Meryl Streep. She has this amazing chameleon quality that is fascinating to me.
What moves you creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
DT: Nature. Looking across Yosemite Valley, interacting with monkeys in Corcovado National Park, the brilliant colors of fall leaves, watching dolphins play while riding the bike path in Santa Monica, and watching hundreds of fireflies light up the summer night of a Midwest mountain are all moments that make me feel extremely happy.
What is your philosophy?
DT: Life is an adventure. Live it! Don’t look back and say what if.
If you could invite six people (dead or alive) to dinner who would they be and why?
DT: Okay I well have to take a moment on this one…
Meryl Streep, to discuss her process for acting.
Stephen Hawking, to discuss black holes.
President Obama, to discuss current politics.
Steven Spielberg, to discuss his love for creating amazing experiences through film.
Sanford Meisner, to discuss his technique for acting.
Someone 10,000 years into the future to discuss how they view our ancient civilization.
Can I come for dinner? I will bring the wine!
What new project or projects are you working and can you explain what it is and what drew you to it?
DT: I have a number of projects in the works at the moment:
Bear Tours is a web series that just inked a deal to be aired on a Los Angeles Japanese TV station; with a deal in the works to air on Japanese TV in Japan. It tells the story of Hide who comes from Japan, doesn’t understand the culture, and becomes a tour guide in Los Angeles. Yes! It is a comedy. I was originally brought in to play Nathan for one two-part episode. The producers got back to me a couple of days after we shot and asked me to become a recurring character. I love working with the show so I said yes. Episode 3 just aired and we are looking at doing a total of twelve episodes for the first season. You can watch Episodes 2 and 3, which I am in, on my News page at www.dwightturner.com/news.
Two producers have just sent me scripts. One is a thriller and the other is about five migrant children who lose their parents. I have had two meetings by phone for the thriller and two meetings in person for the story about the children. I don’t let myself become too excited about projects until a contract is signed, but both scripts are good so I am hopeful.
The Gestapo vs. Granny was a short film I did last year. It became a top 20 finalist for HBO’s Project Greenlight and then a contender for the Project Greenlight Greenie Award. The HBO publicity machine combined with the star power of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon made this a fun ride. The director is attempting to turn the piece into a larger project. You can watch the short film at http://www.dwightturner.com/thegestapovsgranny
The Wallet was filmed in the Seattle area. Production was great. They flew me up and took care of everything. I recently returned for the premiere. The producers are in the process of turning The Wallet into a series and have collaborated with me on a script for an upcoming episode. You can watch The Wallet at http://www.dwightturner.com/thewallet/
I play Officer Burt Smith in the short film Drunk and Disorderly directed by Tim Deters. Tim told me, on our second day of shooting, that I was the opposite of what the character called for. They were originally looking for a bald, overweight, and stern cop. Tim said I walked into the audition and I became the character in their eyes and they cast me. I changed their minds as to what this character could be. That is one of the nicest complements I have received in my career. Tim was a child actor who appeared in movies like Daddy Day Care with Eddie Murphy and Bad News Bears with Billy Bob Thornton. He’s all grown up now and moving into directing and I am happy to have worked on one of his first projects as a director. Drunk and Disorderly is available to view on www.dwightturner.com/news.
Congratulations that’s wonderful.
DT: I think so.
Who are the collaborators you are working with on this these projects and how did you come to work with them?
DT: I auditioned for Hidetoshi Imura and Kenichi Iwabuchi who are producers and writers for Bear Tours. I was originally cast for one two-part episode. They asked me to become a recurring character two days after I shot with them.
The thriller script was sent to me by producer and director Mark Turner. He was in a meeting with another producer for the project and my name was brought up. The other producer pulled up my IMDb page and said she had seen some of my work. That is how I have become involved in this project during the early stages.
The script about the children was sent to me by director Sonia Orlenko. I worked with Sonia years ago on a project titled Rhapsody on Rails. I am thrilled that she is interested in working together again. The project is currently with ABC and I hope it moves forward. “Stay tuned” as I like to say.
I auditioned for director Shequeta Smith and landed the role of the news anchor in The Gestapo vs. Granny.
I submitted a video audition to The Wallet producer, writer, and director Mark Martino. We spoke on the phone and followed up with a Skype read through before they flew me to Seattle to play the character of Ray Foley.
I auditioned for director Tim Deters and producer Sam Davis before landing the role of Officer Burt Smith in Drunk and Disorderly. They were originally looking for a character very different from me, but I changed their minds as to what this character could be during my audition.
What does working on these projects mean to you?
DT: They are opportunities to be creative and bring a character to life. They are opportunities to widen the number of people who know my work. They are opportunities to form new friendships with the cast and crew.
Are there links so people can find out more about these projects and you?
http://www.dwightturner.com – Official Website
http://www.imdb.me/dwightturner – Dwight Turner IMDb page
https://www.facebook.com/dwightturner – Dwight Turner Facebook page
https://twitter.com/thedwightturner – Dwight Turner Twitter page
https://www.youtube.com/user/dwightturner – Demo Reels showcasing my work
https://vimeo.com/dwightturner – Demo Reels showcasing my work
http://www.dwightturner.com/thewallet/ – The Wallet
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsJDiaoEzuumyNKocUYkE6g – Bear Tours YouTube Channel
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bear-Tours/392210500946971 – Bear Tours Facebook Channel
Where do you see yourself in five, ten, twenty years?
DT: I see myself doing larger film and television roles in major film and television productions in both comedy and drama.
What advice do you have for up and coming artists?
DT: Persevere. Don’t give up if acting is what you truly love.
What does being an artist mean to you?
DT: It means pursuing a nonlinear career where 2+2 do not always =4. But the rewards outweigh the frustrations because being an artist allows you to show the world something they had not experienced before. They may have experienced something similar, but they have not had this experience. It might cause them to think, it might cause them to smile, it might cause them to cry, it might change them forever. That is the power of art.
Thank you for your time in speaking with us.
DT: You most welcome I had a great time! [TAOMR]