This interview was done on my Batini Arts blog page. A special thanks to Mr. Thomas, as well as his publicist, Elvira Guzman for helping to make this happen. From 9/6/2017.
Wow. I can’t think of a better way to kick off Batini Arts than conducting my first interview (for this blog) with acting legend, Ernest Thomas. I grew up as a kid watching him play Roger “Raj” Thomas on the ABC sitcom, What’s Happening!! and What’s Happening Now!! On a side note, the show, What’s Happening!! was aired before my time, so obviously I watched reruns (no pun intended). With further ado, here’s my conservation with the actor, producer, and author.
BA: When did you start your acting career?
ET: I started my professional acting career in New York at Phoenix Repertory Theater and Helen Hayes Theater and in Massachusetts at the Falmouth Playhouse. I got rave reviews from top critics for all of my performances.
BA: Tell us how you landed the role of Roger “Raj” Thomas on the TV classics, What’s Happening!! and What’s Happening Now!!
ET: I lost a few friends as I got cast as “RAJ” because everybody wanted to be “RAJ.” I auditioned against over 200 actors for the role. I had several call backs, screen tests and by the grace of GOD, I got it. In the spiritual realm I prayed for that role and always felt it was mine by divine decree.
BA: How difficult was it for you to break into the business of Film/TV?
ET: It’s very difficult to break into film and TV with roles that are intelligent, heroic and inspiring and ones that will continue to admired 41 years later. Danielle Spencer (Dee) and I recently did a autograph signing at Tom Joyner’s Family Reunion in Orlando, Florida and the response from the fans was overwhelming. They prayed for us, they cried, they laughed and they hugged us a million times and took a million photos. You have to believe that you are one in a million actor that will stand above the rest.You have to be in love with this business and have a strong faith to not only make it but to distinguish yourself as a great actor.
BA: What’s the distinction between Broadway and Hollywood?
ET: The distinction is Broadway can be compared to walking a tightrope between the Twin Towers without a net like Philippe Petite did in August of 1974. When you’re on stage on Broadway it’s LIVE and the show must go on. You can’t do a scene over because you flubbed a line or forgot your entrance or accidentally fall. You have to keep going. Nobody can help or save you, not even the director.
Hollywood is a whole different animal. As an actor in a Television show or movie you have the luxury of getting to do that scene multiple times until you get it right. On Broadway you got to get right the first time. In Hollywood the editor can choose the best takes or performances and put them together, you could win an Academy Award. The public will never get to see how many times you did your scenes over and over and over again. Opening Night on Broadway is a one shot deal. You’ve rehearsed for several weeks, but at Opening Night you’re on tightrope without net. And I love both of them.
BA: Following up from the previous question, do you have a preference between the two?
ET: I love them both, however, if I had to choose between the two, I would give Broadway a slight edge in preference because I will never forget the feeling I felt when the audience jumped to their feet when I was introduced and yelled “BRAVO! BRAVO !BRAVO!”
BA: Would you tell us about your production company, Bravokid Entertainment?
ET: I just recently began my transition from actor only to producer/writer/actor. Like my colleagues Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Rob Reiner I wanted to have my own production company to produce great stories and develop new writers and directors and actors. I want to pay it forward because I’ve been blessed. I will never stop acting but I want to have a voice in the overall television or film project.
BA: Congratulations on your book release. Would you tell us the concept of From Raj to Riches?
ET: My passion is being a motivator, and encourager, a transformer and a life saver. I made a promise to GOD that I would always give advice, constructive criticism, consultation and direction to new artists or actors. I do it in speaking engagements, in grocery stores, on the streets of Compton, Watts, South Central and Beverly Hills. I love being that positive supernatural force by GOD’s Grace. From Raj to Riches is all of that in book form. It’s blueprint on how to make it in the mercurial world of entertainment and life. It’s about putting GOD first and everything else will follow.
BA: Describe the overall experience of your career, from past to present.
ET: I thank GOD that I have a very unique and distinguished career. I acted or performed on Broadway, Television and the Movies. I’ve had hit shows or films in every decade since I began acting. What’s Happening in the 70s, What’s Happening Now in the 80s, Malcolm X in the 90’s and Everybody Hates Chris in the 2000’s. I have fans from baby boomers, generation xers and the millennials.
BA: What’s your advice to those who aspire to be in the entertainment industry?
ET: First of all, if you feel that entertainment is your gift and calling you should pursue it everyday like it’s your last day on earth. When you do GOD catapults you over those who take Him for granted. He blesses you over your competition because you’re grateful for every second of life, for every breath you take. Next NEVER speak any negative to anyone about your career no matter what. Not even to your parents or best friends. Speak the Positive and speak it into existence by always affirming GOD has done it already.
Next override your feelings. Your feelings are TRAITORS to your soul. You must be obedient to the Supernatural words and instructions from GOD like a robot and ignore your feelings and do what you need to do to make it. Next EXCOMMUNICATE anyone who is an enemy to your goal or career. Do it with love but let them know you’re on a mission from GOD and you won’t be in communication with them until you finish your mission. Tell them “GOD BLESS YOU and I wish the best for you.” Next keep positive and spiritual people around you or just be alone with GOD because you’re still the Majority.
BA: Finally, tell the readers why From Raj to Riches is a must buy.
ET: I have witnessed miracles in my life from a child to present day. I know for certain miracles still happen today. One of the chapters in my book is titled “Miracles Still Happen.” I have been to hell and back. I have shook the devil’s hand and partied with his people. But I lived to tell the story. I know what it is to have NOTHING and make it SUPERNATURAL. My book will transform you from the natural to the Supernatural. I know there are millions of women and men and children who are depressed and crying in the wee hours of the night. They put a on good show during the day among friends, families and co-workers but deep down inside they’re miserable. I know what that feels like too. From Raj to Riches will inspire you to be your own hero morning, noon and night. But it all starts and ends in the love, surrender and obedience to GOD.
You know, if one could see me right now, they wouldn’t be able to tell how excited I am to have done this interview, but inwardly, it’s a different story. For me, optimistically, this is only the beginning. I definitely want to thank Ernest Thomas for taking the time out of his schedule to speak with me. For more on Ernest, visit his website at ernestlthomas.com.
Originally published at batiniarts.blogspot.com.