Interview

Interview: Actor Curtis Hamilton Talks ‘Surviving Compton,’ Being Humble, Family, & More

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It’s been a month today since ‘Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge, & Michel’le’ aired on Lifetime and I had the privilege to have a very candid conversation with star of the film, Curtis Hamilton. The Kentucky native played the epic role of legendary Dr. Dre. Since the film has aired it has sparked many mixed reactions and feedback, most humbling of all, Curtis added. It has inspired many young girls and women to speak out. October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month and what an important message it has imprinted.  The ambitious scorpio (Happy Birthday Curtis!) and I spoke on a Wednesday night via iPhone, very openly and authentically about the movie, the cast, Michel’le, his family, playing young Dr. Dre, and what makes him so humble especially after this experience. We even shared a few laughs off the record.  From NFL to the world of acting, Curtis is a force to be reckoned with.  In addition to his attractiveness, his passion is undeniable and he is so cool, ya’ll! Check out the amazing and admirable chat with actor, Curtis Hamilton:

PYNK MAG: Who is Curtis Hamilton?  Tell us.

Curtis Hamilton: I always like to present myself with that. I come from a very religious, a very humble, hardworking, blue-collared background. That’s my roots of who I am and I try to carry those roots in the business that I am in now and I hope it comes off as that, me being a person, me being humble and just real, easy-going, hardworking; I take my job to the fullest. That’s something I pride myself on. I would just say that I’m just an ambitious kid from Kentucky who likes to achieve the unthinkable, the untouchable where I’m from. Doing the business that I’m in now I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know one actor; it wasn’t a dream that you could see that could come to actual reality so it was always a far fetch dream, something I’ve seen on tv that I admired to one day get a chance to do that. I knew to do it was to move out here to L.A. That’s just me man I’m ambitious, very ambitious, I’m hard-headed (laughs).

PYNK MAG: So how did you start in the business?  I know you were in the NFL also. How did all that begin?

Curtis Hamilton: I was living in Orange County with my uncle, but I was commuting. I was working up here at Bally’s, which is now L.A. Fitness in Hollywood and one day I was just on a lunch break walking down Santa Monica is what I think it was and I was walking and it was three people, it was a guy, it was a girl, and this other woman slash man turned around then turned around again and like I just knew, you know I’ve been hit on before by someone before. I guess you call them trans. I’m not sure. I don’t want to be disrespectful on what she calls herself, but I knew it was coming. After I got closer I could just feel the energy she’s gonna say something. I didn’t know what it was. She turned around and I talked to her like anyone else would or like I would talk to anybody else. I was respectful. I was nice and I just remember, these are the words that I would never forget. She actually hit me up recently on facebook, which is crazy congratulating me and we’re still kinda connected in that way, but not to get off track.. She said, ‘Since you treated me like a normal person and not that I’m just trying to hit on you…’ and blah blah blah and then, ‘You talked to me then she was like I’m gonna change your life.’ I was just like whatever, ain’t nobody tryna’ hear that, you know that kinda thing…  Yeah, I just blew it away and she invited me to this house party up in the hills and it was the house of the late great Maxee Maxwell. I’m not sure if you know who that is.  From Brownstone, the group Brownstone.  She hit her head, recently earlier this year or last year.  She ended up dying recently. She’s from the group Brownstone. It was her house and I didn’t know that my agent, the agent that I eventually would sign with would be there. She brought me and like five other models. I was the less model looking one out of all these guys. These are like these tall, European looking dudes, you know I was coming from football. I was buff and I just remember me being myself. I did everything that guy said. He said follow the lead, I did that. I went into his agency, talked with him, win over my personality; he actually did more at the time I didn’t know. I thought this was normal. He paid for my pictures, he took me under his wing, and gave me extrardinary advice. He really took out of his time to mold me and to guide me on the right track where in business way I was ready. I felt like I was ready for business. I was being coached up by this guy, he was very successful over at NTA commercial agency and so I booked my first national commerical after signing with them like three weeks later and then another one like a week later. That’s how I got started and I was just like okay thinking it’s that easy, but it’s not. It didn’t go as smooth like that the entire time.  That’s how I got in the business. I knew I came here for this, but I literally was walking down the street, got spotted, got pointed in the right direction; God was just, he put an angel in me. He guided me to the right place. That’s all I can say man, it’s a blessing.  But I will say that my drive and my ambition and my to do and to succeed and to be on top of what I need to be on top of got me to this point that I am. I mean because it’s not easy and everyone wants to do it out here, but it’s not just only somebody looks good, but you gotta be professional, you gotta be on top of your stuff, and you gotta respect your craft. I’ve been to commercial class; a lot of people don’t take commercial classes and I’ve taken commerical class. As easy and stupid as it sounds, as eating a burger, smiling on TV; yup I took a class for that! (Laughs) You know…

PYNK MAG:  There is nothing wrong with that!

Curtis Hamilton: Not at all and it helped me.  But that’s how I got in the business and there is lot more to it after that, but that’s how I got started to being in the world of entertainment.

PYNK MAG: I know you’re a family man too, which is very important and I just wanted to know how does your family feel about your success as an actor especially now. How do they feel about what you’ve accomplished so far?

I know my family is super proud of me. They support as much as they can even though coming from Kentucky they just don’t understand. They can’t grasp the fact of what we go through and what we put ourselves through to succeed just to get one job like the one I got. So it’s hard for them to understand, especially my mom, but she supports. I mean seeing the hard work pay off is what is gratifying to me and what makes it all worth it. Mom is tough love so she is more excited to other people than she is to me, but I only can see what she gives me, but I know she’s proud. My dad is proud, my brother is; I am talking to my brother more than I ever have recently.  It has a lot to do with the movie and stuff so it’s great in that regard. Like I said, I’m doing something no one from my hometown has ever done, you know coming from a small town. Not coming from much and getting this opportunity to be a lead in a film, a lot of people been acting never even get that opportunity. You know and I got that opportunity with very few credits so family is proud, the city is proud, it’s a good feeling. I just hope I can inspire people back from my hometown and I can even inspire my brother and my sisters like you can do anything you want to do! Why dream small?

 

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PYNK MAG: So how did the opportunity to be involved in such a passionate film, of course ‘Surviving Compton,’ and if I might add it is a major role that you played. How did that opportunity come about?

Curtis Hamilton: My agency actually got me the auction. It was the second time that I’d been in for Leah Daniels. “The Butler”, Leah Daniels is the Casting Director. It was the second time that I actually been in an audition for her and her and Fern Champion are the Casting Directors on this spot, but I went in. You know, I got the audition. I was very hesitant at first, cause I’m like I don’t look nothing like Dr. Dre. They are not gonna perceive me to be this kid from the hood in L.A. and I don’t think I have the essence, blah blah blah; but I did my work. I went in there, once I got to like the third call back I started to feel like it was actually a, not a reality, but in all actuality it could happen and it was something that I could foresee; because it was obvious they believed in me and the feedback that I got in the room was something that was encourging so, but at first I was very…I didn’t believe it. I think that has a lot to do with acting, we don’t believe it until, that’s why we’re very superstitious in terms of talking about a job until we get the papers signed and we’re booked because the business is very fickle in terms of how you can get a job snatched from you for the mere fact you got brown eyes and they want blue at the last minute. That’s just the way the business is, it’s out of your control if you’re in actor and your ability and such and such. It’s just small little tedious things that can actually be the reason why you do not get booked for a job and as being actors most of us are (snickered), a lot of actors are narcissistic, a lot of actors are very insecure. Those little things can really hurt you so in the beginning it was that. In the beginning I didn’t believe it, but once I kept getting the call backs and getting feedback from Leah and Fern and them just confirming that they enjoyed what I saw I really just took it to another level. Each call back I did more and more research, the more of a chance that I got.  That’s how it happened.

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PYNK MAG: If I have to say so myself I think you did a great job.  I think you fulfilled the role. Looking at the character of course and the role, even embodying Dr. Dre you did it, although it was a dark side I think you embodied exactly what she wanted to portray. Very well!

Curtis Hamilton: Aww, thank you!  I appreciate that.  That’s all you can ask for as an actor is someone to notice that. At the beginning of reading the script it was very one note… what’s been very humbling and gratifying from the fans and others that have been watching is that they not only saw this woman beater, but they saw the hurt behind his eyes and they saw the intentions and they saw why and they saw the hurt and the sorrows. I’m so happy that they saw the layers that I was hoping to portray for the character because he could have been just this monster and I didn’t want that to be it so the response has been nothing but amazing and I’m really humbled by it to be honest with you. It’s really been great, it’s really been great. A lot of people say they’ve been inspired; I’ve got little girls 10 to 14 years old hitting me up, emails, and Instagram and whatever telling me about some of their stories. It’s really touched me, I think I made a video on my Instagram about how it’s touched me.  It really did. I love kids. I am a big ol’ sweetheart I feel like and I really do empathetically connect with people so it’s something that when it’s something like that and that’s like no one should ever have to live through domestic violence. No woman should have to endure that; and especially at that age you should never have to see stuff like that. I never saw it as a kid. I personally feel that, but I can feel for them empathetically because I just know how, I can’t imagine my mom being beat. I don’t know what I would do and if I couldn’t do anything about it. Shit, if you even yell at my mama I’m ready to snap!  To see young girls for them to be hit and their mom to be hit, nothing happened and for this movie to inspire them, it’s a beautiful thing and that’s the greatest thing about this film for some people is that they’ve taken away that and gotten something from it and it’s beautiful!

PYNK MAG: Of course with the movie holding that important message; what do you want people most to take away from the movie especially talking about young girls and women. What do you most of all want them to take away from it?

Curtis Hamilton: I want anyone, girls, guys, anyone that has been through domestic violence to know that it is not okay! To know that you are enough to move on and no one deserves to be treated that way and there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It’s easier said than done and I’m always somebody who tries to think in all reality and to myself in their shoes because it’s so easy for someone to give advice from the outside looking in, but when it comes to that no it’s not right, it’s not. What I want girls to take away from it is to have courage, you may in the immediate future lose out on a lot of things, whether it be money, whether it be love, whether it be self-respect for yourself, but down the line you are gonna feel so much happier about yourself and you’re gonna be stronger than you ever could; look at Michel’le. It’s not something that you should have to put yourself through because it’s too much love in this world. No one is worth your life! That’s just the truth. Your life is more precious than anybody else, except your kids, you know if want to go that literal, but no one is more precious than your life. Think that way and know that you only have one life, you have one body, and you control it, no one else.

PYNK MAG: I also wanted to touch bases in your opinion, how do feel like this role has kinda been different from other roles that you may have played or other opportunities you may have had in the past in regard to challenging you differently or your preparation for it?

Curtis Hamilton: It’s actually not a character that I’ve ever encountered before, which is the beautiful thing about it. It’s a character that has so many layers man and Dre is a charismatic guy, obviously people have gotten to know him from a public stand point. He is charismatic, especially young Dre is charismatic. He is a genius when it comes to his work. I saw this an opportunity to be able to really show my chops and really get outside of who I am and embody the person that I could never imagine hitting a woman, I just don’t have it in me; and I’m saying never because I never could. I don’t care what a woman does to me, I could just never hit her. I would either grab her, I would restrain her some how if I could. That’s just me, so for me to play somebody who is that way for me it was a piece of art and that’s how I took it. If I could pull this off people would have nothing but to respect it. Playing anybody legendary and iconic, you know playing a biopic of anyone is challenging; to know these people, people have a personal view of these people, how they view them, how they look at them, and what they know. That’s all they care about. We haven’t seen their really personal live so it was challenging in that regard because I was playing to the younger Dre. It wasn’t a youtube. There wasn’t a lot of footage back then to capture him. The only people that knew about Dre is the late Dre, ‘The Chronic’ Dre. He got money now, he different, he not the kid from the hood, he not the kid who didn’t have much. You didn’t see a lot of footage with him and Michel’le. You don’t see a lot of footage because at that time there wasn’t a lot of the video cameras and stuff going around so we got to really get to know Dre, it was after the fact. It’s whenever he had left Michel’le. It’s whenever he had become this different person and at that point he probably had changed. Dre is very monotone, you see him it’s just, “yeah,” (Dre voice). That’s how he talks, everything is just, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” You know, it’s not much personality to him like he had then, he was younger. From some of the few videos I saw, he was very outgoing and upbeat and wasn’t just this gangsta persona that he gave off in N.W.A.

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PYNK MAG: Of all, how was your expereince working with Michel’le and your co-stars like Rhyon Brown? How was working with them?

Curtis Hamilton: Gosh, the experience was nothing short of amazing and learning and the friendships that were made, especially between me and Michel’le. The real Michel’le. That woman right there was every bit of helpful and beneficiary and to what you saw on camera. She had a lot to do with what I was doing and the confidence that was given. She had a lot to do with it cause she confirmed a lot of stuff. She put that confidence in me. She even calmed me down when I was frustrated because I was frustrated a lot. No one knew that, you guys don’t know that, but I was frustrated in different times of shooting days, or this or that. She really kept me humble, she really kept me in my pocket. She kept me encouraged and the woman, for her to allow us to tell her story. It was just great, she’s such a beautiful soul. She’s just, she’s outgoing, upbeat, positive, funny, beautiful woman inside and out. Rhyon we were there the entire time together and she was a pleasure to work with. I didn’t know who she was at first, but I remember we auditioned with each other one time and she wasn’t at the last call back, because supposedly she didn’t go to the last call back because she thought she didn’t get it. Then they called her back, but I had auditioned like 5 or 6 times. At the last call back she wasn’t one of them so it was kinda like shocking. I remember when I got booked and I was like, ‘Who’s Michel’le, who’s gonna be Michel’le?’ Then I ended up finding out it was her, I was like she wasn’t even on the last…, but I was really happy when we met that it was her. She’s chill, she’s talented, you know and it was fun. It was fun to work together. We had our ups and downs as well. You know, we bumped heads, but it came off our chemistry I hope people liked. It was real chemistry. We were like a real couple. We fought, you know we yelled at each other, we bickered, and it was like a real couple situation. I have nothing but respect for her. She’s multi-talented and she’s very professional and she’s all about work so I have nothing but good things to say about the entire cast. My boy Marcos, he played Suge, love the dude. He’s funny, he’s Suge! He is gonna go around and now they gonna be calling him Suge. Yes, everybody. Janice, the director, Janice had an eye and she had a vision about this project and everytime she would tell me what she wanted to do I was like damn! I just didn’t think of it. I thought the narrating was clever. Some people liked it. Some people didn’t, but I thought it was great. I thought it was refreshing, especially for a Lifetime movie and especially having the real character actually apart of it and narrating it. I thought that was really cool because she was actually connected in those scenes. It was no acting, that was like real connection. She would she us perform the scenes and she would come in between. So Janice’s view is just refreshing. That was her first movie. She mostly is a TV director. So she never directed a movie before so it was her first one. My boys, all the N.W.A. cast man, the chemistry was amazing. It was hilarious. They came in the middle of filming and we just kinda connected. So I gotta give a shout out to Omari and Deric, and Vonii, Eazy, Yella, and Cube so I gotta give a shout out to them man. Everybody, I had a blast. It was actually a fun shoot. Marcos texted me recently saying this is one other movie that he really felt like he really had a great time shooting and that he walked away with true friendships. He said this one and another one so it’s just great to hear stuff like that and for it to turn out the way it did I’m walking about with friends I feel like.

PYNK MAG: So do you think since then with the opportunity and the reactions that it’s received; do you feel like it’s only opened up more doors for you? What’s next for you?

Curtis Hamilton: Time will tell. I shot a commercial not too long ago for “Ford” and other than that I’m auditioning. I’m auditioning for NCIS tomorrow (November 3rd). Got this movie, got another movie that I’m auditioning for so I’m still on the grind. I mean ain’t nothing gon’ get handed to me. I still gotta work and opportunities are there and it’s so many people out here in Hollywood trying to do and not everybody is watching the movie, but it’s a good thing to have on my resume. It’s a good confidence booster. I’m just ready to work. I’m back on the grind baby, that’s where we at! I may have some other stuff in the works, I just can’t talk about yet. Right now I’m just grinding!

Photo Credit(s): zimbio, Facebook (Curtis Hamilton)

 

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