Dorian Missick is far from a novice in the industry. The New Jersey native, who has around 44 small and big screen acting credits under his belt, joined the Jazz Actors theater company under the mentorship of Ernie McClintock; and before his big screen acting debut in 2002's Two Weeks Notice, the young actor was seen in TV's Now & Again, NYPD Blue, Philly and Law & Order.
Missick went on to play significant supporting roles in films such as The Manchurian Candidate, Freedomland and Lucky Number Slevin; although, he's mostly known for his roles as Damian in ABC's Six Degrees and Victor Vance in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. He had a starring lead role opposite Zoe Saldana in the 2006 romance indie Premium; and took prominent roles in this year's critically-acclaimed Qasim Basir drama MOOZ-lum, and in the small screen as Marty in the NBC series The Cape. Missick also wrapped a short film earlier this year written by Ava Duvernay and directed by Salli-Richardson Whitfield called The Graces; which we should hear more about very soon.
In anticipation to his debut as Regina King's new partner in TNT's crime drama Southland, which premieres its fourth season January 17th; I had the pleasure to interview the very charismatic and down-to-earth actor. When he's not on set, he shared his passion for spinning funk, soul and afro-beat records as a DJ in L.A. under the alias of Tailwind Turner. After the interview, watch the very amusing video embedded below titled Almost Hollywood; in which Missick goes about his day networking with those in the industry and getting his spin on at the DJ booth.
Something very important he wanted to make sure we knew before the end of our interview is that....... he's an avid Shadow and Act reader! ;-)
S&A: You will be in the gritty cop drama Southland as Regina King’s new partner Ruben Robinson; how has that experience been for you?
DM: It’s actually a dream job for me because I’ve been chasing this job for a couple of years. The writing on the show is incredible; the chemistry between Regina and myself is great. We get along so well and they developed the hell out of my character; so, I’m having a great time. I haven’t had this much fun on camera since, well, I really enjoyed MOOZ-lum, but besides that film, not since I was on stage.
S&A: How do you compare working on stage, TV and film? Do you have a preference?
DM: It’s all about the story. All these mediums have their limitations. I enjoy theater just for the sheer excitement of it and the immediate response that you get, and how every night the audience is a little bit different; but then it’s expensive to work in NY and stage work is limited; so you’re just doing it for the art. With film, I love that you spend a lot of time digging into a character but, maybe no one sees it, or it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do in the theaters or whatever. With TV, you run the risk of just them having a character idea for you, but then as the season goes on, things kinda change, and you end up being part of something you didn’t sign up for in the first place. So, in the end, it’s about the initial story, and just having opportunity of working with some good actors, directors and writers, and just enjoying the whole experience.
S&A: How do you feel about TV show cancellations and do you feel the pressure for ratings?
DM: Nah, you know what? It’s the nature of the beast. Like, right now, TV network is suffering because they’re afraid to take chances; so, a lot of stuff that’s happening on network TV can be stale or repetitive. It can be frustrating from a creative standpoint as an actor, because you don’t get to have a lot of fun. I think we’re going to have to see some change because cable is kicking network TV’s ass.
S&A: Are you filming Charles Murray’s “Things Never Said”? What role do you play in that?
DM: We finished shooting that; I want to say in August. That was a great experience; we had so much fun making that movie [chuckles]. I play the role of Steve. Shanola [Shanola Hampton’s character] is caught up in something like a love triangle and my girlfriend, played by Tamala Jones, is her [Hampton’s] best friend, and in our relationship, she’s the girl who always has an opinion about what goes on between me and my lady, and every guys knows that girl [laughs]. The one girl you hate that your girl hangs out with, and every time she does hang out with her; she comes back with an attitude. So she [Hampton’s character] ends up finding herself in a sticky situation where she has to confide in me.
It [the film] takes place within the poetry world, which is a world that I wasn’t that familiar with until we did the film; but it’s a great piece. It’s one of those things that a lot of filmmakers are part of right now; this whole black film movement that’s happening with Q [Qasim Basir], Charles [Murray], Ava Duvernay, Matt Cherry, Pete Chatmon, like, since a lot of cats have been part of this movement, I see some better films, and they’re giving actors the opportunity to sink their teeth on some good roles.
S&A: Great job on MOOZ-lum by the way.
DM: Thanks. There was a lot going on in the Islamic community at the time; it filled a niche, no one has told that story before. We found an audience hungry for it; and I’m really glad I got to be a part of that film. I’m still ripping the benefits of that. Everyday someone comes up to me about that project, and how it touched them.
S&A: Are you auditioning? Are you finding work?
DM: I’m auditioning, reading scripts. A lot depends on my relationship with the people involved in a project, but sometimes you have a 101 auditions. So, it kind of depends on how familiar they are with your work. Overall, entertainment is like any other job right now. We’re feeling the economic downfall of this country; and so, actors, entertainers have to do the same things garbage men and teachers have to do: watch your expenses and find alternatives to keep afloat; we’re not immune.
As a black actor, you always have the feeling that there’s not as much work out there as for a white counterpart, but is America after all; you have to play ball, if you’re going to play ball. That’s why I look at Q, Ava, Matt, Pete and Charles, and they’re like, “Listen, we’re going to make films that tell our stories.” When you’re sitting around complaining and being miserable, you get what you put in basically.
S&A: What can you say about the Burden of Representation for black actors? How does that concern you?
DM: The reality is that the entertainment industry, the majority of the decision makers are all white men. They are so removed from our stories and our communities; they are SO removed from it. They have no idea how to tell our stories; so if we depend on them to do so, we’re always going to be 10 steps behind. One of the things that I’ve always done with my career is that I’ll go after roles that are written black, and the benefit of that is, that more often you get a more developed character; you have more to work with; but the downside to that is that you end up being the only black face in a sea of white people, and it goes largely unnoticed, sometimes by our own community. It’s like, yes, you continue to work and that’s a blessing, but at the same time, it’s good to show up on set and have role that’s written, and it’s a fully realized character that takes into consideration your culture, your background. You don’t constantly have to explain to the writers, or the director why this particular choice for this character might not be what a black man would do in this particular situation.
S&A: Are you referring to stereotypical characterizations in a script?
DM: I think a lot of times stereotypes come when there are disconnected white writers who maybe have two or three black friends, and they write black characters, and they put them in situations that are ridiculous. I’m not from the school of belief that white writers can’t write characters that are black or that black writers can’t write characters that are white. The difference is that the writer has to care about the people in their stories. Even in a story like The Wire, the majority of the writers are like white novelists; but they really care about the characters they’re writing about, so you have these fully realized individuals.
A lot of times what happens is, someone will say to the writers, “listen, you have to write this guy black” and they‘re like “make the best friend black; he’s just there to be a listening ear to the white lead and who cares what happens to him in his life;” and you get these fishy, not-so-well developed characters, and, that sometimes is a problem, but then, also there’s times where I will accept a role that is initially planned for a white guy, but then when you put my black face and my black mannerisms in these situations, certain things may have to be adjusted because they don’t translate to our community [laughs].
For example, right now being on Southland, the writers really care about our characters so; they’re really open to input from the actors. I mean, we don’t determine the stories at all, but sometimes it will be small things like with Regina and I portraying black cops working in predominantly black neighborhoods. There’s a way in which we as in black cops that are not sell out cops; you know what I’m saying [chuckles]?; will deal in that community versus a white cop that didn’t grow up in that neighborhood would deal with that community, just small adjustments.
The reason why a black dude becomes a cop is different from why a white kid who grew up in an army family becomes a cop. There’s slight differences in the way you respond and behave, nothing major, to make a character more believable and realistic, that’s all. But with the writers in this show, in its fourth season; we’re not talking about people that have not done their research; a lot of them are from the world in which they’re writing about. So, we don’t have too many issues on this particular show.
S&A: You’ve worked with some great actors like Denzel Washington, Danny Glover. Are you looking forward to working with anyone in particular, actors or filmmakers?
DM: I really like what Steve McQueen is doing right now; and I like his attitude [laughs]. I would love to get into a project with Steve McQueen. I like his approach a lot. I’ve always been a Spike Lee fan. I feel like his next project is the one to get him back in the game for us [chuckles]. He’s one of the reasons why I became an actor; so, I’ve always wanted to work with him. I wouldn’t mind getting back in with Jeffrey Wright on a more developed sense. We worked together on The Manchurian Candidate, and we’re pretty good friends; but I would like to be able to work with him on something where we could really get in!
S&A: What kind of roles would you like to play? What’s your dream role?
DM: My dream role is Richard Pryor, no question about that. I’m a big Richard Pryor fan. I’ve always been intrigued about the darkness behind his comedy; that would always be a dream role for me. It would be interesting to play a preacher, and not the comic sense of it, but like the ins and outs of the life of a preacher or pastor of the southern church. I would also love to be a part of a Jazz story.
S&A: What other projects do you have in the horizon?
DM: There’s something really exciting I’m signing on to; but they have to get the funding so, I don’t want to talk about it; but other than that, I’m working with a director and other actors that we’ve done some really good things together.
S&A: Who’s the director?
DM: I can’t get into it [laughs]. Well, yah I can; it’s a project I’ve been working on with Q [Qasim Basir] from MOOZ-lum.
S&A: Are you interested in getting behind the camera at some point in your career?
DM: Oh yah, definitely in the near future. I’m working out some ideas. I plan on making it a major part of my career as I move forward.
S&A: Overall, how do you feel about the current state of black cinema?
DM: I’m excited about what’s going right now. I like what’s happening with the digital medium and web series. I see that filmmakers are taking things into their own hands, and saying, “Listen, I want to tell these stories and it’s not as expensive as it used to be.” Actors want to be part of projects that have good writing. A lot of actors are out of work; so they want to be able see work somewhere. What we’re seeing now is the positive response to the Tyler Perry effect; and the fact that there’s a lot of filmmakers and people in the community that think, “Tyler Perry’s films don’t necessarily speak to my experience, and so, rather than complain about it;” they say, “let’s go out and make our own films, now that he’s put a spotlight on [black] cinema.”