The best connections are the ones that happen organically. I first learned about Don B. Welch at my dear friend’s home. Let me explain.
I was in the midst of rehearsing with actors Jensen Jimerson and Monique Nicole for my upcoming webseries, when Jensen randomly shared a story of how deeply inspired he was by another actor’s performance at an event that he had attended. I could sense how passionate he was about this event, and I wanted to learn more.
He proceeded to tell me about the event, an ‘actors meeting of performances’, where he felt challenged, yet inspired as a performer. I was touched by the story, and I wanted to learn more about the creator of such a meeting. Who was this man?
I later learned that the actor was Roger Payano, and that the man that put this meeting together was Playwright, and Film director extraordinaire, Don Welch, or as someone mentioned to me “Hollywood’s Tyler Perry”.
Last week, I interviewed Mr. Welch about his Hollywood philosophies, his film, “24 Hour Love”, how he feels about being compared to Tyler Perry, and more.
Shadow and Act: Thank you for taking the time to interview with Shadow and Act. Can you tell us about this “actor’s meeting of performances”? That’s how I learned about you.
DW: I think what you may be referring to is an exercise called the "Round Robin" where I will bring together 10 to 15 male actors and put them in various scenarios dealing with real life situations. They will then have one or two minutes to introduce the situation, act it out and resolve. This is often a very intense exercise because the actors are doing it in front of their peers and have no idea what topic will be thrown at them. I call it separating the boy actors from the men actors. I repeat the same exercise with female actors.
Shadow and Act: What is your story? Have you always wanted to be in the industry?
DW: I was born and raised in Philadelphia (West Philly to be exact). I knew that I’d end up in show business. However, I thought it would be as a recording artist. In fact, I had a very successful club act in the tri-state area for many years. Even though I always wrote, the directing and producing came about after I was cast in one of the leads in a musical called: "Miss Lizzies Royal Cafe" written and directed by actor/singer Adam Wade. It was during that project that I had an "A-HA" moment one night while on stage. I said to myself, if Adam, wrote, directed and produced this, so I can do the same thing. That was 19 stage productions ago.
Shadow and Act: Many have dubbed you as the Hollywood version of Tyler Perry. How does that make you feel?
DW: I realize that people generally need to have comparisons, so I have been prepared for this one for such a long time. I think it is because we both started in theater (my 1st being in 1988 in Philadelphia) and now making the transition into film, but that's really where the comparisons stop. I certainly don’t get angry about it. He is a very successful business man in our industry. However we are completely different in our writing and directing styles. There is room for so many voices, and Tyler is one and I am another. I think I stand alone as he does once audiences see my work, just as he stands alone when audiences see his.
Shadow and Act: You employ many black actors in Hollywood that may have been overlooked by mainstream Hollywood. Can you tell us your thoughts about this matter?
DW: Thank you for saying that, I personally feel that Hollywood often forget the pioneers, the legends, listen, a lot of these artists that I work with are "dream casts" for me. I may be their boss, but I am also a fan. I think that when we don't see an actor on television or in a film for a while, we think that their career is in the toilet. Quite the contrary, I know of actors that are working ALL THE TIME, whether it be on stage, voice over’s, independent films and theater.
Shadow and Act: What is your definition of Black Hollywood?
DW: Me and countless others! We are the definition.
Shadow and Act: Your film, “24 Hour Love” is out on DVD on March 19th. Can you tell us more about this project?
DW: It will be released nationally on DVD on March 19th. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this release. We don’t get a lot of these type of films green lit that deal with "true black intelligent love" on the screen. BUT over at IMAGE I have a champion, cheerleader- believer in the senior VP, Brett Dismuke. I am convinced that no matter how good I believe 24 Hour Love is, it would NOT have been green lit without him. The film will be available at Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, RedBox, NetFlix.
“24 Hour Love” will be released on DVD on March 19, 2013. You may learn more about Don B. Welch and his project at www.donbwelchproductions.com