(hosted on funnyordie.com) Che Holloway (Rochester, NY – Right) stars as Police Officer Johnson, the only African-American Police Officer in a predominantly white town.
Can we as a nation LAUGH about the current racial tension in America?
Well, according to Mike Gerbino (Director) and Che Holloway (Actor), both upstate natives of New York, we should be doing exactly that as a means to explore and address the complex dynamic that is race relations in the US.
Dark Justice is a six part webseries that focuses on a small-town police station becoming a conduit for challenging stereotypes surrounding African Americans, and also white privilege that obstructs constructive criticism of the majority group in society. Che Holloway, a young (25 years old) up and coming actor who splits his time between New York City and Rochester, sat down with me to talk about the series and his passion for acting ….
Saj: The web series deals with a lot of issues to do with racial tension. How did you get to play a part in the production?
Che: It was interesting … the writer/director Mike Gerbino we had a mutual friend Alan Williams who told me about it … As a young black male, the script really resonated with me.
Saj: So, in total, how long did it take to produce?
Che: I wanna say about 2 weeks total … in reality the production was split into parts due to taking breaks … we filmed the first episode a year before the rest of them, just to test the waters.
Saj: And you are originally from Rochester, right? You split your time between NYC and Rochester during filming, how did that work?
Che: Yeah, well I am a native of Rochester …. I started my acting career at AMDA (The American Musical and Drama Academy in New York City) so I moved there for a year, and stayed afterwards, working acting jobs. Then I decided to come home. It is pretty cool, I went out there to survive, and then I came back.
Saj: So, what sparked your interest in acting?
Che: Well, this is going to sound really funny but when I was around 10, I was watching Harry Potter, and I was thinking y’know these kids are around my age, and I could do that. So that’s what started the ‘fire’. And a couple of years after that I went to School of the Arts in Rochester, graduated, from there I did a Geva theatre Summer Academy, and I went to AMDA. My first national gig was on the Oprah Winfrey Network, on the season 2 finale of Unfaithful.
Saj: Going back to the Dark Justice series, explain a little about the storyline. Why is comedy a good way to approach this subject matter? And how was it for you as a person of color performing some of the material?
Che: It was hard personally in the sense that I worried about what the backlash could be. In the end I decided life was too short, people will always have opinions good or bad, so why not just deliver. The series makes you think, it isn’t that far from reality, a little exaggerated sure, but definitely close to reality at times. We are hoping that with enough interest, we can put it on something like Hulu or Netflix.
Saj: Thinking about the way that justice is served, I was watching Dateline the other night (the Charlie Tan case that made national news), and I had a thought that if he hadn’t been an individual from a well-off community, and instead had been african-american, this may have played out differently ….
Che: Oh yeah, I agree with that wholeheartedly.
Saj: And have you ever personally experienced stereotyping?
Che: Well a couple of years ago, I was in a play, To Kill a Mockingbird, in a small town near here (which I won’t name). As I left the back, there was a man on a motorbike who just looked at me and said “you need to get out of here, you don’t belong here”. I didn’t know what to do, I just thought, here I am far away from home, in his neck of the woods, so if I were to say or do anything I would be seen as the aggressor, even though I wasn’t. I’m more cerebral, I think about things before I act. So, I took a chill pill, told him “have some gum” (had to get one in) and then left. It was a little awkward, you see those kinds of things happen on TV, and don’t expect them to happen in real life.
Saj: So … you mentioned you are an alum of School of the Arts. There are obviously a few famous individuals who also graduated from there (Taye Diggs and Seymour Dustin Hoffman to name but two). Do you feel that pressure of having a lot to live up to?
Che: Laughs oh yes, I have big boots to fill. I got to meet Taye Diggs (former alumni of School of the Arts) while he was performing in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and we took a selfie of course (laughs). He is a really good guy.
Saj: So what else do you have in the pipeline?
Che: I have a project called Elysian fields, which is kind of like a combination of Othello and Django Unchained. And this summer we are going to be shooting season 2 of Dark Justice.
Saj: Sounds like you are keeping busy!
Che: I am!
Dark Justice Season 1 is available on the comedy website funnyordie.com