Even at a very early age this gentleman unknowingly began sharpening his skills as a performer through playful preparation with a humble audience of only his family and friends. Without even realizing what his destiny would someday become, his desire to entertain those around him would later develop into a passion that would make way for his current career as an actor today. Check out our interview with Telvin Griffin.
SFND MAG: What's up Telvin. Nice to meet you man. Above all, we just want to let you know how much we appreciate you for interviewing with us. We are glad to have you in this issue of So FN Dope Magazine. How have you been?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: What's up!! It's so very nice to meet and talk with you as well. I'm humbled to be here with you. I've been really great, though. Things have started moving at a fast pace since the premiere of the film, and it's such a fun thing to experience in real-time.
SFND MAG: Things are getting off to a pretty good start for you already in 2023, huh?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: Oh my goodness, talk about finishing the year strong and looking to carry that momentum into the New Year! What a wild and amazing experience it's been so far. This is just the beginning of what's shaping up to be one heck of a 2023! You know it gives perspective to "trusting the process." Everything is in God's timing, and sometimes we don't know how long it will take, but we must keep that faith and never give up. That's when you'll begin to see your wildest dreams come to fruition. Hard work and boldly just being who you are will always bring such an amazing harvest!
SFND MAG: So Telvin, we hear that you are a born and raises in the South. The founders of So FN Dope Magazine were born and raised in the Deep South as well. Tell us a little about your Southern roots in Texarkana and how they have influenced your career in the entertainment industry?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: Yeah? That's so dope!! I always say you can take a brother out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the brother!! I love my southern roots, honestly. It's a huge part of who I am. That thing called "Southern Hospitality" really exists when it's done from the right place in the heart. I genuinely want to make people happy and feel loved. You just never know what a person might be going through. Desiring that for others is a testament to the way my parents raised me. I put the needs of others before my own. I believe that's where the favor on my life comes from. Growing up in Texarkana, we have such a grounded reality that is different from living in Los Angeles, where everything is magnified to the tenth degree. That can come with a price if you aren't grounded. I think growing up in Texarkana with amazing parents that have raised me with a strong foundation of being grounded in principles and values. I fall back on those here in Los Angeles daily; they will continue to help me handle success with class and character. I think a man's true character is discovered when he begins to get a little success behind him.
SFND MAG: As kids growing up, we've all pretended to be on stage or TV or used our imagination to become something in that moment that seemed real to us. We may not realize it then but those early moments of pretending and practicing actually prepare us for what to come later in life. How much of an impact did those childhood moments, of playing and pretending to entertain an audience before you actually had one, have on your development as an actor?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: Oh my gosh, what a fantastic question! That played a huge part in my life and my development as an actor. I would pretend to host shows in my grandparent's study den as a kid, not realizing years down the line I'd host my high school's beauty pageant. I had no experience hosting, nor did I know anything about filling time or telling jokes, so I just did what came naturally to me. The entire auditorium was packed with parents and other students, and they all had a great time laughing and enjoying themselves. After the show ended, this elderly couple came up to me and said, "young man, you were just so funny, and you reminded us of Wayne Brady, and you should pursue this career because you have a bright future in it." Those words stuck with me, and even after graduating high school and all through college pursuing broadcast journalism as my major, I still had this itch to do film and TV. Fast-forward to 2022! Looking back on it now, I see how critical that childhood imagination was in shaping my future!
SFND MAG: Who are some of your greatest influences in acting today and tell us why?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: My biggest influence is Denzel Washington because Training Day was one of the first movies I saw that made me fall in love with acting. I was only in the sixth grade but seeing him in the role, I knew I wanted to act, and from that day, I kept up with his every move and watched how he handled his career. Even when I wasn't thinking about acting, something would come on television with him in it that would remind me that he's a person I should try and model my career after. He's passionate about the work, and he's constantly growing in his work, doing plays on Broadway. I love that he's also a spiritual person of faith. He just carries himself with class, and that keeps a level of respect around his name. Another great influence for me is Sidney Poitier. He's a guy, along with Harry Belafonte, who literally laid the foundation for a young black actor like myself to be able to be in a film without having to ONLY be cast in stereotypical roles. All actors of color stand on the shoulders of these revolutionary men! As far as my female influences, definitely Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. These two women are powerhouses! They both come from the theatre world, and it shows in their work. When you watch them, you can tell they have this extra something within them that comes out of their pores and seeps through the screen; that is just captivating. They are truly an inspiration to watch and I learn something new every time I watch them. One day I plan to work with them!
SFND MAG: Telvin, you've already been in several TV series including CW's Dynasty, Fox's Deputy, and the Emmy-Award-Winning ABC comedy, Blackish. You've made many nationwide commercial appearances as well. How have you managed to stay so active in such a competitive industry?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: I've been very fortunate and blessed to be a working actor in such a competitive industry. It is important to note that while I have had those high moments where I'm booking like crazy, there are times, sometimes even as much as a full year, where I don't get but maybe one or two auditions. The key to staying active in this industry is knowing within yourself, with full conviction, that you are enough. Your talent is enough. Sometimes we forget that, and it causes all kinds of unhealthy thoughts to come into our heads, and the mind is the battleground. If you keep your mind right, everything else will fall into place. I'm constantly exploring new things within my craft. I'm a former athlete, so I equate acting to sports. Whenever we prepared for a game with a new team, we would watch film to discover strategies on how to beat our opponent. Well, when it comes to acting, our immediate opponent is the audition process, so you have to constantly be working your craft from classes to watching film, to just doing monologues in your living room. That's how you get better. You stay ready, so you don't have to get ready!! So when the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself, you're locked in, prepared and ready for the moment. They say that's called luck, but I call it Divine Appointment.
SFND MAG: You also have recently made your big screen debut in a movie entitled Babylon. This movie stars a host of Hollywood giants including Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, and Tobe Maguire. The movie was also directed by Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle. What was it like to be among so many veterans of the film
TELVIN GRIFFIN: During the early phases of getting involved with the film, I had no idea who was attached to it. Once we got closer to shooting and more press started coming out, I started to see just how big this film was going to be. Some of the biggest scenes in the movie included the entire cast, so I got to watch all of them work, with the exception of Tobey. But working with Brad, Margot, and Diego was a blast. Brad was just this fun and cool person that made us all feel welcome on set every day. He would come even when he wasn't due on set just to watch us work. Diego was sort of in the same shoes as me, with this being his first big Hollywood film, so he and I are experiencing this for the very first time, and it's such an amazing experience. Working with Jovan Adepo was so inspirational also. I learned quite a bit from him. He did Fences with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and he also has been nominated for an Emmy for his work in The Watchmen. We really became good friends during this film. He's a phenomenal actor. We got to really go there with our scenes. There were times we'd get the shot in one take, and Damien would ask if we wanted to do something else, and he'd let us improv, which was very cool of him. Damien is a pioneer and a genius. He knows what he wants, and he executes. He was our fearless leader on that set, and his magnificent storytelling is the exact reason why everyone in Hollywood wants to work with him.
SFND MAG: Being new to the big screen, what types of things did you learn from being on set of this film? Any key takeaways?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: Besides not being afraid to go there in character when the circumstances allow it, I learned the importance of conserving your energy, especially on long shoot days. Sometimes we're excited just to be there, so we try to mingle every chance we get, but I would watch Jean Smart during those breaks, and she'd just be there, still, on the set, but she'd be there relaxed with her eyes closed conserving energy, so when the time came for her close-up, she was prepared to go all out. I took that with me and will carry that with me to every set I go on from now on. Inspirational.
SFND MAG: What can you tell us about the film and the character you play in this movie?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: So this film pays homage to the art of filmmaking and its history, from silent films to talkies. It takes a deep dive into what it was really like as an artist to navigate that transition. It spotlights the journey of becoming and staying a star and the impact that had on actors during that time. From the wild parties to the cocaine, these actors were really at the height of their careers. But just like with life, when change comes, you can either get swallowed up or adapt. Seeing how they handle this is what the audience will get to experience. I play a character named Reggie, a saxophonist in the band and a little rival to one of the leads of the film, Trumpeter Sidney Palmer, played by Jovan Adepo. Reggie is trying to catch his break just like Sidney, and they're constantly going at it! Makes for good film!
SFND MAG: You mentioned that in the movie you play a Saxophonist? In real life you play the piano and the saxophone. Did you find it easier to relate to the character being that you have roots in music?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: Yes! Being a musician beforehand gave me a little step up. I think acting has a musicality to it, also. When I got on set, I already knew my way around the saxophone. I think being authentic and living in truth is key to every role, even if you're just playing an instrument. There will be someone who sees this film, who is also a musician and will be able to tell if you know what you're doing or not. Or if the notes you're playing are the very notes on the film's soundtrack. So that's why I took the time to practice sax and reacquaint myself with the notes.
SFND MAG: What is the release date and where can our readers see the film?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: The film released worldwide on December 23rd, 2022 in all theaters. So everyone can just head to their local theaters.
SFND MAG: What else can we expect from Telvin Griffin later in the year of 2023. Any other exciting roles or projects in the works?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: I'm actually excited to travel to Portland, Oregon, to work on an August Wilson play called "Seven Guitars" in the spring of 2023. I love theater, and it's my foundation and what better way to honor that than by working on an August Wilson play. He's such an instrumental storyteller in the black community. His words just jump off the page and resonate with me and I'm honored to be able to help bring his play to life. I'm also in talks to join another film where ironically, I play another successful musician who's won Grammys and is at the top of his game. This time as a piano player who deals with the struggle of mental health and relationship issues that lead to a lot of misplaced anger and hurt and not knowing how to get the right help for it. The movie will focus on how we as humans, in particular black men, suppress our mental health issues because we're afraid of acknowledging we need help, and I'm excited to tell a story that touches on that topic. Sometimes the persona that famous/successful people perpetuate is that they don't have any issues, much less mental health issues. That couldn't be further from the truth. I think with the recent passing of tWitch, it further confirms that a person can be successful and seemingly be happy and have the "perfect" life but still be battling something that we just don't know about. I'm looking forward to telling that story next year.
SFND MAG: We are nearing the end of the interview, could you please let our readers know where can they find you on social media?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: Dang so soon? Feels like we just got started. Everyone can find me on Twitter and Instagram under the handles @TelvinGriffin. I'm one of those guys that follow back because I love the interaction with my followers! So I look forward to connecting with everyone.
SFND MAG: Before you go could you name for us one other person that you think is So FN Dope and tell us why?
TELVIN GRIFFIN: Oh, for sure and without question, that would be none other than my mom. Both my parents are fantastic, and it's been a blessing being raised by both of them, but my mom is truly something special. The sacrifices she made over the years allowed me to do things I could've only dreamed of, coming from Texarkana. She's worked hard all her life so my family could have things that we wanted, even when that meant she and my dad had to go without. She takes care of my grandma, who's dealing with dementia, all while working two full-time jobs. She never complains, and sometimes I wonder where she gets the strength, but then I realize that's just what it means to be a black woman in America. That's why I work the way I do at making sure I achieve my dreams because I can't wait to repay her for all she's done for our family. It's not even a monetary thing. It's just honoring her, period, because she deserves it, and she's truly my inspiration and role model.
SFND MAG: Telvin thank you again my brother for interviewing with us. We are looking forward to seeing the movie Babylon and definitely looking to see more of you in the future sir. Congratulations on your success.
TELVIN GRIFFIN: Hey, thank you so much for having me, this was a blast, and I look forward to speaking with you all again in the near future! I love everything you stand for and wish you nothing but continued success and many blessings going forward.