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Passions Article

Chatting with Charles Divins
by Nadine Matthews

For “Passions"’ Charles Divins, growing up as an only child with just his mother and father for company was sort of a mixed bag. He says, “It was great, but there were times when I wished I had some family members my age. But other than that, growing up an only child teaches you how to think for yourself”. As a consequence, he is now an adult who is rarely bored. He says, “I could entertain myself all day long.”  So what did he do to entertain himself? “Like any other boy”, he says, “I was into baseball cards, hanging out with my friends, riding around the neighborhood, terrorizing people”. Did he say, “terrorizing people”? Well, he’s just kidding there. Part of what contributed to him being as active as he was, was the fact that he lived in Dallas, Texas, a city that was not so big that he couldn’t “go out and do what I needed to do”.

Charles was also involved with sports from a very young age, playing football, soccer, and baseball even before reaching High School. After he began High School, he joined the football team playing the fullback and outside linebacker positions. High school was not all cheerleaders and field goals for Charles though. He was also involved in a social outreach program called “The Light”. He describes it as “…kind of [an anti-drug] program. We used to go to a lot of elementary schools and tell stories and give presentations on drug and alcohol abuse. It was kind of a mentoring thing.” Asked how he got involved with this program he responded, “I had teachers that thought that I would be a good role model for younger kids and thought I should give it a try.” He also credits involvement in that program as being “the initial push in my acting. We’d go to an elementary school with a couple hundred kids and tell stories and give presentations… You’re digging so deep… that must have sparked something back in the day.”  As if that was not enough, Charles was also involved in what he calls “technical theater”. What that generally entailed was designing sets for theatrical productions.  In addition, he had a job at the mall--- where he got “discovered”. He says he was “working at a clothing store and this scout came in and took a picture of me. He said ‘Hey, you could do this’ and asked me to meet with this agent. I met the agent a week later and two weeks after that I was making more in one day than I made in three months at the clothing store… I was seventeen years old at the time.” And folks, a star was born. Well, not exactly—not yet anyway.  He modeled for quite a while before turning his attentions to acting.

Charles describes moving from modeling to acting as almost inevitable because modeling “puts you in a big city and the opportunities are there and it’s kind of like a natural segue because as a model you do commercials, you’re in front of a moving camera rather than a film camera. That’s kind of how I caught the bug and I figured that this is something I’d really want to pursue. Then right off the bat, I got a job on “Passions” and I was going out to L.A. and all that.”

As for moving to Hollywood, the thing he found the most surprising about that legendary town was the level of diversity. L.A. is a great mosaic indeed. He says that “Every nationality has their own enclave here. New York City is like a huge melting pot and you run into everybody and you hear it on the street, you hear different languages on the street. In L.A. you don’t really experience it that way. You have to drive to different parts of the city. There are parts that are one hundred percent Korean or 100 percent Armenian or one hundred percent Ethiopian. It’s really diverse in that sense but it’s segregated so you really can’t.” He trails off and then picks up again. “My preconceived notion of L.A. was what I saw on MTV and when you get here you see these cultures that are literally one hundred percent of an area. It’s just really nice.”

His move to L.A. was made less traumatic than it might have been by the fact that not only did he land a soap role as soon as he got there but his family, some of whom are also in the business are very supportive of  his career choice. He says, “I have some friends and some family in the business as well. They are there when you need it. Like anything else, you try to surround yourself with people that are in the business that you work for or work with that you trust. It’s one thing to have your friends and family tell you what to do but it’s always good to have someone on the same page, with the same vision. I have family in the business- writers, artists… My family is kind of different in that way where they support whatever path you’re on.”

Charles has also begun broadening his horizons as an actor. He recently appeared in primetime as the character Lorenzo on the sitcom “Half & Half”. He describes working on a sitcom as “fun in a pure sense” compared to working on a drama like “Passions” where he has to be so much more focused. He says that the genre itself doesn’t necessarily determine the level of discipline as much as the volume of work does. He explains that “When storylines are heavy you’re turning out six shows a week, six hours a week of dialogue—it’s huge so you have to be disciplined. You have to be really focused because it’s a lot of repetition of exposition. We’re basically spitting out the [whole] story every time you see us.”

 Asked about how challenging it is to repeat a lot of the story and to play the same character each day, he enthusiastically replied, “You try to find new things to make it exciting. I read the new scripts as if I were a fan watching the show. I’ll get a script in the mail for the next week and I’m like ‘Oh wow, what’s happening, I’m turning the pages…Every morning I wake up and I’m really excited and happy to be working in this business; to be going to work every day and playing a game for a living. What more can you ask for?”

He also remains a student of his craft—literally. He says, “I take classes every week. I am a student. I’m constantly going to the movies and watching TV and it doesn’t sound like work but again, that’s why I’m happy. I go to class every week and I try to do what I can to move forward.”  In addition, he learns form the day to day work that he does. “Sometimes” he says, “you go to work and you’re like ‘Wow, I’ve never experienced that before. That was kind of fun. Let’s explore that this week. Let’s try to add that to the performance every week… Outside of that, working on another show and coming back to “Passions” makes it a thousand times more fresh. Seeing how other people do it, how other actors approach their work.”

Another concern that looms large for actors is continuing to work. For Charles, the key to longevity for an actor is realizing that acting is an art and that, “You are constantly growing and changing and you embrace that.”  He is also a fan. As far his favorite program he says “The Shield is my number one program. It’s real. The way it’s shot is gritty and you feel as if you are watching these corrupt cops. I mean it gets pushed to the limits a little but it’s got that gritty sense of reality to it”. Overall though, he really likes plot-driven shows with what he terms, “Nice twists that keep you interested”.

Asked if he followed current events closely, Charles admitted to being “a news junkie”. He developed this habit from when he was in High School and says that since he was always interested in History, Politics, etc. following current events is “[his] way of not being a student of those things yet still learning about people, places, etc.”  In his opinion, the most important international news story of the past year is the war in Iraq.  One thing that bothers him about the coverage of Iraq is the fact that he feels that the media too often glosses over or oversimplifies the subject. He says, “I think that the real issues behind [the war] are not really focused on”. Domestically it is the rebuilding of New Orleans and the disappearance of pensions that he finds to be the most pressing topics.  In a voice heavy with concern he explained that it is alarming that pensions are disappearing for hundreds of thousands of workers “that are basically getting their life savings written off.” He admitted that though it’s a real possibility that pensions are destined to be a thing of the past, it is worse for the workers who are currently going through this. “The fact that these people weren’t prepared for it--that’s an issue I feel should be put in the news more.”

All that being said, we moved on to some lighter fare—really. We talked about food. Charles “loves food of all types” and does not follow any diets whatsoever. “If I have a scene coming up I’ll definitely cut out the cookies and the alcohol but in general I try not to eat a lot.  I try to eat a little bit of what I want to eat and have [small amounts] all day long. You stay fuller and you’re not starving. I must be hypoglycemic or something. If I don’t have carbs, I go crazy” he elaborates.

Because of his rather liberal attitude toward food, Charles is very disciplined about his exercise regimen. He says, “Because I don’t watch what I eat I try to focus on [exercise] a little bit more. I try to go to the gym four days a week I try to run or ride my bike. I got a new bike for Christmas so I’m riding it all around town everywhere I go. I try to stay active. Every day I do something.”

For someone who used to model for a living and keeps his body in top shape for the TV camera, Charles is surprisingly uninterested in clothes. He’s just another “jeans and T-shirt kind of guy”. Interestingly though he confesses to a penchant for sunglasses. He says, “I do get into the sunglasses thing. It’s the L.A. in me, I guess”.

As the interview went on, it became more apparent that Charles is a Renaissance man. He divulged that he is about to receive his pilot’s license, is a musician, a technophile, and an amateur still photographer. His favorite photojournalist is a man called Roy DeCarva. According to Divins, DeCarva is “an old photojournalist [who] shot through Harlem back in the twenties and thirties when they didn’t let Black people work for Time Magazine. If you ever get a chance to pick up his book [you should]. It has poetry and is really, really amazing.” So are you Charles…

Catch Charles Divins as “Chad” Monday through Friday on “Passions” on NBC Daytime. Check your local listings for the time.

The opinions in these articles are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The TV MegaSite or its other volunteers.

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