Royce Henry is one of several acting friends I know who had an interest in acting from an early age, but didn’t pursue it until later in life. Now he’s making up for lost time with a number of roles including playing Jackson in Donald James Parker’s Best Friends movie series.
Tell us, Royce, when did you first develop an interest in acting?
I don’t remember how old I was when I first started to talk, but probably then. I’m sure I didn’t realize it had a name – “acting” – all I know is that I always wanted to be the center of attention, the old “Hey mom look at me. Look what I can do” routine. I was a middle child and I’ve heard it said that is typical of middle children, so maybe that was part of it. I don’t know. My dad had one of those old home movie cameras so I’ve seen lots of film (and in those days it really WAS FILM) of me acting up, showing off for the camera, much to the annoyance of my older brother, no doubt. If I’m remembering correctly, I believe my first public performance was when I appeared in a play my fifth grade class put on. Learning my lines was a piece of cake. There were none. I played a cave man and all I had to do was grunt. I remember my mom made me a costume out of burlap potato sacks. I continued performing in plays throughout elementary and high school, and church and community theater afterwards.
What was your first film role?
My very first film role was that of a character named Trace in a short called Grease Junkie shot in January of 2010. It happened shortly before my fifty-sixth birthday. I had just finished doing the play A Christmas Carol in which I was blessed with the opportunity to play one of my favorite characters, Ebenezer Scrooge. I was at the library using their computer, since I did not have one myself at the time, and was browsing Craigslist when I noticed a post for a short film some students at a local college were doing. They had been holding auditions and, if I remember correctly, the last one was that very night. I called the number listed and got the information I needed, went to the audition, and landed the role.
The description of the film on IMDb is – “Fifteen years from now hamburgers are illegal. Two cops plan an undercover sting on a major burger lord known as Trace.” I played Trace. One of the perks of this film was that I was able to enjoy eating FREE hamburgers during the shooting of one of the scenes.
Ever since I started almost 6 years ago, I’ve tried to consistently be involved in some project. There have been breaks where I did nothing, but that wasn’t deliberate on my part.
What faith-based films have you been involved in?
To date, I have only been in three films that would be described as faith-based. Well, four if you count Mom’s Night Out, which I don’t because I was only an extra. All three of the films have been films produced by Donald James Parker/Sword of the Spirit Publishing. They are Best Friends Eternally, Best Friends Recycled, and Mission Improbable. Only BFE is available for purchase on DVD. The other two should be available soon.
Tell us about your role in the Best Friend movies.
Donald James Parker contacted me in the spring of 2014 and told me he had a script that called for two retired professors, one an atheist and the other a Christianm and asked me if I was interested, and if so to read over the script and choose whichever role I wanted, and he’d take the other one. I thought that was very unusual, AND very gracious of him to give me my choice. So I checked it out and the role of Jackson appealed to me more than the role of Tony. Now, looking back I think the casting was perfect. I can NOT see me playing Tony, no way. It’s very odd actually. I didn’t know Donald and he didn’t know me, and yet it’s almost as though both these roles were written specifically for us. There is so much of Royce in Jackson (or Jackson in Royce – take your pick) and Don in Tony. I can’t speak for him, but I suspect that after that became apparent in the first film, he may have written even more of that into the second one. For example, Don knows I enjoy doing karaoke online, and that is in the first scene of BFR. Also, Jackson and I both share physical traits and habits, e.g. being overweight and liking junk food. The junk food is addressed in the third “Best Friends” film – now in pre-production, Best Friends Genetically Modified. How’s THAT for a title?
Yes, in many ways I am just being myself when I play Jackson, although Jackson does have a quality I admire and wish I had, which is that he is not at all shy about sharing his faith in Jesus Christ. I hate to admit it, but truth be told, I am nowhere near as bold as I’d like to be, and SHOULD be, as Jackson is in that area. I love talking about the Lord, and if someone asks me about Him, I have no trouble at all giving an answer. But when it comes to initiating the conversation, I wish I was more like Jackson.
What is your greatest challenge as an actor?
Great question. I’ll have to think on that a moment.
I wish you had asked for maybe my THREE greatest challenges. Okay, if I have to boil it down to just one I guess I’d have to say NOT giving up. Because it IS tempting to do sometimes. I do not consider acting to be just an avocation, although most certainly I still work a part-time “day job” to pay the bills. I know I have a long way to go before I’m to the point that I’m sure every serious actor longs for, the day when the acting pays the bills, and that’s ALL I have to do. That day may NEVER come. I forget the percentage, but I read somewhere that the percentage of actors that do NOT have to have another source of income is EXTREMELY small. In some ways it may be the toughest profession there is, in SOME ways. Certainly as far as danger goes, I would not even begin to compare it to say – being a police officer or firefighter for example – which btw I was for a short time in my youth (firefighter), but that’s another story. But being an actor is the only profession, I’m aware of where you are likely to be un-employed more than employed and constantly looking for that next job. I truly hope the Lord sees fit to make my dream of a late-life career as a professional WORKING actor a reality. But, if not, HIS will be done!
What would be your dream role?
And I thought the LAST question was tough! Okay, now I can’t limit myself to just one, because as far back as I can remember I have always wanted to play George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. As I mentioned before, I have had the pleasure of portraying Scrooge on the stage (would still like to do it in a film), but I’m probably too old now for the other two. The closest I’ve ever come to playing the first two characters was back in 2005 when I was first in a stage production of Fiddler on the Roof in which I played the butcher Lazar Wolf and then later that same year I played the part of Uncle Billy in It’s a Wonderful Life. Other than those three, being the HUGE Trekkie I am, I’d love to be captain or first officer of a starship (i.e. Kirk or Spock types) on a Star Trek television show or feature film. Such iconic characters.
But you know, upon giving it further thought, I’d probably be tempted to copy the performances of the actors who originally brought those characters to life, so in truth, perhaps my “Dream Role” would be that of a BRAND NEW character that no one has ever done before. A character that I could create using nothing more than the writer’s imagination. Like Jackson for example. And hopefully a character that would also be an icon some day, another Mr. Spock, or Rocky Balboa, Lt. Colombo, etc. Wouldn’t that be fun!
Just this, thank you so much for asking me to do this. It is such an honor. First time ever for me. I’ve heard some people say they have no regrets in life. I wish I could say that. Unfortunately I can’t as I have plenty. Both having to do with my personal life, and as regarding my career. I sincerely believe God has given me a talent to act, and also direct and edit. But I will be 62 on my next birthday. This ability He has given me, this gift or talent, should have been cultivated and developed a very long time ago. I don’t know of ANYONE who started as late as I have and have become successful at it. Let’s face it – we live in a youth-driven culture and every day that goes by reminds me that there are fewer and fewer roles for people my age and up. Time…is NOT on my side.
But, I also know that my God can do the impossible, and if it’s His will for it to happen, it WILL happen. But I do regret that after finishing school I let fear keep me from at least making the attempt to become what I wanted to be. To follow my dream. Instead, I chose the easier path, the traditional path of working a job I did not like for the “security” of a weekly paycheck.
My High School Speech teacher encouraged me and said I was the most versatile actor she ever had. Then she retired and we got a new and younger teacher. He opened my eyes to the harsh reality of just how competitive the business was, and how for everyone who made it, there were thousands that didn’t. I let the fear of failure keep me from even trying.
Well, I’m trying now. A series of events in my life have brought me to a place where there is nothing standing in my way of “going for it”. If it doesn’t happen, it sure won’t be for lack of trying on my part.
In closing, let me just say that all the praise and glory for ANY success I may have goes right back to the one who gave me the talent and the opportunities to use it. If possiblem it would be wonderful to only be involved in Christian…faith-based…tedemptive…family-friendly films. To me, these types of films are much more than just entertaining. The viewing of them often results in lives being changed and so being a part of such films can bring about rewards that are not just temporary, but indeed eternal.
Thank you again for the honor you’ve given me in asking me to do this, and even though it’s not necessarily “Christian” per se, I’d like to end with this quote by President Theodore Roosevelt.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt