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Actor Shannon Wallace breaks stereotypes by vowing to never play the role of a thug or gangster

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Shannon Wallace is unapologetically carving a lane for himself in Hollywood. While a large percentage of actors settle for any role that’s offered to them, even at the expense of abandoning their values and beliefs, Wallace sits on integrity’s side of the fence.

For the budding talent, having grown up in a crime-infested neighborhood of Long Island, New York, where he lost his younger brother to senseless gun violence, Wallace made a commitment to his late sibling to never portray violent roles much like the criminals who viciously took his life.

Wallace currently stars in the BET original series “American Soul” as Private Nate Barker and took some time out of his schedule to chat with NDLYSS about season 1. He also shares how Larenz Tate, Kelly Price, Michael Ealy and more have played a huge role in the humble beginnings of his acting career.

Check out the interview below.

As a fresh face to the world of acting at what point did you realize you wanted to pursue this as a professional career?

I kind of just fell into it, I think. Right after college, I moved to Las Vegas [and] got a taste of what it’s like being on the other side and got addicted to it. I was living with a friend of mine who’s a boxer (Shane Mosley). Being in his circle piqued my interest and hanging out with one of his best friend’s (Larenz Tate) for a summer changed everything. I figured if [Larenz] could do it then I could do it, too. I went back home to New York and laid out the plan and followed it.

What advice did you take away from Larenz after spending a summer with him?

He told me to record myself as much as I can. The easiest way to learn yourself on camera is to watch yourself on camera. That’s the one that sticks with me the most.

Courtesy of Shannon Wallace

Mentorship is critical in any field, have you had anyone in the business help guide you along the way or watched any actors techniques from a distance as a way to perfect your craft?

Six months ago, I didn’t have anyone; I was alone in this. I’ve followed Michael Ealy’s path and the way he went about things and the choices that he’s made –– I wanted to emulate that. I found a mentor –– Charmin Lee (actress out of Atlanta). She is more of a friend but takes on the mentor role. She’s been in the business for 30 years. Her approach and mindset have definitely helped me.

You’ve previously experienced a tragic loss in your family due to gun violence and made a vow to not play certain roles, how has your decision been received by casting directors?

“Very early on, I told myself that I wouldn’t play a thug or a gangster.”

I didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood. I lost my brother to gun violence and that cemented it for me. I’ve had to turn down opportunities. I’m kind of strict about what I’ll do and what I won’t do. I’m the artist and its kind of up to me.

The roles you’re opting out of playing have prominence in the Black community. Many actors of color start out the early stages of their careers and sometimes veteran years taking on those stereotypical roles, do you feel those narratives do more harm to the community even though some will argue they are portraying truth?

It’s a real thing! I see enough of it on the news but some people do need to see it because not everyone grows up in it. It is telling a story but it’s not my story, it’s too close to home for me.

“In the end, you have a choice and I think people often times forget that.”

L: Kelly Price, R: Shannon Wallace (BET)

Let’s talk about your role in “American Soul” as Private Nate Barker.

I’m a loner by choice and Nate is a loner because he has to be. He didn’t have too much of a backstory when he was given to me so I just filled in the blanks myself. He lost his father so he doesn’t have a family to come back to after serving. Nate is dealing with a lot and is a very emotional person dealing with the traumas of war.

How was your experience working alongside Kelly Price?

Kelly is refreshing! It amazes me that she has this 20-year career in entertainment but she’s brand new to acting and stripped of everything else. She’s just eager and hungry to learn which was amazing to see.

Courtesy of Shannon Wallace

When doing research for the role, what did you discover about the Soul Train era that you didn’t’ know before?

For me, I didn’t really have to dip into Soul Train at all which actually disappointed me a little bit. Regarding the ’70s, I watched “Dead Presidents” with Larenz where he played a soldier coming back from the war. I just wanted to get the feel and look of it so I could play the role as real as I could.

“American Soul” is culturally enriching by its exploration of such a significant time in African American history. What do you think of the show’s timing, considering all that’s happening now?

There’s a storyline in the show that follows the Crips, touching on police brutality and civil rights. It shocked me on how relevant it is today. We’re telling this story in 2019 and it fits in seamlessly.

“American Soul” shows how necessary organizations like the Panthers and the Crips were during that time.”

What advice would you give to upcoming actors with no experience?

Be specific. Whatever your motivations are whether it be money, fame, or the work –– be intentional. I’ve found that saying no in my case has done more good than bad. I am very specific with what I audition for and what I choose to do and it has worked for me.

Check out Shannon Wallace on “American Soul” on Tuesdays @9 p.m. ET on BET.

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Hollywood has a new love story, starring Tessa Thompson!

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“Sylvie’s Love” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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Anne Hathaway on new Role in Netflix Original ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’

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Adapted from the Joan Didion novel of the same title, the film is set against the nebulous milieu of the Iran-Contra scandal. Veteran D.C. journalist Elena McMahon played by Hathaway abandons the 1984 campaign trail out of a misguided sense of duty to her father.

“The Last Thing He Wanted” will debut on February 21 via Netflix

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Actress Kerry Washington takes a Seat at the Hollywood Producer Table

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Panelists discussed their thoughts on the best ways to continue pushing boundaries and creating positive change in the entertainment business. Having dominated the Hollywood big screen for over 20 years, Washington now has her eyes set on joining the ranks of elite producers. Take a look.

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