"God don't make no junk; none of you are accidents," was just one of many inspirational thoughts shared on life and acting by Mykelti Williamson at the May meeting of the LA chapter of Veterans in Film and Television (VFT). Williams shared his thoughts with vets and friends at the historic Hollywood American Legion Post. Williamson, known for his iconic role as Bubba Blue in Forrest Gump and currently featured on Designated Survival as Admiral Chernow, discussed his life and career with VFT - LA Director of Programs Jack Kennedy.
Williamson shared how as a little kid he spent a lot of time watching reruns of Leave It To Beaver and mimicked what the Beav did. A lucky circumstance kept Williamson in the acting game. "When I was nine years old," he said, "a stage mom pulled her child out of a school play on Friday morning that was scheduled to go on Saturday. My mom volunteered me and I learned the lines overnight. After the play, I got a standing ovation."
It was at that point Williamson knew he was an actor. Kennedy wondered if Williamson recalled when he felt he made it and was going to stick around in the acting business. "Your value comes from your family and your friends," Williamson said, "not from what Hollywood thinks of you. You never know when you are here to stay. Be humble."
The interview paused as Williamson acknowledged the entry of producer/writer Graham Yost (The Americans, Speed, Broken Arrow). Yost and Williamson had worked together on Justified and Boomtown. The conversation turned to the importance of the script. "To me, the script is the star," Williamson said. Graham is one of the greatest writers of all time, so you don't want to change the script, you want to elevate it. He explained his approach to reading a script. "It's not a character that you are asked to play," Williamson said. "It's a human being. Be respectful."
Kennedy brought up Williamson's theatrical experience. "I've done a lot of things in the theater," Williamson recalled. "It's the best training for an actor because you get immediate feedback. You sharpen your skills on the boards."
Williamson then took questions from the VFT members in the audience. He was asked how to find representation. "The most important thing to remember," he said, "is that they will find you. I've talked to people at William Morris. They told me, "We don't groom people. We wait until they are ready and then we pick them off". "Just do your best work all the time".
A VFT member asked how he wanted to be remembered. "I just want to know that I added value," he said. "Whatever I write in your heart, that's what I want you to remember." Williamson also spoke about the projects upon which he, his wife, and daughter were working. These included helping the homeless and making parents aware of the dangers of human trafficking. "If I haven't helped someone," he said, "then I haven't lived life. I've just walked through it." Before mingling with the VFT audience, Williamson promised to return and teach an acting class to VFT members.