Chad Coleman, From HBO Series The Wire
Chad L. Coleman is best known for his stirring portrayal of Dennis "Cutty" Wise on HBO's critically -acclaimed series "The Wire". But this highly seasoned veteran of stage, television, and film has an extensive resume that includes sharing the stage with Willem Dafoe, Robin Williams, and Mia Farrow. He's guest starred on "Numbers", "Law &Order(SVU)", "Hack", and "New York Undercover", to name a few. Chad is dedicated husband, father and man of faith who has given generously of his time to help his fellow man. He's gone into schools and prisons to inspire young people, encouraged the brave children of the Special Olympics, and helped to raise scholarship funds for Future Scholars of Virginia, alongside Tim and Daphne Reid.
His life personifies his belief that "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me". As a producer, he's currently developing a documentary on five inner city kids of west Baltimore who are trying to beat the streets, to become "Silver Glove Boxing Champions", and the ex-con who trains them. He is also working on an indie film starring along with Bokeem Woodbine, Lynn Whitfield and Clifton Powell.
He plays a menacing, intimidating character on the critically acclaimed HBO hit series The Wire, but I found Chad Coleman to be neither menacing nor intimidating, although I am clear that he can evoke those characteristics and -- on a dime. We began our chat by admiring the pastry's and cakes behind the counter at the café where we decided to meet, then we sat down and I listened to Chad's answers to the questions that I asked.
His face is strong and handsome and his smile is broad and friendly. Chad laughs a lot like someone who is really happy or like someone who has just been set free. He has the kind of "freedom to be" that is really rare; almost enviable. He doesn't second guess himself about who he is, where he stands or about what he wants. He is definitive about what is important to him and there is no doubt that the best of Chad Coleman -
is yet to come!
DR: Tell me about your work and about your life.
CC: Well, the first thing that I want to talk to you about is the illusion of celebrity.
As a young kid, I was abandoned by my parents. I grew up in a foster home with, kind of lukewarm acceptance, but I certainly have an appreciation that I didn't end up in the projects. At the same time, not feeling connected with these people. Moving on in life I attached myself to acting - God blessed me with a talent that I could throw my energy into. I defined myself by what I did. I wasn't concerned about my character, who I was as a person, how I treated people, I really was all about being a professional actor and -
"I'm going to make it! I am going to be a star!"
That drive got me through but that was a limited existence.
Even though I made a living as an actor for ten years I was still in this mode, a narrow field of thought that was limiting the person that I was, even though I could present to you "a really nice guy". There were just a lot of issues there that needed to be resolved. I call it an identity crisis.
So what had to happen for me is that the illusion of celebrity had to be shattered, and that happened when I achieved a level of success of being on the show. Now people know who I am, now I am on this critically acclaimed show, now I am getting this attention, now my dreams are coming true…
internally I was in an uproar.
I was not happy. I was not comfortable. I felt incomplete. I felt miserable in a lot of ways and it was scary because I thought that once I achieved a certain level of success that all of that stuff would go away. That is when I had to begin to look at:
"Who am I? Where do I come from? What do I really believe?"
I was having a profound struggle in my belief in God; a yo-yo effect with that…
What happened is that I was blessed with this book called Discover the Power Within by Eric Butterworth. That book illuminated for me what I really believed, or what I wanted to believe but just couldn't crystallize as a reality. And that is:
I AM A DIVINE MAN.
I am of God and knowing that and being able to know from whence everything I do comes - the Source - it changed my life. In that revelation came -
This industry is a very self-absorbed, self-driven…it is an "all about me" industry which is a very limited existence. I don't know, maybe some people are comfortable living in that skin. I wasn't. Once my realization and reconciliation with God occurred and I understood who Jesus Christ is and who He was and Him being a man who chose divinity, I recognized that I had a choice to either live the identity that I thought I was or to live the identity that Christ has blessed me with.
In choosing that,
I feel whole. I feel complete. I feel centered in my skin and I feel the need to help my fellow man. I feel that true value comes from reaching out and helping somebody else.
That's my life.
DR: Share with me one of your most favorite moments.
CC: My daughter being born! That is just out right it! To see that head come out and just sit there…because Momma had a little problem with the engine. (Laughs) She couldn't hit the gas. She hit the gas once and that head came out and then we had about another 45 minutes of just sheer wonderment with me sitting there looking at her little face. It was amazing! It was incredible! There is nothing else in my life that measures up to that.
Second to that, was the first time on stage as actor that I lost myself and I didn't know what I did but everyone afterwards was just like "Oh! How did you do that! That was amazing!" That was one of the most amazing moments in my life.
Also, the first time that I was on a television show and I came outside and people knew who I was - that was a rush.
The most unvarnished, uncompromising and realistic police drama ever returns for another hard hitting season.
Season three of THE WIRE examined the concept and nature of reform and the role of the political leadership in addressing a city's problems. Earlier themes included the death of the American working class, depicted in season two, and the inherent conflict between individuals and the modern institutions to which they are beholden, as seen in the protracted drug investigation that began in season one and continues into the third season.
With the Barksdale investigation concluded, the fourth season of THE WIRE will expand its focus to include a look at the role of the educational system in an urban environment.
Catch the all new episodes of The Wire on HBO On Demand. Click here for episode dates and times, or visit The Wire on HBO's website: http://www.hbo.com/thewire
And, where we are now, my wife and I, in placing God first and how our relationship is flourishing. So many boundaries have been broken down. We are so open and obstacles just aren't obstacles anymore. They are opportunities to grow. Sincerely! Really! I have heard people say that but I just thought that it was like those platitudes and "Oh, you're just trying to be positive…"
DR: Yeah, one of those…
CC: You know what I mean.
Seeing what this union, my marriage, really is now is exciting to me now.
DR: What has been one of the hardest times in your life?
CC: The hardest time for me was not so long ago when I was on the verge of leaving my family. I was in so much pain. I was walking around like I was in a bubble. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I was struggling trying to find my relationship with God, trying to find my place. I was having an identity crisis.
I had identified all of these weaknesses in myself and I couldn't reconcile that with who I thought I was, so I kind of imploded. Now, people didn't know that. My wife knew…That was very dark time; a lot of darkness and a lot of negativity. I woke up every day feeling like there was about a thousand pounds of weight on my shoulders and I didn't feel like I could connect with people.
That was a very tough time.
DR: So what was the turning point for you?
CC: The realization that -
I am divine!
I truly am. Divinity lives within me. No joke. No trying to pump myself up. Divine!
God is grown and sexy!
Embracing that is so empowering.
He is vital and that is awesome! It really is. I am not talking about four years ago, I am talking about three months ago… It has been a process but this major breakthrough happened not long ago.
DR: Are you afraid of anything right now?
CC: I fear the Lord, that's all. Anything else is a lie. It is an illusion. It is. It is make believe; the movie in your mind. A lot of us believe the tape. Turn the tape off because it is just limiting. Once you open up and you let go of that fear, you are going to see another part of yourself and you are going to grow.
I'll tell you, I lived a very negative existence and it was stifling. We as people are good at masking things. We can do that because we want to feel empowered and we are survivors but boy, if you fear anything it is just going to make you retract. So, I only fear the Lord.
DR: What would you tell a young person who came to you and asked you for advice about the way to success and happiness?
CC: First of all,
"To thine own self be true".
Second, acknowledge the Creator.
Now I am not going to try and proselytize and tell somebody else what they should believe. I can only model for them my own belief:
Get your relationship with God straight!
Be sure that you know the God that you serve or don't serve. You understand? Whatever that is for you, however you are defining that, make sure that you are not serving a false God. Once you get your identity in God correct, everything else will open up.
The major problem in all of our lives is our struggle with identity. We are trying to find it in our parents. We are trying to find it on our jobs. We are trying to find it in our friends. We are trying to find it! The core essence of who you are has nothing to do with any of that. Once you make that connection then you can appreciate all of these other components in your life and understand why those components are there and not have some unnecessary clinging, or need from them that they can't even provide you anyway.
There is a place in you that can only be filled by God. Point blank. You are going to search. I am telling you that you are going to be on that search. Especially if you have had abuse in your background, abandonment issues in your background, if you have a broken relationship with your parents…If any of those things are on the table, they are going to deal with you if you don't deal with them first. You have to take them out of the position of robbing you of your full experience in life. You have got to get in the driver's seat but you can't do that alone.
DR: You know, I believe that struggle, hardship, coming "up against it" can be a blessing in disguise…
CC: Oh, no question!
DR: …We hate it…
CC: …It's not disguised either.
DR: So then talk to me about that.
CC: Well that is the thing! In my own will I could not do it. In my own will the best that I could do was separate from my wife and raise my daughter independently. The best that I could do on my own was continue to deal with substances and continue to run around with different women and continue to chase the carrot of acting...that is the best that I could do. That is a limited experience. That is not whole and it doesn't even begin to allow me to tap into the potential that is within me. That is just a perpetual circle of:
Stop. Start. Fail. Try. Fail. Try.
But you always remain in a position of fear that you can't do it in the first place. And, the "try" only happens when you are so miserable, too miserable to do anything else. That has been my experience with that. It has only been through my relationship with God that I am able to see these things and be excited by life; having an anticipation of what He is going to do because I am clear that I am not doing it.
I tell people that:
"God is the limo driver and you are in the limo. Sit back. Enjoy the ride."
It isn't about my feelings having some prevailing dominance; how I am feeling today. It's about where my spirit is and where I am in relation to God. There, I can do all things so obstacles don't appear to be obstacles. Self realization is hugely important but you are going to have to obliterate and unlearn probably, a lot of falsities. I don't know how to tell a person how to do that without the Spirit of God.
I wouldn't want to set anybody up for failure. I don't want to continue to buy into "struggle" in that way because the existence that I am living in right now, I don't experience struggle that way…
DR: You mean the way that you used to?
CC: Yeah! Absolutely!
That is the existence available to every last one of us. But people will tell you "No! You can't man! You gotta go through ups and downs and problems and…"
No! It doesn't have to be that way! That is what we have been taught. Now, I will wager that if you took away that idea of struggle, you take away a lot of industry. So I don't know if it's all by design but I know that there are a lot of occupations and a lot of money,
you understand -- to be made and purporting that struggle is life, that is a limiting experience. There is a fuller experience. I don't mean to sound like one of those little platitudes but if you can just "Let go and let God…"
DR: What has been your biggest contribution to the world so far?
CC: Fatherhood. It is a beautiful thing when you can stand in fatherhood and not measure it as, or react to it as who your earthly father is. My father had so many limitations and weaknesses, God bless him, but he did! If I was looking for my identity there, well I would be living in reaction to somebody else's limitation so I still would not be living fully. But, when you step into who God says that you are you stand in the fullness…
Maybe there are people who can live in this little cocoon of "Woo! I am the best! I am the best. I am the best. I am the best. I am going to do this movie. I am going to do that movie…"
For me, if I am not connecting with human beings, if I am not loving and encouraging you in your life and if I am not helping to lift you up then what is it all for? It really doesn't hold any weight.
I think that the biggest thing that God has me doing right now is a documentary about the real life Cutty, the guy that I play on The Wire. Redemption is key. We have to know that people can change. It is important not to give up on people; people in the penile system, poor people, people who have addiction problems or anger problems or problems communicating. It's all about reaching out.
DR: A hundred years from now what do you want to be remembered for?
CC: I don't want to be remembered for anything. I want to be alive. I want to be a hundred and forty years old and have another interview with you!
Eternal life! Right now!
Do you know that the only reason why we think that we are supposed to die is because somebody told us that? We read all of this stuff about life expectancy that tells us "Well life expectancy for man is…" And then we start saying stuff like "Boy he lived to eighty. That's a good life."
That is a limiting thought!
Nobody told me that I can't live to be a hundred and seventy five years old so --
that is what I am going for!
HBO's series The Wire"THE BEST SHOW ON TV" - San Francisco Chronicle
"TV'S RICHEST, MOST SATISFYING EXPERIENCE" - Entertainment Weekly
"BREATHTAKING EXCELLENCE" - Newsday
"POWERFUL... TRANSCENDANT... GRIPPING" - The Baltimore Sun
" — IMPECCABLE" - San Jose Mercury News
" — UNFLINCHING" - Los Angeles Daily News
" — EXPLOSIVE" - Detroit Free Press
"ADDICTIVE" - New York Post
Visit The Wire at: http://www.hbo.com/thewire/