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Investing in Arts Education

How Actor Darrell Britt-Gibson is Leading the Way for Representation in Hollywood

(From left to right) Gillian Jacobs, Benjamin Flores Jr. and Darrell Britt-Gibson in Fear Street 1994, Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Growing up in Maryland, Darrell Britt-Gibson didn’t know he wanted to be an actor. But he was always making people laugh.

Now, the successful actor — who portrayed Jerome in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” and Bobby Rush in the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” — is sharing his passion for the arts and inspiring the next generation to love themselves and be creative.

“The Wire”

Britt-Gibson got his start after family friend and writer for “The Wire” David Mills got him an audition. He got cast in a one-day role for the crime drama, which he thought was the “coolest thing ever.” 

A month later, they asked him back to audition for two different roles. The script told him to jump at the person across from him. He did and was nervous he would never work again. But a few weeks later, he got the call — the casting department liked him so much they wanted to make him a character on the show. He played O-Dog for eight episodes.

At the time, he was 21 years old and still living in Maryland. A friend of his told him to get a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, and he did. For a while, he worked every job he could find, including Urban Outfitters and phone commercials.

Movie magic

For Britt-Gibson, who’s currently in Netflix’s “Fear Street” based off R.L. Stine’s horror series, his goal was to do creative work, never to be a star.

“I think chasing stardom is a dangerous game, and I think a lot of people play it, but I think it feels like a road to nowhere,” he says. “I just wanted to be a part of really cool stuff with really cool people, and whatever happens, happens.”

He remembers his first time on a TV set, calling it “surreal.”

“It felt like peeking behind the curtain a little bit,” he says. “It’s the one thing that is a little bit jarring for me being an actor now, because I’m a big fan of the magic of moviemaking. I never want to become jaded to the magic that we can make.”

He says everyone’s career journey is personal. Some people reach their goals faster than others.

“We can all be driving to the same house for a party, and we can all take separate roads to get there, but the key is that we all made to the house for the party,” he says.

Being creative

Up next, Britt-Gibson is in Baltimore shooting “We Own This City,” an HBO limited series.

The advice he offers fellow actors and those considering joining the industry is to make sure they love themselves and love the work. He also recommends creating your own work.

“Never stop creating, because you never know who’s watching,” he says. “It’s the greatest way to learn the ins and outs of the business.”

He says you should never wait for someone in the industry to discover you. “Discover yourself and just keep putting in the work, and never get tired of the work,” he says. “If you’re creating the stuff yourself, you’re always going to love it. Love it, and you cannot lose.”

For example, even though he’s never taken a screenwriting class, Britt-Gibson wrote a film called “She Taught Love,” which stars two Black leads, Mali and Frank. He plays Frank.

“It’s representation, every minute,” he says. “I just don’t see enough people who look like me leading love stories.”

He says Hollywood is taking baby steps to improve representation. He’s calling on the industry to do more. “We have an obligation in Hollywood,” he says. “It’s arts and entertainment, but it also has influence. It’s what people see, what people feel, so we have an obligation to do that. And it starts with showing representation of everybody, because that’s what the world is.”

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