CREATIVE EXPRESSION: ACTOR
Eric Lockley is the three-time winner of the world famous Showtime at the Apollo. We learned about Eric’s success at the Apollo during this interview which speaks volumes of his modesty. He is an accomplished actor, writer and producer. Recently, Eric wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed short film, THE JUMP, which is about overcoming fears and literally taking the jump into the deep end of the swimming pool of life.
We discuss Eric’s attitude to being a superstar, his movie THE JUMP, and the source of his seeming boundless energy.
We meet at a local hangout spot in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. 61 Local. After ordering some kombucha on the tap, we get settled in. We are both amused that Eric didn’t read the questionnaire I sent him in advance – he has been swamped. But he didn’t need to. It’s clear that Eric is relishing the opportunity to improvise on the fly. He is a professional at it.
Superstar Agenda: Are you a superstar?
Eric Lockley: I am a superstar.
Superstar Agenda: Yeah?
Eric: Yeah, definitely.
Superstar Agenda: And, why do you say that?
Eric: I’d say I’m a superstar because of my work ethic. I think work ethic is huge, and I think anyone that knows me would say that I work hard. And hopefully they would say I work smart sometimes. You know, that might be debatable but I am a determined individual who works really hard for the things that I’m passionate about and that’s everything right now from my short film The Jump, to my theatre companies, The Movement Theatre Company, and Harlem 9, to my acting career, so there are a lot of things that I have my hand in and I get really passionate about serving communities and telling stories and especially stories by people of colour and about people of colour.
Superstar Agenda: So, tell me about The Jump? Let’s talk about The Jump a little bit.
Eric: The Jump is the story of a young black boy and his relationship with the water. He believes the water is magical as a kid. He is infatuated with it. And then an incident at a pool with some bullies switches his perspective, and what once was an obsession becomes a big fear. And, so, the film tracks his journey dealing with that, and as an adult looking back and facing that fear at the top of a diving board. So 30ft above the water, and just taking this moment to decide what can he do about this moment in the past. How can he tell a different story? So, really, it’s an inspirational story about how we triumph over traumatic experiences. How do we seek courage in the midst of adversity?
Superstar Agenda: And, was it, or is it, true to your life?
Eric: Yes. The film is autobiographical. So yeah, when I wrote it, I was like “oh man” this is a story that I’ve held onto for a long time. I didn’t tell anybody about it for a long long time. About what happened to me when I was a kid at this pool. And one of the things that prompted me to write it was the McKinney Texas incident, where there was a group of black kids at this pool, and the police were called, and there was police footage of one of the police officers grabbing this girl by her hair and trying to drag her. But it really got me thinking about what does it mean for black bodies to be in the pool, in bodies of water, and what are safe spaces for black bodies? And, reflecting on that, I thought about my own experiences in a pool. You know, where I was bullied and was told that I didn’t belong there. Um, so it was. It came out of that.
Superstar Agenda: Oh, wow, that’s tough. What surprised you most from that process of creating the film?
Eric: Wow, that’s a good question. So, I had a great director Jamal Hodge. I served as writer, producer and was an actor in it as well. And together I think we had a really great vision of how we saw this world, what the vibe of the film would be, what the most important themes were. And then when we got the actors involved, we had a great cast. I think one of the things that surprised me the most was the joy it would give me as a producer, and as the writer, to give young kids an opportunity to work. There were 3 child actors in the film. The kid who plays young Eric, his name is Matthew Jenkins. He’s a great young actor. I think he just turned nine.
Superstar Agenda: Wow.
Eric: But you know, as we’re doing the scenes, he’s having so much fun. And even the difficult scenes. We had to encourage him, and be like, “Hey, you can do this man! You can do this!” I’m just seeing him muster the courage. The whole film is about courage. And just seeing him muster the courage to be like, “Yeah, I can do this. I signed up to act in this role and it’s something that I want to do. And even when it’s scary I can still do it. I’m still committed to it.” So it was great to just see, especially the child actors, have so much joy.
Superstar Agenda: Amazing. So, how do you define courage? Since The Jump is about courage?
Eric: I’d say my definition of courage is, looking adversity dead in the eye and moving forward anyway. Looking fear dead in the eye and moving forward anyway. It’s really determining that what’s on the other side of the fear is worth it and that’s something that I discovered making this film. That’s something I discovered learning to swim, in order to make this film. Because I didn’t know how to swim.
Superstar Agenda: And now you can swim?
Eric: Yeah, I can swim. I’m certainly not going to be on the Olympic swimming team. But I know how to swim. Before I made the film, I didn’t know how to swim so the whole film was really an experiment for me in facing my fears. Yeah, everything from knowing this was my first time producing a film of this size, to knowing that I put myself in a role where I knew that I was going to have to learn how to swim. And making sure I took the time and was disciplined enough to actually do it. I just had to be like, “Alright, let’s go!”
Superstar Agenda: How do you balance the different things? Because you’re acting, but you’re also promoting The Jump?
Eric: Yeah, so we’ll be submitting for Cannes, try to rack up a few awards and festivals before. But yeah, it terms of balancing stuff, it can be a challenge. A quote that I love is, “Follow your bliss.” And what that means to me is that there are different things at different moments that will excite you and that you’re passionate about and if you follow them there is something on the other side. There is an abundance, there’s no lack. At moments when I’ve told people I act, I write, I produce, I have two theatre companies. And they’re like, you gotta pick one. That’s their easy go to. And I’ve had my moments where I’m like, “Yeah, maybe I should pick one…nothing’s good, nothing’s happening.” As the years have passed, I’m starting to get more comfortable in balancing it all and more confident that I can. I’m finding that it’s all rewarding and it all feeds each other and it feeds a part of me that I need. I get so much joy out of producing something and saying like, “Wow, this exists because of my investment.” Whether it’s time, money, management skills. This exists because of what I was able to give to it. Or like when I write something. It’s amazing to be able to say, “Wow, I created this world, and here it is on stage, or here it is on screen.” And then when I’m acting or something it’s really great to say that I put energy into creating this character that people are affected by. That people have empathy for. That people are able to look at as a complex human being. Because I put that investment into it.” So I get fulfilled with all of it, so I can’t put one down.
Eric is a very strong ENFP. He is a writer, actor, producer and manages his theatre companies. To the untrained eye, ENFPs can come across as lacking focus. Or having dilettantish tendencies. However, if the ENFP is well centered he or she can achieve incredible results because of a strong capacity to adapt. Eric’s answer above is a text book response by an ENFP. He is a superstar because he is acutely aware of his inclinations and what feeds his energy.
Superstar Agenda: That’s really interesting because there’s always for example, Tyler Perry. Have you seen this interview where he says, “Do the one thing.”
Eric: But he didn’t. He wasn’t just acting. He was acting, writing and producing. I guess he’s speaking to a certain market maybe. Pick one market. Like he knew the church. He was acting, writing and producing that one thing. He’s actually somebody who I think about when I’m like, “Oh, I’m doing all these things.”
Superstar Agenda: The thing about being an entrepreneur. And that’s what you are, an entrepreneur, right? A content creating entrepreneur, and it’s hard. Being an entrepreneur is hard. So, at the end of the day you want to do the work that excites you and gets you going and follow those instincts and it sounds like that’s your approach.
Eric: Follow your bliss. But also what has shifted for me a bit is that I’m more aware of how to be strategic. So as you know, as I’ve had years of experience of being a writer, being an actor, being a producer, having these theatre companies. I’ve been able to see what I really really enjoy versus what I was doing just because I thought that I had to. Or what I’m really good at versus what I’m not so good at. Or what my market is or who my audience is, and what are the stories that I’m most consistently telling and how to make that work. As opposed to just doing everything kinda blindly. I’m able to have some strategy behind it now. Whereas my first few years of doing everything, it was kinda like, “Uh, which one?” I don’t know. But now I can be like, okay, this is comedy work that I’m doing. This comedy work feeds this sense of fulfilment for myself. And these are the people that I know in the comedy world. Here’s who I need to invite as an actor, these are the people that I need to invite.
Superstar Agenda: So, your language is very colourful. You talk about finding your bliss, you talk about creating joy and magic. Where does that come from? This sense of joy, magic and bliss.
Eric: I’ll say there’s a physical, literal space and then the more figurative metaphorical space. So, when I was a kid, the main things that I watched were Michael Jackson and David Copperfield. So I loved magic and I will always love magic because what they did was magic. The way that Michael Jackson could take over a stage and just completely transform a space was magical and David Copperfield was literally doing magic. I used to love the idea of, “I don’t know how they did that.” I have no idea. But I feel so much hope and joy and I want to know. Actually, no, I don’t want to know. I think that was what was most intriguing. I don’t want to know that. I don’t want to know how they did that. I don’t want to know how Michael Jackson does the lean. I don’t want to know how David Copperfield makes the elephant appear out of nowhere. I just love being in that moment of “I don’t know” but I feel so good. I’m so happy. I’m so excited. And so I think those influences over my life make me really passionate about providing other people with escapism and with the idea of a magic and ideally with the hope of inspiring them to possibility. That whatever limitations folks put on them you can go beyond those limitations. The possibilities are endless. That’s a big part of The Jump. The other space that my sense of joy, magic and bliss comes from is my parents. I grew up with both my parents, my parents were still together and they’ve always been really supportive of me. And my brother’s an artist as well. They’ve been supportive of both of us and I think.
Superstar Agenda: Were they involved in the arts and creating?
Eric: No actually. They enjoy music. They enjoy dance but they are consumers. They never really did it themselves. My mother sang on the church choir… But erm, neither of them…
Superstar Agenda: Are you spiritual?
Eric: Yeah, I think.
Superstar Agenda: What role does that play in everything?
Eric: I certainly believe in God and I do think that there’s this power within us. That we are made from the stuff of stars. And that God fashioned us from the same thing that makes up the entire universe is like beautiful and means that there’s the potential in us to do incredible, incredible things. I think spirituality plays into the work that I do in the sense of. Yeah, just really being passionate about getting people to surpass others’ expectations and their own expectations and looking at how we are connected by that and the ways… That despite the different ways that we may pray, worship, all of that, we are connected through the stuff of stars and the idea that if that is true then there is so much possibility, there are so many things that we can do and that we can conquer especially when we come together. Unity. But I do think that oftentimes what limits us is within our minds and that there is a spiritual place where you can do meditations… I say meditation knowing that my perspective is meditation can mean different things for different people. Like I go running sometimes and I meditate and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with sitting with your legs crossed.
Superstar Agenda: Yeah, I noticed. In The Jump, you got in shape for that thing. Or maybe just in general.
Eric: Well, you know, most days, most days.
Superstar Agenda: You do something at the gym? You put in some time? Some push ups or something. Is that something you work on?
Eric: Yeah, I do enjoy going running. I don’t have a regimen. You know, three days a week as much as I’d like to. But I do enjoy going running and I do work out. I have a workout station in my apartment. Partially because of finances I don’t want to pay for a gym membership when I know what I need to do and I can do that in my apartment. So I do a lot of calisthenics. I do think that even the physical exertion assists in a spiritual practice and then when you look at how your physical body, how you are treating your physical body, that can also influence your belief about what is possible for you. So I try to look at wellness as a whole. I’m trying to think of how do you take care of your body, your spirit and your mind.
Click here to read about our other superstars.