Friday, November 30, 2012

MAN OF THE MONTH: Dohn W. Norwood

If many young African American have become victim to the streets and prisons because of poverty and a lack of positive male influence, Dohn W. Norwood is the exception. As professionally trained actor with Masters of Fine Arts from University of California- San Diego. Norwood  plays the character "Psalms" on the acclaimed television series Hell On Wheels on AMC. 

A product of Indianapolis public schools, Norwood excelled as an honor student under adverse conditions. A son of a strong single mother, Norwood and his younger brother were raised in the notoriously crime ridden neighborhoods of Haughville and Dodge City. Norwood never had it easy and at some low moments in his childhood, he and his mother were relegated to sleeping in their car when unable to afford housing. 

Bouncing around as a child, he never lost focus of his quest to live a better life than the one he knew. And despite, the lack of a father in his home, Norwood took on that role for his brother. He even moved his brother out to California over a decade ago. He continues to support his brother and mother financially and emotionally. She is a cancer survivor. Humbly, he credits his grandfather with being a positive influence.

"My grandfather is the only man who took time to give me the facts of life and moral principle to live by in a fatherly way", reflects Norwood.

Norwood discovered the joy of acting in the 4th grade. His talents became more apparent when he was cast as a centurion in the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar starring Michael Gross of the hit television series Family Ties. Norwood was only 14 years old when he performed the role at the renowned Indiana Repertory Theater. He attended Broad Ripple High school making a name for himself as a gifted thespian in their elite magnet program for Arts.

After graduating from Broad Ripple High, where notables such as David Letterman and entrepreneur Alan H. Cohen attended, Norwood went on to matriculate at the prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta. Norwood continued to hone his acting chops as a fellow at the University of California-San Diego. He received a Masters in Fine Arts at the third ranked program in the country.

In between roles on hit shows as ER, The Closer and films such as Bruce Almighty, Norwood worked as a substitute teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). In 2003, drawing on his experiences as an under privileged youth and his influence as a educated African American from an urban environment, Norwood, along with friend Sean Rector, founded Boys II Men, a mentoring program for at-risk adolescents. Their work and dedication to the youth have earned them respect and accolades in the community, as well as a "Certificate of Appreciation" from the city of Los Angeles.

Norwood had  inspired an innumerable amount of young men and women to graduate college and lead more productive lives than they would have ever imagined. Former students stop into the program just to speak with the new participants on how big of an influence Norwood and Rector have been in changing their lives. Many of them are coming home on college break make attending the program their first stop.

"Its amazing when you are in a store and some young adult calls out your name. He has a wife and kids with him and he reminds you that he was one of the kids in the program. He tells you he graduated from college or has a trade and is doing well. It makes you feel good and assures you that you are making a difference", says Norwood.

Norwood, alongside Common, plays Psalms on Hell On Wheels

Recently engaged to the love of his life, Marlene Glasper,  Norwood continued his flair for the dramatics by proposing to his future bride at a Lakers v. Clippers game via the Jumbo tron.. As a Clipper fan, he turned their in-house rivalry into one to cherish. Not one to take breaks, he is constantly on the quest to keep his acting career humming along. He looks to his Christian faith as a source of strength and wisdom. "God has a plan. He might say go left when I want to go right. I follow Him. I just want to keep up the momentum", he explains. That momentum is scheduled to pick up for Norwood on the third season of Hell On Wheels.

With his life in full swing, Norwood still finds time to mentor the youth and be an example of what you can do with your life even if society doesn't counts you out. He leaves this advice for all aspiring actors:

"Don't get into the industry if you just want to be famous. That's not a good tactic or a goal.  Doesn't matter if you are white, black or whatever...Be grounded...This is a business, so you have to be business-minded. Make yourself a commodity because you are a brand. And you have to design that brand around who you really are. You may start off as just an actor on someone else's project, but if you study your craft and hone your talents you can produce your own work and market yourself ".

In honor of his exemplary community work, his strong moral character and his dedication to his faith, family and craft, Dohn Norwood is our first ever, MAN OF THE MONTH.

For more about Dohn Norwood check out Dohn's filmography and recent interviews

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