If you went to the movies over the weekend to see the 3-D, live-action/computer-animated horror comedy, “Goosebumps,” you may have seen a familiar face: Keith Arthur Bolden, assistant professor of drama and dance. A Los Angeles native and working actor for nearly 15 years with numerous stage and screen projects to his credit, Bolden co-stars as Principal Garrison, the character responsible for protecting students against monsters that escape from the books in the film. It’s Bolden’s biggest film to date, one that he shot in the summer of 2014 in Decatur, Georgia.
Bolden recently sat down to discuss his upcoming projects, how he balances his career as a professor and actor, and the importance of giving back to students.
Inside Spelman: Can you please share a little more about your character in “Goosebumps?”
Bolden: I’m the principal of the high school in the movie. You’ll see me welcoming the new vice principal into the school. I’m also the disciplinarian who’s protecting the kids who are in danger of the monsters that escaped from author R.L. Stine’s books. So far, it’s the biggest film I’ve in appeared in.
Inside Spelman: What do you enjoy most about acting?
Bolden: I love the process of theater. But appearing on film is totally different. It takes a lot of patience – almost like hurry up and wait. It’s not the actor’s medium because there are so many moving parts to be concerned about, like setting up the camera, grips and crew members. You realize it’s not about you. At the same time, it can be rewarding because you’re reaching such a large audience.
Inside Spelman: You recently directed a successful run of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” here at Spelman, and you have other projects that are forthcoming. What do you enjoy the most – acting on stage or on screen?
Bolden: The stage is my passion, and I love to act. But for me, it’s not about fame. I simply want to be a respected, working actor and director.
Inside Spelman: Do you mind sharing with the Spelman community some of your upcoming projects?
Bolden: To name a few… on Dec. 13, I’ll be starring in “A Baby for Christmas” starring Victoria Rowell, Kristoff St. John, Malinda Williams and GregAlan Williams on the UPtv Network. I play a character named Brent who’s an aggressive, ambitious salesman who finds himself attracted to his adversary. My other projects include an episode of “House of Cards” on Netflix next season, an independent feature film titled, “Bolden.” It tells the story of Buddy Bolden, who is considered the “father of jazz”, and I also wrapped up another project, “Sons 2 to the Grave,” directed by Mykelti Williams and starring Darrin Henson and Greg Alan Williams.” I will also be on the season finale of TV One’s “Born Again Virgin” playing a cheeky prison guard named Fred.
Inside Spelman: What advice do you share with students about making it as an actor?
Bolden: Industry knowledge will get you jobs. I tell my students that all the time. I talk to them about patience and that you never know who you’re meeting. You might be sitting next to the future CEO or VP of a major studio in class. I also tell them to learn the craft and to go to graduate school, where they can learn more and be in an intense, yet safe place to figure out what fits for them and what kind of artist they want to be…what type they are. Most of my students take my advice and go on to graduate school, in fact just this past year I had about six students go to grad school including two Spelman Alumnae who graduated prior to my appointment here. I truly believe that my work as a working actor and also my training, life experience (years of beating the street in New York and Los Angeles), and my central support system -my family- have helped me to bring to the drama and dance department an expectation for excellence in the field of performance.
Every year we have students who apply and audition for graduate school for a masters of fine arts in acting. You don’t have to be a major, a current student, or necessarily a Spelman student to get coaching and advice to help you get this (at times) free education. Because of my coaching and connections, we have students in some of the top schools around the country, including Yale, University of Illinois, The New School, University of Washington, UCLA and University of California at San Diego, to name a few. These young men and women will come out better prepared than when they went in. The training builds character and is invaluable in this business…the schooling helps you find your art in you.
Inside Spelman: You’ve talked about the importance of students going to graduate school. Besides honing their craft, why not encourage students to cut their teeth in acting fresh out of college?
Bolden: Grad school made me a better artist, and I tell my students that it’s essential to help hone their craft. But, don’t chase fame. Because of the internet, you can do the stupidest thing, or you can do the most humanitarian thing and become a star. There is a lady right now, who has gone viral for placing a lawsuit against her 12-year-old nephew. Now she has fame, but it is fleeting and it is finite. In 1967, Andy Warhol said in the future everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame. That has come to pass, and most people don’t know what to do with that 15 minutes because it doesn’t come from a substantive place. You have to do the art to satisfy you. Graduate school will allow them to explore and use that time to find themselves.
Inside Spelman: In your opinion, why is it so important to embrace the arts?
Bolden: I think that it was said best in the movie, “Mr. Hollands Opus.” Without the arts, we are growing up a generation of people who will not have the ability to think or create. Critical thinking is rooted in the arts. It allows people to collaborate in a way that other disciplines may not be able to. You are encouraged to look and search deeper into yourself and others for answers. The arts, specifically theater, has the ability to make you a more tolerant and versatile individual. I believe that when you find your art, your expression in you, your happiness is not dependent on someone else’s expectation.
I show my students by “being,” which is what I encourage them to do at every turn. Being is often times the hardest thing that an actor can do, because you have to let go of so many preconceived notions and opinions of others. I show my students that by “being” a working artist and bringing those experiences of successes and failures to the classroom and the rehearsal process.
“Goosebumps” opened in theaters Friday, Oct. 16.