Saturday, August 13, 2011


Getting to know...Kareem Ferguson

This is a segment that we are doing here on Village View Post. "The Interview" will be with ordinary Belizeans that have achieved extraordinary things at home and abroad in an effort to make our community and the world a better place. Today we celebrate the contributions of Kareem Ferguson to the United States of America and to Belize. We hope to motivate others to follow in service to humanity.
Kareem with (R) director Dan Bonnell
 25 year old, Belize born, Kareem Ferguson is well on his way to building an acting career in Los Angeles, California. Ferguson has been nominated by the NAACP for his role in the play "Free Man of Color".  He played the role of John Newton Templeton, a real-life historical figure who was one of the first freed slaves to graduate from an American University. "Free Man of Color" was performed from August to September in 2010 in California to rave reviews. For reviews of the play please click here and here
Ferguson has performed on theater stages across the United States and internationally. His television credits include popular TV shows such as Scrubs, Las Vegas and Deadline. 

You can catch Kareem on Aug 29th, 2011 at the 21st NAACP Theater Awards which is being held at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood.

Q: Where were you born?

A:  I was born in Belize City, Belize. I remember being a little boy in the old "Long Barracks" off Vernon Street. Where a ghost knocked me down one night, yep it’s true, a ghost. However, most of my childhood in Belize was spent in the Kings Park area where I attended All Saints School until standard 5.

Q: What made you leave Belize?

A: I left Belize for the same reason many Belizeans have left; to gain more economic, and education opportunities. The decision however was that of my parents as I was a child at the time. I must admit though, I was thrilled to travel to America and fly on an airplane. It was my dream to live in America and also to learn to fly airplanes, both things which I have accomplished.

Q: What was your childhood like growing up in Belize?

A: My childhood in Belize was awesome. I believe growing up in Belize was the best thing that happened to me. The discipline and structure that was created by mother and father has allowed my success so far in my career. The respect for adults, honesty and loyalty were ingrained in me. The work ethic of my mother is the thing that I carry with me daily. Whenever I get weak, lazy or lose focus, I think about my mother and how hard she has worked to keep our family together and to achieve her goals. This recollection always shocks me back to get back "on the horse" and keep riding. My father was a politician and journalist back in Belize; he was the Mayor of Belize City at one point. My one regret from childhood is that I didn't get to see the Cayes, (off shore islands) when I was a child and never became a successful swimmer, although I remember my father trying to teach me and my siblings.

Q: How was your high school experience in the US?

A:  I did not go to high school in Belize; however I was the President of the first Belizean Club in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The club was based at L.A. High School and was quite successful in sharing the culture of Belize at school with cultural dances and plays about Belizean lifestyle being performed. I was definitely not the coolest guy in school. I liked the girls but they didn’t really go for me; they mostly said I was too nice. You know that whole “you’re like my brother crap” arghh!!! I hated that. I will say though, something about my personality allowed me to be accepted across most of the social and cultural lines in high school. I spent a large amount of time with all the ex-patriot Belizean students and when not with them I was flying back and forth between L.A. and Sacramento as a teenage consultant to the California Alcohol and Drug Department under Governor Deukmejian. Teenagers from all soci0-economic backgrounds were picked to come together and find ideas to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among young people before it goes to the intervention stage. My portfolio was to come up with ideas from a religious/church based perspective. At the same time in high school I was taking flight lessons to get my pilot’s license, which I received when I was 17 years old.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to be an actor?

A:   There were two instances. The first I recall doing some dramatic response to my mother when I was in Belize in reaction to something she wanted me to do…I can’t fully recall but I know she said “that was good. I was dramatic at times. However what really made my decision to get trained as an actor was after doing a musical called ‘Once Upon A Mattress’ in college. Some of the girls in my dorm dragged me to go audition. I did, I got the role and people enjoyed what I did and it felt good to get that appreciation. I was bit by the bug…so I went to get more acting training.

Q: What sort of training or education did you acquire when you were starting out? 

A: I was already in Utah in aviation school when I decided I wanted to switch, and fortunately at the time the University of Utah in Salt Lake City had a really competitive acting program. I auditioned and was accepted to the Bachelor of Fine Arts Actor Training Program.  From there I went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and received my Masters of Fine Arts Degree, in the event I ever choose to teach on the university level.

Q: What are the challenges of being an African American actor in the business, and a foreign one at that? 

A: Being a foreigner was tough for me because on first sight I am just another black man. But I am not a black American and I had to get used to how a black man was seen, portrayed and expected to act. I am pretty good at controlling my accent when acting. But in school that was a challenge; I literally had arguments with my voice and speech teachers. I did not want to lose my accent. I thought I would not be able to get it back. I was a bit difficult in training and I think they wanted to kick me out a few times. The common challenges for all black actors are the work opportunities when it comes to the mainstream of the business. The major networks and studios, in general (not everyone is this way) most of the writers and producers are men and of European extraction and they write from their perspective and what they see as funny or dramatic. We as a world have been conditioned to gain our communal experiences through a European experience, when it comes to crossing cultural lines. For example in the black culture we have our vision of beauty, but that does not easily translate to Asia, Europe and Latin America. However the white vision of beauty is accepted by all cultures no questions asked. Why? They have traditionally had the power of marketing. Now with the internet and the ease of content creation, every group can produce and expose themselves and there seems to no longer be a huge need to appeal to everyone. If you have enough of a population you can play to your base and monetize your product or art. This is what we need to do as people of color. Now let me be clear: I am not saying to ignore another culture, all I am saying there is no need to wait, and make your art appeal to everyone in order to gain creative and economic success. Yet as borders are being broken down xenophobia is fighting a losing battle and so I find hope that African-American and Belizean-American Actors will have an easier time telling their stories.

Q:  Do you find theater or film/TV to be more challenging? 

A: All the mediums have their specific challenges. In theater the artist uses more of his or her physical body in telling the story especially if you are playing to a theater filled with a couple thousand people. In film and television it’s about the eyes and telling the story through your face, it's intimate and each audience member is right in your face looking at you. So, there is no need to be huge in physicality or loud to reach the back row. I an all the mediums of story telling specificity and economy of movement are needed. In general, theater-trained actors have lasting power and stronger instrument meaning command of voice, thought and body.

Q: What advice could you give to other Belizeans looking to pursue a career in acting? 

A: Get training. Also, until you can afford training just start telling stories, read books, poetry out loud. We as a culture have many stories, so just start telling them. They might suck at first but you will get better. Remember, it’s a business. We love the art but treat Hollywood as a business; you and your art are products. Allow your mind to wander and dream.

Q: Besides flying your own plane, what else do you do for fun in your spare time? 

A: I actually do not own an airplane yet. I rent them. One of my dreams and goals is to have my own. Besides flying, I like to hike nature trails, hit the gym. I do boring things like watch the weather channel…lol.  I am into politics local and global. A good club or house party for some all night dancing, love that.

Q: List a principle you live by.

A: “Make ‘peace’ the chief organizing principle of your life and judge everything by that standard”

Q: If you could describe yourself at most in three sentences, how would you go about
doing so?

I love passionately in all aspects of my life. I fail often so I can learn even more. I am both an introvert and extrovert, depending on the Moon's gravitational pull…LMAO…it’s true though.


Stephie Anthony said...

Very nice...congrats and I wish him all the success in the world...hope he gets his own plane soon! :)

Angela Palacio said...

Linda this is a great interview. I learnt a lot from this actor. I am so proud of Kareem. I shared this post with members of I hope that a lot of young people will read it and be inspired.

Sally said...

CONGRATULATIONS Kareem! You have done well and I am proud. We know that with God's grace and guidance, you'll make the country of Belize proud.