By Nadine Matthews, Special to the AFRO
Beyond a doubt, actor Curtiss Cook has mastered the art of the hustle. The Ohio born and raised actor is in three (count them, three!) television shows; all airing during the same season. Further, one films in California, one films in New York City, and one films in Chicago. Though the scheduling logistics are nothing short of a nightmare, Cook takes it all in stride with the help of some very supportive show runners. “I was very fortunate,” he explains, “It doesn’t happen a lot and sometimes you have to turn down stuff. Fortunately for me the show runners all got together and they discussed the schedule. It’s not as if I was a regular on all of the shows so they were able to juggle the schedule around and it worked out. I’m so grateful to all of them.”
This season, Cook appears in one of the absolute hottest shows to debut this season, NBC’s Manifest. Reminiscent of the early aughts ABC hit Lost, it is an ensemble drama wrapped in fantastical mystery about a group of passengers who board a flight to Jamaica and return home what they believe is a few days later but all of their family, friends and everyone else on earth believe is five years later. He is also in the Sons of Anarchy spinoff Mayans M.C. on FX Network and the upcoming season of Lena Waithe’s Showtime drama The Chi.
Unquestionably, the level of skill and talent that Cook, who was the first American trained at the esteemed Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London on a full-ride scholarship, brings to each of these projects more than makes up for any trouble in the minds of the show runners. Cook’s distinguished acting pedigree speaks to this. He has appeared in House of Cards, The Leftovers, Narcos, and in the recent biopic of female rap pioneer Roxanne Shante, Roxanne, Roxanne.
He’s the first to admit none of it would have happened without the support of his junior high school teacher, Ms.Patricia Copeland, who unfortunately passed away by the time he graduated from his program in London. “I was just gonna go into the Navy and then get a job for the county,” he explains. “She told me that I could do it and that it was important to do it or I don’t think I would have gone for it.” Copeland’s belief in him made Cook confident enough to audition for the conservatory program at the school at Mountview.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. With a more rigorous educational system in England, Cook says he “Had a lot of catching up to do.” Over the course of the three years, he made a quite a few calls home; sometimes seeking recipes for pork chops, sometimes tearfully begging his parents to come back home. Papa Cook, however, wouldn’t hear of it. He recalls his father responding to his entreaties with, “No. You can do it and you’re going to do it.”
Upon coming back to the States, Cook has been able to support himself solely through acting. “I’ve raised five children doing this and this is basically all I’ve ever done. I’m very, very fortunate!”
Cook is extremely excited to be involved in the The Chi, whose second season premieres sometime in 2019. “It reminds me so much of my family and a little bit of the classic show Good Times in the beginning. I’m really passionate about this show. Lena and Ayanna (Writer Ayanna Floyd) are really putting it down. I can’t say enough about the great work they’re doing with this show!”
Art imitates life in Manifest with Cook’s real life son Curtiss Jr. playing his son on the show, something that means a great deal to him. He attributes the support of his family with enabling him to pursue his profession as enthusiastically as he has. “It takes a village,” he says, “For anyone to follow their their dreams and be able to only do that. I just wanna acknowledge my wife Angelica. Without her being at my side and supporting all I do, a lot of this would be a lot more difficult. Also my children; Curtis, Isis, Kimani, Harlem, and Jade. They’ve supported me too!”
There is also someone else who keeps Cook going. Ms. Copeland, he says “Is my guardian angel. I speak to her a lot in my mind. I always talk to her and ask her questions. And I thank her.”