As an actor, comedian, playwright, and singer, Andre Johnson III is one of The Soulsville Charter School’s most theatrical graduates. His time at Southwest Tennessee Community College led to being accepted into the University of Memphis’ Theater Department, where he is just starting. It also landed him a role on a television commercial. We recently caught up with Andre to find out what motivates him to keep on keeping on.
You recently won a student of the year award from Southwest Tennessee Community College. Can you tell us how your time has been there and about the award?
My time at Southwest Tennessee Community College has been a great experience. I have learned and developed so many skills and techniques as an artist. My experience at Southwest has truly opened up doors for me, on and off campus while participating in the Southwest theater department. I took advantage of every resource on campus and various opportunities that were presented to me. I was presented with the Rising Squali of the of Year Award. It is an award that highlights a student of great academic success for the year.
How do you think The Soulsville Charter School prepared you for college and have you been receiving support from the alumni support team?
The Soulsville Charter School prepared me for my college experience by providing me with the necessary skills of prioritizing my studies, time management, and communication skills. The alumni support has been very essential during and after my college experience. Not only are they very supportive but also when I had a issue or concern in my college or personal life, they’re always there to help me with advice or to talk, while making sure that all of my needs are met.
What got you so interested in theater? What was your inspiration?
What got me interested in theater was seeing the works of fellow playwright Tyler Perry. Watching his theatrical productions and on-screen movies really inspired me as a child. It helped me find my passion for acting. At the age of 8, I knew that I wanted to be an actor. I took five years of acting training at a local theater and film school in Memphis.
Can you tell us about some of the plays you have written, produced, and directed starting with the very first ones through some recent ones?
My first stage play that I wrote and directed was entitled “My Family Comes Home,” which debuted in December 2012 and the production was performed at my local church. It was my first time performing on stage as an actor and as my character, “Uncle Larry.” I donated all of the proceeds from the production to my church. It was a blessing and privilege to put on this production because not only was it one the greatest nights of my life, but also once I stepped on the stage and made the audience laugh I knew that this was only the beginning. My second stage play debuted in 2015 entitled “A Family Torn Apart,” which was also performed at my church. This production helped develop my writing style and technique. The same year, I met the media mogul, Mr. Tyler Perry. It was a true blessing to meet the person who has inspired me for so many years. By popular demand, I reprised “A Family Torn Apart” in 2016 at the Evergreen Theatre here in Memphis. I currently hold the title as youngest director to put on a production at the Evergreen Theatre. This encore performance opened many doors and gave me exposure as an artist and playwright.
Can you tell us about your Uncle Larry character?
Uncle Larry is a 70-year-old fictional character that I created. He’s a funny, loud, boisterous uncle that says whatever is on his mind! This character has truly been a joy to portray, and it allows me to be free as a comedic actor. I created him because I want to provide people with laughter and to showcase the comedic side of my personality.
You were recently in a television commercial for Meritan? Can you tell us about that and do you have any others on the horizon?
Working with Meritan was an awesome experience for me because it was first my television commercial. We filmed the commercial back in October 2020 during the pandemic. This opportunity came to me from the Southwest Theater department. Meritan is a nonprofit organization based in Memphis, and has four other locations. The organization provides support to people of all ages. Meritan strives to improve independence by providing services as including at-home assistance, work experience training for low income seniors, and foster care services as well as assistance for those with physical and developmental disabilities. Our commercial debuted in February 2021 on the following television networks: BET, OWN, Lifetime, Fox News, and ABC network, Discovery Channel, Food Network and CNN. I’m so forever grateful to have been given the opportunity.
You have been accepted into the theater department at the University of Memphis. Can you tell us about getting that acceptance letter and what you plan to accomplish there?
When I received the acceptance letter to the University of Memphis and theater program I was overjoyed by the acceptance. What I plan to do at the University of Memphis is to learn more in depth about my craft and to develop my skills as an artist, and I plan to participate in productions throughout the semester in the performance program. I also want to make sure that I take advantage of creating a positive and fun experience for myself by enjoying every minute of learning skills of acting, networking, and mentoring others. I’m very excited to join the theatre department in the Fall 2021.
You were also a student of the Stax Music Academy. Can you tell us what that experience was like and what music and music education means to you?
My time at the Stax Music Academy was a wonderful experience. I learned many things such as stage presence, studio technical skills, performance skills, and most importantly the language of music theory. Music is my escape, it is a language that allows performers and singers to freely express themselves through the movement of soul music. Music education is very important because as artists we should be able to grow and give back to society what was given to us, so that future generations can continue to share the same experience of soul music
What do you ultimately want to do with your career, your acting, and your professional life?
What I ultimately want to accomplish in my career is to not only be a great actor but also to leave a legacy for future generations. With my career at U of M I plan to develop my networking and technique skills as an artist. Also, I will continue to create captivating and vibrant, diverse stories of theatrical productions throughout my career of being a playwright and mentoring other aspiring young actors in Memphis. For my acting and professional life, I will continue to audition for movies and television roles as an actor in the film industry. Ultimately I want to leave a legacy for myself and others.
What have been the main challenges you have faced in and how have you dealt with them?
One of the many challenges that I faced was dealing with the death of my father in 2010. It was one of the hardest years ever because I was just trying to get my start in acting. I dealt with this challenge by persevering through the hardship by having a strong faith. I continued to pursue my dream of becoming an actor because I knew that my dad wanted me to do my best at what I loved. Another challenge is dealing with the lifelong disability called cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy has also affected the muscle tone on the left side of my body. It causes me to walk with a limp. I’m always curious to know and learn about things so I never let this challenge hinder me from learning. I deal with this challenge by moving forward in life and not letting it affect or hinder what I am born to do, which is to be a great performer.