March 15, 2022
Who am I… My name is Harold Dennis. I am an actor with currently close to two hundred short and feature film credits and curious to know what having three hundred would feel like. Spending over twenty years in class-rooms and in many training sessions has contributed to elevating my brand to a credibility here in Chicago that has some weight. I trained with teachers in L.A. online as well as at Second City. My very first acting classes in 1997 were with the late Ocoro Harold Johnson, a founder at Eta Creative Arts Foundation. I took his beginning and advanced classes on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for a full school year. After that very first class experience with him I said to myself that I was going to do this for the rest of my life. So I committed to learning from him. One thing Ocoro stressed to his students was, You have to feel it so that your scene partner can feel it and it radiates to your audience. So I worked on emoting for the next five years. Once in 2006 after a small private screening of the short film “Adia”, I was introduced, the people in the room were silent and I could tell that the audience did not like me at that moment. Ocoro raised his hand in that moment and came to my defense shouting, “He’s a great actor”. I had never experienced anything like that at that time. In the film I married a fourteen year old girl in Nigeria and took her home. I gave my all to that character. Consequently the filmmaker's uncle in Nigeria asked the filmmaker what part of the country I was from because he thought he knew me. Years later Ocoro said aloud to myself and a group of people standing around that I was his greatest student. In my mind I know of other situations that occurred that would garner such praise from this man. He was one of my mentors. I Spent eighteen years weekly (Jan. 2004 to Jan. 2022) with Ted at Sarantos Studios. He was a mentor I made a commitment to also. And he would say, “I don’t care if you feel it, just make the audience feel it”. I was his intern doing whatever he needed around the school. During March of 2011 to March 2012 I was taking three classes a week studying Meisner at Green Shirt as well. I figured I’d continue studying with Ted as long as I could or until I moved away and the years just flew by. The things that he was teaching when I audited his class in early 2003 blew my mind and I intuitively knew that I had to have what he was offering. I said to myself, I need this. Just under a year later I was interning for him. Right at my eighteenth year Ted retired. I received a great deal of things from him including the understanding of presence. I have noticed and others have co-signed that people smile when they see me. Is this because of the training, films, who I am or something else? It’s a combination. Ted coined his teachings Magical Acting. He always moved away from the word projection and he’d say just Be. So I say just be natural with techniques. And he’d say there is no: Lights, Camera, Action, use my teachings in your day to day living. I teach acting as well. I’ve been facilitating acting workshops over the years and coaching actors one on one. I spent two years teaching Acting On Camera classes at the Second City Training Center before co-
vid, I’m still on the roster. During the co-vid mandatory stay at home order I decided to conduct online acting workshops and just accomplished my goal of one hundred workshops a couple of weeks ago. Realizing years ago in order to make a footprint in the industry and have doors open up for you you have to dream big, go big and dare to be great, along with having the chops and goals. The question some people would ask is, quantity or quality. I think like this, quality in quantity. I’ve spent the last twenty five years expanding far and wide instead of thinking about climbing up a ladder.
Networking is the single most time consuming, potential waste of time, opportunity that has opened more doors that would not have been available to me had I not taken the time to volunteer at this film festival or attended this event or that screening or this film meetup or that bla bla bla. People sometimes ask me, Are there two of you? I made myself attend events even when I didn’t feel up to meeting new people. I went with the mindset thinking who will I meet tonight, what movie opportunity will I find? Sometimes after meeting someone in the industry I would say to them, Now that I’ve met you my night is complete, now I can go home. Two weeks ago I attended the Jeen-Yuhs viewing party at a sports bar downtown. When I arrived the film hadn’t started yet and there was no place to sit and I don’t drink anymore, and they had just lifted the mask mandate and I had covid last August after being boosted, so I knew I wasn’t going to be there long. But I made my rounds saying hello. I ran into one actress I hadn’t seen since she moved to L.A. back around 2010. She moved back here and is working on her own project. Someone once said to me you have to do your own projects, so I do. But more than anything I got into this to be a constantly working actor and to allow my audiences to have an emotional experience from my performances. Ted Sarantos once said, An actor is lucky to have a moment where the audience feels something. So I said to myself that I wanted to learn how to give so that my audiences would have moment after moment after moment throughout the whole film. That was a sound lesson. I am always looking for films that are already in pre-production and just waiting for me so that we can get it in the can. Producing your own work can take a year. I could be in ten films in that year. I posed the question to myself, How do I allow people to feel something from my acting… and the answer came in the form of Ocoro Harold Johnson, Ted Sarantos and others along the with the book Story. I wasn’t looking for them but I received the answer and it was vivid. When I left the Jeen-Yuhs viewing party I was cast in two films. I love what I do. I do well at what I do. I feel blessed beyond measure. Early on I would act in student films for free and actors would say, I wouldn’t work for free. And I thought, No one knows you. Around 2010 I was in films and thinking how could I speed up this process and I started searching out interviews and articles for myself. People ask what advice I would give to someone starting in the business and my answer is, Preparation meets opportunity, research, have fun and go for it. I’ll leave you with this for now, Sidney Poitier said “The rewards were in the journey”. Who am I? I am many things, most importantly, I am my thoughts.
You can find more on Harold Dennis at IMDb, Google and YouTube.