Chris Greene is an American actor who can be seen on our screens in shows and movies such as Queen of the South, Atlanta, Chance and Faith Under Fire. We spoke in-depth about his early years, discovering acting, his career including working with the likes of Hugh Laurie, Donald Glover and John Lee Hancock, music, family and much more.
DB: You were born in Mount Vernon, New York, is that correct?
CG: Yes. Most people only know the five major boroughs when they come to New York until they realise that the state itself is huge and that there are other cities besides the boroughs. Mount Vernon is literally right next to the Bronx. From where my father’s house was (when he was alive) I could walk to the Bronx. When I say “Mount Vernon” people think that it’s way up in Buffalo, but no, I can get to NYC in like 20-30 minutes.
DB: Can you describe that area when you were growing up?
CG: Where I grew definitely up has that New York feel, no big tall skyscrapers, but definitely brick buildings, not a lot of “nice” houses, well back then. I grew up in Mt Vernon and another area next to it called Yonkers. A lot more apartment buildings, “projects” is what we called them, big brick buildings and it’s not until you’re a bit further north that you have the nicer houses. Houses in New York towards the city are really stacked right next to each other, so there’s really not a lot of space and you can literally crawl out of your window and be in your neighbour’s yard. I lived in an apartment with my mom.
Overall it was really great, played stickball (which is like baseball) in the streets, basketball, football and running around. There was always something to do because the blocks are not spread out, and there was always a store open or somewhere to go chill. It was great and I don’t think I would have traded it for anything except, maybe, having a beach nearby. I would go to beaches when I was young because I had family who lived in the South, so in the summertime my mom and I would travel South and the beach was always fun. Outside of that I loved growing up in New York: the energy, the atmosphere and the vibe, the creativity, something to do. You had your little troubles and misfits back then but overall there was a lot of the creativity and energy of hustling, where you had to get up and make something happen and not just wait for it.
DB: Apart from yourself who was in your family as you were growing up?
CG: My mom and my father were separated but my dad made sure he lived relatively close to where my mother and I were going to be. The house I stayed in was my mother and myself and my older brother and sister and when I went to stay with my dad, there would be his significant other and I have an older brother and sister on my dad’s side too and when they would come over we all would hang out. Most of the time I was pretty lucky, I didn’t have any issues where I didn’t get to see immediate family. I was always able to be around someone, and the fact that I was younger than all of my siblings… they had to babysit.
DB: Did you find that, being the youngest, you were picked on?
CG: Oh of course. People think being the youngest you get spoiled, by your grandparents or parents but if you have siblings… it’s over, you’re getting picked on regularly. That actually helps, when you get older, you get a tough skin, it definitely makes you be able to stand up for yourself and be able to take shots people throw at you because you had it every day from your brothers and sisters. I was always picked on but it’s a sibling thing, you know how it goes, just because you’re the youngest you have to go through your rite of passage.
DB: What was your experience at school and did you have any favourite subjects?
CG: I did sports and all that in school, got into music in 3rd Grade playing the drums because I couldn’t play any other instruments. I wasn’t good enough to play sax or anything like that, I was just horrible at it, so they put a pair of drumsticks in my hand – and I’m glad they did because that helped pay for college. It was great growing up having that and being involved in school activities and things of that nature.
I think going to school in New York was great because it was so much faster-paced. I actually went to high school in the South. My mother permanently moved to North Carolina, so I had to go with her and it was a big transition. The whole thing of, ‘Oh here’s this Yankee coming to the South,’ that was a lot to deal with, but also it was just a lot slower pace. I was actually a grade ahead, if I had gone to school in the South I would have been a grade behind. My mom was like, ‘No, you’re not holding my son back because he’s smart, that’s stupid.’
The good thing about going to a smaller high school was it was a small town and at high school everybody went to the football games on Fridays, so if you played sports or were in the band – anything that people liked watching – you could pretty much get away with murder. There was a small town sheriffs so if you got caught partying or past your curfew they would be like, ‘I’m going to tell your parents,’ (because they knew all our parents/teachers) but you rarely got any tickets or into trouble, it was just a ‘take it easy’. But I wasn’t really into any crazy stuff at that time either. There were always parties after games, so it was kind of cool experiencing that. The only bad part was it was a small town, everyone knew everything, so if you had a secret you really couldn’t keep it. But I would always flip flop back to New York in the summers to be with my dad and to hang out and see my other friends there.
DB: How old were you when you moved with your mum down to North Carolina?
CG: About 13-14. That was a tough transition because there were friends that I had developed over many, many years in New York, leaving them behind and having to develop new friends in high school. But it didn’t really bother me any because I was always a people person, never had any problem speaking with people. It was just the transition of people getting used to my accent and me getting used to their accent and the type of lingo. They didn’t know what a ‘block’ was and they were like, ‘What the hell is that? You got to go two yards.’
DB: Did you find you modified your accent fairly quickly?
CG: No, actually I didn’t want to speak with a Southern accent, it kind of got neutral because I would always talk to my family in New York. My ear got tuned in to what people were saying; I wish my ear was as good now, as an adult, as it was back then because it wouldn’t be so hard to get into accents when I’m performing.
DB: When was the first time you performed in front of an audience?
CG: In elementary school, as a drummer. We did our first public performance, as a band when I was about maybe 8 or 9 years old. Parents came but we did it outside of the school, so anybody that was on the street could see us – I had a snare drum – and we were being directed, just playing kiddy songs, and that was cool. Obviously it was nerve-racking because you don’t want to mess up in front of people, but at the same time I’m glad that I did it young because you still don’t really know what embarrassment is. People are less likely to say you suck because you’re kids, so they’re more likely to encourage you to keep going. Thinking back on it that was a great experience because kids, inherently, are not introverted (I don’t believe) I think they learn to be that way, so the more you can get your kids out it makes them better as adults, socially and communication-wise.
DB: And you won a musical scholarship didn’t you?
CG: Correct. Just from playing drums through high school I got to try out for the college band. I went to an HBCU – which is called Winston Salem State. They have a marching band there and at the time you had to audition to get into the band, and only the main people got scholarships. I wound up with a scholarship which definitely helped out because, as everyone knows, college is expensive. I honestly didn’t want to go to college but my mom wanted me to go. I was like, ‘I’m done with school, I want go get a job or find something else to do.’ (This was obviously before acting). ‘I’ll do what my brother did, join the military or be a cop or whatever and I don’t need to go to school for that.’ But I’m glad I did because that lead me into acting.
DB: I read that you were introduced to acting there but how did that introduction actually happen?
CB: There’s a performing arts school called North Carolina School of the Arts, they’re a very well-respected school. I met a friend who was going to school there and he got talking to me one day and was saying, ‘Man, we need extras for this thesis film that my professor’s doing and I’m helping out with the casting if you want to come and be an extra.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know what that is, acting sucks.’ But because he’s my friend, I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go.’ That was a life-changing moment because going with him and seeing the process of how they build sets and how actors and directors work, I was like, ‘Oh this is how they make movies. This is pretty damn cool! I need to learn more about this.’ So I started sneaking over to the school with him, reading his books, trying to jump into classes and stuff like that, to try and get more of a feel for it. From there I went on to go to auditions, learn and study more. It all steamrollered from the one event of being an extra.
DB: Did you finish at the Salem State University?
CG: No, due to some personal things. Transitioning to my junior year there I lost my best friend to senseless violence and my dad had passed away from cancer, and I really didn’t want to be in school becoming depressed and going through some other family stuff, so I took a break. I took a semester off and then went back to school and, even though I was so close to graduating, I just couldn’t… It was a lot of stress, a lot of work and I just wasn’t into it. I was like, ‘This is not what I want to do. I love music but I don’t want to be a teacher (I was going to be a teacher) and I kind of want to go heavy into this acting thing,’ so I just decided to leave school and do acting. I don’t regret it, I’m doing well in my field. I’ve got a long ways to go (in my opinion) but I’m able to make a living (if you can call it that haha) and I know people that I would have graduated with in 2004 who are still trying to get into their field. I’m happy doing what I do, when I get to do it.
DB: So it all worked out for the best, even though it was an awful time to go through.
CG: Yeah, and it happens, sometimes you have to go through some difficult stuff to help guide your way. Obviously I would prefer to have my friend and my dad here but I think that was a life lesson teaching me to be tough and be ready to be an adult and be in this industry. You get to forks in the road and you either go left or you go right.
DB: Having decided to pursue acting as a career how did you go about that? Did you get more training?
CG: At first, not knowing much about it, I thought, ‘Oh I’ll go to LA. I’m a handsome guy. I’ll be famous as soon as I get there,’ that whole part of the pipe dream. I quickly realised doing the first two years of LA, that that wasn’t the case. Luckily a casting director there told me, ‘You need to train,’ so I looked up some training, did my research on some reputable coaches, started training in North Carolina – I was auditioning for stuff in New York and LA but obviously wasn’t booking anything because I wasn’t trained – then I trained in New York, Atlanta; I was going wherever anybody was that was reputable to train and learn what I could. From training I got introduced to other actors who introduced me to agents and, once you’ve got an agent, it kind of steamrolls from there, you start getting auditions and casting directors start noticing you.
DB: Did you do any stage work while you were training?
CG: I did, mostly community theatre, nothing Off-Broadway or anything like that. As part of the training they would put on plays and they would make you perform in front of the public and do showcases. I do a lot more film and TV but I enjoy theatre and I’m actually trying to get a play off the ground in Atlanta and do a little run. I think theatre is always a good thing for actors to go to and keep their skills sharp because performing live, that’s a different muscle and I think that’s the best one to prepare you. Granted, working on a film set you have to be sharp as well because you’re under a time constraint or each director’s different, or if you’re on location you don’t know what’s going to happen, but stage is what keeps the core strong. Any chance I get, if the time allots, I go audition for plays and if I haven’t got anything else going on I’ll do a little community play or something.
DB: You were in a TV movie, Faith Under Fire, recently. Jesse C. Boyd who I interviewed a while back was also in that. He’s a hoot! (Both laugh)
CG: That was a really powerful film because it’s based on a true story about a teacher, Antoinette Tuff, who essentially risked her life to stop a mass shooting, down in Atlanta, based on her faith. That is always impressive and intriguing to me, that someone can not only believe in themselves but also in something, a higher power or whatever you want to call it, so much that it’s like, ‘Okay, this person can easily kill me and kill everyone here, but something tells me that I have to prevent it by just talking to them, as a human.’ It was a great story and I was happy to be a part of it and playing one of the people that actually survived. It was great to hear from the writer’s standpoint, and the director, Vondie Curtis Hall, when he’s talking to these people, their account and experience of how terrified they were but with their courage were able to go, ‘Okay there’s children here that need to be protected, so I’ve got to step up and stop this.’ I think we need a lot more stories like that, especially now with all the stuff going on in the world that’s crazy. We need people to realise that we have more power than we think.
DB: You’ve been in, and made, a lot of short films. What attracts you to making shorts, as distinct from the other work you do?
CG: The fact that I get to be creative and not necessarily have to worry about somebody else. I enjoy directing and I think it’s great to work with actors on the other side of the camera. I enjoy casting projects, even if I’m not directing I’ll cast somebody else’s project. I just like working with other creatives to tell a story and not necessarily be constrained by, ‘Oh we don’t have the time, or the budget.’ It goes back to what acting really is: just playing and being playful. They take a lot of time to do, and you don’t have a huge budget, so I wish I had more time to do that. I’ll call my buddies and, if we’re all available, we’ll take three or four days, put something together and put it out online for people to enjoy. We’re not trying to make millions of dollars out of it, but that is welcomed haha.
DB: You were in a movie called The Founder, which was directed by John Lee Hancock. What was he like to work with?
CG: He was awesome! There’s a reason why all his films do well, he’s really actor-friendly, no matter how large your role is. He wants it done from the script but if you have a question he’ll give and take. He’ll encourage improv – and I like working with directors like that, that trust their actors and you’re not just a talking prop. He’s not one of those directors who says, ‘Do it my way because I say so,’ he has a reason for doing what he does – he sees the big picture. I would love to work with him again on anything he was doing.
DB: You were in a show that I absolutely loved, which had a rather weird demise, called Outcast.
CG: Ah yeah! I think that was a good show. Unfortunately it was one of those things, I think, where the lead male and female actors (Patrick Fugit and Wrenn Schmitt) weren’t very happy, were doing a lot of other things and the schedule was getting tight. I think that it was going to be a long term commitment like The Walking Dead (because it’s from the same creator) and I’m not sure they wanted to do that, you know. But I am on the outside looking in on that so… Also they were shooting in South Carolina at the time and it was becoming very limited with the tax incentive, and if they went to LA they were going to lose a lot of people. I think it was just, unfortunately, a timing thing that didn’t work with it, but the two seasons they did have were cool. I had a good time working on it and they did a good job making everything eerie and weird. I was actually only supposed to do one episode of that, they brought me back for a few more, and I was grateful for it because it was fun to play that character.
DB: Horror often doesn’t work so well on TV because of the advertising breaks but the writing was extremely good, so you didn’t lose the pressure of the story.
CG: Exactly, they did a good job with that and the directors that came on, I think, understood that and they tried to keep pace with that. That’s kudos to Robert Kirkman and the producers for making everyone understand that ‘this is the pacing that we need to be on’.
DB: And there’s some fantastic directors on that. Howard Deutch directed you I think…
CG: Yes. And again, another guy that knows what he wants and sees the big picture ‘we need to get from A to B and this is how we get there’.
DB: You also worked on a show called Chance that had one of my compatriots in it, Hugh Laurie.
CG: That’s right. Mr. Laurie is a tall guy, very tall guy. I mean, I’m 6 feet (almost 6’1”) and it’s rare that I have to look up to someone. When I met him the first day I was like, ‘Woah, you’re very tall!’ Obviously an amazing actor – that goes without saying – 100% – he’s just fantastic, like most of your actors from across the Pond are in comparison because they train a lot harder. He was great to work with and he’s very meticulous, very particular, he wants to get it down perfect. That can be stressful sometimes because there’s a lot of pressure and time [constraints] that we are under but you respect the fact that, as an actor, he takes the word seriously; he respects the writers and wants it done right. He wasn’t this snobby, stuck up celebrity actor – obviously he’s well-known globally – in all respects he was fantastic to work with. I hope to do it again one day in some capacity.
DB: His American accent is really good isn’t it.
CG: Yes, I think he’s worked enough to where he’s learned how to do it; he’s obviously got a dialect coach and got it down. It’s pretty good, a lot better than I can do for you guys! (Laughs) My English accent is horrible! There are so many different dialects within the accents that you guys have, like I’ve heard it several different ways… Our dialect and language is not very hard.
DB: I watched your episode on Atlanta, which I love, it’s such a good show. How did you get the part on Atlanta and is that how you usually get roles?
CG: Yes, you get the audition, from the agent. The show was new, so we didn’t have much info on the show, I knew about Donald Glover and his type of dry wit comedy but they were saying it was going to be different, so I was, ‘ I don’t quite know how this is going to turn out.’ I got the part and met with Donald and he said, ‘You’re the straight man. I don’t want you being funny. You’re a reporter but you’re with this kid who has clearly lost his damn mind.’ I sat on YouTube and just watched a lot of live interviews; a lot of crazy interviews where reporters are sitting there and you can see they’re trying to compose and keep it together, thinking, ‘This guy is nuts but I’m a reporter, I have to keep it together.’ I used that as inspiration and to have their cadence. You know when reporters speak there’s a certain cadence that they have, so I wanted to capture that. Niles [Stewart] was fearless, he just fully jumped in with whatever Donald wanted him to do, he didn’t care how ridiculous it sounded, and that helped me out because he looked and sounded ridiculous, but as a “reporter” I had to take it seriously.
DB: You’re also the comic foil aren’t you.
CG: Yeah, and I think it’s harder to play the straight guy, or the foil, because you can’t laugh when you want to, you’ve got to be serious but you’ve also got to have the timing to where the seriousness plays. It’s all about the timing and that’s where the training comes in – when the joke is supposed to land.
DB: What is Donald Glover’s particular style of directing?
CG: He’s really laid back. Donald just basically will sit and think and say, ‘You know what, let’s try this. No that didn’t work, let’s try this.’ He’s very push and pull and moves things around, and I find that really intriguing. He likes to explore, a lot, and I like that in a director as well. You could tell there was method in his madness, he would think for a minute and say, ‘We’ll do this, this and this,’ and if that didn’t work he’d have a plan B set up already. Very soft-spoken and no stress whatsoever. You didn’t have to do too much improv because he – because of his background – has that formula down as far as to what to really play around with.
DB: Your most recent role is in the new season (4) of Queen of the South as Bobby Leroux.
CG: That was a great experience shooting that. An interesting story and Alice Braga’s a phenomenal actress and she’s doing a great job as this woman in power, even though it’s full of negative things, some may say, as far as being a cartel leader but the evolution of that character has been awesome… It reminds me a lot of Breaking Bad, here is this person who didn’t want to start into this life, they are a product of their environment, they had no choice and unfortunately they got into it and got hooked, which is the case for a lot of people. I like how they portray that, she’s not happy about being a drug queen pin, she’s doing it because she has to, at this point.
DB: Where was that filmed?
CG: The first three seasons they were in Texas and Arizona I believe, but this season they moved to New Orleans and that was a great experience. New Orleans is a fantastic city to film in, the energy is great, they’re very creative with their music, the food is fantastic. New Orleans is great, I loved it.
DB: It’s on my bucket list. I want to go during Jazz Week.
CG: You have to go, you’ll enjoy it. Oh my goodness, we were there actually during the big jazz festival this year and it was fantastic. You see these creative people and they don’t care about their celebrity status, they’ll see somebody playing on a corner and they’re like, ‘Give me a microphone. Let me go over there,’ and it’s great.
DB: When you’re trying to “get” a character, how do you go about doing that and in what way may the costuming sometimes help?
CG: With my background music is very influential, so one of the first things I do – when I see a description of the character – is I try to envision what kind of playlist they would have in the car or on their iPod or whatever, and I start putting together a bunch of songs with that. As far as getting their mannerisms, their walk, wardrobe is a key thing for me. I was taught by a well-known acting coach – who has coached actors like James Gandolfini – Ted Brunetti is his name – he would say, ‘Start with the shoes.’ People don’t realise how much shoes influence our daily walk, how we feel, even how we dress. I do that with a character: does this character wear boots? Does he wear sneakers, fancy shoes or flip flops? Does he wear socks? I start with that and that then influences what I wear with them, jogging pants, jeans, slacks and I build from there along with the playlist. Those are influential things for me: the music and the shoes.
DB: I believe your daughter, Zoé, has been taken by acting.
CG: Yes, she loves it, if she gets an audition she’s excited. Of course I’m very limiting on the auditions just because she’s young and in school and I want her to enjoy being a kid. She’s auditioned for a lot of TV shows in Atlanta. She does mostly commercials and she’s done quite a few. She enjoys it and as long as she’s happy with it, I’m cool with it, I’m not going to force her, or push her. The good thing is that she has her dad, so she doesn’t have to worry so much about the pitfalls of how women are treated in the industry, or objectified, because she knows I’m going to be there to handle that. I think she just likes the aspect of playing, you know, she’s a kid, so she just has to go in there and enjoy herself, have fun. I think the craft services table is more of an incentive than the pay check. (Both laugh) The kids dig out all the goodies, candy, ice cream, so that’s her thing. When she finds out she’s got a job she asks what kind of ice cream they have. If they get to eat for a commercial or in a scene forget it… film that scene over and over again, so she can eat more of it, it’s always fun to see that. For her it’s that she’s going to act and have fun pretending. I try to keep that in my mind, as well. At the end of the day I get to have a fun job, I enjoy my job, but it’s also ‘who am I influencing with my art?’ There are more factors that go into it than money or fame.
DB: I doubt there are many who go into acting because they want to be famous and earn millions of dollars. You’d never sustain yourself in such a brutal industry if that was your only motivation, unless you were very lucky.
CG: Yeah, exactly and they don’t realise that luck plays a big, big, big part in it. You can be very skilled but a lot of times it’s you wore the right thing, you had the right look, you did whatever. Sometimes you have hundreds, thousands of people going out for the same role and you all look alike, you all sound alike, so how do you stand out?
DB: What would your advice be to anyone who is considering acting as a career?
CG: Again, training. I think a lot of people nowadays want it so quick because of social media. I’m still old school in the sense of: do your research and train. You can go in the room and okay, you’re this handsome guy or this beautiful woman, but are you going to be able to tell the story the way they you need to? I posted up a clip on my Twitter of the movie The Mountain Between Us, with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet (that’s the top of the rung right there in my thinking). I was watching a behind the scenes clip and they are on this mountain, it’s freezing and they’re shooting but these two well-known actors are not using their stunt doubles, they’re like, ‘No, if it’s safe for us to do we dig down, commit and do it.’ By that commitment you buy the story, the more that I can see on camera and it’s not somebody at the back trying to pass as these people. If you’re good at what you do the money’s going to come and the accolades are going to come.
The body you have will fade but the acting skill won’t. You look at people like Helen Mirren and Judi Dench and there’s a reason these women are still acting at the age they’re at, they’re still lovely women and they’re beating up on these 20- and 30-year-olds because this is years of experience and dedication. Helen Mirren’s on my bucket list of actresses I hopefully get to work with. I tell my team, ‘If Helen Mirren’s doing a movie, I don’t care if I’ve got to bring her pizza and say, ‘Here you go.’ I need to be on-screen with this woman.
DB: Who else would be in your list?
CG: Oh that list is ridiculous. Obviously the main people, Pacino, De Nero, Denzel, Will, Charlize, Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Mahershala – the main heavy hitters but also these are people that I have looked at and studied on film, footage of plays or gone to see them in a play, and I’m just amazed at their transformations and how they make it look so effortless, but I know that what they’ve put in, so for me to sit and watch them work is just great.
DB: Who would you say has been the most influential person, or people, in your life and in what way were they influential?
CG: Definitely my dad, when he was alive, was very big on “just do what makes you happy”. Of course he wanted me to go to school and stuff like that, but he was like, “do what makes you happy”. Life is short, you got to be happy. My daughter, definitely, she’s always a motivation. I look at her and how happy she is, and as a parent you want to give her the world and protect her, and she just enjoys life and that helps me enjoy it as well. Some of my mentors have been great but one in particular, my current coach, Dennis Neal, who’s an older actor from stage, film and TV. Dennis is the guy who keeps it honest with me, you know man, when I’m whining, complaining or feeling lazy he gets very serious and brings the rod out and smacks you over the head essentially: ‘Get your shit together. Be on point. You’ve got to focus.’ But it’s a tough love thing because hey, if you love what you do, that’s all that matters, get focused, remember that and why you do it. He’s that father figure as a coach, a mentor and as a fellow actor whose work I admire, so it’s always nice to have him to bust my chops. When times get rough those are just a few of the people I hear in the back of my head telling me to get on focus, or I picture them and it makes me do that.
DB: When you’re not actually working what do you do to relax? Do you have any particular passions, hobbies or special interests? Do you still play the drums at all?
CG: I do play them once in a while and practice when I can but I don’t have a set at home any more because I’m in an apartment now because I travel; I haven’t secured a home yet because I don’t know where I want to lock down. I’m into staying in shape, not necessarily bodybuilding but just swimming and jogging and taking care of myself. I like watching other actors perform; I’ll go to the movies just because I like to be a fan. Sporting events, I’m big on that. I like spending time with my little one. I like to be outdoorsy; I’m not a person that’s got to be around a group of people but I do like to be outside, especially if the weather’s nice – I’ve always been an outdoors person, even in New York. I like to be out and about, seeing new things, experiencing new things, travelling as much as I can.
DB: Obviously you’ve got a musical background but, if you can remember, what’s your earliest musical memory?
CG: My dad used to play a lot of Anita Baker; he was a big fan of hers. I just remember all of her songs and hearing her voice all the time, was a big thing. My mother was big into old-school artists and then she got into Boys ll Men and Toni Braxton, so a lot of R&B. Going to school in NY was a lot of ‘80s & ‘90s hip hop. Being a drummer in high school and having to learn different things, I started to listen to some old-school rock ‘n’ roll, Zeppelin and stuff like that. For me the voice, as far as the singer, catches me, but then I’ll listen to the drums, if the drums catch me I’ll listen to anything because that’s what my ears are attuned to.
I remember the first time I heard Adele sing, I was blown away. I had just left college – and somebody was like, ‘Man! Have you heard this singer?’ And naturally people, not knowing anything about her, were assuming she was African American and then to find out that she wasn’t, and then that she’s not even from the States… Oh my goodness! Her voice is amazing and her music is very soulful. That’s the thing that I’ve been on, I believe that artists don’t see colour, some people get offended by that but she’s coming from her soul, it doesn’t matter what colour her skin is – she’s singing from the heart. Same with Bruno Mars, for that guy to be my age (or actually a little bit younger than me) you’d think this dude was 60 years old, he’s singing sort of old school ‘60s ‘70s and I’m like, ‘That’s a guy who’s studied the craft and who respects the art.’
DB: What was the first single or album you ever bought?
CG: Oh man! I think the first cassette I actually ever bought was DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) Parents Just Don’t Understand album. I was a fan of his show at the time and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to see what’s going on.’ I was at that age where I felt like my parents really didn’t understand why I did some of the things I did. I think that was the first one that I bought with money I had actually saved up.
DB: Do you go to watch live music?
CG: I do when I get a chance. I watched a lot of it when I was down in New Orleans so that was fantastic, to see how these artists do some of the stuff that they do. I’ve been to House of Blues in Florida a couple of times; I’ve been to a concert in LA. Live music is cool and I like to watch older artists because I think the newer artists, even though they’re good musicians, rely a lot on spectacle and I think it takes away from the show sometimes. I’m a fan of underground musicians.
DB: Which concert have you been to that you would regard as the best?
CG: Man! I’ve got to say it would be a toss up between… and he gets into a lot of trouble and people are not fans of him personally, but Chris Brown puts on one hell of a show: he sings, he dances, he performs. Before the whole trouble with him went down, I went to see him when he was younger, and he was still big on paying tribute to Michael Jackson – he did a Michael Jackson set – and it was pretty damned impressive to watch him do that… and Beyoncé. Beyoncé puts on a hell of a show, she’s pretty damn good. I would say those two probably, just for the sheer magnitude of them going hard, you could tell they weren’t lip synching, you could hear them breathing as they sang because they were dancing and moving, and you’ve got to respect that.
DB: If there’s a party and there’s music playing will you just get up and dance or will you have to be dragged up onto the dance floor?
CG: It depends on what it is, if the right song comes on, yeah, I’m that guy people stay away from – they think I’m drunk but I haven’t drank anything. If it’s that song that makes you want to dance, yeah I’m out there, I’m not shy about that.
DB: Will you ever get up and sing like karaoke?
CG: That is a negative. I would definitely need a few beers to get that happening; I need that liquid courage to do that. Singing is not my forte, I’m completely embarrassed to do it, so that’s why you probably won’t see me do anything like musicals. If I have a few in me I’ll do it but I like to go watch other people do it. I’ll be a backup singer though.
DB: Imagine it’s your last meal on planet Earth, what would you choose to feast on and what would be your preferred drink to go along with that?
CG: I would have a 6-ounce medium-well steak, a slice of authentic New York pizza, a beef patty with some cocoa bread and a sweet potato with sour cream and the cinnamon butter on it. For dessert I would have a cake batter shake, from any of the places that make it (that flavour that tastes like birthday cake) some water and probably… you know what? I would like a mojito for a last drink.
DB: Could you tell me about the book, or books, that you are currently reading?
CG: I’m actually reading a couple of plays. I’ve just finished Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis which is a great play, and now I’m reading Glengarry Glen Ross, again; I like to find monologues out of plays so I’m reading that again just to find a monologue. Book-wise the last book I read was Manuscript Found in Accra by Paul Coelho; I love his books, they are all very empowering. I just bought a bunch of books from a Barnes and Nobles store that had a sale – from recommended authors – so next week I’m going to start diving into those.
DB: How would you describe your perfect day?
CG: Travelling somewhere I haven’t been, with my daughter, experiencing the culture there and then sitting some serene place just watching the sun set with her and watching her smile about that, and it being the perfect weather, not too hot, not too cold, just a slight a breeze. We’ve learned something new together and it would be fantastic to do that.
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