Check out our interview with LA based actor and producer Paul Black.
Paul is originally from British Columbia, Canada and his life these past ten years in the Los Angeles entertainment industry has been nothing short of an incredible roller coaster of a journey. When he’s not working you can find him swimming in the ocean, hiking the beautiful mountains of British Columbia, surfing the waves of the California coast, or fly fishing the rivers of Oregon. Paul has learned to embrace the adventure spirit that’s hidden inside all of us while at the same time working hard these past few years to stand up in his fight against human trafficking.
Follow Paul @the_paul_black
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Bold. Driven. Persistent.
How did you get started into acting?
I was thirteen years old when I realized I wanted to be an actor, I remember watching people on screen and thinking, “how do people do this?” When I was seventeen years old, I was really considering joining acting school in Vancouver, it wasn’t until my brother Josiah who had already enrolled in the program really convinced me and said if anyone can do it you can. I think him believing me from the start gave me extra motivation to really make that leap of faith. I signed up for acting school and film study at VFS(Vancouver Film School) in Vancouver right after high school and the rest was history. I ended up getting scouted while performing on stage in Seattle, WA on my weekend off from acting school by an agent in Hollywood. I remember thinking that was so cool. He believed in me and said he would give me a shot. Shortly after that I moved to LA with nothing but a few hundred dollars, a car and my brother Josiah who came with me who had also just graduated acting school. We literally lived out of our car for the first few weeks, traveling around all the beach towns and exploring the new territory. We really started from the ground up with humble beginnings but we had so much fun on the journey. I would never trade those days with my brother for anything, we had so little yet so much joy in the little things while being on this wonderful adventure together.
How has this changed your life?
It has changed my life in a great way. Being a professional actor for over ten years now has taken me all around the world, allowed me to meet or become friends with people that I had admired since childhood and also made me realize that there is no dream too big or out of reach to attain. I remember living in Canada as a teenager and when I brought up that I wanted to be an actor to my pre-college counselor in high school, he laughed at me and said you need to take this seriously and choose a career for your life that was more legit. I was so crushed by this but I took that leap of faith anyway. I believed in myself and went for it.
What is the best and worst part of being an actor?
The best part of being an actor for me is the constant challenge that keeps me on my toes. I also appreciate that you never know what kind of character you’re going to play next, where you’re going to travel to for work, who you’re going to meet, or what cool skills you will get to learn for a specific role during the process. I mean one day I might be filming in a bad part of downtown LA and the next day in Beverly Hills or the beaches of Santa Monica, then you get a call to have your passport ready as you find out you’re heading overseas with only a few weeks notice. I mean with limitless possibilities it really keeps you focused and working with the sense that I need to be ready for anything. I also just appreciate challenging myself artistically, to be an actor you have to learn to adapt and be in the moment which ultimately keeps me grounded.
How do you prepare for a role?
It varies for each role. I do a lot of research, I spend a lot of quiet time with myself and the script, really trying to get into the thoughts of my character at his core, how he thinks and what really drives him. I also like to adapt to any character I portray on a physical level and this helps me embody the person I am bringing to life on the screen. How a person moves, walks or holds themselves, tells a lot about who they are and with this I feel like I have been on a lifelong journey of studying human behavior. After all, most researchers in this topic say that 70-93% of all human communication is non-verbal, as an actor I take this very seriously and it’s fascinating for me. One time I actually lost 20 pounds for a role by going on a strict vegetarian diet for forty days, I actually inspired myself through that process that there really is no limit to what you can do when you set your mind to creating a layered character.
What projects you have been part of?
I’ve been blessed to be a part of some great projects over the past ten years with over thirty-two film and television credits. Some of these include S.W.A.T, Shooter, The Masked Singer, the Godfather series-The Offer, Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Nicky Ricky Dicky & Dawn on Nickelodeon, The Late-Late Show with James Corden, and many more. I have a handful of exciting upcoming projects that I have signed on to, including one that I’m producing/directing that I’m very excited about. For more information, visit my IMDb here!
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
Anything that challenges me or brings inspiration to the audience. I really like playing action roles, military characters, and have the strong desire to tell true stories that inspire others for the greater good. I look up to people like Keanu Reeves who through all the fame stays humble in the midst of success and works hard to do all his own action scenes. I train hard to stay ready for this as well working with top former special ops tactical training teams while at the same time staying in the right physical shape to always be ready . In my eyes true heroes are those who fought and bled for our freedoms. As much as I am a huge Marvel or DC Comics nerd I believe veterans wear the real hat of what it means to be a hero. I had the pleasure of getting directed by Peter Burg for an AT&T commercial alongside actor Mark Wahlberg. Peter also directed a film titled Lone Survivor based on the incredible true story of Marcus Luttrell, the former Navy Seal on operation Red Wings who was the only survivor. This to me is the epitome of a true hero story. If you haven’t seen it yet I’d highly recommend it as this set the bar pretty high for an iconic story of what a true hero in my eyes.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
There are several, but I’d have to say getting lost in a role as well as getting to meet and work with other artists who inspire me along the way. It’s also rewarding to sit back and watch a project after it’s completed, knowing all of the hard work that has gone into it and then just kick back with family or friends and enjoy the content. It can be thrilling at times to later see that project on screen knowing that millions of people are watching it, however most of the time I am so focused on the work that I don’t think about that factor. Since I was a kid I’ve had a love for extreme sports and I’ve always thrived on adrenaline, there are certain moments when I hit a stride with a character or action scene and this similar rush happens while I’m performing. It’s the kind of an adrenaline rush that never gets old and I can see why some actors like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro choose to work clear up into their late 70’s or 80’s. I mean look at Clint Eastwood, he’s 92 years old and still putting out good content, the guy is a living legend and true testament of never quitting.
Now tell us about your feeling and experience on accepting the National Film & TV Award at the Globe Theater in Los Angeles?
I was speechless. I had my mother and my wife here in LA with me at the time to join me on the red carpet and it was so special. When they called my name to accept the award in front of a stadium full of my peers, celebrities and some of the most talented artists in Los Angeles, I was basically shocked while feeling beyond thankful and humbled at the same time. My mother was sitting in the front row and it was so cool seeing her smile while I thanked her from the stage. Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the endless support of my family and close friends.
What’s your advice for the newer actors?
My advice would be the same for anyone who truly desires to step out and take a risk to achieve their dreams. Have faith in yourself, be patient, stay humble, never give up, keep working on challenging yourself to grow in your craft each season and do not care about what others think about you as you press on forward to you’re goal. For actors I would say trust your gut and allow yourself to be so in the moment in a scene that you literally surprise yourself. One time I received a coaching for an audition from Henry Winkler who played the iconic role of The Fonz in Happy Days, while I was working with him on a project. Shortly after he had helped coach me for an upcoming audition and at the end, he simply said, “Paul, just know what you’re saying and why you’re saying it.” I remember thinking that was a cool experience but also just how one of the best actors of all time could simplify a craft that oftentimes can seem to be so over complicated. All the intense formal acting training I’ve done is very helpful as well as the long hours of scene study I do for each role but at the same time it all comes back to the basics of listening, reacting and being in the moment. Always remember to have fun with it and find ways to enjoy the journey.
What would you say are the greatest lessons you learned so far in this business?
Never give up on yourself, have faith and most importantly stay humble. Nothing is guaranteed, always be the hardest worker in the room, trust the process and keep a look out for those open lanes and divine appointments.
Now tell us about your charity project you are a partner on, Rays of Hope?
Rays of Hope is a charitable organization based in Chiang Mai, Thailand that helps displaced orphans and widows have a home, get rehabilitation, medication, education and overall just be showered with the love they deserve in a family environment. At Rays of Hope we are now focused on helping children get out of human trafficking or adopting children who are at high risk of being trafficked. There is such a current need for this. We have recently helped rescue children as young as three years old. This almost seems unbelievable but this is a very sad reality and I truly believe that we as a human race can use our resources and God given talents to help people like these children and women. If we all just do a little bit we can help the helpless have a new start in life. Many of the victims that we have brought in are affected by HIV and we provide them with the A.R.V. medication that allows those affected to live normally and prolong their lives. We are in the process of building more homes and facilities to allow space for more people and we are always looking for people to partner with us on this journey who can provide anything they can to contribute to our goal of stopping human trafficking one person or child at a time. I believe if we all work on this issue just a little bit we can tackle this on a global level. This has become one of my life goals.
We recently welcomed seven new boys and three new girls into one of our new homes that has been built for them. Three of them are only five years old. They arrived with only the clothes they were wearing, no other possessions. When they were shown their new home, joy was evident by the look on their little faces. Many times traffickers will stop at nothing to lure their victims back into abuse. Even after many victims have been rescued, traffickers will continue to use many tactics to try to hunt them down. It’s very important that we continue to protect them and that’s exactly what we do here at Rays of Hope. Two of the new homes on our property are called Baan Isara, which means “Freedom House” and Baan Un Rak which means “Home of Warmth and Love”.
How and why did you get involved in this? That’s amazing! Congrats!
I partnered with Rays of Hope shortly after they launched seven years ago, in the summer of 2015 after my wife and I first visited their property in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I got invited by my close friends Ray and Bonnie Emery who have been true leaders on this journey. I have known them since I was a kid and they are like family to me. They founded this organization after realizing the urgent need and I was so sincerely moved and truly inspired by what they were doing while I was at the property that I immediately wanted to join forces with them on this venture. After my first trip to Rays of Hope I was so moved that I was literally brought to tears by how much joy some of these children and women have, even after all the trauma they have endured. When you are there to visit them, share your smile, play a song on the guitar and bring them resources, or help physically build an additional home, the amount of joy that is expressed from a true place of gratitude is nothing short of life changing. One day while I was there, we all drove to a local hill tribe, about an hour or so away from Rays Of Hope. We wanted to visit some of the people that we help sponsor in their current living situations who are stuck living in the mountains between Burma in Thailand, never legally being able to be a resident of either country. As we drove to the base of the mountain, we passed by a small makeshift checkpoint on the road with a couple young Thai men with automatic rifles guarding the road, they basically enforce that anyone living in these hill tribes cannot enter either country. The people living in these mountains are essentially stuck living in these bill tribes for generations, often living in huts with dirt floors. Part of the outreach we do here at Rays of Hope is to bring certain people who are living in these bad conditions, supplies and medications that they need. We have also adopted some of these children and widowed ladies to our homes at our organization to give them a better life. We often adopt those who have been trafficked or are at high risk of being trafficked or even potentially sold from their own parents. This is just some of what we do at Rays Of Hope and it has been life changing for me to be part of this journey. I believe we have just scratched the surface with the seeds that have been planted on this journey and I’m so excited to watch the grow in the coming years to come.
In my life I have realized that my career, hobbies and friendships can bring me a lot of joy, however there is no greater joy than the gift of changing someone’s life forever, especially lifting a child out of darkness and giving them a real chance at life. This is something that can bless families for generations to come, even after I am gone. However while I am alive on this earth, I will never stop advocating for those in this world that need clothes, food, water or those affected by human trafficking. If you think about it, when we pass on, we take nothing with us but rather leave behind the good we have done for others like these. Human trafficking in Thailand alone is a $12 billion industry, this makes it a bigger cash earner than the country’s drug trade, according to the International Labor Organization. These facts about human trafficking in Thailand reflect the severity of this problem on a global level. Regardless if someone chooses to support or team up with us on our cause at Rays of Hope I strongly encourage anyone reading this to find ways you can help stop human trafficking in the region where you live or even educate yourself on when its happening around you so that you can report it. It’s shocking how much goes on right here in North America. The U.S. Department of State estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year. Trafficked victims are often beaten, brutalized, raped and or sexually abused. Victims are also frequently deprived of adequate food, shelter and sleep. We need to work together to put an end to this and take a stand to make a change.
What other charities do you support?
Rays Of Hope is managed by a larger organization called Seeds of Hope. It is currently being led by my close friends John and Susan Chaulkis. They are amazing people and have an outreach for orphans in Zambia, Africa and Myanmar as well. It is incredible the hundreds of orphaned children that have been given a home, schooling and all the medical care that they need to live a good life and be shown the love they deserve.
I also appreciate what my friend Tim Tebow at the Tim Tebow Foundation is doing. The first time I met him he invited me out to his church in LA(Churchhome) and I learned more about his organization. They are doing great things for children in the Philippines and after realizing the need he is now currently starting a protection center in Thailand to help protect children who are victims of human trafficking. I highly recommend checking that out.
I would also recommend checking out the Agape Children’s Home in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have done many trips there alongside my parents as a kid growing up. I have good memories as a child of doing fundraisers to raise money for these trips and to help these orphaned children. My family helped start The Agape Home with my aunt and uncle Avis and Roy Rideout in the early 90s, specifically for children who suffer from HIV, many abandoned by parents or left on the streets to die. My friend Nikki was the seed of this organization and her story is incredible. She was rescued after she was found abandoned to die in a ditch at the age of two and was given only days to live by doctors with her very poor health condition. She is now my age living a good healthy life in North America and this is a now doubt a true miracle and answer to prayer. The Agape Home has now become one of the largest orphan homes for children in south east Asia, caring for hundreds of children. If you get a chance to visit there it will change your life with the amount of joy these children have.
How would your best friend describe you?
Authentic. Hard working. Resilient. Determined.
One of my best friends actually just texted me today after hearing my work schedule this week and said, “Paul you’re such a hard worker, go crush it.” I love his encouragement and enthusiasm but at the same time he is right in that I work hard and I put my whole heart and passion into everything I do.
What is your favorite book?
Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I would say Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyer is a close second. These books changed my life in a very positive way and would highly recommend checking them out!
Any fun stuff ahead or projects your involved with we can look out for?
I’m very thankful to be a part of a few projects coming out including one for Netflix and a new action movie that I just signed on to with an incredible cast of actors that I admire. Due to strict non-disclosure agreements, I can’t say much about these at this time but I’ll be sure to circle back with you. I recently appeared in the new Paramount Studios TV show titled The Offer, directed by Oscar winning director, Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody) that is now released worldwide. The series is based in the early 1970’s about the making of the iconic film franchise, The Godfather, that changed cinema history. You can also catch me in the opening sequence to the new Star Wars show, Obi-Wan Kenobi with the original Star Wars cast as Mopbeard the Warrior Alien. I was recently excited to hear that Obi-Wan Kenobi is now the most streamed show of all time on Disney Plus to date.
What is your own definition of happiness?
My key to personal happiness is my faith. Also learning to find inner joy in the midst of a storm is one of my goals but doesn’t always happen. Oftentimes my faith is all I have, that and the support of those in my small circle of close friends and family. I believe that in life there are times when we all go through very difficult things that are out of our control but at the same time there can be an underlying joy in your life through faith that can bring the balance that is needed. Suddenly losing my brother Josiah during the pandemic, who was not only my closest friend in this world but also a fellow actor, film-maker and anchor for me in this journey of life was definitely the toughest thing to endure. Anyone who has lost someone close to them like that can relate that it is a pain that will never fully go away. You really have to reach deep to lift yourself up to a place of joy. It can come and go but you really have to learn to never give up on yourself and know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel when you never give up. I’ve learned that when a sudden tragedy happens like that, it can really shake you to your core. For others it can simply be losing a job, fighting an illness or trying to break an addiction that you know is destructive for your life. We are not meant to be beings that are always happy but I believe seeking inner joy, having a strong support system, healthy workout regimen and putting your hand to work or a hobby you really enjoy are key. On top of that for me getting out in nature, going fishing, camping, snowboarding, hiking or doing anything outdoors away from the city always helps refresh my mind and spirit.
What would you say to people who have experienced hardships in their life, especially with the global pandemic in these past couple of years?
Of course we have all experienced hardships in our lives in one way or another, especially these past two years. As I mentioned earlier, unexpectedly losing my brother Josiah during the global pandemic is still a daily battle for me. We had such a close bond that it often feels like a part of me is up in heaven. When it comes to hardships, I do my best to stay focused on the good things in my life as well keeping my mind in a place of thankfulness and gratitude for the blessings and people I still currently have in my life. I believe there is power in that. At one point in my life when I was growing up I attended five schools in five years, suffered abuse at an early age, persevered through PTSD, depression and for a season I even lived in a travel trailer with my parents and my three brothers when my parents went bankrupt. We still found joy in the little things together as a family. On top of that besides losing my brother, these past two years I’ve lost my two younger cousins whom I loved dearly to sudden tragedy and my good friend Ray who was the founder of Rays of Hope. Through it all I realized that hardships and tragedy will eventually strike us all but it’s through the process of overcoming these battles that we become resilient and eventually ready for anything that may come at us in the future. It deepens who we are at our core and gives you a perspective of how you can help others get through the storm they might be currently facing. I truly believe God always provides a way through whatever battle we may go through each season and has a greater plan than we can currently understand. There is a stigma going around that men can’t talk about what’s going on inside there head. That is a constant lie that has unfortunately led many to take their own lives in these past two years, with suicide rates at a current all time high. I would encourage anyone battling bad thoughts, trauma or depression to take the time to to talk to someone close to you about these tough things. Therapy can make all the difference however just talking to someone close to you about it can lead to inner healing by getting these thoughts out in the open and outside the confines of the walls of your own mind. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel when we never give up and there is wisdom in finding joy in the little things of life with close friends and family. I remember when I first moved to LA I lived in my car along the beaches of California with my brother Josiah, we had so little yet so much joy with each other and the big dreams in our hearts. At times when we first moved to Los Angeles, people in random places like at the grocery store often thought we were intoxicated because of the amount of random laughing we would do together. It probably helped that my brother was a really good stand up comedian but my point is that we would truly try to find joy in the little things
What is your favorite movie?
The Fighter, directed by David O. Russel
What is your favorite travel destination?
Phi Phi Island, Thailand
What is your favorite food?
What is your favorite sports team?
Where can we follow you?
What do you think about social media?
I believe it’s great seeing people use their platform on social media for good or to inspire others for good, even to make people laugh and bring awareness to areas in the world that there is an extreme need. At the same time it’s very sad when people compare themselves to others on social media. I’ve even caught myself doing this before and it can be toxic. I have read some articles on social media regarding studies that often show that social media can cause deep depression and mental health issues in people, especially the younger generation. This is very sad to me but at the same time I recognize it as a tool. I often choose to minimize my use of social media in an effort to live in the moment as much as possible. Life just is too short and it’s meant to be an adventure, we have to go live it.