(WJBF) – An actor with roots in the CSRA is coming to a TV screen near you.
Tian Richards, who attended Evans High School, has snagged the lead role on the new CW show “Tom Swift”, a spin-off of “Nancy Drew.”
Tian has been in several projects over the years and is excited for this new opportunity.
Digital Reporter Brandon Dawson sat down with him to find out more about his reaction to the news.
Tell me in your own words, what’s happening.
Okay, so as of a week ago today, I found out a show that I’ve been reading on the CW has been picked up to series and we have a full series order. The name of the show is “Tom Swift” and I play Tom Swift and it’s based on the classic novels by Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer universe for like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. So, were a spin-off of Nancy Drew and it’s basically a gay, black billionaire who goes on a quest to find his father.
How does it make you feel that this show was picked up and you have the starring role in it?
It’s still surreal to even hear that and to process that. It’s been a culmination of dreams coming true, for sure. This has been something I’ve dreamed of. I never dreamed this big. You know, you want to be on a show. You want to come out to LA and make it happen, but I didn’t know it would happen like this. So, it’s been everything I’ve prayed for, but nothing I expected.”
Now, you’re a local boy. Am I correct?
I want you to take me back. When did you get started acting? Have you always been doing it?
I started acting in Augusta. So, first it was just…I was a kid with a big imagination and around – I originally grew up in South Carolina then I moved to Augusta, Georgia, when I was eleven, twelve – and it was there, taking theater camps and I have been to all the theater companies in the city: MTW, Musical Theater Workshops with Mickey Lubeck. Love you, Miss Mickey. The Augusta Players. I worked with them quite extensively with Debbie Ballas and everybody there. The Augusta Jr. Players. with Rebecca Brune who’s now at Evans High School and I went to Evans High School. Miss Carolyn Lee was my drama teacher. YART. Bro, Augusta is literally where I found my love for acting.
You started in Augusta, where are you now?
Right now, I’m in LA. I literally live in Hollywood. Before I came here I was in Atlanta. So, I graduated high school at seventeen, I moved to Atlanta, I was there from 17 to 21…22 before I moved out here; but I started working in Atlanta professionally as far as film, television, commercial…so, yeah, worked on a lot of projects there. I ended up doing a film called “Burden” with Usher and Forest Whitaker that went to Sundance and that same year I did “Being Mary Jane” with Gabrielle Union and I was able to get my reps out here and transition quite easily to film.
How did you end up getting involved with the current show that you’re in now?
So, once a year there’s this thing called “pilot season.” So, it’s when all the new shows come out at the top of the year, and – literally – if you’re an actor, you’re busy around the clock auditioning for these pilots and, you know, COVID, we’re still in the midst of it. It’s 2020 and I was up for another show on HBO and I got the audition for this and I put it on tape, went home for the holidays, came back the first month of the year and went straight to test – which is basically when you go before the “big dogs”, you know, the network…the suits. Did the test, did one more test with the network, and then after like a month of auditioning, found out that I got it. I was literally in the gym. If you watch my social media, you know I’m a gym rat. I was in the gym working out and got the call from my manager. I screamed, I cried, yelled, all the things, going crazy, and it’s Burbank, so people know that’s some good news…called my mom — my mom still lives in the CSRA area, my sister lives there, as well, my other sister lives in Atlanta — but, yeah, family’s still back at home and it’s like “wow”. It’s still surreal to come from what we come from, which isn’t – I’m not gonna say uncommon – but it’s not as frequent as it can be, because Atlanta’s right there. So, I tell people all the time, if you want to get started, it’s right there, and you’re right on the cusp.
What was your family’s reaction when you called them up and you tell them this exciting news? I’m sure your mom was losing it.
Oh yeah, ’cause listen, this is not an overnight thing. I didn’t just get here. Funny story: I got my first agent – I was still in Evans High School when I first started working professionally…I’m going to give my age away…but it’s been a ten year journey, almost, to get there. So, she had this beautiful, introspective reaction where she was just like, “Wow, this happened. That’s my son. I did that.” She’s definitely been my support system and has held me up through all of this and Mama, if you’re watching this, I love you.
Are you able to give us an idea about when you guys are starting production on the next show?
It’s still very fresh. So, now it’s looking like the end of the year. Late Fall, early Winter. Fun fact: we will be shooting in Georgia, so I’m coming back.
Hey, we’ll be happy to have you. So, you’re coming back. Let me ask you this…not to get to ahead of yourself…where do you see yourself in ten years or so? Already it seems like you dream big and you’re hitting your dream, man, which is amazing to see; but where do you go from there?
If you’re a dreaming actor or if you’ve been grinding or hustling at this you know the goal is always just to work consistently, to be able to take care of yourself and have that stability; but also to see a lot of the stories of my people – and that’s people from our part of the world; people who are Black, people who are marginalized – to have our stories told; and to just have an impact. It’s not about fame, it’s not about notoriety and being seen and visible. It’s about using your platform to amplify the art and messages – to be a vessel and a conduit for God, the higher power, has for us. So that, and I want to have a family, maybe some kids, you know. Who knows? Just be more centered and more grounded in who I am as “Tian” as a man; because I feel I’m definitely that boys to men era where you are transitioning into who you fully are supposed to be.
Do you have any advice that you would want to give to someone – maybe they’re here in Augusta and they’re just getting started? What would you say to them going forth into the acting journey?
I’m going to look right into camera and talk to you guys directly so you know it’s real. First off, this is a business piece of advice: never, ever, ever pay money for somebody to rep you, for somebody to say they’re going to help you with your career. They only get paid when you book a job. Secondly – train, train, train. Whether that’s doing a theater program – cut your teeth locally. That’s what I did. Bust your chops in the theater circuit there – in the school drama program. Go to school. The Yales, the Julliards, the Carnegie Mellons…that’s your choice. If not, then find a great class and a good coach. Read and research and educate yourself on what it is that you’re doing. Read the stories and watch the cautionary tales because it is a lot out there you can learn. Third of all, this journey is not easy. I’m not going to make it seem like I just got here overnight. It is a hustle. It is a grind. It is a journey. A lot of broke nights, sleepless nights working two jobs to sustain yourself. Keep going. At some point, if you work hard, you get a bunch of “no’s” but there has to be a “yes” in there somewhere and there’s no such thing as nothing coming from hard work. So, it’s not going to be easy, but keep at it and y’all got this. Y’all got this.
Everybody loves this part. Now, I know that you’re a hard-working guy. I can tell that you hustled and grinded, so all the props to you; but everybody’s always got those people that you want to thank for helping you get there. Who do you want to thank for help getting you where you are today?
I love this moment. First, I want to thank my mom because she’s just literally been there through everything. I want to thank my teachers, because my local teachers who helped me facilitate this dream came from Augusta and that’s Miss Mickey Lubeck, that is Miss Debbie Ballas, that is Miss Carolyn Lee, that is Rebecca Brune, that is Amanda Taggert-Dodson and all the people at the Players who since I was a youth – John Greene from YART – who saw something in me and nurtured that and poured into it and breathed life into it. So many people. Miss Carrie Anderson – that community of women and men who just showed me that – Phillip Streetman – that this is possible. So, I’m going to continue to always, always show them love. I love you guys and I miss you and when I’m ever back let’s together and do something.