WJBF – Gavin Houston has always had a passion for the craft of acting, and after portraying the role of Jeffrey Harrington on Tyler Perry’s The Have And The Have Nots, which ran on OWN for 8 seasons from 2013 to 2021, Houston continues to take the world by storm with appearances on Roswell, New Mexico, NCIS: LA, and a return to General Hospital as they are now celebrating their 60th anniversary.
Gavin Houston chats with WJBF Digital about his journey and his plans for the future.
Gavin, thank you for joining us. So, how did you get started with acting?
A long, long time ago. Probably when I was 10 years old, my parents… I’m from New Jersey so we used to go and see plays in New York. I remember going to see Yul Brynner in The King And I on Broadway. I remember seeing Kevin Kline and Shakespeare in the Park do Much To Do About Nothing in Central Park. I just remember being there and seeing the reactions of the audience and seeing the people performing on stage, and I was already a little performing and just being like, “That’s what I wanna do.” I want to make people feel like that. I want to make them laugh, I want to make them cry, and I want to make them feel something and go this journey that I can take them on and escape their lives and come into their different world. So, that’s when I knew that this was something that I wanted to pursue.
Now, we mostly know you from your role as “Jeffrey Harrington” in Tyler Perry’s “The Haves And The Have Nots.” How was it for you working on this show and working with Tyler Perry?
It was great. All around, it was a blessing to work with Tyler. I had been hearing of all the things he had been doing, and I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if I’ll ever get the opportunity to work with him.” He was just such a kind, giving person, and from someone who is also an actor, he knows how it is to be on the other side. So, he directed all of our episodes. He was just there with us in those trenches as we were shooting out all of those episodes, and he was just very patient and understood the actor’s process. So, it was great. It was great to work him. It was great to collaborate with Oprah [Winfrey] as well, to meet both of them, to befriend them, and to see that they are just normal people, who are very giving, very open, and they work… they work so hard, both of them. So, it was really a great experience and blessing to have that experience to work with them. And Tyler works fast and efficient. So, it was good.
Now, this question has to be asked. Now, when you received “The Haves And The Have Nots” series finale script, what was your initial thought?
It’s interesting because at first, when we all got it, we are all like, “Wait… what?” But then, it was like, “Don’t worry. Nobody’s dead.” (Laughs) And then, we were like, “Okay.” So, it was a little ambiguous for us because for myself, I’m like, “How am I… did I sneak out the back door or something?” When we all got those scripts, it was still ambiguous whether we were coming back or not because they [OWN executives] were still working things out with Tyler. So, that was just in case not, but there was a way that we could all survive it as well, whether it was a dream, or a this, or a that, or certain people die, but certain people survive. We were under the impression that we were coming back; we were under the impression that it wasn’t over. But we were also under the impression that we don’ t know how the heck it comes back from all of this. Or how are they going to this? Is this like a flashback? I think we were all surprised. I think we were all concerned because we didn’t know we were done and it was our last season confirmed until we already shot it and then, it’s like a year later. As far as we knew, we were coming back. So, all of it was surprising. All of it!
Now, you also have been on daytime television, where you played “Remy” on Guiding Light and you had two stints on General Hospital. What’s the difference in working in daytime television versus prime-time television?
I’m still on General Hospital actually. I go back to play a character named Zeke, who plays Portia’s brother, coming back for this meaty storyline in like two weeks. How is it? It’s very similar. Daytime moves so fast, but Tyler moves even faster. So, I think a lot of times with working in television or film, there is one camera, and they have to capture this. And then, they have to get someone else’s close up, and then, they have to get this close up, etc. With daytime and how our show [Haves And Have Nots] was shot, which was almost like a prime-time soap, they have multiple cameras so they can get it all at once. So, it’s just fast; it’s fast-paced. The dialogue needs to move. It’s very quick. “We’re here, we’re here, we’re here… we’re gonna move here. These are your two cameras. This is your mark, and then, you’re going to move over here. Alright, let’s go. Let’s rehearse it. You got it? Do you need to rehearse it? You don’t need a rehearsal? Alright, let’s just shoot it!” So, it’s like that? If it’s great, one take… maybe two if you ask for it. So, for me, it’s like a boot camp because you really have to know yourself, know your instincts, and be ready to like shoot and give them the shot really quickly. So, it’s a great training ground, I think. It’s different, but when you have more time to flush out certain things and go deeper, you’re so much more appreciative. But it’s great that you have this ability to quickly deliver on that level as well if need be, which is what this was. It prepared me completely for it, and it’s still something like going to a different kind of gym. It’s like crossfit. It’s like, “I’ma do a lot of this, and this I’ma jump on this, and then, I’ma do this.” It’s like, production… mass production!
So, General Hospital is celebrating 60 years. So, what is it like for you being a part of this big celebration?
It’s crazy. It’s such a blessing because I remember being in school and like everybody had like grandmothers or parents, who watch their stories. Growing up, soaps were such a big thing. I’m always grateful. Work is work at this point. I’m always grateful. Just to continuously stay busy. I think being a part of it and a part of that achievement for them to reach 60 years and going through all of these soaps including Guiding Light being cancelled, it was great to be a part of that achievement for them. And to see some of the original – I don’t know if they’re the original, original – but a lot of the casts that I grew up with like Sonny (Maurice Benard) and to see that and to be working besides these people and have conversations with them, who are like veterans. It’s almost like seeing people from your childhood that you watched on TV and never knowing that I’m going to have a conversation with this person and working opposite of them. General Hospital was this big thing, and I was like, “Wow! They’re so lucky. It must be so amazing to work on that show.” And now, here I am, apart of that show. So, it’s really a blessing. So, I was just happy to be a part of it.
You have two new films out right now: Dance For Me on BET+ and Safe Word on Tubi. Can you tell us first about Dance For Me?
Dance For Me is kind of like a rollercoaster, where there is a mother who has a father who is sick and is a single parent. So, in order to make ends meet and in order to get quick money to be able to take care of her father as well as provide for her son, she dances. However, that’s a world that’s completely from who she is. She is a stay at home, and it’s a completely different world for her because when she dances, she now has this… The son’s father is kind of a crook, who manipulates and takes advantage of her and has her drugged. The marks that go into this dance club where she’s a stripper, and then, later on, go back to their mansions or wherever they are. Then, these guys come in and rob them. I’m an activist, and I’m running for political office. I meet her, and now, I try to pull her out of this life that she’s trying to hide from me and try to get to know her. It’s the ying and the yang. My side is pulling her in this other the direction to the person that she wants to be, and then, there’s this other side, where it’s her son’s dad who is pulling in this other direction trying to rob these guys. Then, it all comes together and clashes. Yeah, it is a wild ride.
Now, can you please tell us about Safe Word?
Safe Word is so interesting. I remember when it came, I was like, “This is going to be…” It was fascinating to me. “This is going to be interesting and challenging in different.” It’s basically, I want to say, a Black version of 50 Shades Of Grey. So, we have this guy who looks on the surface like he’s perfect and loving, who wants to get married and create a future with this unsuspecting girl. On the outside, he’s polished and everything, but behind the scenes, he’s into fetishes, and he also has a lot of darkness and dark secrets that he keeps. He’s very manipulative to try to pull her into this world and try to completely change her to which she does not comply with. There is a clash there, and she’s at risk for her life because he becomes more and more dangerous with the more tactics that he tries to pull her into this world. So, that was also a crazy one that was fun.
Last question, what advice could you give someone who wants to get into acting or into the entertainment business?
It’s interesting because I’m now looking to help younger actors get into acting and learn the craft. So, there are two things: learn your craft and learn the business. This is a business! A lot of people see the end result on TV, but they don’t know all the work that goes on behind the scenes to even have the opportunity to be on TV or to be in a film. There’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of sacrifice, and it’s like anything, you get what you give to it. So, I say, it’s a patient, slow process, which has great rewards to it, but you have to be truly committed. I think learning the business… there are so many books out there that just speak about the business and how it works. Just slowly getting it. Learning the craft. Slowly finding something. Film something. Put yourself on tape. There are so many great plays, and there’s so many great ways of learning this craft. So, I think that’s the best way to become an actor, and to start in order to become a working actor is to first learn your craft and then ease into the business. Do background work. I’ve done background work. I’ve done background work where I’ve been paid in pizza, but I was so happy because I was able to be behind the scenes and hear the language that’s on set. See how the actors work. “Okay, there’s a boom. There’s a this. There’s a that. This person is the first A.D. Learning your marks. Your this. Your that.” All the language that needs to happen. I think learning the business first so that when you go get representation, which is the goal, that can send you out on these projects, you are ready with a product and a brand to offer them that is ready to go out and pursue and compete for jobs.
You can watch Gavin Houston as Zeke on General Hospital weekdays at 2 P.M. on WJBF News Channel 6.