WJBF – Reggie Gaskins is an actor, writer, producer, and director, and he chats with WJBF DIGITAL about how his love for the craft took him from the city of Brotherly Love to the city of Angels as he is not only making dreams come true, but he is also creating a path for others to do the same.
How did you get started with acting and getting involved in the entertainment business?
How much time do you have because we can go all day. (Laughs) My whole journey started at Freedom Theater in Philadelphia. Freedom Theater was one of the most known theaters in Philly, and it was close to where I lived. When I left my main college, which was Westchester University, and came home to Philly to finish at Temple University, I had a summer off, and it was the most boring summer for me. I would just go play basketball, go to work, and come home. That was it. It was boring. One day, I was walking by Freedom Theater, and I heard all of this ruckus inside. So, I went in to check it out, and I saw that they were teaching acting – I didn’t know. I signed up for an acting class to do something different; just to give me something to do until I started the next semester of college. I took that acting college… sorry, college, I never came back. (Laughs) I’ve been acting ever since. It put that acting bug in me. My teachers always taught me that if you’re not trying to earn the respect of your cast and crew as an actor who respects the craft, then get out the business. They were never about winning awards. They were always about knowing the craft and being as good as you can be by respecting the craft of acting. I respect the craft, and I love it.
Now, you are known for playing “Marty” on the hit UPN series Eve, who was the husband of Janie (portrayed by the late Natalie Desselle-Reid). Can you talk to us about your experience on the sitcom?
It was great! Let me just say this – shout out to Philly-native, Eve. I mean, being the star of the show, she was very humble and cool. She was never one to go sit off to the side; she would sit right there with everybody, have a conversation, and chop it up. So, that was cool. The crew was really good to people. Meg DeLoatch, who was one of the creators of the show, was very congenial and humble. She has a good show on right now on Netflix called Family Reunion (starring Tia Mowry and Loretta Devine). It was a great experience. For me, I was relatively new to L.A. when I got that. I had only been out here a few years. I was a struggling actor. I was like, “Look, can I borrow fifty cents, so I can get a banana today?” Hungry! When I went up to the audition, I was up against a gang of people. If I remember correctly, Kadeem Hardison was a part of it, and I think Allen Payne was a part of the audition process. So, I was up against some cats. I was like, “Darn, this audition. Can I get your autograph?” So, I can say, “Mom, look who I’m with.” When I got the call that I booked it, I was so happy. I was happy that I booked it, but I was so broke that I was like, “Cool. When do I get the first check, so I can stop eating these bananas and start getting some steak?” (Laughs)
We are now in the age of reboots and reimaginations, and you recently appeared on the Peacock original series, Bel-Air, which is a reimagining of the sitcom, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, as Jazz’s father. What was it like being a part of that?
Man, let me tell you about Bel-Air. The entire cast and crew are very, very, very good people. They make you feel at home. The production side of the it, the executives, the bosses… they make you feel at home. The food! (Laughs) It was a great experience. They treat their people really, really good. It was a great time. I really enjoyed being on that set. I’m hoping to be back on that set. So, if anyone who is watching this who watches Bel-Air, I need you to go and write somebody on Bel-Air. Just go to Bel-Air or Peacock on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and be like, “Bring back Jazz’s dad.” As much as I want to go back and act, I want some more of that food. I was licking my fingers. (Laughs)
Not only are you an actor, but you are also a writer, director, and producer with your own films, The Lying Truth, Our Christmas Love Story, and Because We’re Done. What is it like having the ability to create your own content and give other people opportunities as well?
It is a blessing. I’ve never wanted to wait for Hollywood to validate whether I could act or not. So, in that period when you’re waiting to get auditions or waiting to book something, you have to have a job. However, I wasn’t good at just cleaning up Aisle 7. It just never worked for me. I wasn’t good at any administrative work either. So, I said, “What can I do to keep myself working at what I love doing?” The first thing that came to mind was pray. Say a prayer because this is hard. I said a prayer, and honestly, God spoke to me and said, “I gave you talent. Use it.” “Really? It’s that simple, Lord? Okay, let’s try it.” And then, I remember I was doing my first play, and I remember my first acting teacher saying, “If you want to create something, create it and be good at it. But until you get that opportunity, take what’s right in front of you importantly.” So, I had the opportunity to create, and I wrote my own film so I can allow myself to play the kind of parts I wanted to play. I was like, “Let me go for it.” My basketball coach taught me, “if you’re not in it to win a championship, what are you in it for?” So, I said, “Let me learn how to write as best as I can.” Long story short, the blessing is that I taught myself how to write, I taught myself how to direct, and producing – I have to do this all, but I said I want to be good at all. Fortunately, it worked out to where my first film Restraining Order to my most recent film Our Christmas Love Story to where I’ve won awards and been nominated for an NAACP Image Award. It’s a great experience to be able to do it, and it is a great experience to give other actors and crew people work. So, I love it. It’s hard work though. It’s not for the faint of heart. If you don’t have patience and understanding, you’re going to catch a case. But I love it.
If people want to watch your films, how can do so?
Because We’re Done, which is a romantic comedy starring myself, Trisha Mann-Grant, Kendyl McCray, and Kiyano La’Vin, is on Amazon Prime and Apple TV, and it’s a great, funny, romantic comedy about a man going through a mid-life crisis who feels like he has to move on, but his wife is like, “I’m not letting you move on until the crisis is over.” Then, my other film, “My Christmas Love Story,” and people are still watching it! It’s on Tubi and Vudu, and even though Christmas is over, it’s hilarious. You have to watch this movie just to enjoy the funny in it and the story. “The Lying Truth” is on Peacock and Fox Soul.