Fresh off the KWEB FEST Red Carpet Event in South Korea, Kahlid is riding the high from his “Kweby” award for Best Supporting Actor in the web series, The Avante Garde Goddess. He sat down with Key Light Magazine’s Melodie Everson and shared his enthusiasm for his craft, his journey, and advice to those who have a dream of acting.
A Conversation with Kahlid
I feel amazing! It’s still a little surreal. Everytime I wake up, I see it there above my books and I’m like, “Oh, my goodness!” I’m looking at my IMDb page and how much my percentage has shot up. It went from 141,000 up to 44,000, so...it’s just little things like that.
Could you explain what those numbers are?
My IMDb starmeter. It was 141,000 last Thursday and on Friday when I got the award, and through the weekend, it shot up to 44,000 and so I’m like “Oh, my gosh!” It’s been a combination of applying for auditions for different roles, handing out my card and social media. I’m very appreciative to be one of the first Kweby Award winners.
I played a character named Ryan. He’s a music producer on a date with this young lady. He’s on the phone with a “famous person,” being obnoxious, laughing outloud, doing all this stuff and not paying attention to the beautiful lady in front of him. And when he gets off the phone, he’s like, “That was Jamie...Jamie Foxx?” He’s dropping this big name. And it was such a cool character to play. Shannon Mclain Robertson, who wrote, produced and directed that web series was like, this is what I want. She just gave it to me and I ran with it. I didn’t really think much about the character at all. It was a lot of fun to play. After it was done I said, “Ah it was fun.” It got put on my IMDb page and that was it. So when I heard I got nominated, I was like, “What? Are you for real? This is unbelievable!” Then to get a win from that, it helped me, it helped Shannon, it helped HAPA Entertainment Studio, the studio where Shannon produces all of her acting classes. So people are seeing that you can actually get stuff done in Korea.
Part of it was scripted and part of it wasn’t. Shannon looked at me, because both of us had improv experience, and said, “run with it”, so I just took off like a bolt of lightning and said “ok, whatever”. It was so quirky and funny. There was one scene where I was just laughing and she cut a lot of it out. I was like, “Why did she cut that out?” but that’s her prerogative as writer and director, and the way she did it was so good. When I watched all the other clips, I thought this is so funny. It was really well done. It was a lot of fun, but it was totally unexpected. Whenever I am working in Korea, people are like, “you need to get a meaty role,” “you need to get the role that makes you shine,” but sometimes you never know what that role is going to be. You just need to take the role that you get, use the training that you’ve had, apply that training and run with it because you never know. This business is just weird like that.
It was one of my first. I consider myself more of a dramatic actor than a comedic actor. So I like to pattern type after people like, Philip Seymour Hoffman, but if I think about comedy, I’m thinking of Jack Black or sometimes even Wendell Pierce, the bigger guys. I’m fine and comfortable in that type. I was in another web series that was at KWEB FEST, called ATtheCOUNTER. It was also a comedic type role.
I started in theater in my senior year of high school. I was walking down the corridors of my campus and I was singing. Back then I used to sing all the time and I still sing all the time. But I’m just blurting out some spiritual and the drama teacher, that had just gotten the position, walks up to me and says, “I need somebody for a musical.” “Will you be in my musical?” I said, “You know what?” “Yeah, I’ll be in your musical.” The musical was Damn Yankees. Absolutely the most fun ever and I fell in love with theater at that moment. Then I went to college, did a lot of musicals there and a little bit of theater after college. Then, I actually pulled away from acting. I totally stopped acting for close to 15 years. I did not get back into it until I came to Korea. Before Korea though, I had moved to Florida and one day I was like, “what do I want?” I was reading a book called “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. and there is a poem in that book.
“I bargained with life for a penny
and life would pay no more,
how I begged at evening
when I counted my scanty store;
For life is a just employer
he will give you what you ask
but, once you have set the wage
why, you must bear the task;
I worked for a menials hire
only to learn dismayed
that any wage I had asked of life,
life would have willingly paid.”
That was about 6 months. I had just moved into an apartment in Tampa, Florida. I rented furniture and the setup was nice. I read that book and I’m like, “I’m gone!” I called the furniture place to come back for the stuff, “I don’t want it anymore,” I said. I gave my 6 month notice and said “I’m gone.” I flew out to Korea. I remember walking to the airport and I’m walking around the corner and I see Korean Air plane and it was like a flying tank. The thing was so huge. Upstairs, downstairs, I couldn’t believe I was doing it. My heart was racing. It was so nerve racking.
February 2009, It was my first time out of the country on my own. Growing up in the Caribbean, I would go to St. Thomas and the British Virgin Islands, but Korea was the first time overseas where there was no family, just me on my own.
Yes, I was in an independent film called “Haebangchon.” That was a fete because most of the actors that were in it were teachers, so it was pretty much just weekend shooting. So, work during the week, shoot during the weekends. It was a good 2 ½, 3 months of shooting. But that film has done well for itself. It’s gotten into the Charlotte Black Film Festival and where I was nominated for Best Actor and the film was nominated for Best Picture. It’s gotten into the Orlando Urban Film Festival and it’s going to be showing there in November. So my family is going to be able to see it. It’s also going to be at the New York Action Showcase this year. Things have been doing really well. This little film that we all worked on, we’re very proud of the strong storyline, the acting and how much networking that the director has done. James Williams III has really pushed it, done a great job in learning. He went to school for writing and earned his Masters. He’s done a great job pushing the film forward. I’m really happy about that.
I joined my church choir when I was 13. I had been singing tenor since I was 13. Joined the Chamber Ensemble at UNC Pembroke and was with them for 4 years. I broke away from singing and I didn’t do it as much. But now, I’m still glad that I have somewhat of a voice, because many musicals are coming to film now, so it’s really a tool I can use, but it’s not one that I want to use. Everybody loves my voice, but I don’t love my voice. It’s not for me. You are always your worst critic, right? All my friends are like you should sing more. It takes a lot to be in musical theater. You’re singing and you’re dancing. There’s breath control, exercise and all this stuff. People think that you can just get out there and get it done, but this is every night for 8 sometimes 10 weeks. That’s a lot of singing. A lot of work on the voice and I know my vocal chords don’t have that strength. Not right now, so it can be a little tough. Musical theater? No, not so much. But in film you’re cutting, getting a rest and coming back and you’re fine.
Jekyll & Hyde! It is my favorite musical of all time. I loved the book when I was in high school. I loved the movies that have come out. I love the musical so much. To me it’s a musical that says much about today in this society. There’s a song in it that says, “There’s a face that we wear in the cold night of day. It’s society’s mask, it’s society’s way. But the truth is, it’s all a facade.” And I’m like, how many people out there are a facade, the racism that’s going on, all this political BS we’re going through. Everybody is saying what they think people want to hear and then when the truth comes out, everybody is upset. To me it’s a powerful musical. A really great one. Definitely I’d like to play Mr. Poole, Jekyll’s butler/ assistant.
As an actor, we hold our emotions on our sleeve. You learn that because we are actors, we take things totally different from most people. When I first started out, I was like, “I’m in a foreign country, away from my family, no one in New York, LA or any of the other hot spots know who I am.” “Why am I going to stay in Korea?” I’m going to do these few films and I’m going to go home and get into the industry. So from 2009 to 2010 I was here in Korea and then I went to Georgia for one year, but that was when the recession hit. I couldn’t find a decent job, the job I got was a 12-hour shift factory job. I hated it. Not the people, just hated the work. I’m like, “Why am I going to sit here in America struggling with payments, struggling with car insurance, all this mess, when I can go back to Korea and do what I love?” And that for me was my biggest struggle. Having to pick up again, go back to Korea, away from my family because I wanted to follow my passion. It was tormenting at first because I was like, “Kahlid, You have everything right here.” “You’re in Atlanta, you’re close to New York.” “You’re only a flight away from LA.” “Why are you going to go to Korea?” And then I get back to Korea and things just start rolling. I had two friends that created their own production company. I met Nick Caulder. He had just finished his zombie film, Fear Eats The Seoul. I’m like it is hustling and bustling right now. Korea had just created their 30% tax incentive for productions to film in the country. It’s a perfect time. and that’s when I really started focussing in and realizing I didn’t have to be in America to get it done. I needed to think outside the box. I needed to realize that acting is acting, especially now that we have web series and the internet. People are doing auditions from their phones. I can do it from anywhere now. It doesn’t matter. So, it’s a learning process as an actor.
This is honesty right here. Sometimes it’s nights, sitting at home alone wondering what the hell am I doing? Sometimes it’s nights in tears. Am I making the right choice for my life? Sometimes it’s me hitting my punching bag because I’m so mad I can’t figure out what’s going on. But at the end of the day, you wake up and you’re like, you know what? I’m going to push as hard as I can and I’m going to try as hard as I can to see if I can get this done. The only person stopping me...is me. So no matter what happens, and no matter how depressed you might feel, the beauty of being an actor is you can let it out in your art. You can create, you can go and be in a theater production. You’re like, “No, I don’t want that role.” That one’s too happy. I don’t feel happy right now. I feel pissed! I want something that’s mad. So it’s a roller coaster of emotion and you are constantly in that battle with yourself. Always! And with acting, nothing is ever done. I always, always have something to do. When I’m looking at my desk and my whiteboard, it has the lists of things that I should be doing. During the week I’m usually up at 6:00 a.m. knocking something out. Updating the IMDb page. Sending out an email, reading a book, learning about effective online strategies. There is always something to do. And that’s frustrating with the craft. Because, I’m like, “Can I just be done for a week, two weeks? Please, I just want to be done.” But it is never done. there’s always something.
I’m always looking for ways to improve my craft. I’ll be going to Tokyo for the Ivana Chubbuck workshop in September. She’s a famous acting coach out of L.A. Then in October I’m going to go see Nancy Bishop, an Emmy award winning casting director. She’s doing an acting workshop in Hong Kong. Bishop is an international casting director that specializes in getting Americans into European films and vice versa. I’m like “Well there is an American over here in Korea, I need to get this lady to see me.” And that’s what it’s all about, self-promotion. You are wanting to get an interview, somebody wants to do the interview, it’s a mutual agreement. You’ve gotta understand it and you’ve gotta learn how to network it, you really do. I remember the first time we met (speaking of Key Light’s reporter Melodie Everson) I was doing a presentation at Seoul Filmmakers Workshop and I recommended a book “Networking Like A Pro.” That book has always been a go to book about networking and how to talk to people. It is really good. I remember when I was growing up in church I used to do this thing called “Outreach.” You probably know it cause on Saturday morning there’s a person knocking on your door inviting you to church. That was me. So I’m knocking on doors and I’m meeting people from all walks of life. I did that for 18 years, because of that, I can walk up to anybody, shake hands, and just start a conversation. Here in Korea it’s about learning. That’s what it’s always been about here in Korea. It’s never been about becoming famous. It’s been about learning. So when I get back to America, I don’t have to do all the workshops there. I’ve already got them under my belt. I have the experience, I’m not just coming in flat. You know? Yes, I understand that most directors in America are going to say “Oh it’s Korea we don’t recognize it” and that’s fine, but you’re definitely going to recognize my experience.
I’m so thankful that I’ve had people to support me. My family has been really supportive! The young lady that recommended that I put my headshot on craigslist is back in Korea and we are going be working on a short film together. She graduated from Pace University, one of the top ten acting programs in the world. So you know it’s just been great support. Directors like Sonny Sonbuchner, Raoul Dysell, Thomas Maitland, Kevin Lambert, Edward Burgos, & Aurelien Lane. All these great directors that I’ve been working with, I’m like, it’s just been phenomenal. A phenomenal experience. I want actors to know that there are opportunities outside of LA and New York. You can be a star right where you are. That’s the title of one of my mentor’s book. “How To Be a Star Right Where You Are” by Wendy Alane Wright. She’s a talent manager in Los Angeles. I spoke with her over Skype and she gave me some good advice on where my career should go and it’s just been amazing. She was very helpful and very honest. So yea, it’s been a great 5 years and I’m hoping it will be a great three to four more.
Right now it’s my hope and prayer to stay in Korea. After three years, take an evaluation of what’s been done and see if I’m actually going to stay in the career of acting. As of right now, things are looking really good. My objective is to go to Atlanta because everything is just booming in Atlanta right now. They are calling it the new Hollywood and I have better connections in Atlanta than I do in LA or New York. But before I leave Korea, I would really love a great role. I’d love to play a villain in a film here. That would be a lot of fun. I dream big. I’d still love to be the first foreigner to receive the Blue Dragon Award. Hey, you never know! I never let anything limit me. People are always telling me, Oh, go back to America. You can’t do it in Korea. You can’t get it done. There’s a cap. They’ll hold you down and keep you back. My Kweby Award says...No. My 28 credits on IMDb says... No. You can think that way if you want, but I leave Korea open. It’s limitless, absolutely limitless. And because of that, I’ve got so much done. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve trained and I don’t have the struggle that most Americans have. I know where my next paycheck is coming from. I don’t have to worry about a car payment or car insurance and my light bill is really low. It is just a great opportunity to be here in this country and everything that it has provided for me. So yeah, from here, I’ve just got my sights on improving my Korean, getting a good role in a great Korean film with a great Korean director, then moving to Atlanta or Florida.
I want people to know it’s not about the fame. If you get into acting to be famous, you’re gonna be in it for the wrong reasons and you’re gonna fall at the wayside really quick. You’ve gotta be in it for the craft. - Kahlid Elijah Tapia
Yes! I know that this report that you’re reading gives you the good, the bad, and the ugly, but trust me, the good days outweigh the bad. Hands down! It is the hardest job I have ever done because I’m the president, I’m the financial manager, I’m marketing, I’m everything. So everything stops with me. For people who want to get into it, don’t rush to LA, don’t rush to New York. There are so many beautiful countries. Korea, Japan, China, Hungary, that have amazing film industries, and they’re looking for foreigners to come and do things. So it would be great for you to take a leave and travel a little bit and see what can happen for you overseas. Because you never, ever know. The possibility of meeting somebody is even greater overseas. Get out of your box and come and do something a little bit different. I know it’s a challenge. Especially the LA and New York actors. I understand and respect your challenge. I know that it’s tough in those cities. I know you’re worried and you’re concerned and you’re wondering what’s going on and even though I still have those concerns, I’ve gotten so much more done here in Korea than I ever could have got done in Atlanta. Especially starting out. The first 2, 3 sometimes 4 years for an actor, they’re never paid. They are doing student films, they are doing short films. They’re trying to show people what they’ve got. Here, I’m paid from my teaching job. I don’t have to worry about any of the bills, I have more freedom to work on my craft. Get out of LA and do something different. You never know.
I want people to know it’s not about the fame. If you get into acting to be famous, you’re gonna be in it for the wrong reasons and you’re gonna fall at the wayside really quick. You’ve gotta be in it for the craft. Because if you are in it for the fame and the money, it’ll get to you. You’ll be frustrated and strung out before you get rich and famous, trust me. And people hear about all the rumored stories. Elisha Cuthbert, she was only in L.A. for 6 weeks and got her role on “24” and Ashton Kutcher, he was a model and he got found. Yes people get found, it happens. But at the end of the day it’s hard work. Its dedication and you’ve gotta be at that computer and you gotta be on your grind because if you slip you might miss the best opportunity of your life.
I’d like everyone to just know I’m here. My objective is to always let directors and casting directors know Kahlid is in Korea. I’ve started using the hashtags #gettingitdoneinkorea and #theseoulbrotha . Nice and catchy. There are so many co productions that were done here in Korea and 1), I was upset because I didn’t know they were here and 2), they had roles that I could have done. So FIDO - (Forget It Drive On) and do it better next time. So my job is to let people know, I’m in Korea. There’s a Facebook page called Casting Directors for Actors. I’m always putting stuff on there. I just won this award and some of the actors are like, “Dude, why are you doing that?” “They’re all way over there in America.” But it doesn't matter where they are, I want them to know where I am, so if that moment happens when a co production is happening in Korea and they ask, “Do you know any actors?” That casting director can say, “Yes, I do! There is a working actor in South Korea and from what I’ve seen, he’s got something going on. He’s always working on his craft.”
edited by Anna Ward
Key Light Magazine