Interview With Sheaun McKinney | Make It Happen

We label objects, people and situations and for that, we believe in stereotypes that are just ideas, which we perceive as reality. We also often try to change the perception of others when we only have control of how we think and do within ourselves. When we start to see the world from the eyes of oneness, we will be able to recognize in us and everyone else our pure state of being – love.

 “The more we can see faces of color and more women in leading roles, it will change the landscape and people’s perception because, at the end of the day, all I’m fighting is someone’s perception.” – Sheaun McKinney

Find out more about Sheaun and the new CBS comedy TV series “The Neighborhood” in the following interview.


Introduction

  • Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Sheaun McKinney?

I am a person of faith, first and foremost, I believe in faith, family, and friends before anything else. I am an artist. I sincerely appreciate life. Every day is a blessing above ground. As cheesy and cliché as that sounds, I try to live by that motto every day. I am a thinker, an artist, and somebody who is willing to bridge the gap in communication that is in the world and our country today. I am also the best quarterback who is not in the NFL.  

  • How would you describe the process of experiences that led you to fall in love with acting?

First of all, my mom forced me to audition for a play, and my passion really grew from there. Acting was the first thing that allowed me to grow and blossom as a man. I grew up in a neighborhood and culture that pushes men towards being aggressive and not being able to show any emotion. Also, recognizing the platform that this industry can give you to affect change is what really made me stick with it. And finally, I was just following what I know now was just God’s plan.  

  • How has your personal life path influenced your mindset and consequently your skills as an actor?

Sometimes it’s hard to filter out your real life depending on what role you are playing because to most of us, whatever we play either dramatic or comedic, dark or happy, there’s a little bit of us somewhere in there. I have always tried to humanize every role that I have played for better or for worse because being an African American and understanding what that entails in this country, I feel like we are stigmatized so much especially in this industry where we never get the chance to just be human beings and show complexity and levels. We are always shown as extremes. Anything I do, I try to approach through that lens of showing that we are simply human beings like everyone else. My daily drive and the way that I carry myself is the same way. When my real-life crosses into my acting path, that would be how I would try to humanize everything I do.

Entertainment Industry

  • In college, you co-founded a theatre company called “Ground Up & Rising” with your classmate and fellow actor Bechir Sylvain.  Later on, you partnered with Sylvain again to create, write and produce the web series “Make It Happen”. Both of the project names sound inspiring and uplifting. What was your intention and meaning behind these two projects?

I never made the connection with the titles for both of them, which is interesting. Sometimes when you look back on those things, that’s life and your path manifesting itself. When we started a theatre company, it was birthed out a group of minorities. Also, from the desire of being together and not wanting to wait around for anyone in town to call us in for an audition when it was black history month and they needed a role or if they just so happened to have a play where they wanted a role filled by a Latino. We all got tired of doing that. We knew that true art is reflective of this need to express yourself and anybody should be allowed to play anything.  For us, to live in a world where people get upset that fictional characters can be any race is insane, just because my skin is a certain color, it doesn’t mean I can’t play a certain role. When I got to LA, Bechir and I had the same intention: we wanted to make it happen on our own. And that’s just how the title came up. We were sitting around one day having ideas and thinking, “Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s make it happen!”

  • How do you foresee opportunities for talented actors like yourself in the entertainment industry today?

We have a long way to go but it’s getting better. The more we can see faces of color and more women in leading roles, it will change the landscape and people’s perception because, at the end of the day, all I’m fighting is someone’s perception. Women, Latinos, Asians, Indians in this industry are fighting people’s perceptions. The face of who we are fighting has always looked the same. And because they’ve controlled the gate for so long, we’ve had to continue this fight and continue this struggle. When you look around today, we aren’t there yet, but it’s getting better. I hope that trend continues and it’s a call for everyone who looks like me, every woman, people of different races and cultures to start to create more content.

  • Many new talents are coming up with diverse and extraordinary projects. How does a script have to make you feel for you to be awed when you read it for the first time?

When I’m looking at it, it’s the story as a whole I’m looking at before any characters I’m trying to connect with. I want to be moved by the story, to see exactly what that story is trying to say. I don’t mind reading something that’s been done before, because everything has been done before. But it’s how you are telling that story and shaping the story that matters. if I’m looking at a character, I look for something that gives me the opportunity to just show the range and show that I can humanize that role, or maybe something that is so out there and out of the box that you would never expect someone who looks like me to be playing that role. Sometimes the weirder the better and other times the more heart that the story has is better. I look for something that will move me and make me think.

Acting

  • You can be seen starring as Malcolm on CBS’ brand new comedy series “The Neighborhood” which premiered October 1, 2018. What is the message behind its plot?

At the end of the day, the message is communication and how we miscommunicate. The show naturally lends itself to being topical with a white family moving into a black neighborhood. Oftentimes, it’s the reverse, but watching this black family interact with this white family who has moved into an area that they don’t really control is interesting because America isn’t used to seeing that. Most people that see it compare it to these old classics which is great, but we are still able to be modern and topical. But for the most part, it’s about communication and understanding that whether we like it or not, we live with each other in this “Neighborhood” and we have to get along or we don’t. But we realize that the reasons we don’t get along are all bullsh*t, and all these ridiculous ideas that we have about each other are unfounded. At the end of the day, it is all about communication.

  • Malcolm, the character you portray, is the older unemployed son of Calvin who finds an unexpected connection with his new neighbor Dave.  Tell us about Malcolm’s personality, his relationship with his family and his neighbor Dave.

Malcolm is a thinker. He grew up in an area where he saw a lot of things, but he always had his family and they have such love for each other. It’s very rare that you see black families on TV loving and communicating with each other. Malcolm feels like he might be misunderstood by people. He was a fantastic athlete and before he could make it to the big leagues in baseball, he got hurt, so now he’s trying to figure out what that next step in life is. Sometimes, Malcolm is having a hard time letting go of that dream and figuring out the next step, and his dad just wants him to move to the next step whatever it is because you can’t just sit around in life and wait. He and his dad clash a bit on that, but their love for each other and the love for the family is undeniable. I think when Malcolm meets Dave, he sees somebody who gets him a little bit, and Malcolm understands him, too. Malcolm and his brother love to see their father Calvin’s buttons get pushed. They love the fact that Dave is moving in and Dave is naïve enough to jump head in and try to be friends with Calvin.

  • Have you discovered anything new about yourself while studying who Malcolm is?

Realizing how much it affects you when you procrastinate in life. So much can pass you by. Oftentimes, we find it easy to put things off till the next day and sometimes even the next day can be too late. Just recognizing how much we have to take advantage of the moments we do have. Sometimes we have to take the next step, even if we are unsure about the path, we just have to take it and go.

  • Why, in your opinion, will the audience enjoy watching “The Neighborhood”?

It might be one of the most relatable shows on right now because the structure has a family dynamic.  Anyone of any age can sit down and watch the show and we have these legends on the show. Cedric The Entertainer, Tichina Arnold, Max, and Beth all came off of hit shows and they are all phenomenal. And it’s funny! It’s a good laugh, it’s relatable, and you might learn something at the end of the day.   

 

Good Soul

  • Are you involved in any charity organization or humanitarian cause you would like to mention?

A good friend of mine Thomas Sadoski got me involved with a group called “Warchild” that I am starting to immerse myself in. They help with refugees from war-torn countries and dealing with how they get displaced and the horrible atrocities that happen to these women and children in these countries. Also, my late sister-in-law had a cancer awareness organization that my brother and I are trying to keep going. Those two things right now are what I am immersing myself in.

Life

  • When you are distracted, do you have any habit or practice to refocus on what you want?

I am always distracted. It’s hard to stay completely focused on one thing which might mean that I have ADD but I’m not sure. For me, I like to talk to myself a lot and most people would think that’s weird but when I catch myself talking to myself, it brings me back on track. For anything else, prayer. Prayer always works.

Close Up

  • The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is “The Essence of a Joyful Living.” How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?

I think when people have a lot of joy – it’s like a ‘high’ and sometimes great things can be created from that and great motivation comes from that. When it’s pure joy or pure happiness, you can create some of the best art. Everything I’ve ever sat down to create or whatever character I’m trying to portray, there have been those moments of joy and elation that I’ve gotten while performing or while writing and I hope that would make whatever I’ve made a better project, or to have great results from that.

  • When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks.  What is your take on such a statement?

I think it’s absolutely true. I wish I fully believed it when I was much younger. But I hope, and I pray that everyone would fully believe that statement and fully trust in God, trust in their faith and know that there is no reason that you can’t do anything you want to do.  I wish more people would fully believe in that and fully trust in God.


 Sheaun Mckinney
Photography by Gerard Sandoval | Text Editing Karynne Summars