There is a saying you can’t judge a book by its cover and you should make your first impression a good one.
Actor/model Mar’Ques Woolford surely knows how to make an everlasting impact on the lives of those he works close to and those who meet him. If he’s not attending fashion week events, in stage plays such as Rent or Dreamgirls, he gets down to creating business relationships. His southern charm helps seal the deals, but growing up in a household where God, faith and love are the ultimate foundation to his success.
His aura exudes star power and even more of king like traits that can change a room full of doubters into believers. We were invited to his private MQD launch event at a mansion that was worth the wait at the gate. Thankfully SNY got to speak with the man behind the brand about his career, views on entertainment in North Carolina, funding the arts and why he would like to work with Felicity Huffman.
Southern New Yorker: Tell me how much of a difference was there in your growth from Dreamgirls and Rent?
Marques Woolford: Now the growth was crazy! It’s a big difference between Dreamgirls and Rent. Dreamgirls, I felt like I wasn’t being an artist and I wasn’t being an actor. I wanted the roll of Curtis and didn’t get it. So I allowed that to taint the first part of my experience of Dreamgirls until I decided to make the most out of the part. Not getting the part for the roll I wanted actually made me work harder on every aspect of acting and theater. I worked on my vocals so that I could get my part for Tom Collins in Rent. When I stepped into Tom Collins I felt like I was made for the part and I was ready. I worked hard for it, I practiced and made sure I was familiar with the story line along with the material. It was a really big growth between being an actor who is trying to get a role and being a true artist in acting.
SNY: There’s not too many stage plays on Broadway with African American leads. As an actor what are your thoughts on the lack of color?
MW: It’s a shame because I usually find myself feeling the same way. Why would I go after a role that’s usually led by a white man? Unless the history for the role is significantly important that the race stay the same, I don’t see why we wouldn’t go for anything we relate to. One of the great things about Rent, those characters could have been anybody. Those characters could have been any denomination because we all know people like those characters who’ve dealt with those issues. That’s why I feel like most people need to go after want you want, go after that job. I love Grease, how many black people are in there? That shouldn’t stop you from going after the role especially if I know I can give a performance. If people see you, think that you can or make them believe it; it’s all about the craft. I don’t care about race I’m going after whatever speaks to me.
SNY: Do you plan on being in more stage plays or going into film?
MW: Yes, honestly I want to do it all. It sounds kind of greedy and kind of big, but I want to do it all. I look at Brandy, she’s been successful in television, movies and theater. The thing that I love about theater is the fact that it’s so real and on the spot. You have to remember your lines, the emotions are real and have to look into your cast mate’s eyes so you feel the emotion. It’s like talking to someone in real life. In film you have to fine tune your craft because take after take, after take — you have to be able to do stuff the same way, switch it up and develop characters. I want to do it all, whenever I’m qualified for it I’m going to go for it.
SNY: Having to hone your craft and going through the developmental stages for a particular character, how do you prepare yourself for auditions to get these call backs?
MW: Well research, you should always know the play you’re doing. Know the ins and outs, the time period, know the character you want to play and why that character is who they are. Kind of read into it and one thing that people don’t think about is that life is a major teacher for acting. We have to be so in tune with our emotions that we go through, whether it be bad times in our lives. We have to feed off of those and pull back on them so that we bring it to the front. It’s difficult, but I feel that researching and always being in tune with your emotions, being in tune with your life. Also, meditating and being aware of who you are really allows you to think about things which develops the character, understand where they are coming from why they make the decisions they make. There’s so much depth to it, we look at TV characters as just a character, but that’s somebody. Somebody is watching it, somebody relates to it. So it’s always important to do your research and understand the story line.
To know that you don’t have to shoot for being an athlete and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be an actor, nothing wrong with being involved in modeling, nothing wrong with doing these things. These things I didn’t know I could be because all I thought was sports.
SNY: Speaking of characters and the long line of actors in film, who’s your favorite actor?
MW: Right now it’s Denzel Washington. You always know his character, he has a signature. You know when you see him. He’s also a good guy in real life, but plays an amazing bad guy on film like Training Day. It’s like you almost don’t recognize him in that movie and it’s not only that, but you don’t see him in the tabloids. You had to make something up on Denzel just to have something on him. I love that as black men and actors or entertainers you don’t have many people like that who stay out of the tabloids. All you hear is that he is a family man.
SNY: Let’s just give a scenario for a second. If a particular film came to North Carolina and you had to be a part of it because of this actor/actress or director, who would that be?
MW: It’s going to be a really odd thing, but it would be Felicity Huffman. She played in Desperate Housewives and American Crime. American Crime was a groundbreaking show that I’ve ever seen especially in our generation dealing with the cops and our black community. Everything in that show depicted was so real and it was so in your face kind of realness with the script. You’re like, “this is kind of making me uncomfortable watching this”. Her character played the mother of a marine veteran who sold drugs — he wasn’t the best, but she was so delusional about what her son had done she didn’t realize that she was racist. Just watching her, it was amazing. To be on film with her I would ask her, “How’d you research this role?” A racist woman who didn’t know she was racist. She really did it and she pulled emotion out of it. She’s a white woman, but at the same time I didn’t agree with her, however I understood what she was saying. If it were a director I would like to work with Michael Bay. Always going to be one of my favorite because I love action movies. His action movies have been in your face, huge and humongous, but not corny. I told you I want to do everything. I’m an emotional person, I’m very in tune with my emotions and I’m also an adventurous person. I want to be able to have fun and do my own stunts because I’m very athletic, so I don’t want someone else to take credit. He does a lot of fun movies like Transformers and Bad Boys, those are some of my favorite movies and they look like a lot of fun to shoot.
SNY: Considering North Carolina isn’t that far from Georgia, have you considered working alongside Tyler Perry?
MW: Here’s the thing, I just don’t want to get type casted. I love what he did and what he started off which kind of is along the same lines. I’m not a real big fan of The Have & Have Nots and stuff like that. Soap operas I could do, but it’s like I need to be real. Any of his shows right now, probably not. As far as movies it would depend. I just wish he would make things more realistic because everything in life isn’t always a happy ending. The good guy doesn’t always win and the bad guy doesn’t always get what he deserves. I think that’s what’s missing in Tyler Perry Films.
SNY: What do you see for in the future for North Carolina film?
MW: We just messed up the tax law when it comes to filming things in North Carolina, so we’ve lost a lot of the opportunities of shooting here in Charlotte. Like The Hunger Games and we just lost those contracts. Honestly I would like to see entertainment in North Carolina and Charlotte period because we’re one of the most beautiful states when it comes to space. I really would like to build the name in this area to look forward for little kids. To know that you don’t have to shoot for being an athlete and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be an actor, nothing wrong with being involved in modeling, nothing wrong with doing these things. These things I didn’t know I could be because all I thought was sports. How dare you want to be an an actor? How dare you want to be a model? Kids need to know that there are other options out there that they’re cool for doing. So much opens up once you use your creativity and once we invest in our arts. That’s what I want to see in the entertainment in North Carolina, us investing in kids arts so that we can have more stars out to see.
SNY: So tell us a little bit about the launch of your company MQD. You made an emotional speech about what this means to you. Also, can you tell us some of the plans you have in store?
MQ: MQD started after I met with my manager. After he saw me on Instagram and social media he thought one thing about me, but I never post live videos. Once he met me, he saw Rent and we had a bunch of conversations. He said, “You are completely nothing what I thought you to be. You’re not arrogant, you’re not cocky. You leave an impression on people when you leave.” So he came up with the concept of making the interaction into a verb, “you’ve been Marques’d”. How I look at that is, every time I interact with somebody I want you to feel inspired, motivated and good about yourself, just happy. I want to leave good feelings; I want to leave the feeling of God that he put on us. That’s what I look forward to every time I meet somebody. So when you leave with one of those good feelings you have been Marques’d or MQD. It really does stand for selflessness. Everything that this event is right now today, I’m the face of what we do, but there’s so many people in here that helped me get to where I’m going. There’s publicists, there’s videographers, I didn’t do this on my own. That’s what MQD is, it’s real life and everything that we do isn’t about self. It’s about the influence you have on the people around you and the impact you’ve made.
SNY: Well we certainly are happy to be a part of this today. Lastly, what’s on the agenda for the rest of the year?
MW: There’s a lot coming up. We released our website, we have sketches being made for our underwear line for MQD which we’re targeting tall and big guys because they don’t have a lot of options. I’m moving to New York because I signed with my first major agency and a major fitness company. I’ll be attending Atlanta Fashion Week and I just had a casting with BET Experience.
(Interview conducted by Shiyana Bellamy)