We get crazy inspired by people going after their dreams and making shit happen. And that’s exactly why we love James Bland. Read on…
He’s the creative behind Giants, a scripted drama digital series, executive produced by Jussie Smollett (FOX’s “Empire”) and streams via ColorCreative.TV on Issa Rae’s (HBO’s “Insecure”) YouTube Channel.
Created by and starring James Bland (USA’s upcoming crime series, “Unsolved”), alongside Vanessa Baden Kelly (“Kenan & Kel,” “Gullah Gullah Island,” and “Rosewood”) and Sean Samuels (SyFy channel’s “Toxic Shark”), season one of Giants was praised for authentically capturing the black millennial experience and tackling stigmatized issues including mental health, sexual identity, and unconventional means of economic survival.
Giants is executive produced by Empire star Jussie Smollett and talent development intermediary LeadersUp. In an effort to help increase diversity and create on-ramps into the entertainment industry, Giants partnered with LeadersUp to provide young adults of color with the opportunity to gain experience as production assistants. The series is distributed under ColorCreative.tv, an initiative within two-time Golden Globe-nominee Issa Rae’s production company.
Season two really raises the stakes for these characters and their problems rise to a level of hurt that leaves us wondering if they can ever come back from this,” said Bland. “By season’s end we learn that not all giants can be slayed. Some we tame and learn to live with.”
I just checked out a screening of Giants, Season 2, and after watching only two episodes, I must say I was blown away seeing such an inspiring talent put his vision into a masterpiece on film. Finding a way to take life’s challenges and slay them. YASSS!
Even better, I had the opportunity to meet with James. Can you say PASSIONATE AND DETERMINED?? He was so super friendly, I can only hope, as an aspiring actress myself, to collaborate with someday. #Dreams!
GLA: Let’s get to basics. When did you want to become an actor and of course, why? Seems simple but this question is always fascinating.
JB: (former NFL player) Kerry Rhodes and I have a mutual friend who is our costume design on “Giants” and we all got into this conversation about – how we always had an interest to get into performance. But because of our stature I’m 6’6 and he’s 6’4 – so we were always pushed more to sports, and particularly being a black male no one thinks to put us on stage – saying he always singing and dancing around the house, maybe you should put him in theatre. My family only encouraged me to be basketball player – because I’m tall. I’d always loved it. Growing up my only outlet was church, so I enjoyed the Christmas plays and eventually I started writing for the Christmas plays for the youth program. So when I got to college – I went on an academic scholarship and I started playing basketball. The moment I had free time, I decided to picked up on theatre and started auditioning for students plays and then I went over to Florida State and I audition for some student films, that’s when I was introduced into the idea of filmmaking and realized I definitely want to act and make films. So I spent my entire senor year working on my first feature, I wrote it, directed it and that was the nail in the coffin for me to start making films. I was a business major and finished out and received my degree. I moved to Los Angles while I was still in my undergrad and started pursuing filmmaking. I landed an internship with Will Packer (Girls Trip) and they were working on the film Takers and I was his intern and I spent 2 and half years there at the studios. This was like my film school working there as PA, assistant and creator vice presidents. I studied with a few teachers, working on method acting, and taking classes. I told Will Packer that I wanted to be a filmmaker and he asked me if I ever made a film and I said “no,” and he told me to make a film first and then come back to talk to me. So that film I spent my senor year making was the encouragement I got from Will and because I finished that film – he gave me an internship.
Q: What’s your dirty little secret? Confidence issues? Insecurity? Come on, tell us!
JB: Acting is my big insecurity. It’s the thing I struggle with the most because folks will tell me it’ll be hard for to get into this field because of my height. I’ve struggle with being confident with my height and my acting teacher gave me an exercise to help me.
GLA: Here’s a fun one. What’s your idea of a perfect weekend?
JB: I love the spa, sitting in water (hot tub) having a good workout. I get a lot of great ideas when I’m in water. Being on an Island with fun physical activities, great food with family and close friends.
Q: After a long shoot, what’s your favorite way to unwind?
JB: Working out, going to the gym. Being healthy and fit – its helps me let go some of that tension.
GLA: Who are your heroes?
JB: Kendrick Lamar – visually, I want to be the Kendrick Lamar as directors. Chance the rapper in terms of staying independent – I really admire that. In the film world, Ryan Coogler he’s been a huge inspirational from Fruitvale Station, Creed and Black Panther. Xavier Dolan (French Canadian Director) “Mommy” was one of my favorite pieces of cinema that I had the opportunity to witness.
GLA: If you could have a great meal with anyone – at any place, time – who and where would you go?
JB: Jay Z, I’m into his interviews. I would like to talk business with him. Being able to marry the business with art. I admire that.
GLA: Is there a singular message to Giants?
JB: We all have to slay our Giants – we have to slay that thing that stands between us and reach our fullness and destiny. There’s also a reminder that there are some things that we can’t slay. The thorn in your flesh (biblically) some times God will say no and you’ll have to face that Giant.
GLA: How did you get connected with Issa Rae?
JB: I emailed her and asked her. We met 7 years ago; we were friends before the fame. We were writers and we were helping out a mutual on a web series. I don’t know the steps on how to proceed with getting your show onto her you tube channel. I introduced Issa to her producer, who produced Awkward Black Girl, we kept in touch and built on our friendship.
xx Shenika Travis