The Holidays are here, Turkey Day approaches and Christmas is just around the corner my dear readers. Apropos of my continuing quest to profile emerging talent, I’m turning the spotlight on Santa Claus and SAG-Aftra actor Lawrence Whitener. Larry has been working harder than that red-suited-large-bellied-list-keeping guy he portrays. Larry is busy with films like Michael Almereyda’s “Cymbeline” in NYC and Darnell Martin’s “Wish You Well” in Giles County, Virginia. He’s also a screenwriter with a story that’s getting a lot of attention from high places, “Last Dog Standing.” He’s even been cast to play Zeus! He’s also…well, let Larry tell you!
Q – How did you get into acting?
A – Character Actor JOE HIGGINS (on IMDb) was my “Uncle” growing up. He’s the Original Blacksmith on “The Rifleman” series and again starred with Chuck Connors in the Original “Law & Order” series called, “Arrest and Trial.” His phone calls telling me when I could watch him on T.V., put the acting “bug” in me. He died in 1998, and as a tribute I finally took the plunge and did my first film in 1999, “Gods & Generals.”
Q – You play in a Christian film, “Kicked By Grace.” How did you get the role and where can we see it?
A – I do a lot of Christian films (see my IMDb Page) because of their story lines. The Director of “Kicked By Grace,” Donald Lowe, loved my audition as “Spike,” but his 1st A.D. (assistant director) thought I was “too sweet,” so they brought in an L.A. Actor. Luckily, my first “biker” film, “Cymbeline,” released a trailer which I sent to them–boom, I was cast as Spike’s sidekick, “Burly Biker 1.”
They liked my performance so much, they asked what name I wanted in their credits; I said, “Sweet.” Donald’s first film, “Saved By Grace” has been premiering this year in Europe to rave reviews. “Kicked By Grace” is the amazing true story about Officer Bryan Lawrence of Roanoke and will be out in 2015. You will also see me next year with Victoria Jackson in “Altar Egos” and in “Texas Rein.”
Q – What is “Cymbeline” about?
A – Michael Almereyda is an eclectic director best known for his “Hamlet 2000.” He teams up again with Ethan Hawke to modernize Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline.” Its tag-line is, “Sons Of Anarchy Speaking Shakespeare.” Ed Harris is the Biker-King and I’m his most trusted biker-bodyguard, “Knifey.” Out of 70 productions, this was the most positive, up-beat, enthusiastic; team-player set it has ever been my pleasure to be on. Hanging around for two weeks with Ed, Ethan, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman, Anton Yelchin, Penn Badgley, Dakota Johnson, and Clarke Spencer Treat was my “treat!”
Q – I see you in Santa garb a lot. What’s the story there?
A – Who knew that growing my hair and beard out for “Lincoln” was “my” Look? The longer both get, the more parts I get. I’m also very “big” and with my rosy-cheeks, Santa was a natural. At $100/hr it’s a very lucrative gig. I also volunteer with Fairfax County Police as my local Station’s Santa on Christmas Day. The down side to being a MountainMan/Homeless-Hippie/Biker-Viking is that I have a very “strong” look and can steal the Camera. I was cast as a trucker in NYC and the director came to me concerned that I would “out-act” his two younger villains?
In “Captain America II,” after arriving on-set in D.C., a producer changed her mind, paid me, but you’ll never see me. I was fed very well all-day during the End Scene for “Batman 3” on the Queensboro Bridge in NYC, but you’ll never see me. Shane Black directed me for six takes in close-up in NC for “Iron Man 3,” then cut my scene. But, boom, this year the Stan Lee Foundation cast me as their Lead, “Zeus,” in “The Athena Project.” So, maybe, finally, who-knows, cross-your-fingers…
Q – What’s your favorite Role?
A – My “Uncle Joe” is best known as “The Dodge Sheriff” in the 1970’s. The movie that finally made me a SAG Actor is “Wish You Well” where I play a 1940 Sheriff (our uniforms are almost identical). It’s written by world-famous author, David Baldacci, and apparently, my separated-at-birth-brother. Not only did David and I graduate from, get the same exact degree, and wrestle for the same coach at the same university; we later moved to the same neighborhood and took our two dogs to the same veterinarian for twenty years before meeting on set. These three reasons will forever make “Wish You Well” my favorite film. It premiered in Roanoke last month and should be released shortly.
Q – You’re also a Director, Producer and Screenwriter, how’d those come about?
A – This is a ‘Business’ and I love learning all aspects of it. I’ve bent many a crew person’s ear over the years asking, “What’s that…How’s it work?” First I became a Certified Cameraman and now direct three local television shows including the zany “Monster Madhouse.” I’ve created some very “interesting” characters on MM and you can watch them all on YouTube. After discovering how much David and I were “similar,” I had the verbatim epiphany, “Well, if HE can do it!” (and I’ve told him). I’m finishing my fourth WGA Registered Screenplay.
Q – Your second Screenplay, “DOG-e,” is garnering national attention. What’s it about?
A – It’s a very fast-paced action-drama centered on an ex-special-forces retired-LEO nicknamed, “Dog.” It was announced as Runner-Up at this year’s Virginia Film Festival and the Virginia Film Office wants me to submit its re-write, “Last Dog Standing,” in 2015. An L.A. Director has already signed-on and we plan on shooting its Teaser Trailer in January. Unfortunately, I cannot go into the details about its baseline story, but once an actor hears about it, they want in.
Q – How can fans keep up with you?
A – My website is my name .Com and I keep it current. Also, my full resume is on IMDb with 24 videos on my YouTube page. When asked “why” I love being an Actor, I respond, “What I love about the Business of Story-telling…are all the Stories you get to tell about the Business.” Yes, indeedee!