Q&A: Hill Harper Keeps Saving the World

The actor on upcoming literary festival, public service work and surviving tax season.

Posted: 04/16/2012 08:00 AM EDT
taxes, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Martin Luther King, Terry McMillan, Politics, Book News, Hill Harper

(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Hill Harper is one of those actors that does a whole lot of moonlighting. The author and social and political activist is star of CSI: NY, the writer of four books and speaks around the country empowering today’s youth. He's also showing no signs of slowing down; for five days next month, May 24-May 28 2012, Hill will be teaming up with author Terry McMillian and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph for the first annual Anguilla literary festival — Anguilla Lit Fest: A Literary Jollification, a celebration of literature arts and culture, hosted by the Anguilla Tourist Board.

BET.com chatted with Hill to discuss the upcoming literary festival, why he views his acting work as public service work and how his CSI: NY character avoids stereotypes.

Tell us more about the First Annual Anguilla Literary Festival.

It’s very special. We’ll increase talk and discussion about books and literacy particularly in this changing landscape of publishing. The thing about doing something like this in a beautiful place like Anguilla is that I think there will be a lot of personal interaction. It won’t be this big city, some big event where the authors are removed from the people and you get two seconds with somebody to sign a book and keep it moving. I think there’s going to be a level of intimacy. A festival like this is so important. I think it’s going to be great and I’m excited to be apart of it.

After spending eight years playing Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on CSI: NY, what do you think makes your character so special?

I think that my character is a stereotype-buster. He’s the most intelligent character on the show. The characters come to him with questions and he has all the answers it seems. It’s been pretty special in that regard. He’s smart but he’s not a nerd.

You’re an actor but you have a law and public administration background. Do you think you'd ever enter politics?

However I can make a difference, that’s what I want to do. Is that elected office? I don’t know. Is it philanthropy? I don’t know. I’ve been trying to make a difference as an actor. I want to play characters that move people, have them look at their lives differently or give them an escape. So right now that’s what my focus is. What the future holds? I don’t know.

Anything on your goal to do list that you want accomplish beyond acting?

I know I want to have impact in a positive way in the world. I think the audience or folks will direct me on what to do next. You should be called to serve. We all have the ability to serve, to borrow from one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s greatest quotes. That’s what makes all of us great. Whatever your calling is as a service, follow it — that’s beautiful.

Your latest book is called Wealth Cure: Putting Money in Its Place and tax time is upon us. Do you have any sound money, debt or tax advice for us this season?

The most important thing is to not ignore [money problems]. In my latest book, I talk about these things. Many folks get in trouble at tax time and around money just because they want to stick their head in the sand. But there are so many different resources and people out there that can help you through it. But you can’t ignore the problem. If you have a debt issue or credit card issue, start dealing with it. If you have a tax issue, don’t just say, "I’m not going to file." There are ways to deal with these things but you must communicate with your creditors whether it’s a credit card company or tax department.

Click here for more information on the Anguilla Lit Fest: A Literary Jollification.

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