Young Black Hollywood has actively been taking over the reigns this year and 26-year-old Tom Williamson is the latest to make his mark.
The actor, who is best known for his role as AJ Hensdale in The Fosters, is gearing up for the release of his new film, Running Wild, where he takes a completely different artistic direction compared to his previous roles. In the film, he plays a convict, and he spoke exclusively to us about why he chose to explore this role, who his Hollywood inspirations are, his opinions on President Donald Trump's hasty executive orders and more. Get to know Tom Williamson.
You play Debrickshaw Smithson, one of the convicts who is brought to the ranch in Running Wild. This role seems a lot different from your previous ones. Why did you choose to take on this kind of role?
I’ve never played a convict before and doing the research on the project that it was based on, I found it very compelling. I found a connection between man and animal and that there needs to be more done to help rehabilitated prisoners.
How was it filming alongside the iconic Sharon Stone?
She was great, she was a leader of the pack. She has what it takes today to be a leading man or woman.
2016 and 2017, thus far, have been such pivotal years for Black actors to get fair recognition in Hollywood. What do you think of the direction Hollywood is taking in broadening the spectrum of diversity?
I think it’s obviously long overdue and I think it’s incredible that this year, and last year, in particular, we’re seeing so much more faces of color. I think it’s up to us as Black and brown — and whatever color you are — artists to man the ship ourselves [and] not wait. And the more people I see that someone has created their own films and starring in them like with Shonda Rhimes and Donald Glover, I think that’s the approach we have to take 'cause white Hollywood wouldn’t give us anything. I find that when they’re told from a different perspective, one that I’m familiar [with] because I’m Black, other people may not be familiar with, it just gives it so many new colors and layers that previously haven’t been seen and I think that’s very important especially in today’s political and social climate for people to be more open-minded and see just how diverse we all are.
You’re still in the early stages of your acting career. Where would you like to be 5 to 10 years down the line?
I would like to be in the position like a Donald Glover. I think he just became my artistic muse. I’m just so impressed and inspired by what he does. More specially, it would be filming one or two shows that I’m a creator or co-creator of through the years.
Who are some of your acting inspirations?
The first two are Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy and they just, for obvious reasons — for a Black guy my age. I’m 26 — they’re powerhouses and they’re so good at what they did and received icon-level status in a way that really, outside of Will Smith, has [never] been done before. Those are the first people, but as I got more into acting, I’d say like Benicio del Toro, Heath Ledger, Michael Fassbender, Robert De Niro, Robert Downey Jr., people that are a little quirky in their own way and they’re not afraid to show that and they take the craft of acting very serious and it shows.
There’s been a lot of uproar over the hasty political decisions made by President Trump recently. What is your opinion on the Muslim ban and the shunning of immigrants?
It’s the worst thing that’s happened to America in my time on Earth. It’s horrible. It’s abominable. I was really really affected by it to see the impromptu protests — I mean, it’s disgusting. It’s a blind torch of nationalism. “Make America great again" is taking America back to post World War II to when America was descending. They were with the ally against dictatorships, and now the ties are turned and it’s very scary. For all the people of color, people that are in other categories, people that are not heterosexual white men — it’s scary for everyone. I just think that we need to do as much as we can to fight back, because this guy isn’t playing by the rules. They don’t apply to him. He’s a traitor and he needs to be held accountable at the highest level.
Tell us something we don’t know about Tom Williamson.
My dog growing up was a standard chocolate poodle named Shaka Zulu [laughs]. That's a lil’ different.
Now that you’ve made it through the doors of Hollywood, what advice would you give to young aspiring actors who are trying to make it big?
Have patience. If you’re in Los Angeles, especially, find a community that you can become a part of and be very honest with yourself. Are you in this for what you’re in this game for? Are you in it for the riches and the fame or are you in it for the art?
What is one thing you want viewers to take away from Running Wild?
Don’t let greed cloud your judgment and everyone deserves a second chance.
Running Wild releases in theaters on February 10.
Get the latest on one of Williamson's admirations, Denzel Washington, in the video, above.
(Photo: Larry Busacca via Getty Images)