The charismatic and charming Donn Swaby has been gracing audiences with his presences in both television and motion pictures. The eleven-year veteran also has an extensive background in theater, his theatre credits include; “A Raisin in the Sun” (Williamstown Theatre Festival), “My Children! My Africa!” (New Rep Theatre), and “The Colored Museum” (Strand Theatre). Swaby produced and made his directorial debut in Sam Shepard's “Fool for Love,” in Los Angeles, California. He also produced and starred in William Hanley's full-length play “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.” Swaby and his cast received an N.A.A.C.P. Theatre Award nomination for Best Ensemble.

Just recently, Swaby finished shooting the film, “Nora's Hair Salon” with Jennifer Lewis, Tamala Jones, Tatiana Ali, Bobby Brown, and Li'l Kim. You will also remember Swaby in the role of “Yeoman Davis” in “G.I. Jane.”

Swaby has also done numerous television appearances; he has guest starred on “Judging Amy,” “The Parkers,” and “Half & Half” and for three years Swaby played the role of “Chad Harris,” the intense, aspiring music producer, on NBC's popular soap opera, “Passions.”

Currently Swaby is breaking new ground and making a transition into the music world with his band “The Crush.” The band recently recorded there first hip-hop/rock single, “Do It Right.”

Melt: What was it like growing up in Queens, New York? Did you have a good childhood?

Swaby: (It) shaped who I am and how I think about things. Of course, I’m always evolving and changing.

I had a great, stable household. Two very loving parents. They provided time, compassion and love. They gave my brother and I, a well-rounded childhood.

My best friends were Irish, Italian, Puerto Rican, Indian, Philippino. Even though we were all from different cultures, we all dressed the same, we all talked the same, we all had the Queens accent.

My high school was great. I went to an all-boys Catholic High School. It was very academic and I was a very academic-inclined person…straight-A, Honor’s student. I was one of those kids that was everywhere, doing everything. That’s also when, I discovered my love of playing the guitar.

Melt: What brought you to Los Angeles?

Swaby: “Passions” brought me to L.A. I auditioned in New York. I got the part, packed up, and in two days, basically closed down shop.

I love California. It’s beautiful. When I was kid, we had to drive Upstate to see trees, the forest. Of course we had parks, but as far as mountains and all that stuff, definitely not. I love that the ocean is right here.

Melt: When did you decide you wanted to be an actor?

Swaby: I decided I wanted to be an actor my junior year of high school. The way that it came about was subconscious. I remember getting a book from the library on colleges, and I started to look at colleges that had really good accredited acting programs. As I was reading about them, that’s when it just kind of hit me.

I told my parents these were the schools I wanted to apply to. They just all happened to be great acting schools, some of the best in the country. I ended up going to Boston University, which at the time was ranked third in the nation.

Melt: Have you ever doubted your choice to pursue anacting career?

Swaby: I’ve never doubted wanting to be an actor. I look back at my life, and I look at how I was when I was five... I see myself standing on a stage reciting a poem and winning an award for that... I will tell you that there is no better feeling in the world than to knowing what you were meant to do on this earth.

Melt: When did you start acting professionally?

Swaby: I got my professional start with Boston theater. My first play, “My Children! My Africa!” was in a small theater. After I graduated, I did a lot of regional theater. I did off-Broadway as well.

Melt: What was the experience like auditioning for and getting the part in “G.I. Jane?”

Swaby: When I auditioned for it, I didn’t really know what it was. I went to the audition during my lunch hour. So I’m on the train, in the middle of the summer, and I’m sweating. I thought it was an army training P.S.A. (public service announcement). I found out later what it was.

My manager called me, (and said), ‘Do you realize you just booked a job where you’ll be acting with Demi Moore?’ (I said), ‘Well, not really...’ (laughing).

It was a great time. I got to work with her and Ridley Scott. I had four scenes. There was one scene with just me and Demi (but), of course, it got cut.

Melt: What kind of acting do you think you excel at; theater, film or TV?

Swaby: A classically trained actor will excel in any medium. The principles of acting don’t change. The principles of acting are pretty much the same, regardless of whether you’re on-stage, in front of a television camera or a film camera. I’m very happy I received classical training (at Boston University), it’s helped me tremendously in my career, as far as the consistency of the work that I do and the approach that I have for my work.

For me, as an actor, I always respond to the material. Give me a great role, a great story and great writing, I don’t care if it’s a play or a television show, I’m going to want to do it.

Melt: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in acting?

Swaby: Seek out training... Study at a place where you feel comfortable.

Seriously, ask yourself if you want to do this. If I can convince you that you shouldn’t be an actor, then you shouldn’t be.

Know what you want and what you want to do. That’s the first step in getting it. You’re not going to get what you want, if you really don’t know what it is.

Melt: Do you have any advice on not getting caught up in “getting an acting job” and breaking into “show business?”

Swaby: Build a life for yourself first. Do things during the week that have nothing to do with your career. Enjoy your life. Then, when you devote time to your career, it will have more of a focus. Don’t sell yourself short by obsessing about your career.

Melt: What are your plans for the future?

Swaby: I definitely want a film career. Eventually I would like to be part of a production company and to do a play on Broadway.


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© Melt Magazine 2003