Jensen Atwood is one busy individual. People can see him in front of the camera in such series as Noah's Arc ( with the related feature film, Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom, out on DVD Feb. 3 ) and Dante's Cove. However, he is also touring college campuses around the country reading Langston Hughes—and will visit Chicago Feb. 5 as part of a panel discussion to help promote National Black HIV/AIDS Day.
Windy City Times: What was your reaction when you found out Noah's Arc was going to be a feature film?
Jensen Atwood: I was surprised. When we started Noah's Arc—around four or five years ago—it started as something that was going to go straight to DVD, maybe even be a DVD series. I was blown away when I found out it was going to be a feature film.
WCT: Do you feel like the show has been groundbreaking?
JA: No doubt about it. Just in terms of television, almost every storyline you can think of has been done. We've seen everything that could possibly be seen—and then here comes along Noah's Arc. People were able to see images they had never seen before on television.
WCT: However, it wasn't until I saw the second-season DVD that I realized what the "arc" in Noah's Arc stood for.
JA: Right—Alex, Ricky and Chance [ Noah's best friends ] . I thought it was pretty clever of [ creator/director ] Patrik-Ian Polk.
WCT: Also, I should extend congratulations to you and the cast. You all have been nominated for two NAACP Image Awards. [ The show is Feb. 12 in Los Angeles. ] What's your reaction to the [ nods ] , and are you going?
JA: I'm still waiting to see if I'm going—hopefully, I'm going; it would be my first time. My reaction has been the same with the series and the feature film; I'm just blown away—it's phenomenal.
Noah's Arc continues to grow; I still get e-mails from fans who have just heard of the show, bought the entire series and, now, can't wait for the movie to come out on DVD. This whole experience has just been unbelievable.
WCT: For you, what was the biggest difference between filming the movie and the series?
JA: Well, we were definitely short on time [ with the film ] and we had to do a lot in that [ span ] . Also, there was a short time to settle into the character of Wade and, therefore, Wade settling into himself.
When we first started, I don't think anyone knew what they were getting themselves into. I know that Patrik had an idea, but these were all characters that had to be developed. Even going into the second season was a huge growth [ experience ] for the cast and production. Keeping everything the fans love about Wade and the growth he goes through was probably the biggest [ challenge ] .
WCT: Do you know if there's going to be a follow-up?
JA: I don't know. One thing about Noah's Arc that seems to be consistent is that there's always some kind of buzz. There was talk about the second season possibly not happening. Then, there was talk about me not returning. Now that we're done with the feature film, I find that the same things are starting to happen again. I thought this was the cherry on top—the end of the party. But now I'm hearing that there could be more.
WCT: Well, I'm ready to see more—well, not in terms of skin.
JA: Right! [ Laughs ] I don't think we can show any more.
WCT: Another show you've been part of...
JA: ...speaking of more...
WCT: [ Laughs ] ...is Dante's Cove. Now how did you become a part of that show?
JA: The here! network actually reached to me because of the work I did on Noah's Arc, I think. I went in for an audition; the next thing I knew, I was on a flight to Hawaii to shoot the third season.
WCT: You know what would be funny? Mixing the two, and having the cast of Noah's Arc visit Dante's Cove.
JA: Oh, yeah—just as a walk-through for one episode. That would be hilarious.
WCT: I'm trying to imagine Alex in Dante's Cove. [ Atwood laughs. ] I don't think they'd be ready for him.
JA: I love the idea, though.
WCT: I've noticed that you're involved in a movie that's a distinct departure from those shows: I.E. Could you talk a little bit about it?
JA: "I.E." stands for Inland Empire. As you said, it's different from what my fans have seen me in so far. It's surrounded by the gang life that exists in southern California. It stars Snoop Dogg, and it's a departure from the characters I've already played. I hope that I'm able to play distinct characters; I'm not trying to continue the roles of Wade or Griffin [ from Dante's Cove ] on any other show.
WCT: In relation to the shows you've done, do you feel that being on those shows has hindered you from getting role in [ more mainstream ] shows or movies?
JA: I don't think so. I have been offered other roles. I don't want to be pigeonholed; after I.E. wraps up, I don't want to be the "gang actor." I don't want to be the "bisexual warlock" actor on any show. For the most part, I think it's up to me.
WCT: Now, to mark Black History Month, you're taking part in a series of readings of Langston Hughes works.
JA: It's "Jensen Atwood Reads Langston Hughes," and I will be travelling to different universities and colleges. I'm excited to let my fans know about my passion for poetry. I write poetry myself, and they'll also get to hear one of my original poems. Most of the dates can be found on my Web site, JensenAtwood.com . It couldn't be a more poignant time to read Hughes, after the inauguration of our first Black president and going into Black History Month.
WCT: Speaking of which, what did you feel when you witnessed the inauguration?
JA: When it was first announced that he was our president-elect, I probably said "Wow" 50 times; I was so blown away. I felt like I had stepped into a time machine, and fast-forwarded 100 years. I'm still blown away. I've never been as honored and proud to be alive, to be Black and to be American.
It was my first time voting in my life. I never truly thought there was any hope for our society. I never felt that I truly mattered in this country, and I took a chance on hope and my faith—and cast my very first vote.
WCT: Moving to another issue, how do you feel about Prop 8—especially after filming a movie about same-sex marriage?
JA: I feel that equality is deserved by all people. I think that those who were for Prop 8 did a magnificent job of lying to the people. They did a magnificent job of putting fear into the hearts of people. They did a great job of miseducating people, and that's why it passed. I can't imagine it not being overturned. I can't imagine some people standing for being told that they're less than the average citizen. It baffles my mind, and I look forward to seeing [ Prop 8 ] overturned.
I just took part in a silent protest where this great photographer took pictures of me protesting against hate and Prop 8. These pictures are on my MySpace and Facebook pages.
WCT: Could you talk about the Feb. 5 event in Chicago at Amira? I know it's to help promote National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
JA: Well, I'm glad that I have a voice that people want to hear so I can bring attention to causes that deserve as much attention as possible—such as the fight against AIDS and HIV. I'm happy to lend my name to bring more awareness to the event.
Jensen Atwood will take part in a "dating game" panel discussion presented by the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus Thursday, Feb. 5 ( National Black HIV/AIDS Day ) , at 6 p.m. at the Amira Restaurant Lounge, 455 N. Cityfront Plaza. RSVP at 312-566-0285 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Atwood is also slated to appear at a Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom DVD release party the same night at Jeffery Pub, 7041 S. Jeffery, 12 a.m.-4 a.m.
For more about Atwood, see www.JensenAtwood.com ..