Darrin Dewitt Henson

Darrin DeWitt Henson was born in the Bronx, NY on May 5, 1972, raised during the birth of Hip Hop dance scene he created a name for himself through acting, dancing, choreographing and later expanded to directing films while developing as an author. Darrin embodies motivation and is a huge inspiration to the people he comes in contact with. He is also the national spokesman for the M.A. Lee Scholarship Fund, a charitable foundation providing financial and opportunistic access to post-secondary education for deserving students as he also advocate for AIDS awareness, juvenile diabetes and other issues.

I recently got time to speak with Darrin about the past, present and future. If you look into his career you would only find a portion of the aspirations he has accomplished. The more I found out about Darrin, the more I was fascinated by his inspirational story. The first response to Darrin was thanking him for being a person who motivate many individuals, especially young black men and women. Darrin’s response was, “People don’t recognize how important it is not only to be inspired, but to inspire others.” We spoke candidly about what kind of outlook he was engaging as a young man and what led to being so interested in art, inspiring others in the process.

When I was younger I knew that the grander the scale I desired, the grander the scale of receiving was going to be. There is a scripture that stated knock and it shall be open, not keep knocking, and to me it was knock once. Knock is singular, and the door shall be open, that’s what I paid attention to, I knocked and used that action to show desire.

AM: Where were your parents from?
DDH: My mother is mixed race Italian and American, my father is American (Black)

AM: Just curious about life in the Bronx around the time you grew up there, the dance scene was huge. The city was an atmosphere that was heavily supported with urban dance and music, although I am not from that era, I do identify with the creative individuality explosion that was hip hop in the Bronx 70’s and 80’s era.

Man, I grew up 5 blocks from The Bronx River where the Zulu Anniversary Jams were. I was right in the middle of it, for me, watching Fabel and Mr. Wiggles was surreal because when street dancing was in its development, you’re talking FIRE. That language was about proving who you were and what your abilities were. It was about showing that you were the best and you deserved to be called the best, it was about culture, learning listening and watching. It was celebrating your blackness, your individuality. SO, those occasions, we were incredibly proud of it, whereas, today it seem so cookie cutter, if I walk, talk, act, like the person I am then it validates me, back then it was about how individualistic you can be.

AM: That is a perspective that always stood out to me. Those scenarios are missing pieces that people haven’t witnessed about you. All these legendary moments you were a part of that goes unnoticed.
DDH: Scott Sterling was my first manager at 15 year old, now, a number of people don’t know who he is when told that name, however, when I tell you that it’s DJ Scott La Rock the name begins to ring bells. Scott was my manager while he was still in college; he told me his plan for Boogie-Down productions. If you look at Boogie-Down Production’s album you will see special thanks to B.I.A. ‘Boys in Action’ which was the group I was in that he managed.

I was on Broadway at 21 years old with the assistance of a guy named Adulfo Quinones who is also known as Shaba Doo, he eventually introduced me to the theatre director Ron Link. I got a part as an actor in the play Stand up Tragedy. If people really want to know my journey, I worked with Classic Concept Productions owned by Ralph McDaniels and Lionel Martin. Lionel Martin was the first person to give me a job as a dancer, actor and choreographer. Man, if people only knew my journey. I did a video years ago called B-Fats: Music Maestro with MC Rell and the house rockers. My first choreographed video was for a guy on Def Jam named Don Newkirk, then they gave me Color Me Badd- I Wanna Sex You Up, Hi-Five- She’s Playing Hard to Get. After that I got booked for SWV- So into You and Right Here videos, Lisa Lisa Let the beat hit ‘Em, C+C Music Factory- Things That Make You Go Hmmmm. If you saw the Sprite Commercial with tribe called Quest I was in that too.

I went to Dewitt Clinton H.S. with Tracy Morgan who was one of my good friends. I would get in trouble for dancing in the schoolyard before class; even then people didn’t know how intentional I was with my life, they wouldn’t be surprised about what I’ve done and it’s because I saw myself in those places before I got in them.

AM: Dance has been in your life forever. Is it the art form closest to your heart?
Professionally I’ve been dancing since 15 years old, dancing is always going to be close to my heart because it was my first love, but I love acting now. I believe come as you are but don’t stay as you are. Allow yourself to grow, to expand, to build, so what I’ve done is allowed myself to gain access to more. More imagination, more diversity more action, I’ve allowed myself to grow. Yes, dance is my first love because to me dance is spiritual, because of the connection between music and movement. When it comes to acting, I am passionate about acting now because I understand it more; I understand that it is the relationship with the oneness of someone else.

AM: I am a huge movie buff and apart of the video game generation, I did notice you in two roles that stood out as far as how deep in character you were and the sheer transformation of those roles. You played Raven in the hit video game “Tekken” turned Movie and Jim Brown in “The Express” I don’t feel like you received credit for them.
DDH: I appreciate the studious position that you take because I did the work. Denzel Washington said something a few years back, ‘God Gives the Rewards, people give the Awards’ and the reason I use that is, if I had to wait for people to give me my due props I be dead and buried. I transform into these characters, and we are so inundated with the ‘fluff’ that that is what people pay attention to. If you look at what I’ve done, I feel like Sam Jackson esque. My own friends didn’t recognize me in ‘The Express’ as Jim Brown, and in ‘Tekken’ the movie as Raven, still a lot of people don’t know that was me, which made me happy and speaks volumes to the work I’ve done. So I’m just going to keep on doing it because acting is what I want to do, for those people who are aware and get it will go, man this is what he was doing ?! If I got to sit around and catch you up on everything we’ll be here a long time.

AM: If you could go back and change one thing what would that be?
DDH: Man honestly, I wouldn’t do it, I think it’s a waste of time because everything that I’ve done and been blessed with I got because of my Journey. If you waste time thinking about going backwards you’re missing your present right now. Either you’re a lesson or you’re a blessing; to me the lessons turn to blessings if you’re paying attention. I wouldn’t change anything, my life has been extraordinary and outstanding and I’m so thankful and happy that the things I needed to learn that didn’t represent my end result, I’ve learned from them now and I am better equipped and focused. That is what the past did for me, and I am really happy with the position that I’ve taken. My dreams like getting MTV award or working with Michael Jackson or working with pop culture or soul food. I wanted that since I saw the Cosby show. I’m Darrin Henson and this is the card I’m dealt so this is the hand I put out.

AM: How do you maintain the balance between family, personal life and your career as an entertainment?
DDH: I am still a work in progress with my family, because, I am an entertainer at heart and sometimes my family has suffered in terms of what choices they would have preferred or made. Those are not choices that I would have made, and I have learned that you cannot please everybody. If you think about Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr., these people who have sacrificed their families preferred choices for the human race. They were educators and I am an entertainer, and I get to entertain millions of people. I still do what I have to do for my family, I provide for them and there is no separation or segregation of my family, so very, very simply said with my family… ‘It’s all good’

AM: What do you do to wind down, How does Darrin Henson relax?
DDH: Honestly I love working out, I love weight training, running, martial arts and boxing. Michael Jai White is a really good friend, like a big brother, sometime we go out to the gym to hit the bag or throw on the glove and he shows me so much. There’s some steps I run in Santa Monica that would test your manhood. I love meditation and praying, I love reading, reading and did I mention READING. I also love to people watch, some of the best rest I get is on flights, watching and wondering about people and where there going or where there coming from.

AM: How you like being on the west coast, is that home?
DDH: Home is where the heart is, California is where I rest my head but NY is always home to me. Wherever my family is I call home and I have family all over America.

AM: What’s next for you?
DDH: I am excited about a few things right now. I have a movie coming out called ‘Suns 2 the Grave’ directed by Mykelti Williamson (Bubba Gump). It features Messiah Harris (T.I. son) it has Demetria McKinney, I star and lead in this film and it so powerful, this is one of the most powerful film I’ve ever done. I am excited for ‘Sons 2 the Grave’ which will be introduced at the Toronto Film Festival. Also, I have What Love will make you do, that premiered and was nominated for best picture at the American black film festival, written and directed by Lisa Haynes and it is an amazing love story. Also, Choir Director, made after the book written by Carl Weber, where I am a Choir Director. I recently directed a movie called ‘The Hotel’ which we cut up and made into webisodes, there was an offer made to buy it at the American Black Film festival. I am so also excited about that opportunity for ‘The Hotel’ which you can see on YouTube right now. I have also directed my own music video which is on my YouTube channel. I partnered with Leslie Smalls who introduced the world to Kevin Hart and we have some projects that are green lit, again I am excited about what’s to come.

AM: I did check out the book of Poetry Intimate Thoughts, as authors do you have anything in store for the future?
DDH: I am definitely going to write another book but I am really excited about this next book I got coming out, I believe it’s going to launch a new perspective about Darrin Henson and expand my reach. It stems from programs thoughts actions and results.

AM: I read an article you did before, you were asked to give advice for younger generation and you said “Ask more of yourself than anyone could ever ask of you and you will always be prepared.” It spoke to me about motivating yourself to be better, expand on this quote for me.
DDH: What that simply means is, always go the extra mile. If you in a position and you ask more of yourself then you’ve already gone the extra mile. When you’re asked a question, that preparation will mean you already have the answer. Focus on diversity of knowledge whether is politics, mathematics, economic, birds and the bees. That puts you in a position of empowerment because people want to hire, work with, and mentor those who go the extra mile. So many people are not willing to stay late or go in early, so, if you ask more of yourself than anyone can ask of you, chances are you are prepared. One of the things that I’ve learned is that education is the key that opens all doors, when your educated no one can stop you because there is more than one way to get where you need to go.