IN CONVERSATION WITH MILAN CARTER
Interview by Marie-Pauline Cesari & Jana Letonja
Milan Carter, a true entertainment industry jack-of-all-trades, has shined in many lights over the past decade. Whether as a creative director, social media strategist, animator or actor, his undeniable talent and infectious joy has been demonstrated in every project he has been involved in. This year he will make a star turn in Netflix’s upcoming comedy series ‘Fubar’ alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. ‘Fubar’ will be released on 25th May.
Milan, where does your passion for the cinema come from?
Movies have always been a happy place for me. Growing up, my family called me ‘the weird child’ and I think that’s because I lived in my imagination most of the time. Cinema is a chance to escape and let your imagination run free. Like what happens when ‘The Little Mermaid’ ends? After Simba becomes King? I would drift off into my own world and love every minute of it.
You studied TV production and print journalism and have also spent 3 years behind the camera for Entertainment Tonight, HipHollywood and Kevin Frazier. Now, you finally took the opportunity to host and produce your own show ‘Movies with Milan‘. Tell us a bit more about the show and what inspired you to produce it.
I always wanted to be in front of the camera, but it’s not a job you just get handed. You have to earn it. Kevin Frazier would always tell me the better you get behind the camera, the better you will be in front. So I took that to heart. Masters shooting, editing, writing, producing and studies host immensely. After being hired by Vibe Magazine just as a freelance camera operator, movie junket invites started to come in, but they didn’t have anyone to cover it. I was prepared for the opportunity and began building my platform.
You made your television debut in Eddie Murphy’s ‘Dolemite Is My Name’. How was it working on your debut with Eddie Murphy?
‘Dolemite Is My Name’ was a dream come true. My father used to quote the original. Signifying money was legendary. Although I didn’t get any scenes with Eddie, I got to film with Wesley Snipes, an amazing action hero of my generation To see him walk into comedy so seamlessly was inspirational. Not to mention the master class I got from Keegan-Michael Key, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Craig Robinson.
What made you switch from hosting your own shows to working as an actor in scripted projects?
Getting laid off. I had just got off a plane from the movie junket for ‘The Equalizer’ in Miami. As I was driving to the studio to edit my tape, I found out they cut the budget for our department. So I remembered a piece of advice I got in college, “Do what you would do for free. Tell stories”. When I moved to LA, I made a declaration “I want to act or host,whatever door opens up first, I’m sprinting through it”. Journalism opened first and it gave me a chance to learn about lighting, hitting your mark and gave me a solid knowledge of what a DP or director might be looking for. And that set me up for success when I made the full transition. .
How would you describe your style and approach as an actor? Do you think your studies have had an influence on your acting?
My study of the craft is constantly growing, but my biggest influence is I’ve always loved studying people. I just love asking why and understanding how things and people work. If you can understand that, then you can mix it with your imagination and make some honest and believable choices. In example, I got kicked out of my mother’s house at gun point by my step father. The average person would be hurt and upset. Sure I was those things, but the question “Why would my mom choose him over me? ” kept festering. So I would dive into that and make an imaginary world. And it goes deep beyond just her life. I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands, of imaginary worlds now, so I tap into them for acting.
This May you made a star turn in Netflix’s comedy series ‘Fubar’. What was your reaction when you learned that you would be working with Arnold Schwarzenegger on this series?
I immediately thought Arnold is lucky to work with me. Just kidding. I lost my mind. My son was just born 2 weeks prior to booking and I needed a job. I would book pilots every year that didn’t get picked up, so to finally get a project that people would actually see on Netflix, the biggest streaming sight in the world, and with Arnold, one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, was incredible. In my chemistry read with Arnold I asked if he would do another take with me and he responded “What kind of body builder would I be if I didn’t like reps? Of course let’s do it”. That right there set the tone. No matter how successful he is, he is alway down to play, learn and grow. I knew getting to work alongside him would be a master class and change my life. And it did.
What attracted you to your ‘Fubar’ character Barry and how did you prepare for this role?
I was attracted to Barry because he is an underdog with a big heart. He will literally do anything, like volunteer to go to prison, to save his family or the world. He is selfless and I really connect with that.
How would you describe ‘Fubar’ to the audience that hasn’t watched it yet? Why do you recommend it as a must watch?
‘Fubar’ is the perfect recipe for summer. It’s an action packed series that is heavy on the comedy. It’s a great watch for families because there is something for everyone in it. You get classic Arnold at his best, but instead of one movie, we created eight.
What are your goals for the future? Are you going to continue your acting career or do you want to continue creating and hosting shows?
As far as hosting, I would love to have my own game show. I have a game bag in my car at all times and love hosting game nights. I want to have my own production company and tell the stories that are close to my heart. So writing, acting and directing are all in my future. The near future.
What advice would you give to young artists aspiring to break into the entertainment industry?
I would ask them if they would do it for free. Because this is not the industry that you get successful in by just chasing the money and fame. Passion, kindness and discipline will be the keys to get you in the door and are what will sustain you when times get rough. If you don’t love it, don’t do it. But if you do love it, give it everything you got.
As an influential voice in the entertainment industry, what impact do you hope to have on your fans and audience?
I’m all about dreaming big. And if you don’t know how to dream, I want to teach you. I got kicked out of my house violently by my stepfather when I was 16 and had to figure out life on my own. I was an honor roll student and on the basketball team. I was doing everything right, but it wasn’t enough to keep my mother around, so my views of self slipped and my hope died. My life was literally ‘Fubar’, but I just kept showing up.
A year later, I found myself co-hosting MTV’s ‘TRL’ with Will Smith. Two days later he called my principal, Ms. Ethelyn Payne Young, and said “I want to take some kids to South Africa and make sure the funny guy goes”. What? Will Smith knows my name? Between meeting Will, co-hosting ‘TRL’ and meeting Mandela, it solidified that dreams are real and obtainable. The sky is the limit. That hope Will poured into me was priceless and I want to be that for others.
Photography STORM SANTOS