Jensen Atwood has done everything from dancing behind Beyonce, to singing behind Tyreses, to lip-locking with Halle Berry in one of the openings scenes of Oprah’s presentation of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. The South Central, California born multi-talented entertainer began walking in his brothers footsteps, and eventually began to carve out his own path that resulted in him being the dancer, singer, and actor that we now know today. Atwood set aside some time on Easter to chat with AWP about his career thus far, his major role in Patrick Ian-Polk’s series, Noah’s Arc, and the directing debut of Hill Harper, where Atwood is the leading man.
Although Atwood has a few siblings, he only grew up with one of his brothers, who became one of his biggest influences, and they were both raised by a single mother. “We were very poor, and moved around a lot,” confessed Atwood.
When asked how he got into entertainment, Atwood replied, “I started off as my brother’s side kick. He started off singing, and I would sing the harmony, then pick up a verse.” Atwood continued to walk in his brother’s footsteps, which eventually led him to joining the army. After he left the Military, all he wanted to do was make a living doing what he had been doing his whole life…entertaining. “My ex-girlfriend was on tour with a musical, and I got to travel with her,” stated Atwood. He continued stating, “It was her career that allowed me to see that I could possibly make a living doing what I love to do.” After his brother went on to become the lead singer in a rock band called Downside, Atwood began singing background for singer Tyrese for a year, and then eventually became a part of a boy band by the name of Reign.
Atwood’s group had to compete against B2K for a record deal, but unfortunately fell short. Therefore, the band dismembered, and Atwood got more involved with acting. Many will remember him lip-locking with Halle Berry in Oprah’s presentation of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. “It was such an honor, and a blessing to be a part of that film. I remember being at my agent’s office when I got the news, and I wound up under someone’s desk crying over the phone as I told my mom that I got the role!” He laughed as he thought back to his dad jokingly saying, “So if I kiss you, does that mean I’ve kissed Halle Berry too?”
Atwood’s most famous role stems from his portrayal as Wade in award winning director and writer, Patrik Ian-Polk’s Noah’s Arc series, which aired on Logo for two seasons before ending with a film. Atwood grew with his character, and through his character, he demonstrated the challenges that seemingly straight men face when they’re afraid want to come out the closet, but aren’t so sure how everyone else will react to it. Atwood’s character grew more comfortable with his sexuality as the show progressed, and Atwood himself grew as an actor. He informed me that he and the other actors literally first did the show for no pay at all, and because of that, he learned “That it’s the love of the art that’s going to move me forward in this business.” He thanks Daryl Stephens, who was the leading man in the series, for teaching him how to be professional, and he also thanks Ian Patrik-Polk for the opportunity.
Several of Atwood’s fellow actors have commended him on his work. “Many of them told me how great of a job I did, and how they never could have done it, which makes me feel even more honored to have been a part of this, and to have had the courage to take the role” said Atwood. Many people pass judgment when they see people such as Atwood portraying characters that could be controversial, but Atwood makes it clear that he’s just doing his job. “Acting is a double edge sword, because the point of getting behind these characters is so that someone would believe them. So as obvious as it is that I’m playing a role, some people just won’t understand, or don’t want to understand. My job is to tell a story,” explained Atwood.
Atwood stated that he’s received so much positive feedback from fans about the show, and specifically recalls one instance from an autograph signing that really blessed him. “I remember at one point, we were doing an autograph signing at a club, and there was a young kid that was telling me thank you before I had even signed his autograph. I was wondering ‘Why are you saying Thank You when I haven’t even signed your autograph yet?’ And he went on to tell me that it was because of my character that he able to accept himself, and not only for him to accept himself, but also for his mom, who was the most important person to him, to accept him.” It is clear that his work has created an impact on others who are dealing with what his character dealt with, and he is grateful to know that his portrayal has been able to impact someone else.
Because Atwood does his job so well, he was given the opportunity to be the leading man in Hill Harper’s directorial debut. The film is title The Truth and is a short film that received the Audience Choice Award at the film festival. The film was shot in Chicago, and Jensen believes that it will be “Fairly shocking, and hit close to home for a lot of people,” as he says it did for him. Other cast members include Mel Jackson, Rockmond Dunbar, and Chicago’s own, Teresa Griffin. Atwood commends Harper for his courage to put his name on the film, even after the producers already selected Atwood as the leading man in the film. He remembers Harper calling in via phone to direct him through the final scene, which he says was definitely a first for him.
Atwood has already had a pretty amazing career, having had the opportunity to dance with artists such as Beyonce, Chante Moore, and Toni Braxton, singing behind Tyrese, almost having a record deal, to becoming a successful actor. The greatest thing is that even though he’s accomplished so much, he still has so much further to go, and because he has his head on straight, it won’t be long before he gets there. He’s courageously mastered a role that most men would be too afraid to even attempt, and has taken his skills beyond the series that catapulted his career. Due to his hard work, courage, skills and humility, I know that he has a blindingly bright future ahead.