Pasadena, CA-Actor Columbus Short is a man with a plan. He’s on a mission to extend himself as a versatile thespian. Being locked into one defining role is not what this hard-working cat is about. Short is about growth and productivity. He’s about expanding his talents as an actor and pushing the envelope.
Short’s ultimate goal as an actor is to play the role of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That may be far of a reach to some people. But it isn’t that far of a reach to Short, widely recognized for his superb performance in the box office smash film “Stomp the Yard.”
In “Stomp the Yard,” Short play the role of the charismatic D.J., a young man wrestling with college life after the murder of his brother (Chris Brown). After secondary character roles in “You Got Served” and Tom Cruise’s “War of the Worlds,” Short’s career has ascended after “Stomp the Yard” hit No.1 at the box office.
He played an AWOL solider in “This Christmas” and showed off his action acting chops in the tense thriller “Armored,” opposite Lawrence Fishburne and Matt Dillon. All of those film characters he played in previous films helped shape and prepare Short for his current gig as a sharply-dressed and tongue-in-cheek lawyer in ABC’s mid-season drama series “Scandal,” which premieres in April.
In “Scandal,” Short’s character and other cast members assist a Washington, D. C. fix-it expert (played by Kerry Washington) to put out political fires in the nation’s capital. Short’s role is in the series is the latest example of how he is growing as an actor.
That’s a good thing. While he’s appreciates the opportunities playing D.J. in “Stomp the Yard” may have opened for him, Short is determined not to let that particular character pigeon-hole and limit the roles he take on as an actor.
“I’m an actor,” Short said in an interview with News4usonline.com Editor Dennis J. Freeman at the ABC Winter Tour earlier this year. “It’s what I am. I’ve been doing this my whole life. I’m very passionate about it. I’m a student of it. When I did “Stomp the Yard,” it wasn’t what I wanted to do necessarily. After Stomp the Yard, I wanted to solidify myself as an actor, which is why I did Cadillac Records. I try to do versatile roles.”
When Short read Shonda Rhimes’ script for the character he plays in “Scandal,” he immediately gravitated towards it.
“He is intelligent. He’s articulate. He’s dapper and he’s a go-getter,” Short said. “I felt that I could shine in this role, which would lend to me to doing the movies that I do want to do. It was a daunting process. How I got here was trying to maintain some type of mystique. I still believe in it. I still believe in like, ‘Do I want Beyonce to make an album every year? No. I would love for her to go away for two years, three years, and then come back and be amazing and be fresh and new. So that’s what I’m trying to do, like lay low and come back out.’”
Short considers himself to be among the fortunate African American actors who can pick up work on a regular basis. Except for a handful of African American actors who gets work regularly, gaining consistent employment for most black actors is basically hit and miss. Good-looking, easy-going and driven to put teeth into all the roles he takes on, Short has turned himself into a hot commodity in Hollywood.
Not everyone is as blessed as he has been in being to choose what roles to accept or decline. Short recognizes this. When asked about the number of roles offered for young African American actors, Short was blunt with his assessment.
“There is none,” Short said. “I wish it wasn’t so. You’re either working or you are not. It is sad. It’s like one of the biggest travesties I think. I feel like I’ll carry that load. I’m about to break down that door. I’m about to preach it. I’m about to scream it from the mountaintop. I know that we can better. I know that we are going to do better. This show “Scandal” is exactly what that’s going to be. I have a strong conviction about it. I think it’s a little ridiculous that there are not more people given the opportunity.”
Short embraces the fact that his attorney role in “Scandal” is not based in long-held stereotypes of African American characters.
“He’s not a thug,” Short said. “He’s not a gangster, which is nothing wrong. I’d love to play a gangster right now. But I feel like we’ve seen that. Everybody has seen that. We want to see things like the Cosby Show where Bill Cosby is the doctor, the mom is a lawyer. Where is that on television? Where is the litigator?
“I’m not D.J. That’s the stigma I’ve been trying to shake. I could ride “Stomp the Yard” for a long time, but I don’t want to do that. I want to push some things and try to carry the torch of the man I look up to. I’m trying to do what Denzel [Washington] did. I think he is everything. He is a talented actor, the real deal.”
Someone else thinks Short is pretty incredible himself. That someone is Washington, the star of “Scandal.” Washington said Short has it all to be a great actor.
“Sometimes you get actors who are very charming and handsome, and you get actors who are skilled at their craft,” Washington said in reference to Short. “But when you run across an actor who has all of it, it’s crazy.”