This week, SOULE interviewed actor, Chris June, star of the hit web series, Raising Eli. Raising Eli is an LGBT drama series now running its second season. Highlighting the relationships of black, gay men, the show is merely a blip on the radar on the career of this multifaceted actor. On top of acting in over 4 different roles in various projects releasing this year, Chris June can do it all; from singing and performing on stage, to modeling, to releasing his own fashion line! We’ve got the details on how he got to where he is today, his advice for black, gay men in the industry, and updates on all his newest projects!
SOULE: Hello Chris! Thank you for taking the time out to speak to SOULE. Can you tell us about yourself, and your journey as an actor?
Chris Jones: My name is Chris June, I’m from Largo, Maryland originally, and currently reside in Atlanta. I’ve always had an interest in the arts but it wasn’t until my first photoshoot in September 2016 that I really began to consider life in front of the camera. Once I posted my pictures on Instagram (@the24thofjune), the floodgates opened. I immediately received interest from photographers with amazing portfolios of work.
Initially, it was hard for me to believe that I had the look or presence to be asked to do the same. I had already been performing and singing in music revues created by Jeremy A. McShan in the Washington DC area. It was a spectacular show that included performances from popular artists. I now see this was a stepping stone for acting; as each of the performances and clips I posted showcased my ability to embody different personas.
Shortly after October 2016, Tyson Anthony, the author and creator of the hit web series, About Him, asked if I would like to audition for his new web series, Raising Eli. In a matter of two months, I was cast in two other web series, About Him season 2 “The Revolution” by Signal 23 TV and The BAIT Files by Lee Hayes in a leading role.
Was this always your planned career path?
Acting was never a career path I originally considered, but I have always been interested in the arts. Once “I got my feet wet,” I found myself really enjoying the craft. After the success of Tyson Anthony’s Raising Eli, I really began to see myself as leading man and felt I had come into my own as it pertains to the acting world. Prior to acting, I worked at Georgetown University Hospital as a wound care assistant and pursued a degree in Physical Therapy.
As a star on the rise, you’ve got so many projects in motion. Can you tell us a bit about the current roles you play?
Currently, I can be seen playing Eli in Raising Eli, a story about a young gay man who must face the demons of his past and present while trying to maintain a stable living situation. You really get to see the conflicts between his ego and reality. Seasons 1 and 2 are now available on Vimeo.
Elsewhere, I can be seen playing “Armani” in Signal 23 TV’s About Him Season 2 “The Revolution”, which is now available on Vimeo and YouTube, also starring Robin Givens and Rodney Perry. Here I play the boyfriend of the lead character, “Dustin”, played by Gary Lavard. Armani is “love drunk” during the worst possible time. A hate crime has been committed on his college campus and the fight for civil rights swells into a revolution! Armani, however, is more concerned with his relationship than helping the local LGBT community, which proves to be problematic.
Lastly, I portray “Marcus” in Rahim Brazil’s Twisted, a drug addicted, and HIV positive brother, who finds himself caught up in a web of circumstances that lead back to a health center and complicated ties to a group of people who attend there.
My upcoming projects include Blackville, an LGBT drama, co-starring Rico Pruitt, set to debut this fall on BAWN TV; and I am also portraying “De’Andre” in Lee Hayes’ The BAIT Files. There I play a psychopath who becomes infatuated with a love interest he meets on a dating app called “BAIT”. The show is very provocative and shows the problems with online dating in an entertaining and thrilling way. Both series debut this Fall.
What drew you to these roles?
The complexity of a character often draws me to the role. Any time I get to display the different extremes of human emotion I become invested in the challenge. Being able to create something that isn’t already there is exciting.
What is your ideal role?
My ideal role would be playing in a comedy. I have a very sharp and witty sense of humor. I believe comedy embodies so much truth; and in reality, it’s quite the challenge to pull off. It is definitely something I am eager to conquer.
What is being an actor like as a queer, black man? What are some of the barriers and challenges that you face?
It is a challenge being a Black gay actor. You have to face a lot of opposition from the straight community, a lack of roles in the white community, and sadly, opposition from the gay community. We live in a generation where people will repost Beyoncé’s twin pictures before they would repost anything promoting what you are doing. I think that is because you have a lot of people who don’t believe in their own value as a gay Black men. Consequently, they don’t see the virtue in supporting what you’re doing, which is in fact the positive reinforcement our community needs.
What advice would you give to other queer, black actors?
My advice would be to know that although you may be Black, gay, or both, your talent is ambiguous and does not have a demeanor or a disposition! Talent is talent! Think outside the box and try to do roles that challenge you. Do not be dissuaded or disheartened by haters and critics because once you make it, all the critics will be converts!
On top of acting, you also have your own line of apparel. What inspired you to create a brand, and why crop tops?
I’ve created T-Shirts since I was in high school, so it felt very natural for me to try and revisit all of the things I gave up on because “people” told me there was no value in that. I think it is important that people are able to support artists directly, and I want to provide great products that promote individuality and also make a statement.
I have worn crop tops a lot on my Instagram and people were looking for me to sell them for some time now, so after carefully designing a lot, I finally released my website. A portion of the proceeds go to community outreach programs. We have a lot of people in today’s world who regretfully lose their lives and end up being a hashtag due to community issues, which inspires the name of that collection. There are currently two collections “Hash-Tag” and “Issavibe”
What does “Issavibe” mean, and why is it featured on your clothing?
“Vibe” is a feeling and you have good or bad ones. Clothes are many times a reflection of how you feel, all the designs in this collection were designed with the #issavibe label on the front to promote good vibes.
In an interview with Kontrol magazine, you mentioned that you also sing and perform. Which do you prefer? Acting on screen, or singing and performing? And what was it like transitioning from the stage to the screen?
I love doing both! It is hard to pick which one I like more. I really just enjoy creating; so whether that’s drawing, acting, or singing, it is about me and how I see it coming together. That level of autonomy is consistent with my vision across all of those outlets.
Transitioning from the stage to the screen was different. Scripts are a lot of work, and you have to break them down and develop your character. At least when it comes to filming, if you mess up you can do it over, where as if it is on the stage you have think on the fly. Coming from stage to the screen is probably easier than going from the screen to the stage.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you, or that you’d like to share with our readers?
Many people don’t know I’m 6’3, so it is hard to gauge people’s height when you see them in film, I just thought I would let the readers know [Laughs].
Moreover, I have a lot of great projects in the works and I’m very opinionated. You actually can see just how opinionated I am by tuning in every Tuesday to YouTube, on AconnectionTV’‘s “The Culture Clubb ATL” a panel show where we discuss many hot topics. Please follow me on Instagram @the24thofjune to stay up to date on all my new endeavors.