Photos Courtesy of Blake Young-Fountain and Patrik-Ian Polk
Actor Blake Young-Fountain has made a name for himself playing the straight lace, boy from next door on television and in the movies. He has appeared on “Parenthood,” “Gossip Girl,” and independent films “Blueprint” and “The Houseboy.” Young-Fountain grew up in St. Louis and Norwalk, Connecticut; however he’s a New Yorker at heart whom attended NYU’s famous Tisch School of the Arts where he studied Drama and Journalism. Young-Fountain is one of five actors in “The Skinny,” from writer/director Patrik-Ian Polk, about a group of young, sexy friends reunited in New York City a year after they’ve graduated from Brown University. We talked with Young-Fountain about growing up, his work and experiences at the Royal Academy of the Arts in London.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): According to published reports both of your parents were in the fashion industry and both of your brothers are in the entertainment industry. Creativity runs in your blood. What was it like to growing up?
BLAKE YOUNG-FOUNTAIN (BYF): I have one brother in the entertainment industry. The other is in business. In terms of growing up with two very supportive parents, it was awesome. My mother was a designer so that covered the artistic side. My father came from more of the business side responsible for managing artist. I was shown how to navigate my passion for art and how to make money pursing my passion. I am very grateful blessed and appreciative that my parents allowed me to be an artist.
PI: Because of what your parents taught you I take it you were NOT a starving artist struggling to make a living.
BYF: No I am not going to get it twisted. When I was living in New York City after attending NYU there was a time when I was pretty broke. I was doing free plays and films. There was a time when I struggled to pay my rent or ate rice for dinner. After having a discussion with my father who said, ” it is cool to be an artist but remember you have to make money.” I got out of that mindset of being broke. I thought about the phrase, “you have to make money,” that became instilled within me.
PI: Your resume says that you had two recurrent roles on television. Talk to us a little bit about that. How did that come about?
BYF: My first television gig after I’d left college was on “As The World Turns.” I landed a role on the show strictly by running the streets, sending out head shots, resumes and hitting the pavement. I don’t want to say that I was just lucky, it was basically done by working hard. I played a guy named Bruce, a waiter, but at first I did not have any lines. They started off giving me one line here, and two lines there on the show. Then I worked on “Gossip Girl” where I had two episodes, it was a breath of fresh air. I am a New Yorker at heart; whenever someone asks me to do a project or film in New York City I am immediately overjoyed. On the show “2 Broke Girls” I did not have a recurrent role. However I did have one on “Parenthood.” It filmed here in Los Angeles, a different vibe than what I’d experienced in New York. It was an awesome experience, I will say that in Los Angeles things move at a much faster pace.
PI: Do you ever watch any of your performances? Some actors are known not to watch themselves. Are you one of those actors?
BYF: I believe in the power of words and I used to think that I could not watch myself. I used to think to myself as I watched my acting, “wow they used take?” when I recalled doing a much better one. I later realized that it was not just about that one take, or me as an actor. It could have been they did not use my “better take” because the lighting was off. Maybe my “better take” was not the best one to use for the entire piece as a whole. I’ve read something that Sean Penn wrote about acting, he said you learn from yourself by watching yourself. Now when I do watch my performances I look at them and think about what I could have done to make it better; or what did I like about what I just saw. Although I am not running out to get my films just so that I can watch myself, I’m learning to be more gentle and with myself and apply what I learned for my next project.
PI: And speaking of next/upcoming projects, do you have any new films that you can tell us about?
BYF: I’ve just completed a film called “The Cartel.” I am not sure if it is going to be a made-for-television movie or if they’re going to put it in theaters. In the film I played the complete opposite of any of the other characters I have played so far. Although I played a young kid with bright eyes, this character gets mixed up with the wrong people and ends up in federal prison for selling drugs. “The Cartel” was just completed last week. And there’s “The Skinny” by Patrik-Ian Polk, it comes out sooner rather than later.
BYF: I had the privilege of working with Jussee Smollett, Darryl Stephens, Wilson Cruz and the other fine actors. I remember watching my one of my favorite shows “My So Called Life” with Wilson Cruz. While working with Cruz in front of the camera and behind the scenes on “The Skinny,” I kept thinking it’s very encouraging. I shared this with Darryl, but did not have the chance to tell Wilson how encouraging it was for me to work with two of the actors whose work I admired. They were both very giving and were not afraid to push my buttons to bring out my best performance. I kept thinking, “Blake this is a blessing, and a privileged that you’re getting to work opposite these fine actors.” I really enjoyed working with the entire ensemble cast of “The Skinny.” I know that I made friends with all of my co-stars, people that I did not know until now.
PI: Who are some of your influences?
BYF: Both of my parents and my brothers influence me. My made me realize that I should not be ashamed to call myself a working and professional artist always pushing myself, not to holding back. In terms of acting and people whom I like to watch are Jeffery Wright, Will Smith and Robert Downey Jr. Downey’s roles reminded me of the types of roles that I’d like to play. They are offbeat, and intriguing. I respect Smith because he found success at an early age and he has star power and the ability to make a lot of money. There’s a whole bunch others I like, you could even throw Tyler Perry in there too.
PI: You have made a lot of independent films. Was that intentional to do independent films rather than to take the mainstream route?
BYF: No. When I finished NYU Tische I just wanted to work. I was auditioning for mainstream films but I kept landing the independent stuff. I did not seek out independent stuff but that seemed to be where the casting director and people behind the scenes allowed me to work. I can think of some directors and producers who are more mainstream that I would like to work with. For me if it’s an interesting and challenging role then I want to do it.
PI: Do you think it’s a misconception to say you’re the nice guy on film?
BYF: I do not think that it is a misconception to say that. I am often cast as the nice guy, a college student or the wholesome guy that has his act together because that’s what I look like. Actors have a plethora of colors inside of us that we don’t always get to show.
I am going to tell you a little story, Patrik-Ian Polk is probably going to kill me for saying this but it is perfect for what you and I are talking about. Before I got cast in the film “The Skinny” Patrik asked me to tell him what kind of role and character I wanted to play. I told him I wanted to play a deep, dark, f***ed up character; someone who was off the chain and goes through a lot emotionally and mentally. Patrik looked at me like I was crazy. (LAUGHS) I told him that I was often cast as the younger kid who has a journey. Maybe that’s what Sebastian is like? Wait and see the film, “The Skinny.”
PI: Talk me about your training with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
BYF: It was a year after 911, a turning point in my life. I was living up in New York and I ended up going to London because I needed to get away from that energy field. I was doing Shakespeare, Macbeth and classic text, something completely different than what I had done in NYC. From an emotional and artistic standpoint it helped me get through a tough time. I think God was giving me a nice transition in a new environment. Doing Shakespeare in London taught me that if you have good work and a good script, that’s your opportunity to just go and have fun. That’s what I know we had with “The Skinny.'” Patrik’s writing made it easy for us as actors. Audiences will get to see us actors just playing and not always thinking about the lines, but the emotion. While watching the film audiences will see five actors, who’d only knew each other for a month, play five best friends from college.
PI: If Patrik-Ian Polk were to ask you to work with him again would you do it?
BYF: In a heartbeat!
“The Skinny” will be shown at Saturday March 24 at FUSION: The Los Angeles LGBT People of Color Film Fest at The Egyptian Theater located at 6712 Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles click here to purchase tickets.