Hale To The Chief: A conversation with Nathan Hale Williams, Esq.

Chicago native-New York resident Nathan Hale Williams is an award-winning actor, attorney, producer, and writer. He is the Founder and Executive Director of iN-Hale Entertainment, LLC an entertainment company that does it all from concept development to party promotion and planning.  Williams always wanted to be in the entertainment industry. He started as a dancer before studying law.

On the big screen, he co-produced THE SKI TRIP, and GLAAD-nominated film DIRTY LAUNDRY. Williams has appeared on several shows including Showtime’s American Candidate with then partner Keith Boykin and the Sundance Channel’s hit series, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, which he appeared alongside producing partner Crystal McCrary Anthony.

Williams’ writings have appeared in several publications including the Hollywood Reporter, the New York Times, the LA Times, and Essence magazine where his popular column , “Girl’s Best Friend” appears on Essence.com.  He chatted with PrideIndex.com on a short trip back to his hometown, he talked about his entertainment endeavors and what’s next from this over achiever.

PRIDEINDEX (PI): Hello, Nathan, it’s good to talk with you today. How are you?

NATHAN HALE WILLIAMS (NHW): It’s good I cannot complain.  I am finishing up my vacation Chicago and getting ready to go back to New York.

PI:  Tell me about yourself and your company iN-Hale Entertainment, LLC.

NHW:  I am originally from Chicago, but I have not lived here for about twenty years.  I went to undergrad at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and then I went to law school at George Washington University in Washington, DC.  I practiced a law for a little bit.  I went to law school with the intentions of becoming a producer.  I read an article about Debra Martin Chase, one of the first black female producers in Hollywood; she talked about how beneficial law school was for her job. I said to myself that sounds like what I want to do.  I have been a performer ever since I was little, and I knew that I did not have the performance bug in me, but I knew that I wanted to be in entertainment somehow. I am a little bit bossy, so I guess being the producer is the next best thing to being the boss.  After I practiced for a year in Washington, DC, I moved to New York and continued practicing law for another three or four years before opening my own entertainment law firm.  I was cast in a movie call the SKI TRIP, and it would ultimately become the first movie that I co-produced. While on set, I realized that they did not have a lot of their corporate documents in order, so I bartered with them. I told them (the producers) that if I were a producer that I would do all of their legal files and as the rest is what they would say is history.  In the interim, I formed iN-Hale Entertainment, which is play off my name.  We are a full service production company, so we can do everything from concepts to completion for television shows, movies and event planning, and image work.  I am the CEO and founder.  I founded In Hale Entertainment in 2004.

PI:  Who some of your clients? What are some of the networks you have worked for?

NHW:  We have worked with BET, the former BETJ (now called Centric), VH-1, Sundance Channel and other independent companies.   The two movies that we produced are THE SKI TRIP, MTV/Logo’s first premiere film. The second film was called DIRTY LAUNDRY which was distributed by FOX/Code Black Entertainment. We are now working a film called VENTURA BOULEVARD starring Jennifer Lewis.  The other is called VERSI 1973.

PI:   I recall seeing you in the series, GIRLS WHO LIKE BOYS WHO LIKE BOYS.  Tell us about that show. Is it still on television?

NHW:   That came about kind of randomly.  I was on the show with Crystal McCrary Anthony. She was my producing partner at the time.  She and I were having lunch at a restaurant in New York City.  The casting director from the show was sitting near us ease dropping on our conversation. We kind of felt like someone were listening to our conversation but did not think anything of it.  We’re in a crowded New York restaurant and the tables are real close.  The casting director later revealed herself to us.  At the time, the show was on Bravo TV. It was a show about real life “Will and Graces” (gay men and their straight best female friends).  The casting director asked if we were interested in auditioning for the show.  At the time, I was on another reality competition show called “American Candidate” with my then partner Keith Boykin, which was on Showtime TV.  I was not adverse to the reality show world, but I still had an apprehension, but they assured us that this was not that kind of knock down drags out show where we had to fight or had to make a fool of ourselves.   It really was one of those shows where they explored relationships. We did a recording for it and thought nothing of it, but then we got cast on the Bravo show.  Bravo decided not to pick up the show, but later the Sundance Channel decided to pick it up, so we started filming.

Our two stories lines were that we were making a movie called Homecourt Advantage, and it also followed my desire to have a child and exploring how you do that whether using surrogacy or adoption.

I still have to this day all kinds of LGBT people coming up to me and saying what a good representation they thought I was on television.  The series did very well for some time; the first season is still one of the highest rated seasons ever on Sundance Channel.    For the second season, they decided to go to another city, which I believe was a mistake. (Laughs) They went to either Nashville or Memphis and the ratings were not so good, so the series did not come back. People are still watching it because the show is still available on Netflix and Sundance Channel was still running it, so I still get people coming up to me saying stuff about that show so for me it was a great experience.

PI: If a producer were to approach you about doing another reality series would you consider doing it?

NHW: It depends. I never say never because it depends on what they want to focus on.  If they want to focus on my daily grind and my career or if they want me to judge or mentor youth, then sure I would do it.  I would never ever put another relationship on television, whether romantic or friendship.  I would never ever put anything personal about myself on television.  That has already been done and that’s the beginning.

PI:  You were one half of the power couple with Mr. Keith Boykin.  Would you ever date someone who was as high profile as Mr. Boykin was again?

NHW:  Sure, I would.  Keith and I did not make our relationship high profile.  It just sort of happened that way.  The difference is it was not about his profile or my profile. What I would do differently is that I have learned to keep my personal life personal, so I don’t go there. Although I do give love and relationship advice in my Essence column I actually do not talk about my personal life in public, so if I were dating someone, you’d never know it.  I do not tweet about that or discuss on other forms of social media.  I don’t talk about it in interviews.  Sure, I would date someone who is high profile or even more high profile than Keith.  I’ve learned to keep my private life private.

PI:   Talk a little bit more about your Essence magazine advice column.  What was one of the craziest questions you’ve ever received from a reader?

NHW:  The thing about my column is that it is a little bit different.  It is not a “Dear Abby” Column.  I create each column.  It started when I was on the show Girls Who like Boys Who like Boys.  The online editor at the time Emil Wilberkin had been approaching me about doing a column about me and my “fabulous female friends,” and how it connected with the Essence readers, but we could not figure out an angle on it at first.  So now I call them my sister friends, a term that I’d borrowed from Dr. Maya Angelou.  Each column is based on my experiences with them.  I make up the column so no asks any questions.  It is based off my everyday experiences with my female friends.

PI:  The web is full of independent filmmakers, authors, poets, and artists.  What is the one piece of advice you would give them as an entertainment attorney?  What is the one thing you would tell them all to do?

NHW:  As an attorney or as a producer?

PI:  First as an attorney then as a producer?

NHW: As an attorney, I would say to make sure that everything is contracted.  You should not do anything on good faith.  The only person I would do anything with without a contract is my mother.  And at some point, we started to hand each other contracts. (Laughs)  The reason I say that is not because it is a lack of trust it is simply to make sure everything is clear.  It’s about clarity.  When you write everything down on paper and you make sure that everyone understands what’s supposed to happen, you have greater clarity.  There is no ambiguity. Do everything with a contract.  If someone is leery about working with you because you have a contract, then I would not work with that person.  Any one on the up and up about handling business will not have a problem with using a contract.

As a producer, I would say to never give up.  To make a movie takes so much energy and so much time. Even the most credentialed person with the longest resume could still take years upon years upon years to get a movie made because here are so many moving parts. If you get those parts to moving, you could still get all the way to point Z, but you could still have to go back to point M or even point A.  A lot of people get discourage because there is so much instant gratification in our world these days.  They see how someone on the internet could sing a song or do an interview and quick fame, but in real business, it does not work like that it takes time and you have to work at it.  There are so many components to making a movie or a television show that you can never give up.  It took about 13 years for AVATAR to be made, and it is now among the highest grossing movies of all time.

PI: If your work ethic were a drink, what kind of drink would it be?   (A.)  Champagne. (B.) Wine or (C.) Bourbon

NHW: You’ll have to give me a second to think about that one.  (Pauses)  I would say that work ethic would be closer to champagne because the bubbles and the energy, I have always been the Energizer bunny.  I have always worked on several things at once.  I have to eventually come home to recharge and rejuvenate because I always juggling several different projects at once.  Champagne is full of life because of the bubbles and the carbonation.  I am bursting champagne bottle full of energy.

PI:  You do call Chicago, your home. How often do you come back here?

NHW:   I call Chicago my hometown, but New York is my home.  I have not lived in Chicago for twenty years, but I come back at least three or four times a year because my god kids and one of my best friends still lives here and my mother still lives here.   I would say about three or four times a year.

PI:  What do you like to do when you are not working, producing deals and etc? What do you do for fun?

NHW:  It depends on the time of day.   I am self proclaimed couch potato without the couch potato body.  I love television as an art form that’s why I am a producer, and I watch a lot of television.  I am really blessed to have great friends, so I enjoy hanging out with them and talking and decompressing and my friends are crazy over achiever type of people as well.  They act as sounding boards for me.

PI:   Speaking of television I heard that you are huge Scandal fan?

NHW:   I am a HUGE Scandal fan.

PI:  If Kerry Washington or (the show’s producers) were to call you up tomorrow and say that we have a small part on the show, what would you tell them you needed? What would you say?

NHW:  Yes, I’ll do it. What time do I need to be there and where do I sign on the dotted line.  I’ve always joked that Kerry Washington is my girlfriend and she’s making me to re think some things.   I’ve always loved her.  I first fell in love with her when she was on Boston Legal with William Shatner.  I think she’s gorgeous; I love the way she acts.  They would not have to pay me to be star on the show, but we won’t tell the producers that.

PI:   Have you ever met Ms. Washington?

NHW:   I have not met her.  We were trying to get her to be a part of our book Inspiration: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World; however, our schedules did not mesh.

It is a mission of mine to meet her.  Shonda Rhimes is in my book and so I had the pleasure meet Ms. Rhimes.

PI:  What projects are you working on right now?

NHW: In addition to those two movies that I mentioned earlier, I am working a something with Jenifer Lewis. Jenifer is one of my dear friends I love her she is my favorite actress.  She did a web series called “Jenifer Lewis with Shangela” that was reverent, ground breaking, and hilarious.  We are transforming it into a network television show.  My biggest project that I am working on right now is a novel called “The Lady’s Too Much.”  It is a novelization of my Essence magazine column which is taking the stories and covers from the past two years.

PI: What else would you like to tell us?

NHW: One of the things that I have always tried to keep with me and I often share and with mentor kids is something that my mother taught me when I was younger and I kind of have in my life.  She told me “surround yourself with the people who you want to be like and that are what you will be.” I think the biggest blessing in my life is the love that I get from my family and friends. Being conscientious of the people surround myself with is real big factor in my road to success.  Because I have always been around people that have supported me and encouraged me and as Oprah said, they lift me up even higher.  You need that when you are traveling the road less traveled.  What I am doing now is the road less traveled.

Follow Nathan on Twitter:  @NathanHWilliams