Dule Hill: Acting Without a Safety Net
Dule Hill, best known by teens for his role as Preston in She's All That, is now finding his biggest success in West Wing, an award-winning drama about the President and his staff in the Oval Office. Starring alongside Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe, Dule plays the President's Aid.
The young star attributes his success to his dedication to acting, a career he chose after working towards a college degree in finance. Now performing with some of the biggest names in entertainment, Dule is brimming with confidence. Polite and passionate, Dule Hill spoke with TeenHollywood.com about his new life in Los Angeles, his love for acting, and the reality of being an actor without a safety net.
Dule, how real is the West Wing's portrayal of the Oval Office?
Dule: Well, the people that actually work there say we have too many people walking in our hallways and we're walking way too fast. I've been to (The Oval Office) a couple of times and it's not as hectic as our West Wing but that wouldn't be interesting. We needed creative license to spice it up a little bit.
Your job on the show is the President's Aid and I'm wondering, what does this person actually do?
Dule: He's responsible for making sure the President sticks to his schedule. And being the most powerful man in the world, anything he misses could cause a lot of problems. His main responsibility is to get the President where he has to go and to prepare him for anything he needs to be prepared for.
Would you want to do this job in real life?
Dule: No, no, no. (laughs) That's way too much pressure!
So what made you try out for the West Wing and what got you the part?
Dule: Martin Sheen and Aaron Sorkin made me try out for the part. I mean, Martin Sheen is a national treasure to me, one of our great American actors. To be able to work with him is a dream. And "You can't handle the truth" is one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies. To work with the writer who wrote that is another dream. I mean, wow, I work with the guy who wrote, "You can't handle the truth." (Said by Jack Nicholson during an intense scene in the movie, A Few Good Men.)
Has he written you a memorable line as well?
Dule: Yeah. Some lines people will actually come back and quote to me. In one episode I said, "She's a fine lookin' woman," and now people will come up to me and say that. It confused me at first and then I realized what they meant.
You guest starred on Cosby didn't you?
Dule: Yeah, on the new one. I wanted to appear on the old one (The Cosby Show) but didn't.
How did you like meeting Bill Cosby?
Dule: It was great. He's an icon and working with him was a great experience.
What have Martin Sheen and Bill Cosby taught you as an actor?
Dule: Confidence. Confidence and a willingness to express yourself, to just go with it. Getting out of my skin and a willingness to be vulnerable.
You've done all the major acting styles and I'd like to talk about that. Do you prefer stage, film, or TV work?
Dule: At this point I prefer television because that's where I am. I've done a lot of theatre and I enjoy that. I'd like to go back to it and I'd like to do more film. Overall, I like theatre because it's unedited, it's you. You see the response from the audience right then on stage.
Are you selective with the scripts you come across?
Dule: I am. I won't do just anything.
Is this because of a fear of typecasting?
Dule: No, it's more about the images I send out there. Certain roles I won't do because I know my grandmother is going to look at it or my nephew will see it on TV. Some people just want to work but that's not necessarily me.
What would you be doing if you weren't acting?
Dule: I went to college for business finance but didn't finish. During that time I was doing off-Broadway and I used to say, "I'm going to college to have something to fall back on," but then it hit me, why do I need something to fall back on? That means I'm leaving the possibility open for failure. So now I don't have anything to fall back on, I made up my mind that I'm going to be an actor and this is what I'm doing. Either I'm going to succeed at it or I'm going to spend the majority of my life struggling.
Is it stressful to be an actor?
Dule: Right now, no. But about two years ago before I got West Wing, I'd gone ten months without working and that can be stressful. Especially out here in LA, if you're not working but have friends who are, it's very easy to get caught up in doing what they do. They want to spend their money and they want you to do the same.
Is it easy to get caught up in the glamour and decadent side of Hollywood?
Dule: It's easy, yeah, but I try and stay away from it as much as I can. I won't show up at every premiere and try to be at the hottest parties because it's very easy to fall into being seen and being out when my goal is to handle my work, improving my acting skills.
What other projects are you involved in right now?
Dule: Right now I'm not involved in any other project. We'll see what happens between now and the summer. If something happens, I guess you'll hear about it, if not, I'll be in New Jersey relaxing. But what I'd like to do is films. Patience is a virtue, that's what they say.
The last thing I'd like to talk about is the movie She's All That (Dule played Preston). Did you enjoy that experience?
Dule: That was a lot of fun because most of the stuff I've done has been with older cast members, not people in my generation. So to come to a set everyday where everyone is in their twenties was a lot of fun. Freddie Prinze Jr. is a really cool guy; all of us had a lot of fun. Freddie's a good friend of mine.
That movie was the first teen thing that I've done but once I've done it, I'm not doing it again. It's not my goal to go back and do another teen movie; especially now that I've gone from She's All That to West Wing. I'd like to do deeper roles. I need to be challenged and think, "wow, how am I going to do this scene, oh my gosh." I want to dig in and see what can come out.