Last week, members of Spring Creek Teen Central enjoyed their Friday night watching the film, “The Great Debaters.” Directed by Denzel Washington, the film is based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College, a predominantly black school in Marshall, Texas who inspired his students to form the first black College debate team in 1935. They defeated the University of Southern California (depicted as Harvard University in the film) the then reigning national champions.
After the movie, Teen Central members were able to speak with one of the film’s actors, Damien Leake, via skype. During the session, many of the teens voiced their approval of the film. Jamel Gonzalez said it taught him a little more about history then he would have learned at school. He thinks the film was more informational because it combined visual and dramatic effects with historical lessons. He said, “If a picture is worth a 1000 words, how much is a movie worth?”
Raised in the Bronx, Leake attended the New York City High School of Preforming Arts and now resides in Southern California, where he continues to work in television and film as well as coaches track and field to young people. Leake, a veteran of the theater, films and television shows and a world class athlete (2014 Master’s National Long Jump Champion) talked about the film and offered students life advice. In speaking with the teens about life in the theater,
Leake said he would not recommend acting as a career to anyone. Not because it is difficult, but rather that it is a career based on luck and not merit. One student asked what other career he would pursue, to which he responded, “If I could do it all again, I would be a track and field coach. That business is based on merit, not luck. You have to earn it.”
Leake encouraged the students to pursue their dreams, but be realistic as to what career they choose.