Actor on rise Camrus Johnson channeled his “loud and obnoxious” ways, according to his mother, into a flourishing career that will make this small town Georgia born talent a house hold name in no time.
At 15, Camrus, like most young kids, was deciding which career path he ultimately wanted to take. He took two years of ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) with intentions to go into Navy like his father and brother, but opted out of following that career direction because he said he lacked the discipline. His mother suggested acting, so he gave that a shot. Camrus auditioned for 17 colleges and got 14 call backs. That was the driving force to pursue acting full-time.
He moved to New York City at 17 and with some help from a connection he made through his hometown mayor, Camrus was able to get a jump-start into the industry. “He got me my first head shot, he got me my first music video, my first three or four short films, my first few plays,” Camrus said and the lists goes on.
While Camrus lacked the obedience for ROTC, his discipline in acting landed him roles in projects like: The OA, Luke Cage, The Breaks, The Cobblestone Corridor, “Stalkers’s Prey,” and many more. Camrus’ role of his latest project There’s…Johnny! may just be his best to date.
The Paul Reiser and David Steven Simon written Hulu’s series There’s…Johnny! takes viewers to 1972 when The Tonight Show moved from New York City to Burbank, CA with host Johnny Carson. Andy (Ian Nelson) becomes a gofer on the series that intermingle real archival footage of Carson with what may have gone on behind the scenes on the show. Johnson plays Rasheed, the whip-smart stand-up comic and friend to Andy, who has huge ambitions to make it big and it starts with appearing on The Tonight Show.
Glambergirlblog has the amazing opportunity to chat with Camrus Johnson about his role on There’s…Johnny! Not only is Camrus extremely genuine and charismatic, but his approach to his character is nothing short of spectacular. Here’s some excerpts from our chat below.
Glambergirlblog: If you had to give There’s…Johnny! a tagline what would it be?
Camrus Johnson: It would have to be, young man stumbles across the greatest opportunity of his life to work backstage of the show of his dreams. It is so much more than that, but I feel like if I was going to give it a one sentence that’s what it’d be.
GGB: Nailed it! Can you tell us more about the show?
CJ: It’s about Andy Clavon, he’s a young kid from Nebraska, who thought he got offered a job from The Tonight Show and he didn’t get offered a job, but he shows up anyway. Through a gigantic stroke of luck he actually gets a job working backstage at The Tonight Show. It’s about how he had to find his way to fit in with this crazy behind the scenes television world. It’s about this other character Joy, played by Jane Levy, who is already working at The Tonight Show and she sort of takes him [Andy] under her wing, but is also very intrigued by him. They’re similar in a very strange way, but different in every other way.
GGB: You play a stand-up comic named Rasheed Miller, how did you prep for the role?
CJ: To prepare for Rasheed I wanted to find what Rasheed’s comedic voice is because I have taken a huge liking to comedy to the point where I see it more of like a science. You can really make any joke funny, but the science has to fit your equation. You have to know exactly what direction you’re coming from and more importantly you have to know timing. Comedic timing is everything. If you know when the joke is supposed to be funny then the joke will be funny, period. Rasheed is a very powerful character. He’s very loud, he’s very strong, so I wanted to find out how to make him feel strong and feel powerful, but make those jokes hit. Preparing for him I put on these fake comedy shows in my room. I just improved a couple of jokes because I also wanted to practice Rasheed thinking of jokes on the spot and I made to sure to make some of those shows go well and some of those shows go terribly because I wanted to make sure in Rasheed’s head he knew what if felt like to bomb and to fly. I also watched a bunch of Johnny Carson clips to see why this was a platform he was aiming for.
GGB: Good strategy! Is Rasheed like any other characters on There’s…Johnny!?
CJ: My character Rasheed is so much more like Joy because we are older and we have to deal with all the conflicts of the world, and we actually have like adult things we have to worry about. We’re both working so hard and have the world against us, but we’re pushing further and we both have these big dreams. So we both take a liking to Andy because he’s like this little puppy , this innocent, can’t hurt a fly brother. We both want to help him, but at the same time we see something in him. For Rasheed he sees a straight ticket to his dreams because Rasheed wants to perform on The Tonight Show. Once he has this crazy run in with Andy he’s told that Andy works for The Tonight Show and he knows Joy, because Rasheed is familiar with Joy, he’s like ‘you know what we can be friends,’ but also you’re the next step to freedom.
GGB: The show is set in the early 1970’s, what was the best part about working in that era?
CJ: What I loved was my afro. That was awesome. I got to pick out the hair. I don’t get to do that too often. Having my ‘fro picked out, just having this giant sponge on my head was great, but also the wardrobe. The wardrobe was so funky, and groovy, and cool. I wanted to bring every outfit I wore on that show back home with me. I thought, whenever they first showed me pictures of what I had to wear, I was like ‘OK that looks crazy,’ but as soon as I put it on I was like ‘I feel confident.’ I don’t know if that was Rasheed coming out of me or what, but I saw those clothes and said ‘I can do anything in these things.’ I don’t want to give it away, but there’s the “outfit” you see me wearing when you first met Rasheed; it’s pretty funny.[Laughs] It’s not much clothing, that’s what I’m going to say.
GGB: This show really reveals what it’s like to work in live television and in production, what did you take away from experiencing that world?
CJ: I appreciated Johnny Carson alot because I didn’t know much about him. I saw how quick on his feet he was because even though what we did was use archival footage of him and we sort of created a scene of what may have been happening behind the scenes. No matter what, Johnny Carson, even if something was helping him behind the camera or not, he fixed it. He made it work. He made the things keep going. I had a huge respect for live television because I didn’t think about all the things that could be happening while the live taping is happening because if something goes wrong on TV, yeah they have to keep going, but what is happening with the crew. That’s one purpose for season 1, most of the characters aren’t real, but the one real character in the series is Freddie Cordova, which is played by Tony Danza. Freddie Cordova was one of the producers/executive producer of The Tonight Show. So I think that one thing that they’re hoping for, if we get a season 2, is that other people who use to work for and with The Tonight Show back in the day will also want to present their stories of what actually happened to introduce more real characters.
GGB: Can you talk about any upcoming projects?
CJ: Not that I can talk about per say. The ones that I do have coming out are a lot of writing projects. I’m working on a pilot right now. One of the executive producers of There’s…Johnny!, Evan Shapiro, he started his own company and he’s producing a pilot that I’m producing and writing. I have a couple features that I’m in the works with, I have a horror film that I’m co-writing, a heist film that I have to rewrite. A comic book that I wrote and I’m hoping to get published and out by next year which would be nice. It seems that someone over at Legendary Films might be a little interested in that which would be cool. I had a scene in Star on Fox and “Happy Valley” on HBO. I am up for a role in this TV show that I can’t mention. We’ll keep our fingers cross and see what happens. Next year I’m hoping to have a lot of cool projects created by me and a lot more of my face on your TV.
GGB: We have to keep up with all the amazing things you have going on, where can we follow you on social?
CJ: Social media you can find me pretty much everywhere @CamrusJ
Season 1 of There’s…Johnny! is now streaming on Hulu. Be sure to catch Camrus Johnson in the series and be on the look out for all his upcoming projects. Watch the trailer for There’s…Johnny! in the clip below. Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Photo: NBC Universal