Recently, we profiled the young Rochester comedian and dramaturg, Kelsey Claire Hagen. That story led to meeting Che Holloway, a young Rochester actor who is proudly making his career happen here. Che and I had coffee at Sasso on Park Avenue last Sunday for a Q and A and a meandering walk and photo shoot though the Neighborhood of Arts near where he lives. We passed the School of the Arts where Che started his acting career over ten years ago.
Che’s already beginning to make a national name for himself, recently featured in Buzz Feed, 40 Magazine and the Huffington Post. The articles chronicle Che’s struggles with weight loss — at one point he lost 100 pounds — and his early years in NYC where he attended the American Music and Dramatic Academy, was broke for a while, and finally landed his first national TV gig on the Oprah Winfrey Network show Unfaithful.
Che would return to the Rochester he loves where he stars in Dark Justice, the award winning web series filmed in Irondequoit. He has appeared as Tom Robinson in a Bristol Valley Theatre performance of To Kill a Mockingbkird, the films Pressure and Elysian Field and, along with series two of Dark Justice, will be in the upcoming short films Cherophobia and Dear Darkening Ground.
Luckily for us, while Che expects to perform nationally, he wants to make Rochester his permanent home base.
When sitting down at Sasso, within minutes of meeting Che, I sensed that acting is for him a true calling. We talked about how, at about age 14 when at the School of the Arts, Che felt that he had a gift. As he eloquently put it, “the gift to take people on a journey. We’re like tour guides, but in the world of imagination.”
Ever since, Che has unrelentingly followed this vision that he combines with an artistic perfectionism. The gift of being a tour guide to the imagination is not enough in itself. In the ten years since high school, Che has taken ever opportunity to hone his craft. He’s pursued every risk taking role he can find, such as performing in adaptations of classic plays like Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun, Michael V. Gazzo’s A Hatful of Rain, and Sophocles’ Antigone. In between, Che has taken acting classes and worked with mentors. As he knows, to be an artist is to meld your belief in your individual gift with the hard won mastery of technique.
Really, what exudes from Che is his passion. As he told buzzfeed, “you have to want it so bad and love doing it so much that you can’t sleep at night.” You can almost see him waking up in the middle of the night to jot down a thought or try out a new line. Now, after paying his dues for ten years — still wanting and loving is so bad — Che feels he is on the cusp of his dream: being a professional actor for life.
I also sensed Che’s playful imagination when we wandered around the Neighborhood of the Arts on a slushy Sunday afternoon with the streets mostly to ourselves. As we trekked from Sasso up University to Writers and Books and the Whispering Dishes at the Garden of Fragrance and the Memorial Art Gallery, we sought venues where Che could pose as different actors each in a different play.
Q. You described yourself as a kind of nomadic hermit. As a nomad you have been to Alaska and the Caribbean in search of life experiences. At the same time, people might not think of an actor as a hermit. But you say solitude is important to your art. Describe yourself as hermetic actor.
All my life I feel as of my hermetic attitude was second nature. I often myself taking a step back to retreat into solitude and have been doing this for as long as I can remember. When I take a step back, its then I tend to have the most epiphanies. I am able to strategize what I should do and where I should go next.
Q. You say you very much want to make Rochester your home base. Talk about the artists in Rochester, the movers and shakers.
Rochester, N.Y. is so full of talent its insane. The support within the community of artists is awe inspiring. It seems like almost every artist you run into, has a strong desire to share their talent and succeed in their journeys.
It also goes beyond artistry, there are many upcoming and established entrepreneurs putting in the work as well and often take an interest in the arts and support in any way they can to ensure the production of positive art that heals, inspires and motivates within the community and beyond.
Q. We talked about the benefits of living in Rochester. But there is also the perception that it’s too small of a market. Talk about how you can create work for yourself.
You don’t necessarily need to live in a certain area to get work. Although the different types of work you may want can sometimes depend on your location, it’s important to remember that you can create the kind of opportunities your looking for without having to travel the whole globe. Network around your city, find and connect with people who share similar interests, where there is a will, there IS a way.
Q. When we got the School of the Arts, you felt you needed to tell the story of Le Ngo,and how she was instrumental in your life.
I attended Freddie Thomas Learning center back in middle school and at the time was trying my hardest to get into the School of the Arts for freshman year. However, I was severely lacking in my mathematics course and admission into School of the Arts depended on both your actual audition and your grades.
I’ve never been a fan of mathematics and it was extremely daunting to know that this was the course that could keep me from realizing my potential and from attending School of the Arts. This scared the living daylights out of me so I reached out to my best friend Le Ngo since she was exceptionally bright in most of her courses in regards to helping me pass my math course.
From her direction, I attended some after school programs and met with tutors in hopes to better myself in math. I ended up passing my exam and was admitted to School of the Arts. Fast forward to sophomore year, I’m sitting in my Global Studies class and our teacher says to the class, we have a new student joining us her name is Le Ngo and she just transferred here from Freddie Thomas.
I heard that and was overfilled with joy! The fact that I would be able to share a class with my best friend was a good way to start off our Sophomore year!!! Unfortunately in February 2008, Le Ngo passed away in a freak car accident leaving behind her family and all her hopes and dreams. This had hit me so hard, not only had I never dealt with death before. I lost my best friend. It all happened so fast.
To this day, I firmly believe I would be living a much different life had I not met Le Ngo. She single handedly changed my life with her kindness. I’ll always love her for that.
Q. Talk about the courage it takes to be an artist.
Strength and courage go hand in hand when it comes to being an artist. To take an idea, mold it into a reality and present to the world takes guts and a special kind of magic.
As an artist it can sometimes feel as if your under constant critique (though most of these feelings come from the artist themselves), it takes strength to deal with all the constant criticisms. It takes courage to present to the world a reality in which started as an idea in your mind.
Finally, “People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world” I fully believe in this notion and wouldnt have gotten this far without people like Le Ngo, Mike Gerbino and the whole team of Dark Justice, Ron Valderrama of streamnowtv.com, Michael Maponga of Afrolandtv and Chris Handley of “The Snobby Robot.”