May 15, 2014
RALEIGH, N.C. - Derek Green has never minded being in the spotlight. The youngest of three brothers, he watched his oldest brother David play quarterback at Duke and his other brother Darin star on the basketball court at George Washington.
Derek, who chose the football route when he was growing up in Charlotte, played a position where the beams of the spotlight seldom reached. As an offensive lineman, he knew that his name would seldom be called by the television commentators, unless perhaps he was flagged for holding or had a bad snap from his center position.
So while he played football at NC State, he found others ways to shine. He was a bright light in the classroom, twice earning the team's Earle Edwards Award for posting the team's high GPA. Some of those stellar grades were earned in drama classes that he took as electives.
"I had done a little acting in high school and enjoyed it, so I pursued it at NC State as well," Green says. "I was in a couple of class productions: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Colored Museum. I had a great acting teacher there and really enjoyed it."
He even found a way to take center stage on the gridiron without it involving an official's flag. In 2001, his second year as a full-time starter at center, he recovered a fumble in the end zone to score Pack's first TD in a 34-28 win at 10th ranked FSU. It was the last time an offensive lineman scored a touchdown for NC State.
Following graduation, Green was awarded a sports internship from the Atlantic Coast Conference and went to work at Disney for over a year. "It was great," Green remembers. "I was a sports manager for Disney's Wide World of Sports and was in charge of bringing high schools and colleges there to play their games.
Still in great physical shape from his playing days, Green moonlighted as a bouncer at a club on nights and weekends. One night, an agent walked up to him and asked if he'd done any acting. Green was skeptical, but it piqued his interest and before long, he was connected with an agent and was going on auditions.
His first commercial was a familiar role for Green. Just as he had stood in front of Philip Rivers at NC State, now he was working next to another famous quarterback.
"My first commercial was with Peyton Manning," he says. "It was the `Jimmy, would you come out and play?' commercial for Gatorade. I'm standing right beside him but I had my helmet on. I didn't get paid what I had been told I would, so at that point, I wasn't sure it was something I was going to pursue."
Following his internship, Green once again followed in his older brother's footsteps and took a job in pharmaceutical sales. "The job was intense," he says. "There was a huge learning curve because A, I never thought would be a salesperson; and B, it was different from anything I had planned. I had to put all my business management minor to work."
By 2005, Green's career with Sanofi Pharmaceuticals was going well and he posted a headshot on a Craigslist ad for a Tyler Perry production. A week later, he received a callback and was introduced to Perry. For the next four years, he went back and forth to Atlanta for extra spots on "House of Payne" and soon became a "featured extra."
"That gave me the edge," Green recalls. "I still didn't have speaking parts, but my face was being shown a lot more."
A new agent gave Green's hobby new life, and on his first audition, he landed a national commercial. This time, he played a basketball player in an Icy Hot commercial that featured Shaquille O'Neal. "It made me think, `I can really do this," he says.
In 2012, the same year he was promoted to sale manager, a friend asked Green to play the lead in a short film that also featured Sheryl Lee Ralph and Meshach Taylor. The film, "He Knows My Heart," shot in Los Angeles and although it wasn't a paying gig, it offered great exposure.
"I took a week's vacation and shot the film," Green adds. "My main job was always my main focus, but it was great to be able to do this as well. The film is still being shown at film festivals."
Meanwhile, Green was excelling at his day job, earning a trip to Paris and another to Hawaii. He was on the management track, and interviewed for two management jobs, one in Florida and one in Houston, but didn't get either.
"I always remembered what Robbie Caldwell, my offensive line coach at State, used to tell us. `You can be disappointed but never be discouraged.' I'm a spiritual person and I never questioned it when I didn't get those positions."
In 2012, Green had become friends with Tommy Ford, who gained fame from his role in the sitcom Martin. Ford asked Green to join him on a project (which has not yet been released) that featured several well-known actors. Right about that time, a district manager's position opened in L.A. and this time, Green was chosen.
"It's crazy that my path to L.A. didn't come through acting, but through work," laughs Green.
Now, Green is continuing to excel as a district manager, while spending all of his extra time honing his talent. He takes acting classes every Tuesday evening from 5 p.m until midnight. He's done live theater with the Culver City Public Theater, playing the lead in a production called "John Henry" last year.
He is also one of the main characters in a current web series called "Black Boots." He plays the president of a university in this drama about college life that was created with the goal of enticing young African-American males to puruse college.
"A web series is an unconventional platform for new artists to get their work out there," says Green. "I play the president of Brooks university and I handle the campus affairs. It's a college-aged drama with a lot of love stories and boys coming to men stories, and it digs deeper into fraternity and sorority experience. "
Meanwhile, Green continues to learn his craft. He calls his acting teacher his "coach" and has been tutored by other successful actors such as Vincent D'Onofrio from Law & Order fame.
"At work I'm always on stage, making presentations.," Green says. "I've had to learn on TV not to overact to make a point. From project to project have to be multiple people at different times. When I look at my recent performances, I can see the hard work paying off."
Managing a sales force of 10, memorizing scripts, taking seven hours of acting classes a week, working out, daily and filming the web series has made Green a busy man. But he doesn't mind.
"One of the things I've learned in life is that you have to do what makes you happy," he says. "Nothing I'm doing in my hobby is impacting my day job, but because I'm successful in my career I don't have to play any roles I don't want to just to pay the bills.
Green's dream is now a two-fold one. By 2024, he wants to be vice president of sales for his company. And, he's giving himself two years to pursue his acting career, with a goal of landing a role on a soap opera or long-running sitcom.
"When I look at my vision board at where I plan to be in 10 years, I want to be the best I can be at every level."
Note: You can watch all the episodes of Green's Black Boots Webseries and help fund the project here: www.gofundme.com/blackbootstv