The show Noah's Arc, seen on LOGO, already has several things going for it, including an almost embarrassingly good-looking cast and intriguing plot twists. However, the series ( which is starting its second season on Aug. 9 ) now has an increase in star wattage in the form of Keith Hamilton Cobb, who is probably best known for his roles as Tyr Anasazi on the sci-fi series Andromeda and as Noah Keefer on the daytime serial All My Children.
Cobb took a few moments to talk with Identity about several issues, including his role on Noah's Arc and maintaining integrity.
Identity: Tell me about your character on Noah's Arc.
Keith Hamilton Cobb: I can tell you about the character but I've been sworn to secrecy about plot lines and things like that.
The character's name is Quincy Abraham and he is a very aggressive gay-rights activist and political pundit. He's the go-to guy on Black gay issues. He has a television presence and writes a blog; he's a celebrity within the community.
I: Can you at least tell me how long your character will be on the show?
KHC: Well, I can tell you that he has a presence for this coming season; beyond that, no one knows. They make shows from season to season. They make their order and then sit and see if they'll be making another 8 to 10 shows.
I: What attracted you to this role?
KHC: The first [ reason ] involved Patrick-Ian Polk, the executive producer, whom I've known in the Hollywood community for many years. He was working on the film Punks and he gave me the script. I said that 'Patrick, I wouldn't expect you to deal with anything but gay issues, but this is so big and so broad [ that ] I would not know how to play this.' I didn't think that the script allowed for a lot of subtlety in gay relationships. He understood and found someone else to play it ( Rockmund Dunbar ) . When I saw the finished product two or three years later, I said, 'Patrick, I would've made this movie.' [ Laughs. ] He said, 'You're an actor. You know how things grow and develop.'
Then, he said that he was making a TV show—but everyone in Hollywood says that he's making a TV show. [ Laughs. ] I said OK. Two and a half months ago, I got a call to audition for this show—and I saw his name attached. I went to see him and, needless to say, I was happy for him and proud of him. I asked, 'Why didn't you call and offer me this role?' He [ mentioned Punks ] and I said, 'I know better now, Patrick. [ Punks ] wasn't the right project for me at that time. But one, it's you; two, you're [ now ] in Vancouver; and, three, I know a little bit about the cast.'
I'm always looking for a challenge. If it's written well and it's a great role, it's a great thing to stretch with.
I: I imagine that this role is a unique challenge. You've done everything from Shakespeare to sci-fi to soap operas, but nothing quite like this.
KHC: I've tackled nothing like this at all, honestly. Some people might say it's a challenge because it's a gay role, but I find that once I'm in it, it wasn't a challenge for reasons one would've thought. The fact of the matter is that I don't find sexual attraction, whether its male-male or male-female, to be any different. I can play that on a deeply emotional level or on a lust-driven level. I had the pleasure of working with Darryl Stephens, the lead, on this—who is quite good and quite easy to be attracted to.
I: So, regarding relationships, the biology may be different but the chemistry is the same.
KHC: Yes. Absolutely.
I: Some feel that the Black community is pretty conservative about homosexuality. Did that factor into your decision to accept this role?
KHC: No. How things resonate within me is really the determining factor in making choices. Once you start [ letting external factors in ] , you've lost all control and integrity over the choices you make. Yes, the community has been slow to come along with that, for various reasons—sociologically speaking. However, no matter what you do, someone will [ question ] your choices. You have to go with what's right with you.
I: I also understand that photography is one of your hobbies. Do you remember the first picture you ever took?
KHC: No...I don't. I can look around my house, though, and see reproductions of the first picture I ever liked. I knew that I was exhibiting a talent, but I am by no means a professional photographer. If it shows up, that's a pleasant surprise.
There was a photo on my Web site [ that is currently down ] of a Black actor who was backstage on King's Road in West Hollywood. He was looking at himself in the mirror in a tiny room with one bulb over his head. I call the picture Shakespeare in Fable. [ The actor had a minor role in a production of Hamlet. ]
I: I read that you consider your parents to be your biggest inspiration.
KHC: Yeah, life-wise. I look at how they've conducted their lives and the choices they've made.
We carry from generation to generation a certain consciousness that is passed on through family. We discover that there are bigger forces at work and that there's some divinity at work.
Beyond that, on the plane of the particular, there are always influences. I have several acting influences and [ even ] influences regarding people who you watch to see how they live their lives. But, yes, my parents have this intelligence and work ethic are very important. I mean, anything that shapes us is important, right?
I: This is true—even if it's negative.
KHC: Regardless. It gives you a point of reference, even if it tells you what you don't want to be.
I: What's the most important lesson you've learned being there in Hollywood?
KHC: I have learned to know and trust myself.
This place is about creating fantasy for money. There is a business that is not interested—and I speak as if business could have a heart and a soul—in what or who you are. It's all about money. However, that's not what we actors do; it does not nurture my spirit and it does not honor God. I continue to learn that I have a truth with respect to who and what I am as well as what I represent on this planet.
Even once you have the job, a director may say, 'Could you be more like this?' It's your job to find a way to be amenable to other creative forces but you also need to say, 'I don't feel that. I think what I'm bringing is what's right'—and, more often than not, the audience will re-affirm that.
A character like Quincy is subordinate to a much larger plot; by its very nature, guest characters are there to support the larger stories and the drama of others. However, even in the small moments, making choices about how one talks to another over a dinner table, for example, [ involves ] trust about oneself and about what one is emanating.