The Kindness He Done
by Andre Jackson on September 3rd, 2012

Before making the decision to forego medical school to try my hand at professional acting, I came out to LA with a buddy of mine from Kansas, Brian, to test the waters.  I took a tour of the acting conservatory where I'd already been accepted as a freshman student and jaunted around town to get a feel for what life as an Los Angelian would be like. We walked the streets of Hollywood, drank and flirted with the local "talent" at a few LA nightclubs, and I went on several job interviews that I'd lined up.  After a week in the City of Angels, I was still on the fence.

With time to make a decision quickly running out and the life of an actor now clearly less secure than the stability and predictable option I'd pursued since high school to become a doctor, I took a brief break from the inner debate to enjoy what would possibly be my last dinner in Los Angeles.
We drove around for at least an hour trying to make our minds up about where we were gonna eat.  Since we knew we'd be leaving on an early flight the next morning, we wanted to make sure that the last LA meal was something quintessentially Californian.  After a heated debate and a winning coin toss, I found myself pulling into California Pizza Kitchen (at the time, I was unaware that this was a national chain barely classifiable as "inspired" by California cuisine).

Brian, still sore after losing the coin toss, decided to stay in the car while I went in to grab the food.  I walked in and was directed to the carry-out waiting area to wait on my order.  As I took my seat in the tiny carry-out section, I was stunned by the massive figure seated directly across from me.  I immediately recognized his imposing frame.  It was Michael Clarke Duncan. 

The Green Mile had only been released about two years earlier and had become one of my favorite films.  I introduced myself to Mr. Duncan and soon we easily found ourselves engrossed in conversation.  He was and remained until his untimely death today, one of the most genuinely kindhearted people I have ever met.  We talked about each of our pasts, families, dreams, and goals for the future.  Long after we'd both been given and paid for our faux Cali-style pizzas, we were still laughing and experiencing the lighthearted conversation like that had by trusted friends.

For some unexplicable reason, I told Mr. Duncan of my recent dilemma.  I told him about my fears for the future and my love for the art.  He gave me advice that profoundly effected my decision and is greatly responsible for the life I'd enjoyed since.  He shared with me that he too had almost decided to quit acting.  He said he once worked as a bodyguard for years while pursuing acting work. After years of only being able to land small bit parts here and there, he'd finally become discouraged enough to purchase a one-way ticket to depart Los Angeles in one month.  The day his flight was scheduled to leave, he sat in his friend's apartment - bags packed - and decided not to give up.  Less than a year later, he began filming The Green Mile.  He delivered a critcally acclaimed, award winning performance for his portrayal of John Coffey.  Mr. Duncan advised me to search my heart for the answers, trust in God, believe in myself, and regardless of what I chose I should never be afraid of life.  He wished me luck and we departed.  I returned to the car with cold pizza, a furious Brian in the passenger seat, and the decision to become an actor.

I never saw Mr. Duncan again after that day - at least not in person.  He went on to star in many more films and lived the life he always knew he wanted to live.  I've continued on my own journey as a successful actor.  I've lived my dream despite the occasional nightmare.  No matter what has or will happen, I will not quit.  I will not be afraid.

Michael Clarke Duncan died this morning, Labor Day, due to complications from a massive heart attack that he suffered on July 13th.  His death is a personal loss.  I will always remember the gentle kindness of his spirit and I'll be grateful for having met him that summer evening in Los Angeles. 

I watched The Green Mile twice today.  There's a scene at the end of the film that now touches me greater than ever.  Just before John Coffey walks "the mile" to Old Sparky, he has a conversation with the head gaurd, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks).  Gaurd Edgecomb is suffering because despite knowing John to be innocent, he must send him to the electric chair.  He asks John how is he to explain to God that he killed one of his most beautiful creations.  John Coffey comforts him, saying...

"You tell God the Father it was a kindness you done. I know you hurtin' and worryin', I can feel it on you, but you oughta quit on it now. Because I want it over and done. I do."

Rest in peace, Mr. Duncan. May God bless your soul now and forever. Thank you.

Posted in Living the Dream, Meetings    Tagged with Michael Clarke Duncan, Los Angeles, Acting


mike payne - September 4th, 2012 at 2:20 PM
Nice post!
Andre Jackson - September 4th, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Thanks, Mike. What a loss.
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