*Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is a busy man these days.
Thomas, who first gained national recognition for his portrayals in “Save the Last Dance” and “Barbershop” and “Barbershop 2: Back in Business,” is currently starring in “12’ by 9’”, a riveting stage play written and directed by Fred Thomas, Jr.
The play is running for three weekends at the Missing Piece Theater in Burbank, Calif. through Nov. 25.
‘12 by 9’ centers around three inmates whose volatile relationships erupts and ends in a shattering climax.
“Acting in ‘12 x 9’ has been fantastic,” said Thomas, who portrays the pious character Jasper.
“Jasper is a guy who is in jail for stealing from his church but he maintains his innocence. He shares the jail cell with two inmates who are killers. It’s a powerful, well-written piece about the relationships between these three guys who are forced to share a prison cell.”
Also appearing in “12’ by 9’” are actors and Maurice G. Smith as “Townsend” and Fred Thomas Jr. as “Train,” a sociopath who is bent scheming to use one cellmate to get rid of the other.
Thomas said that acting in the gripping play has given him new insight into the effects of long-term incarceration.
“People in prison are exposed to criminals and criminal activity and you get the sense that the prison system really doesn’t rehabilitate anyone.”
The busy thespian said he first caught the acting bug when he was attending college at the University of Virginia.
“One of my teachers encouraged me to try out for “A Raisin in the Sun.” I felt exhilarated and comfortable on stage and it turned out to be a great experience. That’s when I decided to become an actor.”
The son of hard working Guyanese immigrants, Thomas said that despite the career uncertainty of the acting profession, his parents were pretty supportive.
“They didn’t try to stop me from becoming an actor,” he recalls. “They’re great role models–what they passed on to me was a phenomenal work ethic.”
Raised in Wilmington, Delaware, Thomas seems to have made the right choice. He has gone on to appear in a number of television and theatre roles as well as in movies. He first garnered critical acclaim in the military drama in “Courage Under Fire” in which he starred opposite one of his idols, Denzel Washington.
“I was allowed to watch him I (film) a scene. He was very creative and he made the scene real for everybody on set.”
He also received critical acclaim for his role as the love struck cello instructor Ronald Clifford in the teen cult film “Cruel Intentions.”
When asked about “Barbershop” and “Barbershop 2: Back in Business” in which he played college student Jimmy James, he reflects, “Appearing in the ‘Barbershop’ films was a lot of fun,” said Thomas about the comedy, which also featured Ice Cube and Queen Latifa. “I loved working with Cedric the Entertainer. He made me laugh every day.”
But is was in MTV Films’ “Save the Last Dance” also starring Julia Stiles that Thomas’ fan base grew by leaps and bounds. Set in Chicago’s inner city, he plays Derek, a college-bound high school student who helps Stiles’ character, who plays a suburban teen, train for a dance audition. Despite his memorable smooth dance moves on the screen, Thomas said he had lots of help when it came to making the dance sequences look authentic.
“I had good teachers who worked with me before we started filming,” he recalls. “They really helped me to loosen up.”
The actor, who said he would love to star opposite favorite actors Robert Downey Jr., Morgan Freeman or Anthony Hopkins, can be seen on upcoming episodes of BET’s “Reed Between the Lines” and on CW’s “Ringer.”
As for his dream role?
“I’d love to play James Bond,” Thomas revealed, “although I hear Idris Elba might be in talks for the role.”
Whether he’s on stage or screen, Thomas has no plans of slowing down.
“I just plan to keep in the game and keep going on,” he revealed. “I’m just proud and thankful that I’ve been able to make a living doing what I love.”
“12’ by 9’” is running at the Missing Piece Theater, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank, Calif. for three weekends to Nov. 25. Call 323-960-5521 or log on to www.plays411.com/12×9.