Garfield Wilson: The Artist Leading With Love
Artists have no other choice than to be present in the moment while being the creators of their creations. Like life itself, artists observe the variety around them, stimulating their motivation on the quest, and eventually inspiring them to allow themselves to receive their vision of the next step: the next brush on the canvas, the next curve to make on marble, the next movement to perform, or the next note to exhale… all of it happening in the now. From there, everything becomes curiosity and wonder—to explore and discover more.
Artist Garfield Wilson says, “I am a lover of the arts. I strongly believe that every artist has a journey into their own, which I love in the sense of pulling on the thread of that expression, on that individual path of that particular artist will give such a different performance and energy. And it’s just chock full of surprises and inspiration. I’ve always been attracted to music. And not necessarily entertainment, but something that would actually levitate me and take me to another world. In theatre, whether that be music or dance, I’ve been brought to tears by watching someone in their performance, or just been taken aback by an art piece. I’ve been in scene study class with fellow actors, and just been riveted, wondering how they were able to do what they did in that moment. And with all of that, there is an insatiable curiosity for the arts.”
Sometimes, we naturally compare ourselves to others. But that comparison serves only as a starting point, as motivation on the way to inspiration for honing our own fuller creative expression. Competition with others from the perspective of seeing someone solely as a rival, or competing from a steady state of co-creating with others, will bring us to experience life in a less or more satisfying way, respectively.
“I grew up loving sports and being very active physically. I think that natural and innate competitiveness within sporting activities is good. And I think that it brings about inspiration, and incredible performances of awe and wonder. In the acting, film and television industry, in terms of creativeness, as you become an up-and-coming actor, the business side of it itself—like going to a casting call, vying for a role—can create this energy of competition between your fellow actors. The evolution of that, for me, personally, is that where I am today, where I have been in the last three to four years, is that I’m not in competition with anyone. And if there is a vibration of competition on the spectrum, it is just within myself, to continually be curious and continually be motivated and inspired to do better, to seek knowledge within the craft that I chose as my vocation. Within those parameters, and being creative in that sense, I’ve been able to become way more successful than if you and I were going for the same role, and I’m thinking of trying to do better than you. To me, I identify as an artist that is fully embracing the creativity of that moment and being present in that moment. More gratification creatively, spiritually, in my body than if I’m thinking about competing with someone else. And because of this, I’ve had more success than in my earlier years as an actor.
“I remember playing basketball and just being in the moment doing things physically and being able to complete plays, moves, passes, and your team comes together cohesively in that moment. That is sublime. And that is like the rush of comedy. Yeah, that’s beautiful. Artistically speaking, if you’re looking at a singer versus another singer, or an actor versus another actor, how can you compare? I mean, think about Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. Why would you compare the two? Did you know that Robert DeNiro also auditioned to be Sonny Corleone, the character who was played by James Caan in The Godfather? How could you ever imagine anybody but James Caan playing that role? But then Robert DeNiro became the young Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II. I mean, comparing two actors doesn’t make sense to me creatively,” passionately shares Garfield.
That which you call God, Source, or the Universe is all inclusive in nature, and all humans as part of the Divine aim for more inclusivity: to include more. Therefore, inclusion starts within ourselves—it starts by including ourselves. Separation is not equal to uniqueness; separation is an illusion. Inclusiveness feels natural, inclusiveness resonates as love. To experience this Oneness is to experience the wholeness of who we are.
Garfield says about inclusivity, “I think the first step is to understand the world that we live in. And if I can be more specific, understanding the reality of the society that you live in. Let’s just take North America, which I believe was founded on racism as deep grooves woven into it, of systemic racism. So, acknowledging that and not dismissing, or whitewashing, or pushing aside the fact that there is overt racism within our society. From there, acknowledging where white privilege is, will lead you to the path of enlightenment to make definitive steps towards inclusivity. And diversity, understanding where you come from, where we come from, as people, and to that end having the goal of where we want to go now in terms of diversity and inclusion in the art that I’ve chosen to be my career. I believe that art reflects and should represent our world, and our society.
“The world is beautifully diverse. There are beautiful people in the LGBTQ+ community. And there are Caucasian people that are beautiful as well. It’s just a melting pot of all these different communities and cultures. That being said, normal things happen to people of the LGBTQ+ community, to black people, to Asians, to Native Americans—First Nations people—to white people, and they just happen to be them. So if you can tell stories that have these groups and tell them in compelling ways and they just happen to be black, they just happen to be gay, they just happen to be first nations, with these people in in these roles, that is diversity and inclusion. And let’s go further and have these groups represented behind the scenes in terms of screenwriting, directing, producing studio heads—all of these different things—then you will start to see full inclusion which you are beginning to see today.
“There’s no longer the need to see a story with characters that are LGBTQ+ about them being gay, or a story with black people that isn’t about them just being black—they are people, we all are people. I want to see the story of a day in their life and they just happen to be Gay or Black or Asian or First Nations . The same as being a square jawed Caucasian white male going through trials and tribulations, and he just happens to be a square jawed, Caucasian male, that can also happen with so many different types of people, so many different shapes and sizes. And we’ve seen that, and it works. And the reason why it works is that the world is beautifully diverse, and the world wants to see itself represented in film, television, and in the art abroad.”
Sometimes we pretend to say something that is not real. But we can’t really lie because the energy we emanate will always tell the truth. Weola, spoken by inspirational teacher Kosta Trifunovic, once said, “When we lie, we are pretending that we are not Divine.” When we are not honest with ourselves, we are not honoring the Divine within ourselves. And so, when actors are real in their reflection of the story they convey, we are enamored and connected to them in profound ways.
Garfield says, “I’ve created a philosophy for myself in regards to acting. And so for me, acting in its simplest form is about the conversation. So, when I get a breakdown for an audition, when I get a script and I’ve landed a role, the only thing that I’m trying to do is understand what the conversation is—whether it be actions, or whether it be dialogue, or whether it be whatever. And then I’m trying to infuse myself into that character as much as I can to land authentically in that conversation. Because when I’m in the conversation, I’m not worried about what’s my good side, what my bad side is, and how I look—all of that goes away. I’m invested in mind, body, and soul into the conversation, which creates that thing that I love about really wonderful performances, that they’re listening. Some of the greatest performances you’ll ever see, on the small screen, in the big screen, is watching a brilliant actor when they’re listening, and how, whatever somebody is saying, or whatever is being done, impacts them. It’s within their eyes. It’s just so subtle, but it’s so powerful. So if I can get closer to that level of being in the conversation, I’m super happy. So when I’m doing auditions, back when we’re going into the room, or when I’m doing self-tapes now, I won’t look for a perfect take. I will look for whether I believe that I am watching a conversation or not.”
Garfield can be seen as Henry, in the new musical comedy series Schmigadoon on Apple + TV. This musical comedy series with an amazing cast—which aside from Garfield includes artists such as Keegan-Michael Key, Cecily Strong, Fred Armisen, Kristin Chenoweth, and Dove Cameron to name a few—is a parody and homage to Golden Age musicals that explores deconstructing many stereotypes in a magical town called Schmigadoon. The two key characters, Melissa and Josh, a couple who are from a contemporary world, go to a couples retreat in an attempt to resolve their relationship problems. But instead, they end up in a magical time: stuck in 1940s and 1950s musicals. They don’t realize that they’re in a musical, and they speak in song, and also express themselves through dancing. With all of their flaws, all of their insecurities, all of their baggage, they get changed by the town. And in turn, the town gets changed by them.
“Henry is a character that has been beaten to death over time in terms of what African Americans represented in film and television of that time. Henry is the town iceman. He basically is a schlub. And that is, you know, typical of the roles that African Americans played and the role that played in that society after slavery. Henry would love to be a doctor. And looking at Henry, you would never see him as someone that has that kind of ambition and that intelligence. Henry impacted me. It just really affirms the types of roles that I want to do in the future, which is wonderfully diverse. And I’ve been very blessed to play those roles in my career, and to keep pushing the needle forward to play really intriguing complex characters against types of me being a six-foot-one muscular black man. I tip my hat to my agent Natasha Trisko (Trisko Talent Management), for over five years ago, she said, we’re just gonna submit you for anything and everything, and not just as a tough cop, or the bad guy. Because that’s just two-dimensional. I’ve been playing doctors, lawyers, a gay activist, a grieving father, the list goes on and on.
“I would love for the audience to be pleasantly surprised and deeply entertained. Number one, because it is musical. And number two, because they touch on so many different facets of social commentary, in terms of what we’re still battling today in our divisiveness, and in the rhetoric that we see in terms of being compassionate and inclusive. And then on top of that, not being confined to the reality of your surroundings, to desire more, to have more ambition, and to seek more out and to not let anything hold you back,” excitedly expresses Garfield.
With all his passion and care, it’s no wonder that Garfield is experiencing the most satisfaction in his life and career. His next big project is a Disney feature film, Peter Pan & Wendy, a new version of the iconic original animated film, Peter Pan, set to show in theatres in 2022. Garfield also started a new Netflix movie series based on a children’s book called Ivy + Bean. This extraordinary story is about two seven-year-old girls and their adventures, who despite being very different, eventually become the best of friends.
But Garfield is not only passionate about the arts; he is also passionate about using his visibility through his platforms to bring a fuller awareness about equality in and out of Hollywood. He says, “I use my platform to educate and to and to encourage conversation. And from that conversation, hopefully enlightenment, and hopefully less ignorance, and to diffuse the divisive rhetoric and the narratives that are out there. We need to check ourselves. That’s where real change happens.
“What I’ve found through the work of self-discovery is that I’m constantly curious, and consistantly trying to better myself as a human being. In those moments of adversity, where I feel like there’s an injustice being done, or I’m not being seen, or I’m being given the short end of the stick, I really try to be in my truth. I lead with tenacity, but I also lead with empathy. In any given situation, like being on set, there’s so many strong personalities, and there are so many things that can go wrong in a production on set. You have no idea how many things can go wrong. For a production to have a finished product and for it to be a really great movie. Everything has to go right. So everybody within the production—from the makeup person to the grips, props, to the director to the script supervisor, to the DOP, to your fellow actors are in this cohesive unit—each individual is going through their own sh%t. So I can’t take any conflict as malicious intent onto me and take that personally, even when emotions can run high. I have to be in my truth and say, ‘Okay, I have empathy because they are going through their own things. But they need to know where the boundaries are for me. And I lead with authenticity and kindness and say, ‘I get it. And I do understand that, but that doesn’t necessarily work for me, I understand that you have a job to do. And let’s just work in a collaborative sense to make that happen.’ So once I flipped that, and led with that sentiment and occupied that space, in that sense, instead of taking it personally, things went way better for me. And I got what I wanted. And if I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, it was collaborative. There was compromise. Again, leading with an empathy and my truth in a passionate conversation, as opposed to being destabilized by our insecurities, our self-confidence and all of that. The difference is leading with love or leading with fear.
“I love my positive energy and that of the people I have around me. I also believe that I have a very infectious energy that creates happiness and joy with those whom I have in my life and can have an impact on. And what I love in other people is that I am met with that energy in kind,” lovingly concludes Garfield.
What feels better to you, leading with fear or leading with love? There you have the answer.
Photography // J Benson Photography