Spotlight On Entertainment is now TVMusic Network

June 06, 2012

Chatting with actor Ralph Cole Jr about sitcoms, theater and more


From LA Sitcom Examiner: If you think you’ve seen actor Ralph Cole Jr. before, that’s because you probably have. Having appeared in numerous roles on TV, on the stage or on the big screen, the prolific actor, writer and radio personality as had a very busy career. Ralph has appeared in such hits shows as “Two and a Half Men,” “Big Time Rush,” and “Desperate Housewives.” He has also been in such musicals as the Tony Award winning “Dreamgirls,” and will appear in two movies coming out later this year.
LA Sitcom Examiner caught up with Ralph for an interview where he talked about his love of sitcoms, his radio show and he even chatted about today’s reality shows. Check out the interview with the Los Angeles native below:
Ralph: When I was born. [Laughs] I wanted to perform at a very young age. I used to watch a lot of television. I knew I wanted to be on TV, that's what I always wanted to do and musicals. I had an extroverted personality so musical theaterwas very much up my alley. I started in pageants as a youngster and then proceeded to performing in pageants and plays in elementary school. In junior high and high school, I was in band and orchestra. I've always been very musical and very funny. Those three things just lend itself to being a performer and that's what I happen to want to do so I'm just grateful that I've been able to do it and at such a very young age.
Phyllis: Was it any surprise to your family when you told them that you wanted to act?
Ralph: I was totally encouraged by my parents and still am by my mother, my father passed away peacefully in 2004 but he was a very staunch supporter of mine, and always encouraged me to do whatever made me happy rather than what was expected of me, Per say to be a doctor or lawyer to have a job that was very stable. Being in entertainment was very much what made me happy so I was able to pursue it 100 percent. They weren't surprised because I was so theatrical growing up they enrolled me in a performance school and we travelled to England, visiting all the different cathedrals so I had an early introduction to performance, to pageantry.
Phyllis: As an industry veteran with these reality shows like “Dance Moms” and “Toddlers and Tiaras,” even “American Idol” with the younger contestants, how do you feel it’s changed from when you started in talent competitions to now?
Ralph: It’s changed in the sense that it’s so much easier nowadays to put any kind of content that you want out to the planet. In my day growing up, you didn't have that technology so anything you developed and nurtured had to go through other channels, like on paper and snail mail to submit your project , to how to get a cassette tape and mail it so someone, etc. In that sense of technology it took longer to get a project seen or off the ground. Now with the reality shows and because so much of the economy has been in a negative spiral, people are so eager to look to entertainment as a getaway, the way to go when the economy was bad and now with this new technology, it's become web episodes. When you can turn to a TV show and watch people compete with each other to sing a song, it’s another way for a suppressed society to have control for an hour. A family can sit in front of their TV and hate this thing an love this thing...
Phyllis: And get all emotional...
Ralph: Right, it's like a soap opera. It's like another diversion, it puts them in power, so they can say "I know so and so is going to win and has the killer voice."...its provides a new type of dialogue and its a conversation  afamily can have rather than saying "we need money for food or tennis shoes." I think that's why there's a big component or plethora of these type of shows right now. It's something that in my career I like to stay on top of because there are techniques that the producers and casting directors are using as well to get their clients out there and seen.
Phyllis: In reviewing your theater work, I see that you performed in one of my favorite musicals of all time. "Dreamgirls." How did you get involved in that?
Ralph: I was in a North Carolina production directed by Broadway veteran Terrence Mann and I had the pleasure of getting to perform with Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. [of the legendary band The 5 Dimmension]. It was a wonderful opportunity.
Phyllis: I've seen "Dreamgirls" every time it tours here and seem to love it more each time. What it is about that musical that made you interested in doing it?
Ralph: I love the music. I originally saw it on Broadway and fell in love with the musical. I auditioned for the Broadway Company but didn't get in that company but got into Terrence's company. I was so happy to be a part of it. It's always fun when you want something and you really love it and then you get to be a part of it. [The musical] "The Wiz” was like that for me. I never did itbut when I first saw “The Wiz,” I fell in love with that musical. I was just very honored and pleased to be able to do a great production.
Phyllis: You done theater, TV and movies, is there one that you like more than the other?
Ralph: I like multi-camera sitcom television; it's my favorite genre so I get the best of both worlds. [I get] immediate gratification from the live studio audience and I get my passion fulfilled of just getting to be filmed on TV. I love making people laugh. I can never really put into words what it is and how much I love just standing in front of the camera being filmed and getting to recreate some slice of life. I like making movies too. It's all a fun process. All the different formats are fun, but my favorite would be the TV format.
Phyllis: What were your favorite TV Shows or who were your favorite performers to watch growing up?
Ralph: "I Love Lucy" is my all time favorite and it was because of that show and the brilliant comedic timing of Lucille Ball that I worked hard to build m craft. Just watching her did nothing but help me with my comedic timing. And I watched shows like “Father Knows Best,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Honeymooners” with Jackie Gleason, Carol Burnett, and “The Flip Wilson Show.” I was very motivated by a diverse amount of comics, both male and female. I'm a brassy bold performer and all the people I named are like that as well; I was very influenced by a lot of these wonderful performers.
Phyllis: I know you’ve appeared such popular shows as “Two and Half Men” and “Big Time Rush.” What’s the most rewarding thing for you about working on sitcoms?
Ralph: I love working with other actors, I love being a ham. I love performing in front of a lot of people and I totally get to do that with a sitcom.
Phyllis: What is your current dream role that you would like?
Ralph: I'd like to be a series regular on a multi camera television show. There's a resurgence and so many great shows out there and there's definitely room for me so I just have to keep doing it so that when the opportunity is there you're all ready to audition for it
Phyllis: You also have a host a radio show. Talk a little about that. 
Ralph: I co-host a radio show with Jasper Cole and we have a great show called "On the Set with Jasper Cole and we broadcast live out of our studio from blogtalkradio.com. We enjoy a two hour show where we interview guests from all aspects of the entertainment business. We are enjoying a very huge listenership and we are very pleased to be working through blogtalkradio. We not only have actors, we have directors, writers, producers, grips, stylists, musicians. We really cover all aspects of entertainment and it’s a fun venue. You get to meet people in the entertainment business.
Phyllis: Are there any current projects you are working on?
Ralph: I just finished with a film directed by Brian Herzlinger [called] "How Sweet It Is." It stars Erica Christensen, Joe Piscopo, Paul Sorvino and Michael Pare. It's a mafia musical comedy and I get to be featured in three production numbers. It will be coming out later this year or early next year and I have another film called “K-11” which is the complete opposite of the other movie. It’s a prison drama directed by Jules Stewart where I play an inmate.
Phyllis: How about some quick lightening round questions before we wrap up. What is your favorite vacation spot?
Ralph: Amsterdam and the Netherlands
Phyllis: Favorite comfort food?
Ralph: Fried chicken and chocolate cake
Phyllis: Yum. In that order?
Ralph: Okay, we'll reverse the order, if the chocolate cake needs to come first.
Phyllis: I feel chocolate cake should always come first but I agree about the chocolate cake and chicken. What about a favorite toy to play with growing up?
Ralph: The train set that my father and I would play with at Christmas time. Collecting trains was my hobby. And I had a nice red Tonka truck.
Phyllis: Do you have a favorite karaoke song? 
Ralph: “Finally” by CeCe Peniston. Back in the day when Jasper and I had another, earlier radio shows, Jasper and I had a “Top 10 Day” where we each played our favorite songs. One of mine was “Finally.” I love that song, it always makes me want to get up and move.
Phyllis: Favorite movie actor?
Ralph: Angela Bassett
Phyllis: Do you have a favorite sports team?
Ralph: LA Lakers
Phyllis: And lastly, what advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Ralph: Be pure in your thoughts no matter what you pursue and do it as enthusiastically as possible and never fear from what you’re true instincts are telling you to do. That way you can live a life as fulfilling as possible in this day and age that we are growing up in.
To hear Ralph's radio show, "On the Set with Jasper Cole," visit: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/onthesetwjaspercole


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