From unlikely origins, Ser’Darius Blain blazes trails as one of the industry’s most insightful and determined rising performers.
Ser'Darius Blain's first push into the acting realm wasn't just the beginning of what would become a promising career in television, from his role as scientist Galvin Burdette on Charmed (2018) to bereaved father Brian Johnson on Chicago P.D. (2016).
These things came much later. In the beginning, theater was the arena in which a younger Blain would be forced to break away from social anxieties that had followed him throughout childhood.
As a boy, Blain took his first step out from behind the curtain entirely by chance. After his mother, a middle school English and drama teacher, enlisted his help as a playwright, she found that her son's potential in the theater realm was not limited to the writing phase.
"I was the shyest kid you'd ever want to see, I had extreme social anxiety. I would never imagine getting on stage," Blain said, "But one day I was doing dishes, and I was reciting the lines from the play, and I recited the entire play. It was, like, an 80-page play. My mom was like, 'Did you really just memorize the entire play?'"
His mother, impressed with his ability to pick up lines with little preparation, encouraged Blain to get onto the stage.
"She said, 'You should audition for the play,' and I was like, 'No way,'" Blain said.
Despite his initial reluctance, Blain eventually agreed to an audition, and ended up as an understudy to the lead. His casting came as something of a relief.
"All right, I'm understudy, I will never get to be on this stage, so this is actually kind of perfect," Blain said. This sense of comfort was brief, and soon enough the young Blain found himself in a much more challenging role.
"First show in, the lead got sick and couldn't do any more of the shows," Blain said.
With no other options, it was Blain's turn up to bat. "I remember my heart pounding in my throat before the curtains opened that first time," Blain said, "And as soon as they opened, it all just dissipated and went away."
Not only did Blain complete the entire run of the play he had both written and starred in, he found something much deeper calling from inside himself.
"It became this source of energy and strength. It was the first time I ever felt confident in my life," Blain said, "I want to do this again and again and again."
This quiet break would prove to be the turning point from which the young actor would pave the road for a journey that would reach far beyond the simple act of performing.
Flash forward nearly two decades later and Ser'Darius Blain has proven to be one of the industry's most unique burgeoning voices.
Having already crossed an array of media and genres since his first series regular role as Carter on Jane by Design (2012), he finds himself in a unique nexus in his career. After working alongside Kevin Hart for their joint role as Fridge in 2017's Jumanji reboot, Blain is taking a turn into more serious territory.
"I feel like my strength kind of lies in drama," Blain said, "I love roles where I get to sink my teeth into something a little bit meatier."
Blain has certainly taken on subject matter that carries weight with his two upcoming projects, and while the two roles might seem disconnected at first glance, for Blain, they intertwine in a significant way.
First, in a turn as the younger incarnation of Samuel L. Jackson's character Takoda in Todd Robinson's The Last Full Measure, Blain plays the captain of a squadron on the frontlines of the American effort during the Vietnam war.
Second, taking on the role of real-life civil rights activist Louis Lewis in director Benedict Andrews's Against All Enemies, Blain portrays the real-life Black Panther Party leader in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.
While Blain's approaches to these roles may have taken different routes, the pervading theme of race, and the dichotomy between the characters' differing mindsets, are what compelled Blain to take on each part.
"I'm leading white guys in 1966 in The Last Full Measure and we're all brothers; we all look out for each other, we all love each other and I don't really see race," Blaine said, "As opposed to Against All Enemies where it's 'Us versus Them,' so both stories, both versions are true, and can be true."
That element of truth is part of the driving force behind Blain's desire to take on these projects, and creates what he sees as an opportunity to create understanding.
"I'm excited to be involved in projects that are telling the true history of our nation," Blain said, "I think the reason that there is so much tension is that people don't know each other. People across the tracks from each other don't know each other."
As far as where the two roles intersect, Blain pulls from his own experience to relate the perspectives of the characters he portrays to the audience.
"I'm a 6'5", 260 pound black guy, so sometimes when I say 'good morning,' to someone, sometimes they are a little startled or, you know, put off. Walking through the world, this is normal for me," Blain said, "I spent so much time in my younger years trying to shrink myself, trying to change my voice because I have a very deep voice."
With this in mind, Blain decided to use these struggles as the basis for his mission as an artist and performer. Embracing his identity, he decided to begin utilizing his background as a means to speak through social barriers.
"I was like, you know, instead of changing who you already are, maybe we need to allow people to get to know us, maybe we need to introduce ourselves to people," Blain said.
Blain's desire to challenge these realities lends itself to tackling the complexities of social inequity through the medium of cinema. Shedding light on fallacies in historical narratives is part of the solution.
"I think that the American history can be very convoluted and muddled because it was only being told by one party. I think that when people see certain movies, and they say, 'Oh, did that really happen?' That's what kind of starts the conversation," Blain said.
While drawing attention to the past is a key component of the discussion, Blain believes that looking forward is just as vital.
"I'm a big believer in using your art to change narratives, or to bring light to certain topics and create discussions. I think we need to be allies of each other," Blain said,
"If you're a man, speak up for a woman. If you're white, speak up for a black guy, and the other way around, you know? If you're not Muslim, speak up for a Muslim. And I think creating projects that speak to that narrative is the way that we're going to be able to right the ship right now."
It's a valuable endeavor, but it presents an interesting challenge: what do you do when the audience you need to reach may not be open to listening? For Blain, reaching across boundaries is about revealing the universalities amongst people.
"I'm a person that tries to unite people. How we move forward is by creating projects that are colorless," Blain said, "I think creating narratives where, you know, I'm a dad who would go to the ends of the earth to find out who killed my son in Chicago P.D., all of those things are indicative of everyone in society."
As Blain's platform has grown, so too has he grown into using it to unite people in the way he describes. While he initially resisted the allure of fame, Blain has certainly answered the call to speak his truth.
"When I first started acting, I was like, 'I don't want to be famous, I don't want to be famous. I just want to act and be able to take care of my family,'" Blain said, "I realized that is the exact opposite of what I should be trying to do. I think it is important to be famous."
As Blain's platform expands, he sees more opportunities to use the voice that fame offers him. But in a social climate rife with so many issues, where do you begin? Looking into the future, Ser'Darius Blain sets his sights on a place to start.
"I realized at a certain point that entertainers have such a huge responsibility, they have such a huge opportunity to be a positive voice in the minds of the youth today. If we're influencing the youth to change the way that they're thinking, maybe, just maybe, we have a chance to save our world."