Actor Donald Paul is no stranger to the spotlight, however, his rise to fame has been a process and proof that if you follow your passion/dreams and put in the hard work, anything can come true.
Donald, born to Haitian immigrants who moved to the United States back in 1983, spent five years during his youth here in New York working with kids with special needs in order to help pay for college and study his love of theatre.
Since breaking into the industry, Donald has appeared on countless television programs including POWER, Boardwalk Empire, SEAL Team and Blue Bloods, and is getting set to shortly guest star on FX’s Atlanta and ABC’s Quantico.
The Levity Ball sat down with Donald to find out more about his career and living here in New York…
1. When did you first know you wanted to be an actor? What was your first “gig”?
My church growing up would put on a play every year. I got so into it that each time auditions would roll around, I would attend, attempting to play as many roles as I could until I was too old to participate. My first professional paying gig was for a company in New York called “Dawn”, that is unfortunately no longer around. It was a traveling company that would take actors to neighboring cities to perform. We would build and break down our set every performance. It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget.
2. You spent over five years working with kids with special needs in order to help you pay for college and study theatre… were there ever times you wanted to give up on your dreams and passion of the arts? Do you still work with any of those kids today?
I think every actor at some point in their career thinks about quitting. Fortunately, working with those kids thought me the importance of patience, because in this career you must have it. I think it (patience) is one of the most important attributes to have as an artist, because things take time to develop in this career. Even today, I still see the kids I used to work with. Do I still work with them? No. Working with these kids you need to be there consistently. With acting I became on-call, so I had I make one of the hardest decisions.
3. People may remember you from your many appearances on shows such as POWER, Boardwalk Empire, SEAL Team, Blue Bloods and others. How does your family and friends feel about your new ‘fame’?
Honestly, they are surprised. Not because of the new ‘fame’, but because I’m the jokester in the family and the roles I’m most known for aren’t that funny.
4. Your parents are Haitian immigrants that moved to the US in 1983… Do you hope to follow in the footsteps of other notable Haitian Americans such as Wyclef Jean, Maxwell, Jason Derulo, and Jean Michael-Basquiat?
Of course, I do. I want to leave my own imprint on this industry just as they did. They definitely created a path for us all who came after them, so I would like to continue that.
5. Who were your role models growing up?
My sister and mother hands down were my biggest role models growing up. Jeannie (sister) and Fleurina (mother) are the most resilient women you’ll ever meet. They don’t back down to anything and don’t give up on anything. Having them by my side throughout this journey as an actor have been nothing but a gift.
6. You appear next on FX’s Atlanta and ABC’s Quantico… What about these upcoming roles can your fans look forward to?
They can look forward to well rounded and diverse roles. It’s an opportunity to see me in a comedy and drama, which are completely unlike each other. I got absolutely lucky to be on such great show’s and in the company of some of the best people in the industry.
7. What is the best advice you have ever received career wise?
Work hard at the small things or the things you perceive to be small and great things will come from it. Take acting classes on the regular, do vocal warm ups in the mornings, sleep a full 6-8 hours a day, run or exercise often, drink more water.
8. Social media is obviously a big factor these days. What are your feelings towards the entertainment industry and the usage of various social channels to either cast people, promote projects or connect with fans?
Social media is a great way to reach out people you wouldn’t normal be able to get to. Now to be an artist, you don’t just want to be locally known, but globally known. Everything you do as an artist should be treated as a business and you want as much traffic and attention on your work or projects. What I like the most about social media is that its free. Its free marketing!
9. Who is one person (still alive) that you’d love to work with one day?
That’s a good question. There are so many great actors and directors out there to choose from. I’d say I’d like to work with that next Will Smith or Jamie Foxx. There’s something special about working with that person that wasn’t celebrated when you knew them.
10. Being a New Yorker, where is your favorite place to eat and hangout when you have down time?
On the lower east side is a New Zealand restaurant called The Musket Room. I kid you not, it is some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. The vibe and presentation keeps be coming back.
11. What about New York and living here do you just love?
This might sound silly but I’m an absolute foodie (who loves delivery), so having access to this many options of food at the the touch of my fingers, feels heavenly.
12. And final question: What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as that actor that took on challenging roles as well as disappeared within them.