Courtesy of Lorenzo Yearby

Actor/screenwriter Lorenzo Yearby has dealt with prejudice his entire life. So much so, that he’s learned to contain himself even when provoked. 

So it’s no wonder that “The 24th,” his recently released film about the Houston Riot of 1917, hit home.

You may recognize Lorenzo Yearby from his popular YouTube channel where he plays the alter-ego Pastor Petty. His character is quite charming in the most delicate (ha ha!) of ways. If you’re not familiar with Pastor Petty, be sure to check the channel out!

 

You play Lucky in Vertical Entertainment’s newest film, “The 24th”—now streaming. The film is a historical drama of the Houston Riot of 1917. Did you know anything about the Houston Riot of 1917 prior to learning about “The 24th”? Discuss.

No, I had never heard about the story at all. When I booked the role, I immediately started researching whatever I could on Google and YouTube.

 

What kind of research, if any, did you do for your role? Did you go through any type of training?

For research, I watched every video I could find on YouTube, and read every article I could find. The turnaround to be on set came so quickly, I did not have time to find books. We went through military training for some time before we began filming. Learning the commands, how to stand and march correctly. We were trained on how to shoot the authentic 1917 Springfield rifles, which was interesting, because until then I had only shot modern day weapons.

 

In the film “The 24th,” Private William Boston (played by Trai Byers), has lighter skin than the other men and is told he talks like a white person. Have you yourself ever encountered prejudice and/or preconceived opinions from others? 

Yes. It’s an everyday thing living in Georgia. The sad part is, it has become so normal that most Black people don’t even talk about it. Which leads people to believe it only happens when a story makes the news. Literally 95% of the time I walk into the grocery store I experience it, but when you have dealt with it since you were a child, you learn to ignore it. It doesn’t matter if I am dressed in a button-down shirt and slacks. Racism and prejudice has never gone away. It just has not been as overt until recently. Seventy percent of the time when I am stopped by police, it is assumed I can and/or will be easily provoked to anger, and they are often confused I keep a calm demeanor. There was a time when I just bought my brand-new car with “Tag applied” still on the back, and a police officer in Carrollton, GA banged his flashlight on the side of my car trying to cause a reaction, and I just stared blankly. I have too many stories, but yes, I have definitely experienced prejudice.

 

You were born in Miami, Florida, but currently reside in Atlanta, Georgia. When and why did you move to Atlanta? How are the acting opportunities in Atlanta compared to California, Canada or NY? 

I was born in Miami. My mother moved away after my father died of lupus when I was two years old. I then moved to Columbus, and then my mother moved my brother and me to Atlanta, GA when I was 16 so we could have more opportunities. We are getting better acting opportunities in Atlanta than had been in the past, but we still lack the opportunities for some of the larger projects and principal roles.

 

You created a character called The Pastor Petty. Describe the character. What gave you the idea? Why did you choose YouTube as your platform? What is your target audience? 

Pastor Petty came about for many reasons. He is a character who is very outspoken when reprimanding others, but still has a lot of flaws himself. I am also a screenwriter, so he began as a writing exercise to work on my comedy writing, and I also began using him to talk about issues that would make society better. Some issues are tough to speak about, but when you mix it with comedy, it’s easier for people to swallow. I actually chose Facebook as my platform, because I knew it would be easier to share and see the response from the audience. It grew to about 20,000 followers in 18 months. I would say my target audience would be everyone from ages 12 and older. I use a lot of church elements, but it’s not just Black church comedy. Pastor Petty talks about everything.

 

What are your thoughts on The Oscars’ new diversity rules?

I think the real problem is not having more diversity in Academy membership. I am all for more roles for minorities, the disabled, so on and so forth, but there needs to be more diversity in the membership.

 

Lorenzo, Lorenzo, Lorenzo. What a fantastic name, Lorenzo Yearby! Please give us the history behind your name, including what your middle name is. 

I have heard in the past that it means “king.” It also means “winner.” My middle initial is “A,” but we’ll learn what that is another day.

 

What do you love and hate about acting?

The thing I love about acting is being able to be a storyteller, and become a completely different character, unlike yourself. I love to be able to make people feel a particular emotion from my performance. Acting for me is therapeutic. The thing I guess you could say I hate is, sometimes it’s hard for your talent to be realized. It’s difficult to get exposure. Yes, we all love to say we love the journey, and I do, but sometimes you put a lot into this career, and the results don’t seem to add up. Which is why it is important to love acting and not just do it to be famous.

 

You’re also a screenwriter. What upcoming projects are you working on? Do you have a particular screenwriting process? 

I am working on a few screenplays right now. My main genre is drama followed by comedy, but right now I am very excited about an action thriller I am currently writing, that I hope to get the green light on. As far as the process, you learn there are just so many elements to it. It all depends on what I am working on that day. It could be dialogue or characters, but the starting point is making sure this is actually a screenplay idea. Every story is not a screenplay or film idea. I think a lot of people skip over that because they are excited about the idea.

 

Anything else you’d like to say?

I hate to be cliché, but I just tell people to make sure they love what they do. Make sure you’re passionate about it, and that money and fame are not the reasons you are doing it. We only get one life to live, so make sure you are doing what you love.


Written by ILANA RAPP

Ilana Rapp is a media-savvy Generation Xer with instinctive wit, quick humor and a taste for deep human emotions. As a former (child) actress with Broadway, film and television credits, she is adept at, well, lots of things. She blogged on The Huffington Post and writes entertainment pieces for NYCastings and New Jersey Stage. She is a huge fan of the television show “V.” Ask her why her favorite number is 22. Follow Ilana on Twitter @LizardLadyNJ