Kendrick Sampson - Stand up, and Stands out
“Shut up and dribble”, that was Fox news anchor Laura Ingram’s advice to superstar basketball player LeBron James after he questioned some of President Donald Trump’s previous comments. Laura Ingram explained, "It's always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball," she went on to say, "Keep the political comments to yourselves.” It’s easy for us to criticize people our society puts on a pedestal. It is easy to think “Your job is to entertain me and that’s it.” But isn’t it the job of those who have the most privilege to stand up and speak loudest for what is right. I would argue that it is the job of any citizen to use whatever notoriety or platform they have been given to be a voice for those who go unheard. What if we weren’t just known for what we do but for who we helped. Kendrick Sampson lives this message; he is the living embodiment of someone who seeks to put others ahead of himself.
Kendrick grew up in a family of artists and musicians. Separating himself from the herd but still unable to escape his familial proclivity to the arts, he chose acting as opposed to music or fine arts. His first acting gig was in a news segment, a local news channel was doing a story on school issues and needed kids to act for a short clip. Though Kendrick’s role was small and had no lines, it was enough to evoke a passion for being on camera.
Along with an affection of the arts, being part of the Sampson family meant you attended church. Having a desire to always be right, Church gave Kendrick a place where he could debate and find his voice. “I would argue and debate when I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I realized I liked the performance aspect of debating.” Along with a place to express himself, the church taught Kendrick a lesson that would go on to shape the lens from which he views his art and life. “What I’ve realized is that in most religions it’s about standing up for the most vulnerable and especially in Christianity, it's about selflessness. The best way to be right is to admit when you’re wrong and to live a life that does not revolve around you and your need to be right, to put your ego aside and to choose humility.”
Kendrick’s parents continued this lesson outside the church as well. “My mom was also very intentional in educating me. She grew up in a time of segregation knowing that it was illegal to marry interracially and my dad didn’t have voting rights when he turned 18. Because of that they taught me about the history of oppression in this country… my mom kept me open minded about life and society and about what is right, and that had a huge impact on me.”
Kendrick worked his way up in the local acting scene in his hometown of Houston until he felt it was time to make the move to Los Angeles. Kendrick put in the work early in his career doing small roles on TV shows until 2013 when Kendrick garnered attention for his role in Vampire Diaries, which lead to a supporting role in the miniseries “Gracepoint” in 2014. Gaining more attention, Kendrick landed a supporting role in the acclaimed TV show “How To Get Away With Murder”.
In 2017 Kendrick was tapped for his first role in a comedy series for the Jaime Foxx produced “White famous”. “It was different because everyone had an extensive sketch or comedy background and I think I was the only one who did not. I got to play a British character, which was hard because I wasn’t given a dialect coach and I was hired the day before I had to be on set.” Kendrick, who is more known for dramatic roles ended up being the right man for the job.
“It was fun and it was the first time I didn’t have to cry and yell and do all the things that come with extreme drama. Which I love and gravitate towards more than comedy but it was a cool relaxed environment and I had a lot of fun. We laughed all the time.”
We live off of the privilege of those who came before us and the rights which those who fought for social justice have garnered. They tried to equal the playing field for all colors, every race, and any creed. But things aren’t perfect yet. As Kendrick pursued acting and gained more and more exposure, he would discover that there was still work to be done. “I have not seen a lot of bi-racial characters, and a lot of the time I’m not black enough and I’m definitely not white enough to be white. That’s always been a problem in casting. The positive thing about it is; one, I’m never going to complain, and I think we need dark-skinned people to be uplifted because the more we have darker skinned people shown in a positive light, the more we dispel that hate.”
Though Kendrick is a star on camera, he has other talents that motivate him off screen as well. Kendrick has been writing for over 11 years and has a passion for producing on top of that. As much as it is his talent that sets him apart, It’s his work ethic that puts him over the top. “I have a couple projects that I’m working on, some that I want to sell and some that I’m working on for my self. My mom brought us up in the arts and had us in excel classes learning how to use excel when we were ten and typing classes when I was eight or nine years old. We were always brought up with a business mindset, and I naturally gravitate towards the business side of storytelling and moving in that space.”
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the “ten-thousand-hour rule”. The concept is that it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert at any given thing. I’m not sure if Kendrick has hit that benchmark yet, though it’s clear that he believes that when it comes to your craft if you put in the work the results will show. Which would be his advice to any up and coming actors.
“I always believe it’s about the work and the work ethic; if you put the work in and persevere, the opportunities will come. I think people tend to seek more opportunity than work, they’re just looking for the opportunity and don’t fall in love with the work. We should treat this just as a doctor should treat his profession or an professional in any other field would treat their career. A lot of actors tend to take a crash course in acting or some seminar and think that they’ve got it down. They take some six-week intensive or something and they are like, ‘oh I’m good!’ I think that we can always improve and always be studying. We need people around us that push us in that direction and that have a strong work ethic as well.”
A lot of actors look up to the greats that came before them or the superstars that are at the top of the Hollywood food chain. But Kendrick is not caught up in status or hierarchy, if you go to his Instagram page it’s not full of self-promotion. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Kendrick shines a light on those who are impacting their community and the world around them. Those are the people he reserves words like “hero”, “admire” and “inspiration” for. “Linda Sarsour, she’s an activist, Carmen Perez, Patrisse Cullors who is involved in redirecting funds from building more jails to alternatives for incarceration, she is also a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Those people inspire me every day.”
In a culture that inhibits our voice and tells us to accept that something’s will never change, Kendrick Sampson joins the few who can’t just stand by and do nothing, who choose to use their platform for good not selfish gain, who refuse to shut up and dribble.
Talent: Kendrick Sampson x NMA PR
Photographer: Noah Asanias
Article by: David Karuhije
Produced by: Leslie Alejandro
Grooming by: Grace Phillips
Styling by: Yahaira Familia