In January of 1969, after returning from a tour of duty in Vietnam as a combat medic, I discovered that if I enrolled in college, I could get out of the Army three months early.  After all, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where I was stationed at the time, wasn’t the most exciting place in the world being 70 miles from everywhere.  I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get out of the Army and I enrolled at Chabot College in Hayward, California.  I graduated from Hayward High in 1965 and went to Riverside City College for a year and a half before I got drafted.  Actually, I got drafted because I was trying to be clever and create a little commerce for myself.  I had saved a little money, so I decided to drop out of college for about six months to a year and start a furniture moving business with my cousin, Nelson.  The plan was to get my business going, hire somebody to take my place, and get back in the school without the government finding out…wrong!  Within three months of dropping out of school, I got drafted.

After arriving at Chabot College in the spring of 1969, I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer.  Fortuitously, while playing Bid Whist in the student union, I met a couple of people who were on the debate team.  They suggested that I join them on the team and that would help me towards my litigation abilities as a lawyer.  While talking to them about it, a powerful woman, who was all of 5’2”, came into the room and asked whose voice that was echoing down the hall.  After a few questioning looks between us, I finally asked whose voice was she referring to? She said, “That’s it. What are you doing at 3 o’clock this afternoon?”  I said, “Well….”  She said, “Good… come to room 708.”  Dr. Barbara Merdes was her name and she introduced me to Readers Theater and Forensics (Competitive speaking).  I went undefeated for two years and became the state forensics champion.  Dr. Merdes was an important role model for me.

The drama teacher, Glenn Dubose, came up to me one day and asked if I would be interested in doing a musical called “Golden Boy”.  That sounded like fun.  So, I embarked on this wild, exciting, crazy adventure ride in the world of ‘The Theater’.  That was forty-six years ago, and I haven’t gotten off the ride yet.  It just keeps getting better and better.  I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had.  I love what I do.

Currently, you can find me in two TV One movies, “The Royal Feast” and “The Royal Family Christmas”.  On March 6, 2016, I’m starring in a new series on Bounce TV called “Saints and Sinners”.

My first professional job was in the national company of “No Place to Be Somebody” with Ben Vereen and Philip Michael Thomas.  Some of the more notable performances in the years to follow included Drama Critics Awards for my work in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at the Los Angeles Theater Center (LATC) and “Streamers”at the Westwood Playhouse.  Other memorable experiences included productions of “Fool for Love” at LATC, “Checkmates” at the Westwood Playhouse, a New York Shakespeare Festival production of “The Mighty Gents”, a New York Manhattan Theater Company world premiere of “The Talented Tenth”, the American premiere of “Hapgood” at The Doolittle Theater in Los Angeles, two different productions of “Othello”, one at the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the other at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, directed by Milton Katselas, “Vision and Lovers” at The Skylight Theater, also directed by Milton and “The Exonerated” at the Actors Gang Theater in Los Angeles.

Some of my selected films include Steven Spielberg’s “Poltergeist”, Walter Hill’s “Streets of Fire”, “Stick”with Burt Reynolds, “The Main Event” with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, “Coming Home” with Jane Fonda and Jon Voight, “Audrey Rose” with Anthony Hopkins and Marsha Mason,“Wag the Dog”, starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Angela Bassett, “Guess Who”, starring Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher, “For Colored Girls”, starring Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington, and a host of others.  A few well-noted indie projects include “Blue Hill Avenue”, “The Last Stand”, and“Love for Sale”.  A few films from my early days include “Scream Blacula Scream” with William Marshall and Pam Grier, “Black Fist” (Originally titled “Bogard”) with Dabney Coleman and Philip Michael Thomas, and “Sugar Hill”.

I was a series regular on “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd”, “Dynasty”, and “Chicago Story”.  Notable movies-of-the-week include “Jericho Mile”, “The Golden Moment”, “Johnnie Gibson, FBI”, “Pandora’s Clock”, and “Jackie’s Back”.  I have also guest-starred on popular series such as “MacGyver” (recurring character spun off to a pilot called “The Coltons”), “Wiseguy”, “Amen”, “Parenthood”, “St. Elsewhere”, “Picket Fences”, “Judging Amy”, “The Division”, “NYPD Blue”, “All of Us”, “Numb3rs”, and “Real Husbands of Hollywood” to name a few.

I created the part of ‘Lucas Barnes’ on the soap opera, “All My Children”.

In 1976, I began studying with world-renowned acting teacher and director Milton Katselas.  In 1980, I began teaching his classes.  I’ve had the pleasure of taking part in the training of some of the most successful actors in the business.

In 2005, I created my own acting/empowerment studio called the Richard Lawson Studios.  On the surface, it’s an acting school.  Underneath the hood, it’s an empowerment academy.  Since its inception, I’ve empowered people to identify their dream and then provide the tools to help them manifest it.  I empower actors to develop the skill and gain the techniques necessary to create the evidence needed to fulfill their dreams.  I use acting techniques to empower anyone to identify what it is they want and what they need to do to go get it.

A natural extension of teaching is directing.  The following is a selected list of some pieces I’ve directed: “No Place to Be Somebody”, “Othello”, “Death of a Salesman”, “Chicago”, “Heat”, “From the Heart of Love”, “Lullaby Lady”, “Driving Miss Daisy”, “Unfaithful”, “The Fisher King”, and “Excuse Me”.

My “wild, exciting, crazy adventure” has included other dynamics, of course, besides the stage, film, and television.  From 1983 to 1994, I helped to administrate and run the drug education, training, treatment, and aftercare program for the National Basketball Association/National Basketball Players Association.  I trained under Dr. Dave Lewis, Kip Flock, and John Bradshaw, three of the top men in their field.  I was instrumental in helping to make that program one of the most successful drug programs in Corporate America.

March 22, 1992, I was on USAir’s flight 405, which crashed during takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.  Twenty-seven people died and 24 people survived.  An event of this magnitude has an indelible effect on your psyche and spirit.  It certainly teaches you that there are no guarantees in life.  You have to live everyday as if it’s your last.  Events surrounding the plane crash inspired me to write a yet unpublished novel, which I’m also adapting into a screenplay.

I’m a patented inventor, avid golfer, and interventionist.

I recently got married for the third time, to a wonderful woman who I’ve known for 35 years.  We are having the time of our lives.

Jack of all trades…. One might ask?  Yes, I suppose all the hats that I wear might inspire some question as to what it is that I do well or have I, in fact, mastered none.  I suppose the answer (to my own question) lies in something my voice teacher, the great maestro, Giuseppe Ballistriei once told me –“You can only serve one master.”  I think he’s absolutely correct.  For me, that master is:

pas·sion [pash-uh n]

  1. A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
  2. Ardent love.
    • The object of such love or desire.
  3. Boundless enthusiasm
    • The object of such enthusiasm.
  4. An abandoned display of emotion