After falling into the industry himself, Tobias Truvillion has devoted his career to being a role model and helping the youth find their calling in performing arts.
A gift that keeps on giving
The former NAACP Image Award nominee for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama continues to forge a path for himself in the industry he fell into. He has not only landed credits but played significant roles in television’s number one show FOX’s “Empire,” ABC’s soap opera “One Life to Live” and playing a love interest of Gwen Sullivan (the lead character) on BET’s “In Contempt.” While doing such, he gives back by pushing forward the legacy of the late Rodney Gilbert. Gilbert, who passed away in 2017, was the co-creator of the Advantage Arts Program for Youth curriculum at Dr. Marion A. Bolden Center.
Founded in 2009, this curriculum exposes inner-city high school students to the arts. During the summer, these students spend five weeks in the program learning video production and editing, fundamentals of acting and storyline production on stage and in film. Truvillion has been serving the program as a youth media arts instructor onsite in Newark, New Jersey.
“We saved dozens, of dozens, of kids. We changed the trajectory of [these] kids life,” says Truvillion, who along with his wife continues to support the program that ranks in the 90th percentile of high school students transitioning to college enrollment. “Without the program they would have fell victim to the streets.”
Growing up in Queens
“Falling victim to the streets” is an element Truvillion knows all too well, having grown up on the east coast himself as a product of Queens, New York. The common mindset in the area is one either plays sports to make it out or hustle in the streets. At a young age, Truvillion chose football.
“Football was my first love,” Truvillion said, looking up to sports figures such as then NFL stars Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas and Tim Brown. As an adolescent, he played for the popular boys’ football team Long Island Tomahawks.
Beyond football, Truvillion loves his childhood growing up in his grandparents’ house in the neighborhood that saw generations of his family grow up. The neighbors all knew each other and would look out for one another. Truvillion has found memories of riding his bicycle around to see which one of his neighbors was available to hang, back when there were no cell phones.
What Queens has given him
Being a New Yorker there are definitely some traits the area instills in you, Truvillion says.
“New Yorkers have this hustle mentality,” Truvillion said, “and each borough has its own style.
“Queens is smooth, laid back. A lot of swag with it even though we didn’t use that word back then,” he laughed. But “laid-back swag that’s not too over-the-top.”
When he sees the icons that came from his borough, he identifies with the likes of Nas, Ladies Love “LL” Cool J and a Tribe Called Quest as they embody this aspect of Queens.
Landing in Hollywood
In his early 20’s, becoming a television award nominated actor–let alone a model–was the furthest thing from his mind. Working multiple jobs he did not come to the entertainment industry until his sister had him collaborate with her for a fashion gig. After networking with people in the industry, he decided to go a little further. Well more than a little, he was able to ditch his other jobs to pursue his newfound career. Arriving to the scene as a model, he later added acting to his repertoire.
Coming to Hollywood one of the lessons he has learned is that you have to constantly devote yourself to the craft and stay humble.
Standing out on Television
“Nobody owes you anything. You get what you put in,” Truvillion said.
Going about his business on the soap opera “One Life to Live,” Truvillion just focused on the tasks at hand. Being talented is not enough to make it in the soap opera genre; it requires a mentality of consistent grind on a daily basis. There is much content that needs to be shot in a relatively short amount of time before they are off to shooting the next episode.
After all, Truvillion is a New Yorker who can manage the grind but an even spectacular individual to stand out amongst his peers. Ultimately, he received an NAACP Image Award nomination for his role as Vincent Jones. As he says, “you get what you put in,” but for Truvillion he is still shocked to receive such recognition for the role he spent nearly two years portraying on a daily basis.
“To be recognized by your people…I was just doing my best to portray Vincent on the show,” Truvillion said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Joining FOX’s “Empire”
Not every actor is called to be a cast member alongside Academy Award nominated actors Terrance Howard and Teraji P. Henson. As if playing a recurring character on the hit show wasn’t enough pressure, playing “D-Major” presented a new challenge for Truvillion. He would have to step out of his comfort zone to portray a character who struggled with his sexuality. One thing that worried Truvillion, personally, was how he would be perceived after his performance.
“I prayed on it and played the role as best as I could,” he said. “That [experience] was amazing. It changed the game for me.”
BET’s “In Contempt” touches Tobias
Appearing in 7 of 10 episodes of the first season of BET’s “In Contempt,” Truvillion is having a blast with the cast and crew in Toronto. Playing novelist Bennet Thompson there is some romance involved between Thompson and the show’s star lawyer Sullivan (played by Erica Ash). Beyond his character, what he loves about the show is the week-to-week plots that touches on issues that spark conversations.
“The stories are ones I can relate to in my real life. The parallels are happening right now,” says Truvillion, speaking of the show that goes deep to touch on issues like racial injustices. “It’s something I’m proud of.”
“In Contempt” wrapped up its first season earlier this month but Truvillion has quite a few other projects in the works. He’s slotted to star in a TV One special with Malinda Williams (Soul Food & The Wood), a film with Vince Vaughn (The Break-Up & Wedding Crashers) and Anthony Mackie (Notorious & The Hurt Locker) titled “Against All Enemies” and lead a romantic comedy called Love.com.
Going forward the road gets easier for Truvillion because the students he teaches in Newark inspire him. Hearing their personal stories and seeing how they persevere makes him feel like his job is easier.
“They really inspire me,” Tobias said. And “it motives me to be a better role model.”