Monti Sharp talks Guiding Light, His New Feature Film and so much more here--->>
I'm doing another Louisiana Happy Dance! I got to meet another Louisianan! We spoke to Monti Sharp from Monroe, Louisiana (ex David Grant, Guiding Light) as a part of our Soap #WhereAreTheyNow Series.
I have had conversations with people my entire life about what they wanted to be when they grew up. It took forty-eight years to get this answer. Monti wanted to be a clown, a real-life clown. Monti has no idea where it came from. But he was intent on becoming a clown and wanted to find a serious way to do it. Monti's six-grade choir teacher became aware of Monti's aspirations. She introduced him to a summer camp in theatre. She suggested to Monti he might enjoy it and that there could be a better future in the theatre than in clowning. Monti agreed to give it a shot. "I took that summer course and started doing it every summer until I got out of high school. We did stagecraft, core dance, and technical theatre with an accumulation of a play at the end of each summer. That's really where I got the bug. There was no place that I wanted to be more than in the theater."
Monti went to college for radio, television, and film. In college, he was an on-air anchor, weekend news reporter and a radio D. J. Monti knew he really wanted to be an actor so after his second year he transferred to an arts conservatory in Winston Salem, North Carolina. "It was the absolute indulgence in everything that I wanted; we ate, slept and drank theater. There I received my real training. After that, I moved to New York where I started working."
Monti's love for clowns kept hold of him. And he still followed his favorites; Marcel Marceau, Bill Irwin, and Emmit Kelly. But his career took a different path. "As far as a serious endeavor to pursue clowning, the opportunity didn't present itself. I went with a musical theater road." Some of Monti's favorite plays he performed in was Working, West Side Story and the Wizard of Oz. From musical theatre, his work turned to work in straight plays. "That's really where I felt comfortable and felt at home. Now, I still love musicals and I'd love to do a musical any day of the week, but straight plays was the path for me."
The summer before David's senior year he spent in New York working. It made for an easier transition the next year after he finished college and made the permanent move to New York. David embarked on the traditional route of an actor waiting for his big break. He waited tables, got an agent and auditioned. It took six or seven months before he booked his first play and got his equity card. Monti did plays for a couple of years before his big break. "I was working off-Broadway in New York at Joseph Papp's public theater when the casting director of Guiding Light sent me a note. She introduced herself in the note and told me, 'I think I have a part for you.' I called the next day and she brought me in for an interview. I auditioned, did a screen test and got the part. For me, that was the fork in the road at that point. Do I stay with the theatre or go with television?"
The answer was television. Up until that point, Monti's exposure to and experience in television had been one television commercial for a New York phone company. Yet just like that, he had a full-time television gig. Monti did his screen test for Guiding Light with Nia Long (Kat Speakes). Monti has the fondest memories of being on set at Guiding Light, working with the talented actors and playing David Grant, who Monti characterized as "under construction." LOL.
Many actors talk about the challenges and difficulties of transitioning to daytime due to the sheer volume of dialogue and the fast pace of daytime. For Monti that wasn't hard for him. His challenge was something totally different. "The transition was pretty smooth as far as the work was concerned. Coming from doing plays and going to the soap environment with a heavy line load really wasn't a problem for me. My main challenge when I got on a soap opera was to learn how to stand still, just to stand with your arms down by your side and talk to another person about three inches away. It was a big learning curve because I was trained in using body gestures. Also, things like projecting your voice. It's a big no-no when there's a boom eighteen inches above your head. You start to learn how to work the other end of the spectrum whether it's nuances, levels of expression, being quiet or making very soft sounds things like that.
It was Monti's choice to leave Guiding Light. Monti explained to us he had a "play mentality". "In my mind, at the time a soap opera like Guiding Light or any other was like a three-year play. We're going to do this and then when it's over we will move to the next thing." Monti's next thing was to learn how to fly airplanes. He moved to Florida and started studying to be a private pilot. Once he obtained his pilot license he returned to New York. He starred in The City (ABC), As The World Turns and returned to the theatre briefly before moving to Los Angeles. Monti's initial plan was to go out to L.A. do pilot season, enjoy the sun and return to New York the next year. He never returned. The sun and the no winters kept him in L.A.
In L.A., he started working in film production. He wrote and produced a few short films and wrote feature films. Recently, he finalized financing for his own feature film. Monti wasn't able to share the name but we learned a great deal about the project. "It's a big step in a different and new direction for me. Something I've been working on for a number of years. The movie is an uplifting story about a young man who wants to be a rapper and everything he faces in trying to accomplish that. It speaks to overcoming against all odds. It also incorporates a little bit of my background in musical theater with its very jubilant atmosphere. Music is very central to the story. There is a marriage between drama and music. I think they go hand in hand. This is a perfect project for me to direct and to write. It'll be a feel-good family-oriented film. I call it the Rocky effect. You will be on your feet at the end."
They have a distribution plan in place. Monti is targeting the summer of 2020 for the movie to be in theatres. The movie will be filmed right here in my hometown of New Orleans, LA. Yes! "The movie is a good film, especially for young people. Rapping has shown itself to be a dangerous profession. But it doesn't have to be. At its core, there is an artistry. But it gets buried under a lot of cultural poison. What I'm seeking to do with this script is to unearth the artistry. So, it's not seen as life-threatening but as life-giving. That is the focus of the piece. And I think it will resonate with people."
Although bringing this movie to fruition has been all consuming for the past three years, Monti did find time for a recurring role on Amazon's show, Bosch. "I appeared in about ten episodes of the show Bosch starring Titus Welliver. The series is based on a series of books by Michael Connelly. It was a very cool experience. I played a serial killer. I was in season's three and four." In addition, Monti's worked on a few other projects but his big push and where he wants to make significant inroads; is producing and directing.
Throughout our interview, Monti mentioned his love for music. We asked him who was on Monti Sharp's playlist. "I like it all. On my playlist, you will find everything from country music to heavy metal. I like Dr. Dre. I like classic Ice Cube. I like George Jones classic old school country. I listen to the new stuff with Keith Urban. I enjoy classical music. I definitely love Mozart. I listen to opera. I love it all. Music is visual. Painting and drawing was my first escape when I was younger. I started small but graduated to large scale pieces, oil paintings, charcoal. I hear a song and it may inspire a piece of artwork. I do sell my work and I feature it on my website and my social media platforms. My first solo show will be in October or November of this year. However, I don't feel like my focus is from a commercial enterprise." All of this sounds great! Monti has many exciting things on the horizon.
To my soap fam, we will close with what Monti said amazes him the most. "What amazes me at this point in my life and my career is that there are still people out there who remember me from Guiding Light. They still express appreciation or enjoyment from that time in my career. It never ceases to amaze me. I would like to say to anyone out there who is aware of my work on Guiding Light and has positive things to remember and say about it, thank you. It's a very heartwarming, special and encouraging thing when I encounter it. I'd like to say thank you to everybody who has supported me and my work during the years. I really appreciate it."
You are welcome, Monti!
Soap fans are the best fans! Yes, we are!
Monti, please come back and talk to us closer to the release of your film! We can't wait to support it! Thank you for speaking with us!
I AM KP Smith