Paine student seldom goes unnoticed

Posted by ncarter | 11/19/2009 07:29 AM

Story by Nakisha Dicks, '07 and courtesy of the Augusta Chronicle

Courtney Gray began the school year at Paine College under the radar.

His low profile didn't last long, however, because those who recognized him quickly spread the word that an actor was in their midst, he said.

"I'm known as the boy on Meet the Browns," the 19-year-old said with a laugh. "They'll ask me, 'You're the boy on Meet the Browns?' and I just nod and say 'Yeah, that's me.' Then they'll go tell others, 'Hey, that's the boy on Meet the Browns!' "

Mr. Gray has appeared in two episodes of the TBS sitcom this season. The freshman mass communications major from Atlanta plays Jamal, a character who loves his best friend, Brianna, but tends to keep his emotions to himself. A little more than a month ago, he taped a third episode that will air later in the season.

It has always been his goal to be in a Tyler Perry production, he said of the playwright, screenwriter, producer, director, actor and author.

"I like that he always has a message in his works," he said. "In every single TV episode, every single play, every single movie, he has a message for the people -- something to make you think, something to make you a better person."

He found that he had the role while he was bowling with friends in Stockbridge, Ga.

"The first thing I did when they called me was drop down to my knees and thank God, because I'd been waiting for something like this to happen for forever," he said. "The first thing that popped in my head was, 'Thank you, Jesus, for blessing me with this part.' "

There were struggles before he got his dream job, but his faith kept him determined, he said.

"A couple of times I almost gave up on acting because I had auditions here and there, but nothing was happening," he said. "I was like 'OK, I've auditioned here, auditioned here and auditioned here, but when am I going to get a part?'

''But every time I've almost given up on it, God has redirected me and smacked something right in my face. Whenever I wanted to walk away, I would walk right back into acting. It's definitely been a journey."

He goes to tapings only when he's called, so he hasn't had to make any major adjustments as a student.

"When I'm called, I'll just go home for a few days, do what I have to do and come back," he said.

What's next?

"It's whatever God wants me to do. I can say I want to do this or that, but it's whatever God has planned for me," he said. "All I can do is stay prepared and continue to work on the gift God has given me."

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

Paine student co-star of Tyler Perry's "Meet the Browns"

Posted by ncarter | 10/13/2009 08:59 AM

When you meet 19-year old Courtney Gray automatically you recognize his southern upbringing with a greeting of “yes mam” and a shy grin. But don’t let the timid face fool you. The energetic and ambitious young man is destined for stardom.

In Tyler Perry’s hit TBS sitcom “Meet the Browns” Gray plays Jamal, the lovable best friend of Brianna. Since the opening of Perry’s Atlanta studio in 2008, Gray has been working overtime and auditioning for a role.

“I auditioned three times,” he said. Finally, he received a call. He recalls receiving the call while at the bowling alley. “I picked up the phone and the woman introduced herself and followed with calling from Tyler Perry studios. I was so excited and so was my Mom,” Gray said. “She started crying.”

Gray’s second appearance on the show aired on August 19th.

Although he is on the cusp of a budding television career, he has been encouraged to make time to obtain a quality education at Paine College. “My uncle J.R. Henderson is a graduate of Paine,” Gray says. “He and my God brother Nick Ilugbo sold me and my family on the atmosphere at Paine.”  Gray is a freshman Mass Communications major concentrating in Drama.

“Before I even thought of acting as a serious career, I wanted to be a track star,” Gray said. A 2008 graduate of Dutchtown High School, he was the jock playing football and running track. “One day my mom asked me what happens if you get hurt?.” That’s when I found something else I was good at,” he said.

Before making the big step towards college, Gray faced a few detours. “After I started auditioning for television, my mom decided to get me an agent. My agent found information about a play oversees that would be very rewarding,” he said. Soon after getting the information the play feel through. “I was planning to use the money I made for college,” he said. Steadfast in his quest for college funding, Gray tampered with the idea of joining the Marines. “Immediately mom said ‘no’, because she knew it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.”

Ever since he declared his love for acting, his mother Angela Johnson, has supported him. The self proclaimed “Momma’s boy” credits her for all his success. “My mom supports me and has invested a lot towards my dream,” he says. “She always says she wishes she’d known sooner.” Gray also credits his success to his family, who has always encouraged his gift.  “My grandmother Anita Swain, uncle Cornelius Pope and my step-father have really kept me going.” Gray said each of his five siblings is also very  supportive.

The Atlanta native is no stranger to acting; he’s been perfecting his craft since age 12. “I fell in love with acting after performing in a puppet show,” he said. I starting acting in front of crowds in 7th grade,” Gray recalls.  I’ve always been a class clown and an outspoken child.”

He started doing theater outside of school in the 10th grade. He appeared in seven theater shows including Mid Summers Night Dream, Keeping Up With the Joneses and Breathe to name a few. He has training with various dialects and improvisation. While at Paine, he is looking forward to participating in drama productions under the direction of Dr. Don Cleary.

“I’m looking forward to doing theater here at Paine,” he says. “I want to learn, teach, and have fun.” He hopes to propose a theater production of Jitney by August Wilson.

Gray is already getting acquainted with several extra curricular student activities. He’s currently running for the title of Mr. Freshman and recently joined the Lions Activity Board.

For such a young man he has solid advice for aspiring actors.

“Acting is one of the hardest careers to make it in,” Gray says. “Never give up and always finish what you start.”

 Much of his advice he applies to his college studies. “Research is kind of like homework. If you want to make the grade you have to study,” he said.

Top five tips towards a budding acting career: 

Establish a look, a certain voice and style. You must be confident and it helps build you up.
Study and research to find out about the play, know the directors, and know everything about everything. It’s good to participate in the drama department. Try writing, studying, watching television, going to auditions. Watch sitcoms, read playwrights. It helps if you break down characters. Having an agent markets you more. Open casting calls for talent agencies. You validate many of the agencies that you see. Watch out for scams. You need an agent for televisions and movies. You must have a support system. Be around people you know will support you, and want to see you succeed and will be in your corner.

Because he’s an easy two-hour drive from Augusta to Atlanta, Gray will continue to be involved in acting. “In the future, I hope to appear in some of Tyler Perry’s plays,” he said.  He will also visit home often to reunite with family and teach at Zion Dance Theatre in Stockbridge, Ga.

 

Paine College senior awarded prestigious Rangel Fellowship

Posted by ncarter | 05/4/2009 05:37 AM

AUGUSTA, GA) – On March 18, Courtney Gates, a senior at Paine College, was selected as a 2009 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow following a highly competitive nationwide contest. The Rangel Fellowship, funded by the U.S. Department of State and managed by Howard University, supports extraordinary individuals who want to pursue careers in the U.S. Foreign Service.   Rangel Program Manager Patricia Scroggs commented, “I have no doubt that Courtney’s educational experiences at Paine College helped prepare her to excel in a highly competitive selection process.  The Rangel Program is thrilled to have Courtney as a Rangel Fellow, and I know she will use her unique talents to help address global challenges and represent the United States in the most positive light as a U.S. diplomat.”   Soon after receiving the Rangel Fellowship, Courtney also received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach in Taiwan, which she will begin in August 2009. She will complete her Rangel Fellowship program immediately thereafter. 
 
Courtney, who was raised in San Bernardino, California, received her Bachelors Degree in English at Paine College this Sunday.  During her time at Paine College, she has contributed to the community in a number of ways, including serving as the student representative on the Paine College Long Range Planning Committee, becoming a peer tutor, and speaking at fundraising events.  She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being the Grand Prize Winner of the Maya Angelou Essay Contest in 2007, winning second place in the Blacks in Government National Oratorical Contest in 2005, and being inducted into the Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society and the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society.  Courtney was also the Paine College Female Student Marshall for 2009. With a deep interest in international affairs, Courtney studied abroad at Nanjing University in China in 2007 and returned to the Jiangsu Province in 2008 to study at Suzhou University. She was selected as an Institute for International Public Policy Fellow during her sophomore year and has studied in summer policy institutes at Spelman College and the University of Maryland College Park. 

The Rangel Fellowship will provide Courtney with over $80,000 in benefits over a two-year period, including supporting her graduate education and professional development.  She will use her fellowship to pursue a Master’s Degree at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.  The Rangel Program will also arrange for her to work on international affairs issues for a U.S. Member of Congress during summer 2009 and at a U.S. Embassy overseas in summer 2010.   She will join the U.S. Foreign Service upon completion of her graduate degree and hopes to contribute her unique perspective and experiences to advance the interests of the United States and the global community.

The Foreign Service is a corps of working professionals who support the President of the United States and the Secretary of State to advance American foreign policy goals.  Foreign Service personnel are “front-line” personnel who can be sent anywhere in the world, at any time, in service to the diplomatic needs of the United States.  A career in the Foreign Service requires unusual commitment, uncommon motivation, and the ability to endure possible hardship while advancing and defending U.S. interests.