Reel Black List: Charles Andrew Gardner, actor

Charles Andrew Gardner

Charles Andrew Gardner

“I am most proud
when I’m able
to shift peoples’
through the work
that I do.”

Born and raised on Chicago’s south side, SAG-AFTRA Chicago local president Charles Andrew Gardner is an actor with a passion for illuminating the stories of the underrepresented.

On-camera credits include episodes of The Chi and Chicago PD; feature films Olympia, Noise and Color, Every 21 Seconds, and Holding On; and multiple national commercials for brands including Hyundai, Liberty Mutual, Ford, and AT&T.

Voice-over credits include PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Comcast, Walmart, and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Charles is also a company member with TimeLine Theatre Company, where he appeared in Paradise Blue (BTAA nomination for Best Featured Actor) and My Kind of Town (BTAA nomination for Best Actor), for which Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune named him one of 2012s “Hot New Faces to Watch.”

Other Chicago theatre credits include Objects in the Mirror, Stop.Reset. (US), and Buzzer (US) at Goodman Theatre; How Long Will I Cry at Steppenwolf Theatre; Macbeth and Othello at The Suitcase Shakespeare Company; The Great Fire (US) at Lookingglass Theatre Company and Spectacle Lunatique at Redmoon Theater.

Charles earned a BFA in Acting from Northern Illinois University and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association.

In addition to his work onstage and in front of the camera, Charles is a faculty member at The Acting Studio Chicago as well as a teaching artist with TimeLine Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Goodman Theatre.

Charles sits on the Associate Producer board at Gene Siskel Theatre and is Vice President of Creative Cypher.

To visit Charles’ website, click here.


What was your first break? I started acting when I was nine-years-old at ETA Creative Arts Foundation on Chicago’s Southside. They started my training, gave me the confidence to pursue, and it was there that I got my first break. I was 14-years-old when I got cast in my first paid production, This Far By Faith, directed by Runako Jahi. I played Victor, a teenager trying to figuring out how to become a man without a father figure. It wasn’t a huge production, but I consider it to be my first break because I realized that this ‘thing’ that I loved to do, and happened to be pretty good at, was a real possibility.

Worst thing that ever happened to you to remind you that you are Black? Honestly, it’s answering questions like this.

Fortunately I haven’t experienced overt racism to my face, but I witness its systemic effects almost daily. As a teaching artist I visit CPS schools all across Chicago, and it’s painfully obvious where the city’s funding is and isn’t going. It’s painful that resources that should be available to aid the development of all people are instead discriminatorily invested in certain neighborhoods.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are Black? Despite all the stumbling blocks placed in Black peoples way, we somehow always find the strength to smile. To Laugh. To Love. Every time I feel that resilience is the best reminder that I am Black.

Work you are most proud of? I’m most proud when I am able shift peoples’ perspective of possible — which I do as an actor, filmmaker, and a teaching artist. As an actor and filmmaker, I’m able to provide a window of insight into a character’s life, and shed light on circumstances that most of us overlook. As a teaching artist, I’m able to go into schools without arts education programs and expose students to acting and build upon their empathy, collaboration, and confidence.

How has the business changed since you broke in? There’s a greater representation of people of color in the mainstream media, which makes the dream of a career as an actor or filmmaker more accessible to the people of color watching at home. It’s easier to see yourself. A film like Black Panther winning best ensemble at the Sag awards was unheard of during my time at ETA. The ability to take control of your career has also changed. We’re all walking around with a tool to research, shoot, edit, market, and share our voices — So speak up. #notaskingforpermission.

Trapped on an island, what essentials must you have? It would have to be a pencil and an endless notepad.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? Know who you are. Trust it and own it. Don’t be concerned with becoming famous. Be concerned with becoming an expert. Study your craft. Study Life. Have a life. Have a hobby. Make sure you have a solid community of people in and out of the business. Make your own art. Stay humble. Don’t live beyond your means. Show up. Work hard. Have fun. Be prepared. Be kind. And always be thankful — you’re going to make your dreams come true.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? I would hop in that previously-mentioned time machine and have a one-on-one with myself in ten years. It’s much easier to see the path to success when you’re looking back over the steps you took to get there.

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