Al-Jaleel Knox started rapping at the age of 9, performing in many talent shows around Atlanta. As he grew up, he continued to write poetry and raps. His original goal was to use acting as a foot in the door technique for his music career but once he began to pursue acting in film and TV, he was bit by the acting bug. In 2010, Jaleel began to appear in local theatre and independent films. Then he discovered The Company Acting Studio where he began to truly understand and love the craft. He is represented by Houghton Talent.
Where are you from and how did you get started in acting?
I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, born and raised. Lived in Houston for a little bit. I got into acting because I wanted to be in music at first. I wanted to make beats and I wanted to rap …I didn’t know how to really go about making it in the music industry. So I figured, “hey, how about I get myself into movies and that way I have a fan base, then I can switch my career over to music”. I thought that acting was gonna be super easy, I’m gonna get in a movie in a few days. But I did not know how hard it was gonna be. This was fresh out of high school.
When I graduated from high school, I had no excuses, I had to go after my dreams now. At the time, it wasn’t necessarily acting, it was mainly music and acting was a way to get there. I started looking up and finding some agencies. I started auditioning and the more I started going out for it, I just started to like it more and more. But when I really started to fall in love with it was the first time I did extra work. I felt I liked this more than music and then eventually I was pursuing acting and I wasn’t even pursuing music anymore.
Have you done any acting at all in high school or college?
I did a play. I did some plays in high school. I never saw myself as being a huge actor at the time. I always thought I was gonna do it, but just for fun. I never actually thought I was gonna be fully pursuing it like I am now.
Your family has been supportive?
Definitely they are, everybody is.
Do you do anything else to supplement your income or is this it?
I just stopped working a 9-5 job about two months ago.
It gives you the flexibility to go out for auditions?
I wouldn’t say the job is too flexible but I find ways to maneuver because I don’t want to let it get in the way of my career.
Did you go about getting any training as well when you decided you wanted to act?
Yes, definitely. I’m still training. When I first started getting into acting, I started auditioning for independent stuff. But nine months into acting, I felt the need to start taking classes so I can really learn my craft and know what I’m doing. I enrolled at the Company Acting studio and I’m still there. I’ve been there for about four years now.
How did you end up signing with Houghton Talent?
At a workshop. Because it was like years and years that I did not ever hear back from an agent and it got to a point where I just had to do something. Because I was submitting like crazy. I was not hearing anything back. And it got to a point where I felt like I knew I had to be creative. I knew I had good enough material to get signed. But no one was calling me back, that means they are not seeing me. I had to find a way to get in front of them in person. I started seeking out workshops and showcases. I found Get Scene ATL workshops. I saw People Store was there, Houghton was there. People Store called me in, I auditioned for them but they eventually declined. I went back the week after to Houghton and Mystie loved me, she offered to sign me on.
What do you do in terms of marketing and networking?
That’s probably one thing for me that I probably don’t do enough. But then I do get that naturally, just from class, I’m always meeting people, just being on set and being friendly, naturally, you just meet people that you, I guess, have a connection with. But I’m not particularly the person who goes out to meet people at networking events. I just never was that guy. I always was just kind of focused on…like I know who you know does matter sometimes in the business, but for me I never really focused on that. I always just tried to focus on being a good actor and doing good stuff. So I meet people just being in the business myself.
What else do you do in terms of finding work? Do you follow people on social media? Do you check out certain websites?
Yes, I’m listed with all those websites. And Houghton’s doing a lot of it for me for me. I’m so grateful for and definitely happy with the work and auditioning they’re finding me. At the same time, I still look on my own through Actors Access, because they have all these opportunities to submit ourselves.
Do you feel that you might be able to book bigger and bigger roles out of Atlanta or do you think you might have to move to LA or to New York?
I feel like eventually we will have it as long as we keep all the business out here. It’s gonna happen, no matter what. But at the same time, I feel like right now it wouldn’t hurt for me to go to L. just so I could be up for those bigger roles. Over time, no matter what, it’s definitely gonna happen here. We will be up for lead roles, we are already getting series recurring roles. I’ve seen a lot of people book good stuff.
What do you think we need to do here in Atlanta to be able to book bigger roles, to stay competitive with actors coming in from LA?
Push ourselves a little harder, just fight a little harder. One thing about Atlanta is a lot of actors here have a really hard time keeping up. A lot of people are getting into it and they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re not making Atlanta look that bad but they’re just making it seem like we’re all like that. Being educated and trained is important, so you look professional, like you know what you’re doing and you don’t embarrass yourself. Taking classes is the best thing anybody could do. It sets you on the right path.
How do you stay positive and motivated?
One thing I do is, whenever I have a slightly negative thought, I repeat positive things over and over. Every time I go to some audition, I rehearse the same belief – I got it. I come home, I meditate. I don’t do that enough, but whenever I really do it…I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but I feel like I book a lot more whenever I’m persistently meditating. I always get a call back or I get on set for something.
What kind of meditation do you do? Do you just sit in a quiet room?
I’ve been trying to learn more about it. Because I don’t do a lot, I don’t know about it, but my mom does it a lot and I listen to her and try to do what she tells me. One thing is when I go to my room, make sure it’s quiet and I just clear my mind and focus on my breathing. I clear my mind, rest my mind and when I come out of there, I feel pretty energetic. Ready to go.
How long have you been acting now?
Altogether almost five years now.
Do you wish you had done something differently when you started your career?
Yes. I would have taken classes earlier than I actually did.