Q&A: Actor Terrence Howard

by Christina Jedra / Beacon Staff • February 29, 2012

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Terrence Howard says he intends to focus on science after this year.
Terrence Howard says he intends to focus on science after this year.
Before his Tuesday event at the Semel Theater, Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard spoke with reporters from the Berkeley Beacon and freeform radio station WECB. Howard explained his lofty scientific ambitions, described why it's important to be a jack-of-all-trades, and shared how he viewed his acting career.

Berkeley Beacon: We have a lot of performing arts majors, and I know that you actually started going to school for science. Do you feel like your career would have been different if you had gone to school as a performing arts major?

Terrence Howard: You’re destined to become what you are. I realized ... after the death of my mother, that I became an actor for the reason of pleasing her, pleasing my mother, and that it wasn’t really my true calling. My true calling has always been science and that’s what I’m going back to now. You’re always going to go back to who you truly are.

BB: In what ways are you going back to science?

TH: I’ve filed about 23 patents over the last four years. I have a company where we grow diamonds. We used to grow them just outside of Boston. Presenting a number of new theories and understandings, debunking string theory, debunking most of the things that Steven Hawking has spoken about. Doing things of that nature.

BB: So are you done with acting?

TH: No … I still pay the bills with it. But it’s like going to the post office. You know, I deliver mail.

WECB: You seem very creative, and a lot of people would say… science, left brain, right brain, totally separate. But what would you say?

TH: Well they don’t understand the common factors. If you know one thing about one thing, you know one thing about all things. Find the common factor and multiply and divide it … Up until the 11th century, everyone was a jack-of-all-trades. It was a necessity.  And as a result of being a jack-of-all-trades, they had a greater amount of understanding about the natural world, about the spiritual world, and about the emotional world, about the creative side, the scientific side, and all of that. But the ruling authorities found that it was troublesome and it was easier to have someone who was a master of one trade and ignorant to all other ones. So most of society was pushed towards those individual categories. Now, me on the other hand, I’ve always been somewhat of a misfit, being of mixed race not really fitting in on those other sides. I’ve always seen the connective tissue between things. But I’m a little different. I have synesthesia, so when I hear music, I see colors. And I hear numbers — I see they take shapes in front of me. And everyone … is born with synesthesia, up until about six months of age that’s when those areas of the brain that aren’t stimulated oftentimes go to sleep. But one in every 23 people in the world today still carry those neuro connections. So it just gives me a different perspectives.

BB: How do you think you have changed, maybe in the way that you choose roles and the way that you look at your career?

TH: Well right now because I am changing the direction of my career …  before I chose roles that could build and get me to the Oscars and things of that nature. But after being there, no. You find all that glitter and gold, but there’s just a little man behind the curtain. You know, and blowing smoke and all of those things … so I just needed to put on my little red ruby slippers and clap my heels and go back home. So now, I’m still in the Land of Oz, but more so for the sake of providing for my kids to go to school. I choose the work that’s not going to embarrass them and  make the greatest amount of profit at the same time. I’ve figured out who I am, so I don’t need the roles anymore to find my nature.

BB: What would you tell your kids if they wanted to go into show business?

TH: My daughter wants to. I told her I’ll help her in every way that she needs, because perhaps this is her journey right now. And along the way, she’s going to figure out the rest of her journey. None of us get out of here alive, so you might as well do the things you enjoy while you’re here. I tell them: Do me a favor. I know you’re gonna make mistakes. But I want to be proud of the mistakes you make. Surprise me with your mistakes. Don’t make the dumb mistakes I’ve made. I wanna be like, “Wow you tried that? Didn’t work, huh?” I want to be surprised by their mistakes, but we’re all headed to the same place.