In 2015 when Shoga Films branched into its first narrative short, Congo Cabaret, the directors, Quincy and Deondray Gossfield, called upon their network of Hollywood talent to power this initially modest project into a film-festival barn burner. It was during the L.A. shoot that I first met Damian T. Raven, who took on the role of the
piano player and inflected his one line, "What's it gonna be tonight, Miss Rose?", with joyous camaraderie.
But I knew of Damian because he was a regular on The DL Chronicles, a series written and produced by the Gossfields which had made history as one of the first, if not the first, made-for-TV series featuring queer African American men. Since I wasn't expecting him on the set -- and there were already 60 people going about their business that Sunday -- I didn't immediately recognize the handsome man (well, there were a *lot* of them) in the white shirt, black vest, and blue bowtie at the piano. But when he delivered his line, I immediately recognized his distinctive voice. "Holy Cow!" I thought. "They brought in major talent even for the smaller roles!"
Damian continued to work with the Gossfields on The Chadwick Journals, a spin-off of the DL Chronicles which was quickly acquired by Amazon Prime. Damian *was* Chadwick, a former therapist interviewing DL men for a book he researches for deeply personal reasons. (No spoilers here!) Damian not only carries the show as the through-line link in this anthology series, but he recently received an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Principal Performance in a Daytime Program.” The episode for which he got nominated is called "Oren"; it begins with Chadwick getting triggered into a nervous breakdown and just grows in intensity from there. (I'd love to talk to Damian about how he shook that off upon leaving the set.)
Last week Damian made a surprisingly large donation to our post-production fundraising campaign for "Smoke, Lilies and Jade." For me, this came out of the blue, but it is, of course, a vote of confidence and support for his directors -- and ours -- the Gossfields. It was a lovely act of generosity, and I want to acknowledge it here. Thank you, Damian.