Learn How This Former College Football Star Transitioned To Acting

From Oscar-winning producer Terrance J to trailblazers like Jesse Jackson, Alma Adams and Henry Frye, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NCAT) has a proud history of developing leaders that are notable in their career or profession. For Keith Holliday, the initial thinking is that he would rise to prominence as a professional football player. A graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School (now known as Jackson Reed) in Washington D.C., Holliday moved to Greensboro, NC to play football for the Aggies in 2004. He didn’t end up making it to the NFL but did achieve his dream by playing arena football after college. In 2014, he relocated to Iowa to play defensive back in the Indoor Football League (IFL) and came close to winning a championship. Born to a large family in the D.C. area, the 6’3″ 230lbs Holliday opted to move back to North Carolina when his playing days were over. In his exclusive interview with INSIDE Monthly, we learn about his evolution from playing football under the lights to honing his craft as an actor and stunt coordinator.

What was your favorite subject in school?

History was my favorite subject because I was big fan of Greek mythology, ancient civilizations, Egyptian history and things like that. In college, I enjoyed world religions. It was very eye opening to say the least.

What was it like playing arena football?

Fast. Arena football was VERY fast. My first year was in 2010 when I was a rookie with the Richmond Raiders in Richmond, Virginia. That experience was fun but it was so fast. Each year, the game just got slower and slower for me. It was an overall fun experience because you meet a lot of good guys. You build relationships. You build a brotherhood. I’m always grateful for my time playing arena football, especially the competitive spirit.

What made you want to become an actor?

Getting in trouble in school a lot. In high school and college, I was a class clown. I would always recite scenes from different movies or impersonate people. What really got me looking into acting in college was when a couple of my teammates would tell me “man you should do comedy” or “you should do acting”. I always thought about it but I never knew how to get to it. Years later in 2018, I found some acting classes with “In Studio” in Greensboro, NC under Drew Matthews and Lee Spencer. Fast forward to 2023 and here I am.

What was your first audition like?

My first audition was brutal. At the time, I was signed with Evolution Talent Agency. The first audition was for a TV show called Dopesick. The role was a ‘one liner’ and I was overthinking it. I was thinking “how is delivering this one line going to get me booked?”. At the time, I didn’t know that you’re just supposed to keep the scene going and deliver the information. I ended up performing the line in a borderline Shakespeare kind of way. Needless to say, I didn’t get booked but it was definitely a learning experience.

What was your first paid role as an actor?

My first paid role was Season 4 Episode 6 of Atlanta on FX with Donald Glover and LaKeith Stanfield. At this time, I was working in management and I remember the audition call came through. It was a ‘one liner’ and I didn’t think anything of it. I went to In Studio to tape the audition. I had a light bulb moment by remembering that I didn’t have to overact and just delivered the information instead. The line was “Nigga, everybody already knows what that taste like”. I just put my spin on it and I honestly thought I wasn’t going to get booked. Next thing I know, I’m playing Madden with a close friend and I got an email saying “Booked Atlanta”. A short time after that, I’m at Greenbrier Mall in Atlanta on the set with Hiro Murai (Director & Producer of Atlanta). That was probably one of the capital moments of my life no matter how far my career goes.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios (@RentMyStudio) for INSIDE Monthly

Tell us about the process of auditioning for Atlanta?

I was a production control manager with a packaging company. When I got the email about Atlanta, I had to put everything on hold because things were happening at light speed. The second assistant director (2nd AD) reached out to me and said “hey, we need you to come down to take a COVID test”. At the time, we were still in the pandemic. I was trying to find a way to take it on a weekend but that didn’t work because it has to be taken a certain number of days before we shoot. So I went to my supervisor at the time and was completely honest with him. He said it was fine as long as I had everything in place. I made sure everything was taken care of and running smooth. I went down to Atlanta after work to take my COVID test and then I drove back to Greensboro at 4 AM just to be at work at 9 AM. Then I went back the following day after work and took a COVID test again. Then I had to go back to Atlanta on Tuesday to film on a Wednesday. Everything was on my own dime. Gas. Travel. Lodging. Everything. When you’re asked if you are able to be a local hire, that means you have to pay your own way. There are certain roles where they cover per diem (travel/lodging/etc.) but usually small roles are filled by local hires that can cover their own way. If you’re not able to do that, I honestly don’t know what to tell you.

What was it like to be on the set for the show Atlanta?

It was a blessing because it was so professional. I had to get on set at four o’clock in the morning. When I got there, they knew my name and had my measurements mapped out. From there, I went to my trailer. It was the first time I had a trailer. It had fruit in there and I thought, “Wow. This is a lot”. I’m soaking it all in. I’m grateful. Then I got to wardrobe and then hair and makeup. Never had that before. Clearly this was my first time. When they drove me to the set it was like seeing presents under the tree for the first time on Christmas morning. My eyes were just WIDE OPEN. Just seeing everything from the Production Assistants (PAs) to the Directors moving around. Then when it was time to do my lines, we had to do a run through. Hiro walked up to me and already knew my name. He was like, “yeah man…I saw your audition…it was hilarious.” I was just star struck. Every time I did my line, he laughed. From there, I was just like “God, I thank you”. God could have easily given this opportunity to someone else and I’d be home mad or stressed out. I’m thankful for the fact that God put this in my lap and allowed me to be here to show me what he could do in my life.

What can you tell us about your stunt company?

We just started The Hive Stunt Company. We have a few people in mind but right now it consists of myself, Zoe Harris who is a stunt coordinator and friend of mine, as well as Stephon Perry who is a cinematographer and stunt coordinator out of Raleigh, NC. We also have Thomas Arnold and Fred Parker. We just like making magic. Stephon came up with the name. Personally, I didn’t care what the name was. I just wanted to get some dope people in one room and just do some dope stuff. We all have martial arts backgrounds. From Boxing to Tae Kwon Do to Capoeira, MMA and Kung Fu, we all have different backgrounds. We all move differently and bring a different type of flavor and fluidity. We haven’t put out a big project yet but we have coordinated for some local short films that Stephon has done like the fan films for Blade and Attack on Titan. We have a lot in store for 2023. It’s going to be fun.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios (@RentMyStudio)in Greensboro, NC

What were your favorite action movies growing up?

I had several. One of them was Surf Ninjas. Another was Bloodsport with Jean Claude Van Damme. I also loved Enter The Dragon and a movie called Kickboxer which was another Van Damme flick. The key to a good action scene is the camera relationship. If the fighter has any kind of martial arts or fighting background, that’s also a plus because it brings extra life to the scene. You can teach it on the fly though if you have enough time to train. For example, nobody saw Laurence Fishburne doing martial arts before The Matrix but there he was with Keanu Reeves and it looked good. The key to it is just fluidity and camera angles.

What can you tell us about your role in Angry Black Girl?

The full title of the film is The Angry Black Girl And Her Monster and I play a character named Jamal. That’s all I can tell you. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more because of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). What I can tell you is that we just got accepted into the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. Danny Glover (best known for Lethal Weapon) is one of the co-founders of the festival and part of the leadership team. As for the film, you’re really in for a treat. It’s a different element that you’ll see me in. That’s all I can say.

What can you tell us about the cast of the movie?

Amazing. Bomani J Story is the director of course. When I learned about the script, I was already on board. I was sold without even knowing the cast. Denzel Whitaker (from Black Panther and The Great Debaters) plays Kango. Laya DeLeon Hayes from The Equalizer series is in it. Not only that, Chad Coleman (who played Cutty on The Wire and Tyrese on The Walking Dead) is in the movie. It was filmed in Charlotte, North Carolina and I literally saw myself grow as an actor on set. As actors, the hard reality is that we won’t book every role. It was just humbling to see that I belonged.

How can people connect with you or follow you on social media?

You can find me on Instagram @_KeithHolliday. I’m on Actor’s Access and IMDB Pro as Keith Holliday. If you visit IMDB, you can view past projects and stay up to date on what I have going on as an actor and stunt man.