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Rising Star

The road less traveled has led Oakland's Lance Gross to a rewarding career


Courtesy of Lance Gross

When Lance Gross was about to graduate from Howard University a few years back, he had to choose between dreams: pursuing a track and field career or heading to Hollywood to follow his love of acting. So far, Gross’ gamble has paid off—he landed roles in Tyler Perry’s hit movie Meet the Browns and TV show House of Payne. The 28-year-old Oakland native also stars opposite America Ferrera and Forest Whitaker in the new romantic comedy Our Family Wedding, in theaters March 12.

Diablo: Why did you pick acting over athletics?

Lance Gross: Growing up, it was my dream to go to the Olympics and then become a pro athlete. But in college, track and field started to feel less like a dream and more like a job. Meanwhile, during my acting classes at Howard, something just sparked inside of me. So, I turned down a chance to be signed as a track athlete with a major sponsor to pursue my dream of being an actor.

Diablo: In your new movie, you get to play Forest Whitaker’s son. Were you intimidated to work with the guy who won an Oscar for playing Idi Amin?Photo By Scott Garland

LG: I was, a little, at first. But Forest broke the ice by taking me to a Lakers play-off game. That really let me know that he was a cool dude. He had just won an Academy Award, but he went out of his way to make me feel comfortable and to set the mood of a father-son relationship. I came out of the situation with a good friend.

Diablo: You’ve been working with Tyler Perry quite a bit. This guy has cranked out about 10 hit movies and a TV show in the past decade. I can’t think of another writer-director who has anywhere near that kind of productivity.

LG: Tyler is amazing. We shot 100 episodes of House of Payne in nine months. That would take Hollywood five years to do. We shot Meet the Browns in six weeks. So, we had a little more time, but still, it was really fast. I’ve watched him rewrite an entire script right in front of the cast. He has a formula that he knows works, and he sticks with it. I just don’t know when he sleeps.

Diablo: You’re living in Atlanta to film House of Payne. When you visit the East Bay, where do you go?

LG: When I’m back, the first place I go is Everett and Jones barbecue in Jack London Square.

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