De’Aundre Bonds

Imagine growing up in the hood and one day appearing on movie screens and television sets as an accomplished actor. Then one day having your life turned upside down due to a bad decision and spending over nine years behind bars to account for it. It sounds like a Hollywood movie rather than the real life of a Hollywood actor. Behind all that glitters and gleams in Hollywood are real people with real stories that some of us could never imagine living through. De’Aundre Bonds beat the odds once, stood tall throughout one of the most difficult times in his life, and has bounced back ready to beat the odds again.

The hip hop community came to know De’Aundre as the gangbanging older brother in “The Wood”. However, we did not know that the character and the movie itself had similarities to his upbringing which made it easy for him to portray the role in such a believable fashion. De’Aundre grew up in South Central Los Angeles in the 70’s during a time when the popular thing to do was join a gang and sell drugs. However he did not succumb to the status quo of his environment. Living in a home with two addicted parents and five younger siblings, De’Aundre knew that he had to do more with his life than what he saw around him. Of his childhood he says, “Growing up with an alcoholic father and drug addict mother…everything that everyone else had, we didn’t have because of the addiction. It made me stronger because I had to be independent and I had to do something. I had to become a man at an early age. There wasn’t noone else to do that.” He could have easily turned to gangbanging and drug dealing to see himself as a man but he was smarter than that and had a natural ability that helped him out. Instead of gangbanging, De’Aundre turned to acting as a teenager and explains why he made that choice, “I seen the results of gangbanging and what it was doing to my community and that detoured me. I had to find something greater. Everybody that I know that was gangbanging and selling dope, they were going to jail, they were dying. A few of them had a little money but there was always an end to it.”

As a child De’Aundre dreamed of one day becoming a famous film star and told everyone around him. Of his early aspirations, De’Aundre explains, “I had a want and a passion for acting. I fell in love with it after a school play I had performed in.” That passion turned into a serious career for De’Aundre as a teenager. He has worked in both television and film in a variety of roles such as “Chicago Hope”, “NYPD Blue”, “Touched By an Angel” on the small screen and “Get on the Bus”, “Lockdown”, and “The Wood” on the big screen. Some critics have gone as far as to compare him to Marlon Brando and Sydney Poitier. Of this comparison, De’Aundre humbly states, “That’s wonderful. That’s absolutely amazing to even be considered amongst those amazing men, amazing actors. I feel I have the potential to be that. I don’t feel like I’ve done enough, myself, to be placed or considered in those categories. I feel like you have to earn that.”

De’Aundre’s career was on a roll and seemed to have escaped the trappings of his past. However, one day a decision was made all too quickly that had serious consequences. In 2001, he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 11 years in prison. To you and me this may seem like a devastating blow. However, De’Aundre was thankful for this outcome. Here is what he says he felt when he received the news, “When I received the verdict I was absolutely thankful to God. They found me guilty of a lesser charge, involuntary manslaughter. To know at that moment that I wasn’t going to do life, I was thankful. That was my only concern. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. Whatever I had to do to pay for my responsibilities in this tragedy that took place I would do that because I have to be responsible for my actions. I was hoping it wouldn’t be something I couldn’t handle which is life.” His outlook on the situation shows his true character of accountability and responsibility. After serving nine years seven months De’Aundre has hit the ground running as a free man. Without wasting any time he’s reading scripts, writing a book, and speaking to the youth on the effects of bad decision making.

His story is one of remarkable strength, integrity, and drive. He is determined to achieve his childhood goal of becoming a famous film star which he feels he has yet to accomplish. While it may have been easy to work with the cards he was dealt, he reshuffled the deck and chose his own cards therfore creating his own destiny. He has since realized that no one can stop himself but him and that is a realization that should resonate within us all.

You can read the entire interview with De’Aundre Bonds below.

HHD (THEHIPHOPDIVA):At the age of 13 you pretty much told everybody that one day you would be a famous film star. Where did this aspiration come from? Looking back on it today do you think you have accomplished what you set out to do?
DB (DE’AUNDRE BONDS): I had a want and a passion for acting. I fell in love with it after a school play I had performed in. Looking back, have I accomplished what I set out to do? No, I don’t think I have to my potential. However, the initial stages of what I want to do, yes, I have done that.
HHD: You grew up in South Central LA with an alcoholic father, a drug addict mother, and five younger siblings. How has your childhood shaped the man you have become today?
DB: Anybody’s upbringing naturally will affect who they are. Growing up with an alcoholic father and drug addict mother…everything that everyone else had, we didn’t have because of the addiction. It made me stronger because I had to be independent and I had to do something. I had to become a man at an early age. There wasn’t noone else to do that.
HHD: As a teenager how did you begin an acting career when other boys your age – where you are from – turned to gangbanging?
DB: I seen the results of gangbanging and what it was doing to my community and that detoured me. I had to find something greater. Everybody that I know that was gangbanging and selling dope, they were going to jail, they were dying. A few of them had a little money but there was always an end to it.
HHD: As an actor you’ve been compared to Marlon Brando and Sydney Poitier. What does that mean to you?
DB: That’s wonderful. That’s absolutely amazing to even be considered amongst those amazing men, amazing actors. I feel I have the potential to be that. I don’t feel like I’ve done enough, myself, to be placed or considered in those categories. I feel like you have to earn that.
HHD: You’ve worked in both television and film in a variety of roles. Are you more drawn to one or the other? Is there a type of role that you prefer?
DB: I just want substance in whatever role I’m trying to portray. I want to be able to show my gift which is acting. You can’t act if there’s nothing to act. It’s easy to portray something like gangbanging roles like in “The Wood” and “Tales From The Hood” because you grew up in that environment so it’s not really acting. I like roles that challenge me and allow me to express my acting ability. Drama and real, real heartfelt characters that allow me to bring out the soul of the character. I like emotional roles.
HHD: In 2001 you were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 11 years in which you served nine years and seven months. What went through your mind when you received the verdict and the sentencing?
DB: When I received the verdict I was absolutely thankful to God. They found me guilty of a lesser charge, involuntary manslaughter. To know at that moment that I wasn’t going to do life, I was thankful. That was my only concern. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. Whatever I had to do to pay for my responsibilities in this tragedy that took place I would do that because I have to be responsible for my actions. I was hoping it wouldn’t be something I couldn’t handle which is life.
HHD: How has that experience changed you?
DB: It slowed me down a lot. I think before I do now. I used to do then think. I know who I am and the strengths that I possess because I had to go through some things that test your strength. I know how strong I am. To know that you’re capable of enduring and overcoming any obstacle because you’ve been through so much – that is what I know today. Nothing can break me. Nothing can stop me, except me and I know that.
HHD: Now you’re back. You’re reading scripts, you’re writing a book, you’re speaking to the youth…how has the transition been for you?
DB: Honestly, it’s been easy. It’s been easy because I sat back and I strategized and I planned and I knew that once I was out what I was gone do. It’s always been easy for me when I audition for roles and I think it’s because I think that way. I think it’s easy and it becomes easy. It’s like it’s nothing for me to go in and get a role. I don’t care what it is I can get it. That’s how I feel. It’s been fun to get out here and right away get to doing what I love.
HHD: What is your definition of a hip hop diva?
DB: She knows hip hop and hip hop music…uderstanding hip hop and where it comes from. She has to be assured and confirmed in her knowledge of hip hop. Someone who knows what she’s doing, taking control and making it happen.

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