Spotlight on Alumni: Henrí D. Franklin – Undergraduate Theatre Major Makes it to Hollywood!

The Department of Theatre at Wayne State University announces the daytime acting debut of alumnus Henrí D. Franklin.  Franklin joined the cast of the Emmy-winning television show Days of Our Lives on Wednesday, April 21.  Last November, upon the encouragement of some friends, Franklin participated in an open casting call contest sponsored by Days of Our Lives, NBC affiliate WDIV Local 4 and the MGM Grand in Detroit.  Franklin was chosen out of several thousand hopeful actors to appear in an open-ended role with the possibility of returning for future episodes.

In a recent interview, Franklin mentioned that large casting calls (cattle calls) were not normally something he gave much time to, but he decided to go because three separate friends contacted him and insisted he give it a try.

Louise Sorel (Vivian Alamain), Henrí D. Franklin (Nurse Greg), Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe Lane) in Days of Our Lives, 2010

While a student in the Department of Theatre at Wayne State, Franklin and his classmate, Thomas Harris, accomplished something that no other theatre students at Wayne State had done before.   A play they had written was produced as an actual Wayne State Theatre production in the university’s Studio Theatre. The play, Before There Was Broadway, was inspired by the true story of the first Black acting company, The African Company, which came out of lower Manhattan in the early 1800s. The company was a controversial group because it formed when slavery was still legal in the South, and also because it was an “integrated theatre,” meaning black and white actors performed together in its productions. Franklin had learned about The African Company in one of his acting classes. The play was so successful that it was sold out for six out of the seven performances.

The Director of the Black Theatre Program at Wayne State University, Aku Kadogo, had the following to say about her former student:

“I had the pleasure of directing Mr. Henrí Franklin in his last semester at WSU in The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God. I cast him in one of the leading roles. He was great to direct because he did his “homework” and came to each rehearsal prepared with new material. But it was our conversations on the side of the production which really struck me. He informed me that he is a writer and that he and his partner, Thomas Harris, had already produced a play and that what he really wanted to do was start his own company. So I began to mentor him in becoming an independent producer and in how to effectively network. I have included him on panels I’ve conducted and recommended him to advisory boards of community organizations.  And he is now indeed the director of his own company.  I really believe in listening to the voices of our ‘up and coming’ students, and Henrí’s voice is clear, strong, creative, disciplined and determined.”

Louise Sorel (Vivian Alamain), Henrí D. Franklin (Nurse Greg) in Days of Our Lives, 2010

Along with two of his Wayne State University classmates, Anton Bassey and Thomas Harris, Henrí Franklin co-founded Project Theatre Company in Detroit.   All productions put on by the Project Theatre Company are productions they write themselves. These productions, Franklin says, are inspired from ideas that come from everywhere, mostly from real life experiences, like the many hardships that Detroiters and Americans country wide are currently facing, for example. In addition to his involvement with Project Theatre Company, Henri Franklin uses his skills in theater as a means of teaching others life skills. Franklin is involved in three youth organizations, Teen Hype, Arts League, and Michigan Youth Theatre, in which he uses what he knows best, drama, to teach children of all ages how to act and how to use their new skills in their everyday lives.

Days of Our Lives airs weekdays on NBC at 1:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time and on SOAPnet weeknights at 6:00 P.M. and again at 11:00 P.M.

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