Trinidadian actor lands roles in hit US TV dramas

A report by Shane Superville for Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday.

Since childhood, Quincy Chad’s grandmother saw his potential to be a star.

“Growing up my grandmother – God rest her soul – used to say that ‘You feel you’s an actor or wah?’ So I like to think she always knew. Now as she looks down, she sees where I am and is smiling,” Chad said.

The Trinidad-born New Yorker has appeared in several US television series and may be on his way to becoming the small screen’s next leading man.

Usually, he plays colourful villains and supporting characters, but while the main protagonists get more screen time, his edgy bravado keeps the audience engaged and wanting more.

Chad has had roles in some of the most popular shows in modern television including Power, The Get Down, Orange is the New Black and The Punisher, and insisted he’s just getting started.

In an online interview with Sunday Newsday, Chad, born Quincy Chad Francis, spoke about his Trinidadian roots, acting career and goals for the future.

His parents were Morvant natives but migrated to Canada before landing in Brooklyn, New York.

Trinidad-born actor Quincy Chad has starred in hit US dramas, including Orange is the New Black, Snowfall and the Punisher. 

“The area in Brooklyn, Flatbush, where we lived is like a mini-West Indies. The neighbourhood was full of Caribbean people so the culture was quite present. Backyard cookouts and fetes were quite prevalent growing up. The Caribbean culture travelled pretty well, besides the weather of course.”

Despite the biting cold of the US east coast, Chad said the weather made him appreciate visits to Trinidad for Carnival with his mother, something he enjoyed growing up.

Eventually the family would move again from their multi-cultural neighbourhood in New York to Connecticut where Chad would have his first encounter with racism.

“The schools I attended were predominantly white.

“I was one of maybe two students of colour in my classes. None of the other students ever heard of Trinidad. ‘Is that the same as Jamaica?’, ‘So you’re like Jamaican?’ Those kinds of silly questions were common.

“Unfortunately, in high school there were other instances of ignorance to my culture and racism, but my brother and I were able to adapt and excel in both academics and athletics, as the great equalisers.”

Quincy Chad in a scene from the Netflix TV drama Orange is the New Black. 

As a multi-sport athlete in high school, he competed in basketball, (American) football and track and field taking his athletic prowess to Wesleyan University, Connecticut, where he served as captain for the school’s football team.

His skill made him look towards a professional career in the National Football League (NFL) until an injury derailed his plans.

This twist of fate while disappointing was a watershed moment in Chad’s life as it introduced him to acting when he met a visiting professor from the Yale School of Drama who nurtured his talents.

In 2019, Chad played iconic American football player and civil rights activist-turned actor Jim Brown for the theatrical production of One Night in Miami by Kemp Powers. (The play is now an award-winning movie directed by Oscar winner Regina King with Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown.)

His life took a different direction when he met a visiting professor from the Yale School of Drama who took an interest in him and nurtured his acting talents. In 2019, Chad played iconic American football player and civil rights activist-turned actor Jim Brown for the theatrical production of One Night in Miami by Kemp Powers. (The play is now an award-winning movie directed by Oscar winner Regina King with Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown.)

Chad played the part well, garnering praise from Pittsburgh theatre critics who commented on his convincing portrayal.

“Jim Brown was an activist, a football Hall of Famer, who also was an artist at heart and he later became an actor. The parallels were truly art imitating life in a sense,” he said.

Standing at six-foot-two and weighing 220 pounds, Chad’s imposing figure has led him to be cast as crime lords, construction workers and soldiers.

He appeared in a 2016 episode of the Punisher where he played ruthless mercenary Spencer Geiger.

Quincy Chad as Jim Brown in the play One Night in Miami. 

In his most recent role Chad plays Big Deon, an intimidating Crips gang-member on FX’s crime-drama Snowfall, a critically acclaimed series currently in its fourth season detailing the spread of crack cocaine in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Even with a number of acting notches on his belt, Chad, while grateful for the opportunities, said he still has a lot of work ahead of him before he can feel as if he has “made it” as an actor.

“Being recognised for my work is something I am extremely grateful for. I liken it to building a house, the foundation is being set right now. Let’s see how it ends up.”

Despite his impressive physique, Chad is more than just muscle as he holds an undergraduate degree in sociology and intends to continue his studies even as he pursues his acting career.

The road to fame has not been an easy one, as Chad recalls times where he had to juggle the responsibilities of having a nine-to-five job while trying to get roles in plays to build his catalogue and reputation.

He also admits while most Caribbean parents tend to encourage their children to pursue more traditional professions, his family eventually warmed up to his acting career.

“They are all very proud, which isn’t exactly how it started. We as a culture tend to look at more conventional careers as the path to success. Doctor, lawyer, finance, etcetera but it’s all love now.

“I think once they saw my talent and how hard I was working to make things happen the respect and support flowed abundantly.”

These days Chad lives in Los Angeles but despite being so far away from home, he highlights his Trinidadian roots any chance he gets even getting a tattoo of the TT flag on his chest.

“I think I can thank her (his mother) especially for never letting us forget our culture.

“She made sure we wear it as a badge of honour. That is why I have the flag tattooed on my chest. I couldn’t be any more proud of where we come from. I try to make it back for at least every Carnival if I can.”

If Chad represents what a Trinidadian can accomplish with hard work and perseverance then the enthusiasm he gives his characters represent what audiences around the world have to come to love about his brand of acting: athleticism, boldness and a
sense that you know him.

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