With scene-stealing appearances on top-rated shows "Harry's Law," "Dexter," "Two and a Half Men," "Desperate Housewives," "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "Cold Case," and "Scrubs" to name a few, Ralph Cole Jr. has made a fierce and fabulous mark on Hollywood. Ralph is a quadruple threat, starring on the big and small screen, as well as on stage and lending his voice as an On-Air radio personality. Most recently on film, Ralph used his phenomenal comic timing as "Jerry" in "Eating Out: The Open Weekend" and as "Kay-Kay" in character driven "K-11."
Ralph’s distinctive voice also graces the radio waves every Friday 6-8pm PST as co-host of the hit show "On the Set with Jasper Cole" on BlogTalkRadio. The show includes stories from the set as told by industry insiders such as actors, directors, producers, grips, and more.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ralph knew from an early age that he was destined to dazzle on stage, film, and television. Ralph first studied acting at the Inner City Cultural Center and pursued his passion for theatre during his four years at Claremont's Pomona College. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, he set his sights on New York City. Soon thereafter, Ralph earned his equity card by booking his first Theater for Young Audiences contract.
Ralph honed his craft on stage in numerous off-Broadway and regional theatres. He has acted in such classics as "The Torch-Bearers," "La Cage Aux Folles," "Dreamgirls," "My Fair Lady" and "Grand Hotel." He made his Broadway debut in "Bigger Than Bubble Gum." Ralph used his comedic talent to perform stand up at local New York City venues as well as improvisation with "Shock of the Funny." Returning to Los Angeles, Ralph continued to amuse audiences on stage. The Pasadena Playhouse was home to Larry Hart's rousing musical "Sisterella," where Ralph's creation of the plum role "Babaloo" garnered him both the NAACP Theater Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Playhouse's Friend's Recognizing Entertaining Drama (FRED) Award for Most Entertaining Actor. This musical was produced by Robert DeNiro and the late, great Michael Jackson.
Prior to the start of this interview Ralph and I just talked for about 20 minutes. It was a thrilling way to start off a really fun interview. After our introductions, Ralph talked about living in NY and then how he eventually moved back to LA in 2000 to help his mom take care of his father who was ill. For four years, while pursuing more of his television/film career, Ralph cared for his dad. Ralph's dad passed away in 2004, five days after Ralph booked his first job on NBC "Scrubs." Ralph was estactic, as was his father, who lit up like a Christmas tree when Ralph told him the news. Ralph remembers saying to his dad, a doctor, "I'm on a medical show daddy, even though I'll be working in the cafeteria." My daddy was just so happy for me. That was a nice send off for him because he knew I was well taken care of and that his child was doing what made me happy and that's what loving parents want for their children. I was very blessed to have such loving parents.
Me: I would agree with that. My parents read my blog everyday and e-mail me with their thoughts. It means so much to have them do that.
Ralph and I then went on to talk about how important it is to surround yourself with a group of friends who will support you and that you can trust. They are the ones who will be there for you through all your ups and downs in life and the business. We also talked about how, like the Martina McBride song, "Do What You Do," where Martina sings "Don't give 'em what you think they want, 'cause they don't have a clue, just do what you do," when you are going out on auditions, you just have to get out there, be yourself, and give the best audition you can, and if you are what they are looking for, the job will be yours. That lead into the start of the interview.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I was born wanting to be a performer. I remember watching "Father Knows Best" and just dream of wanting to be on television. Here I am a little black boy watching an all white show, but that was my point of reference back then. Ever since then my life has been gravitated towards that. What supported my dream were TV shows like "Father Knows Best" and others like "I Love Lucy," especially Lucille Ball and her comedic timing, "The Jackie Gleason Show," "The Carol Burnett Show," and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Those women really inspired me to be funny and comical. I love to laugh and that is what really honed it all for me.
Then I got more crude kind of comedy with Richard Pryor, Red Fox, Moms Mabley, and Phyllis Diller. It was their kind of sassy and bawdy humor I was akin to. That was my upbringing in the 60s.
Then getting to see musical theatre made me want to be on stage and be theatrical and perform. I sang songs with my father from "Gypsy" and "Flower Drum Song" when I was 5. I would play Ethel Merman and all the lead roles and my father would play Jack Ludman. At that time, I was only on this planet for 5 years, and I was already singing "Gotta Have A Gimmick," I mean performing was just meant to be for me.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I love Angela Basset and would love to work opposite her. You know who I’d also love to work with, I want to work with the person who is a show runner that can put me on a situation comedy series regular multi camera. Then I’ll be on this show and get to work with all these great people like Angela Basset.
3. You've starred in several stage productions. What do you get from your theatrical endeavors that you don't get from your film/television endeavors? Immediately, it’s the audience reaction in live theatre. You know right away if the audience is enjoying the ride you are taking them on whether it be comical, musical, or dramatic. It’s right there, where as in film and TV, that’s not present until you actually watch the show or movie. I do love situation comedy because it’s in front of a live audience while you are being filmed. The audience is right there to laugh. When I get to do that kind of genre, I feel it’s similar to being on stage because when I do something funny and I get that laughter or applause, I know I’ve succeeded. Conversely, if it’s not working, you know right away, but you got to keep going.
4. What did it mean to you to win the NAACP Theater Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Playhouse's Friend's Recognizing Entertaining Drama (FRED) Award for Most Entertaining Actor for "Sisterella"? Oh, you totally did your research! It was the biggest honor. The greatest thing about awards is that you have them forever and they can never be taken away from you. Even when you’re gone, the award is still there. It’s always a scribe to you. It was such an honor to have an organization like the NAACP recognize me for work that I love to do. The FRED Award was another great honor. The committee for this award are people who see theatre all the time and know what they like and what they don’t like. I won this award for the show stopping extravaganza I did in "Sisterella," written by Larry Hart and produced by Michael Jackson and Robert DeNiro, so there was a lot of hype about this show. To be recognized in such a high profile production and celebrated is just a thrill for me. Both awards mean a lot to me.
5. You are currently working on a theatrical one-man show. What can you tell us about this show and what made you want to write it? It all spring boarded from taking care of my father. My father was a wonderful physician in Los Angeles for 40 years and then was diagnosed with diabetes by which time he needed 24 hour care and so I moved back from NY to come take care of him. It was such a profound experience. My dad took such good care of me and so many people for so long that when he got sick, it was just a natural thought to say, "I’m going to go take care of daddy." The root of the show is about parental care giving and the base I’m using is taking care of my dad, but now that years have passed by, I will incorporate other aspects of my life into the show, and find ways to add humor to it so it’s not a total "Debbie Downer."
6. In addition to theatre, you've starred in several films. One film is "Eating Out: The Open Weekend." What attracted you to this film? The "Eating Out" series is a franchise. Each one is feature film and I’m in the fifth one. It’s such a successful franchise because it’s all about boys and boys and girls and girls discovering their sexuality and the fun romps they have in different situations, whether it’s in Palm Springs where mine is set, or in a drama camp where part four is set. These movies are all cast with very attractive boys and beautiful women and they are just colorful and fun.
What attracted me to this film was the audition and me booking it. Hahhaha. I know you would love for me to say "I read the script…" but it didn’t work out that way for me.
7. Another film you are currently starring in is "K-11." What can you tell us about this film and what attracted you to this project? Again, what attracted me to this film was going on the audition and booking it. Hahaha….Seriously, the great thing about "K-11" is that it’s completely opposite from my role in "Eating Out." "K-11" is a gritty prison drama, directed by Jules Stewart. I play an inmate. It’s a very powerful film drama that I’m very proud to be part of. It was a great ensemble of actors that I got to work with and we are all still in touch with each other.
8. You've also guest starred on numerous television shows throughout your career. One television show, in particular, was "Desperate Housewives." You were on the Season 3 episode entitled "A Weekend In The Country." What did you enjoy most about being on "Desperate Housewives"? I enjoyed working opposite Marcia Cross and Marc Cherry. It was a big thrill for me because I was such a fan of the show and now I’m standing across from one of the actresses I watch every week reciting lines and filming a scene together and having Marc Cherry, the creator of the show, come over to me and give notes. It was a true dream come true.
9. Beyond theatre, film, and television, you are also the co-host of "On the Set with Jasper Cole" on BlogTalkRadio. How did you and Jasper decide to work together? What do you like about being on the radio? Jasper invited me to join him. We met working on a television pilot three years ago. He was then considering me for another project of his that’s still pending, but fast forward to now and Jasper wanted to have this radio show. Jasper envisioned having a show about entertainment and invited me to be his co-host. Jasper and I just get along so great that our chemistry is seamless. Each week we like to have a theme and live guest or call in guest and talk about that theme. It’s not just celebrities we talk with, it’s everybody in entertainment from writers to make-up artists to actors. Our rapport is sort of like a dinner party when everyone is schmoozing.
Radio is a very powerful medium because it allows you to conjure up your own images while listening. It makes your brain function in a way that you know you have to listen instead of visually seeing everything. I like being on the radio because unlike film/television, I don’t have to be as visually put together to go to the station, plus my voice gets to be heard by so many people in one fell swoop.
10. What have you learned about yourself from all your endeavors? I have learned that tenacity pays off, being a good person is still a good thing, and maintaining the best possible attitude makes things better. I've also learned that I’m not trying to be a movie star. I’m just trying to be a working actor who’s respected in the business.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? It would be from my father, who said, "Do whatever makes you happy" and "It’s more important to have good friends than anything else."
12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? A show runner who can put me on a sitcom. Hahahaha…
13. Favorite way to spend your day off? I like to sleep late, get up have coffee, and go into my backyard. I have a lemon tree, an orange tree, and a Mexican weeping bamboo and I love being in the backyard, in the sun, just lying there completely content. I’m very happy in the house I grew up in. My mother convinced my father that we needed this house because Ralphy needed a backyard because we were living in an apartment building when I was born. I always hold that dear to my heart.
14. Favorite way to stay in shape? I do fitness regularly. I swim, I do cardio, I do light weights, and resistance machines. I also love bike riding on Venice Beach.
15. Boxers or Briefs? Briefs. They are much more form fitting.
17. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would love to have the power Elizabeth Montgomery had in "Bewitched." Just the twitch of nose or a snap of the finger and poof you would have what you needed.