Some stars are made, while others are birthed. Born with a natural talent to shine, Courtney Burrell has truly made a name for himself as an actor. He can be seen in Tyler Perry’s new movie A Madea Family Funeral, however, his career began long before his debut film. Shortly after pursing modeling, Burrell was lead into acting. From the beginning of his career he became a great success, booking two supporting roles in independent films, and later becoming a lead character in some of pop cultures favorite series such as Black Boots and Black and Sexy TV. In 2016, Burrell landed a recurring role in Tyler Perry’s hit show Too Close To Home and since then, he has continually been dominating his presence in the acting scene. MillBuzz got a chance to catch up with the star-studded actor. He gave us the inside scoop on the new movie, being an actor, and the key to manifesting your dreams.
MillBuzz: Where are you from and how did you get into acting?
Burrell: I was born in North Philadelphia. I started off modeling and then I got into acting. I feel like modeling was my stepping stone to get into acting. It takes character to be in front of a camera and then you transition into taking acting classes. As a kid, I had to move around a lot. I went from Philly to Louisiana, to Georgia, to Virginia, then New Jersey, and then I finished high school and college in Delaware.
MillBuzz: What has your biggest inspiration been in the journey of your career as an actor?
Burrell: I watch a lot of film and television, and I look at actors like Will Smith and Denzel Washington. Those are the people who inspire me to do what I love. At a young age, I always watched television and I wanted to do what I saw others do on the screen.
MillBuzz: Tell us about the movie A Madea Family Funeral and your role in the movie.
Burrell: Madea is putting together an unexpected funeral and it turns into a total nightmare. The character I play is AJ. He is a young man who is battling with some inner demons that stem from his family. In the movie, you will see just how he overcomes all the things he is faced with, and what family means to him. I believe this movie will bring a lot of family’s together.
MillBuzz: How was it working with Tyler Perry?
Burrell: It’s a dream come true to work with Tyler Perry. I wrote him down on my vision board back in 2016, which was thirteen years ago and I finally got a chance to work with him. The experience became surreal. He’s a really cool guy to work with. He plays every side; the producer, the director, and the actor, and he’s definitely someone you can learn from. It’s cool seeing someone of your kind, to inspire you to do what you love, and show you that anything is possible.
MillBuzz: You have already worked with Tyler Perry twice, what would you say is the key factor in building a great relationship with a director and creating roles that a director hand picks for you?
Burrell: Working with Tyler, you have to learn how to work fast and be good. We worked on this movie for seven days and yet your typical production would take about three months. Any actor should be one hundred percent prepared, and be ready so you don’t have to get ready. The movie is my first big role with Tyler. I’ve shot other shows with him, but my first production with him that I booked. I didn’t film for about four or five days. I thought at first something was going on, I am being replaced, but I think that God was giving me more time to get my lines, and study more and get more into the character because they didn’t call me up to shoot until Friday and I arrived to film on a Sunday. I say all that to say, you really have to know your stuff, you have to really study. I took myself off of social media for a reason because I felt like too much energy was going into social media, and not my craft. I feel like you always have to be prepared. Tyler takes about one or two takes, you either get it or you don’t. I feel like its a boot camp for actors, if you work with Tyler, you can work for anyone.
MillBuzz: How many hours and how much training would you say goes into preparing for a movie versus a television role?
Burrell: I put my ten thousand hours in and this didn’t happen overnight. I had to really work for this. If you’re determined and you stick to the script, everything will fall into place. I never liked to read back in the day, but now, you can always find me in the books because this is what I want to do, and this is what makes me happy. Do what makes you happy and the rest will come. God will eventually bless you.
MillBuzz: How have you grown from your first project until now?
Burrell: I am forever evolving. I have grown as an actor due to being patient, and not speeding up the process. Most actors are just trying to make it, and just go straight to the top, but you have to start at the bottom. With social media, you can easily compare your success to other people’s success, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to feel like I need to compare myself to someone else in order to evaluate my success. I want to stay in the mindset that God will allow me to do what I am here to do. Everything I wrote down, all of my affirmations I believed, I believed that I could have it all, and then everything just fell into place. It’s a given.
MillBuzz: Who else would you say you would like to work with and what other venues would you like to pursue?
Burrell: I come from a musical background. I would like to make some music in the future. As far as actors, I would like to work with Will Smith and Denzel Washington. The list goes on. Whatever comes and whatever has my name on it, I am going to take it. I feel like everything that I have at this point has been tailor-made for me.
MillBuzz: What was the auditioning process on getting this role in A Madea Family Funeral?
Burrell: The process of auditioning is always the same. I’ll get an email today that will tell me that I have to come in and do a cold read for the casting director. You walk in and try to impress them with your talents. They want you to win. You have to go in with confidence and be able to pick up things, fast. Tyler’s productions are very fast. It’s all about timing. I thank God for preparing me and allowing me to get to this point. I am even reading a lot of books on self-development. It’s all about developing yourself and getting past situations in your life. Anything negative in your life, can be turned into a positive.
MillBuzz: What lasting impact would you like to make on the culture as a public figure?
Burrell: I want to leave a legacy of inspiration making others feel that it is possible to have and live their dreams. Even if you’re older, it’s never too late to dream. Whatever you have in your head, you can make it a reality. When it comes to developing your skills, if I can do it then anyone can do it.
MillBuzz: What advice would you give to young black males who are trying to pursue acting?
Burrell: Start with a foundation, just in case you fall, you have a good foundation to land on. You have to be cut from a different cloth. Not everybody is built to be an actor or an actress. It takes time to develop and evolve. It’s all about taking the time to be patient, to do what you want to do. You have to take classes and get around the people who are doing what you want to do. You have to network and build relationships and no matter what, you can do it.