Right On! magazine: January 1979
by Shell Slaton

 

Terry Carter is debating in business-like tones to whoever is on the other end of the phone when he looks up and notices you have arrived. He smiles.

"Listen, I'll call you back and we'll discuss it later, I've got an appointment." As he is closing the phone conversation, you glance around his luxurious Beverly Hills office. A picture of his wife and two kids, a girl nine and a boy seven, adorn one wall. On the other wall is a series of plaques and awards. Among them is a framed quote. It reads:

"All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke.

Later you will discover that this quote is more than a decoration, it's a belief his parents raised him on and has been the force that has propelled Terry to enter law school and then acting school, co-star in McCloud and then Battlestar Galactica, chase and catch a burglar who robbed a lady of her purse, and finally create Meta-4 Productions, Inc.

Together you leave Meta-4 (meaning metaphor) Productions and walk across the street to a cozy cafe of wood and checkered tablecloths called JoAllen's. As you are being seated in a choice sun-filled spot under an umbrella, you adjust your image of Terry Carter, the actor, to Terry Carter, the president and founder of his own production company which has won awards for its educational documentaries. No sooner have you done this than you notice a flash of something else in him. because at this moment Terry is analyzing the setting, the sound, the aroma, with all of his senses tuned into his surroundings.

He sees there is a need for a change in scenery and executes this immediately. A second later you are at a quieter, more suitable table for an interview. Terry beckons a waiter, gives his order and some constructive advice. This is Terry, the director. A man who has directed both commercials and films. Even in his role as "Col. Tigh" on Battlestar Galactica, a 14 million dollar production, Terry is in a position of authority.

"My role on Battlestar Galactica is very different from any other roles I've had. Being second in command of the Galactica means that the character has an enormous amount of responsibility, and because of that it tends to reflect in everything he does with other people. There is a mixture of concern."

A waiter approaches with huge salad bowls, and Terry, who has been pacifying his hunger with a roll from the basket on the table, makes a welcome suggestion, "Let's eat first." Several minutes of munching pass and by the time the tape recorder is turned back on, Terry knows where you were born, your background and your career achievements. He gathered all of this information through casual conversation. It's a polish Terry acquired as the first BIack TV anchorman in the nation.

Over the airwaves at Boston's WBZ-TV, Terry interviewed senators Ted Kennedy and Edward Brooke and covered the capture of the Boston strangler. You wonder if Terry was always a no-nonsense, achievement oriented person.

He admits that, as a teenager, he wasn't. "In high school, I was the clown and didn't take life as seriously as I do now. I was very outgoing because I've never been the introspective type. I think it has something to do with me having been the' only child---you have the whole stage to yourself right? I was no slouch but I was always getting in trouble at school for talking too much."

He never played any practical jokes though because a classmate of his played a practical joke on a friend by sticking a pencil in the guy's chair. The friend sat down on it and later died from lead poisoning. Terry who grew up in an all-white neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, never had any trouble with his grades. Even in elementary school he had the highest IQ of the whole student body. His high school wasn't co-ed but Terry used his brains to get together with the opposite sex. "I had some girlfriends nearby at Washington Irving High School, which was an all-girl high school about three blocks away. I've had my share." Then he smiles. "More than my share."

"Were you awkward?"

"No. If I was I wouldn't admit that I was." He laughs and his distinctly handsome face is highlighted by the silver sparkling in his otherwise jet-black natural. His expression gets grim when he thinks of some of the teens he's met, who often ask him, 'What do I have to do to get into show business?' "I'm kind of depressed by that question because they are under the impression that getting into the business is going to have some great meaning for them and for most kids it has none. I would not encourage kids to get into show business unless they have extraordinary talent, for instance juggling, or swallowing a sword, or singing like an Aretha Franklin or a Stevie Wonder. If they have that unique talent, Okay. "But as far as acting is concerned, the industry doesn't support actors, white or Black. The statistics show that 80 to 90 per cent of the members of the Screen Actors Guild are unemployed. "And for every hundred white actors that get jobs, there is maybe one job for a Black actor. Even a big break doesn't do any good."

"If any of your readers are under that false impression tell them to ask themselves 'What are the top Black stars of the last ten years doing now?' We don't have any dramatic programming that deals with Black people as three-dimensional human beings. Television is a white domain, unfortunately and Black actors like myself are there for local color." Terry feels that it's best for aspiring actors and actresses to prepare themselves for another career in case acting doesn't fulfill all their needs. This is why he opened up his company. Another reason is because he wanted to be involved in the behind-the-scene "creative decisions. Because if we as Black people are going to make any kind of impact on our lives we have to be involved in making those decisions that go into the movies and plays that affect our images." Terry's company makes films with more accurate images and is multi-ethnic. He pauses and looks at you. "Oh my dear, I just got some butter in your hair." Somehow it got there when he was buttering a piece of bread. But don't worry, he's already wiping it out with his napkin, after all---Terry Carter is a man of action.

You'll read about his friend Herb Jefferson from Battlestar Galactica in our next issue.