Lights, camera, action: Black Atlanta actors on the rise
“Black Hollywood.” It’s the nickname given to Atlanta by so many who have seen the star power coming out of the bustling city. There are the names you know, like Tyler Perry, Halle Bailey, Storm Reid, and Kenan Thompson. There are also the names you should know, like Carleek Owens, Challedon Saltor and Mac Wells. These three have taken their passion for acting and turned it into a pursuit of big-screen stardom.
Carleek Owens’ love for acting started long before he even knew he had an affection for it.
“As a kid, I would write scripts and make my sister and my cousin perform them with me for my mom,” Owens told Access Atlanta. Fast forward a bit to his college years; on a whim and with a bit of extra time since he wasn’t cleared to play sports his first year in college, Owens found himself auditioning for his first project.
“I was coming out of the computer lab one day, and I saw a flyer for an audition for a show that the theater department was putting on. So, I was like, I used to kind of do this at home; I don’t have anything else to do,” Owens laughed. Soon after, the rising actor found himself changing his major to theater.
After graduating during the height of COVID, Owens found himself having to figure out his next move. That next move came from a chance encounter with two men he ran into at Walmart. A conversation led to an audition, the audition led to him booking a role in their film, and the film led him to connections he still has today.
“From that set alone, I met someone who plugged me into a Facebook group. I got on another film, and from that second one, I met people who are now my close friends; we’ve made our own stuff together, and from that, I branched out and started doing other films,” Owens explained.
With projects like Generic Theatre’s (Norfolk, VA) production of “Sweat,” Netflix, Mycotoo, Fever’s “Stranger Things: The Experience ATL,” and his production company with several of his friends, ColorCode Digital under his belt, Owens is excited about the future of his career.
“I would love to play a boxer like Michael B. Jordan in Creed … I kind of want to go through that training just to see what it’s like to be jacked like that.” Owens laughed. You can follow him on Instagram here.
Latest/upcoming projects: ColorCode Digitals Short film “The Force It Takes,” Kinniks Sky’s play “Pieces” and Jeremy Cormiers musical “It’s A New Day”
Challedon Saltor has found a home in Atlanta for the past 17 years, but her passion for the stage started long before she got here, in her hometown of Baltimore.
“I was first introduced to the acting world by my mom,” Saltor told Access Atlanta. “She was looking for extracurricular activities; I was around four, just to expose me to different things. She found out about a local theater in Baltimore called the Arena Players through a co-worker of hers.” It didn’t take long for Saltor to fall in love with the art form. Years later, she found herself making the move to Atlanta to further her career.
“When I first moved, I want to say Tyler Perry had just gotten here,” Salter reminisced. “He had his first studio, which was on Krog Street, and I ended up being on an episode of the House of Payne. That was my very first acting gig when I moved and my first time doing television.” While it may appear that things happened as easily as ABC, the actress’ journey has not been easy.
“We all have life that happens. That, in and of itself, can deviate you from your intended path, but you have to remember to get back on. For me, I’ve lost both parents in the midst of pursuing my career. It’s been a journey, just dealing with regular life but knowing that they would want me to follow my dreams and continue to push forward,” Saltor said.
While Saltor has found herself appearing in several projects, including the television show “The Game,” she is also looking forward to seeing what the future holds. “I would love to work with Angela Bassett, Viola Davis, Taraji P Henson, Michael Ealy, I think he’s really good. I honestly just enjoy watching other actors’ work. Anytime you get to be around somebody who has that in common, it’s a beautiful thing.” Want to keep up with Saltor? Follow her Instagram here.
Latest/upcoming projects: “Power Book IV: Force,” “61st Street” (season two) and “Genius: Aretha.”
It was in church that Mac Wells found himself bitten by the acting bug.
“I had gotten into trouble at school, and my mom took me to church that day,” Mac told Access Atlanta. “I was around 12. She led me into the banquet hall, where they were holding a table read for a play. A lady told me to come and read a role, and she cast me in it. Ever since I caught the bug at 12, I’ve been hooked.”
Wells’ passion led him to pursue being formally trained in theater, which led to his love for TV and film work as well. Wells says his love for acting comes from two distinct reasons that he believes resonate with who he is as a person.
“The empathy of it and the humanity of it. As actors, we get to tell the stories of the underdog or the unspoken. We get to really speak our truths, not just for ourselves but for the audience as well. I love connecting with people through that art form. I truly believe it’s a ministry, and God called me to do it,” Wells said. Being an inspiration is also a big part of Wells’ journey.
“I love the idea of some little Black kid from the hood somewhere, as I came from, looking up and seeing me on the screen and saying, hey, maybe I could do that too,” Wells said.
It’s been an exciting ride for the actor, as he already has several exciting projects under his belt, such as “Lovecraft Country,” “Black Lightning,” “Doom Patrol” and “Nashville.” As far as what’s next, Wells has a few ideas in mind.
“My dream role is to play Donnie Hathaway in a biopic. Donnie Hathaway’s story is very powerful but also very heartbreaking. I think it shines a light on mental health … I also want to play a Black father who is a father to his children in the daytime but a hero at night, or just positive characters that shine a light on Black men being positive.” You never know what else Wells will be involved in, so keep up with him on Instagram here.
Latest/upcoming projects: “Will Trent.” Untitled Tyler Perry/BET Project, “At All Costs” (short film).