In 1980, thirteen years since bearing her last child, my mother was told she had a tumor in her abdomen. Close family and friends locked hands around a tree in my yard with the pastor of our church and prayed for news of a miracle at her next doctor’s visit. When she returned to the hospital she did receive surprising news: she didn’t have a tumor. She had a junior. Me! Not even born yet and already mistaken for a malignancy.
I was born in 1981 to a brick mason/church deacon (my dad, Henry) and a nurse (my mom, Deloris) in Richlands, North Carolina: a small two-stoplight, two-grocery-store community known as “the town of perfect water”. They tell me that as a child, I was “curious”, which is another way to say “nosey”, always minding grown folks business. I prefer to think that my fascination with observing human behavior began in my formative years. Ask my mother and she’ll still say “nosey”.
My name is Lelund Durond Thompson – I’m an actor, writer, producer, creative director and the third of four children. I practically grew up in hospitals, as my older sister Tracey, older brother Kenneth and younger brother James all suffered from congenital cirrhosis of the liver. Ultimately, Tracey lost her battle to the disease in 1988 and Kenneth followed over a decade later, but my younger brother (who was given 3 months to live and placed on a liver transplant waiting list) ended up receiving a liver in the nick of time and has been managing his condition for over 15 years.
I share all of this because most of my parents’ attention, understandably, went to my siblings (my paltry gall bladder removal operation apparently couldn’t compete). So, I started coming up with ways to gain the spotlight pretty early. This was relatively easy considering that I grew up in a family of performers – Gospel singers. We would sing for hours on end at every family function, church service and reunion. Hours.
At 13, I joined the Blooming Hill Freewill Baptist Church Junior Choir and eventually became the choir director. In high school I became the drum major for the marching band. I guess I also had a fascination with things involving throwing my arms around like a crazy person. I was on a roll.
But let me not get ahead of myself. This is the event that started it all: In fourth grade, I took a fateful trip to the school bathroom that included a detour to the school auditorium. The high school was rehearsing their annual musical, The Music Man, in our auditorium because theirs was being built. I cracked the door open and stood there for a minute and a half – mesmerized, and excited. Singing, music, dancing, the hall monitors patrolling and there I was without a bathroom pass in my pocket! But did I care? Ok, a little bit, but I was in love! My passion for all things associated with entertainment was officially ignited.
Two years later in that same auditorium, I auditioned for the high school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. I walked in, popped in my cassette of Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” and killed a freestyle dance for 3 full minutes. Next thing I know, I was cast in the production! As a munchkin! My dreams of a life in the theater were finally realized! I went on to perform many leading roles with great success in high school, my favorite being the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.
After graduating high school, I went on to receive my BFA from North Carolina A&T State University, where I played numerous roles and won several Paul Robeson Awards for acting. I was also named an Irene Ryan Award finalist every year of my undergraduate training. After receiving 13 offers for tuition-free graduate school admission, I elected to receive my MFA from the CASE/Cleveland Play House Actor Training Program. While at CASE, I was blessed with an additional scholarship by the CASE/Cleveland Play House faculty for being the most outstanding graduate student, and I had the honor of being the first ever African American to graduate the program.
After graduation, I made my move to New York City, where I’ve continued to work professionally as an actor, writer, and coach. I’ve had the pleasure of performing in productions from Pittsburg to Paris. I’ve had the pleasure of working with legendary actors/writers/directors such as film pioneer Melvin Van Peebles and Tony Award® winners Trazana Beverly and Ben Harney.
In addition to my acting, I’ve also developed a great love for writing, and have collaborated with writers Jason Michael Webb and Moises Roberto Belizario on the new Broadway-bound musical Superstar (currently optioned by Super Bowl and US Open producer, Fiur Productions). Songs that I’ve written can be found on the album This is the Day, released by the JB Spiritual Singers in 2010, as well as Wildflower, the debut album from Tshidi Manye who currently stars as “Rafiki” in Broadway’s The Lion King.
Founding YellaFella Entertainment this year has been wonderful and I’m excited to share the many powerful, dynamic, and diverse creative ventures that are currently in development. Love is our number one motivation and I believe all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us! I look forward to sharing more with you as we continue to grow and develop projects!