When actor Dulé Hill was younger he had a vastly different career goal.
“I wanted to be a corporate lawyer until I got to college and saw how much work it was going to be,” Hill, star of the USA Network original series “Psych,” recently told University of La Verne College of Law students and invited guests. He left Seton Hall University to enroll in acting class. “I believe you should follow your passion in life,” he said.
Hill and actor/singer Tatyana Ali, who stars in “Second Generation Wayans” on BET, were the special guests of Professor Matthew Blakely, who teaches Entertainment Law.
Students in the popular elective course attended an informal discussion with the actors that brought to life some of their classroom discussions. They were joined by students in Professor Ashley Lipson’s Remedies class. Students in both classes had an opportunity to ask the actors questions.
“This brings some practical reality to the practice of law,” La Verne Law Dean Phil Hawkey said in introducing the two actors.
About 100 people gathered at the Ontario campus for an engaging discussion that touched on the actors’ careers, their experiences with lawyers, and contract negotiations and other business aspects of their careers.
Both emphasized the importance of having a good team in place, including a manager, agent and lawyers.
“When I was choosing a lawyer, it was a really personal decision,” Ali said. “It was about personality.”
Hill said it all comes down to personal relationships.
“The entertainment business is big, but it’s small,” said Hill, who has had the same attorney for nine years. “It’s good to have long relationships. I’m a believer in that.”
Hill, who began dancing when he was only 3-years-old, earned an Emmy Award nomination for his role on NBC’s highly acclaimed series, “The West Wing.”
Hill said he was broke when he got a call about “The West Wing.” He joined the cast as Charlie Young, personal aide to the president, and initially was guaranteed four episodes. He was on the show for seven seasons and was nominated for numerous awards.
Ali, the daughter of a nurse and a detective, began acting when she was 4. She played Will Smith’s cousin in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and appeared on “The Cosby Show” and “Sesame Street.” She also has toured with ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.
La Verne Law student Chris Murtagh, who attended the session, said entertainment law is one of the areas he wants to pursue after graduation. He explained that what the actors said tied directly back to material students had learned about in Entertainment Law.
“Being able to see things from the artists’ perspective was very informative,” Murtagh said. “It was a good chat.”
La Verne Law student Kristin Halverson also enjoyed the opportunity.
“I thought it was really interesting to get their takes on lawyers in general, what they do for actors and the entertainment business,” Halverson said. “It seems like they have a really good relationship with lawyers.”