C.J. Faison: The Shepard of Cultural Stories

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C.J. Faison is an actor and a producer known for his creative talents on the Emmy winning series Giants. During a sit down in New York City, Faison shares his story and expresses the importance of cultural representation, mentorship, and what it takes to make it in the entertainment industry.

When we first were introduced to C.J., he was finishing up production for the second season of Giants. When asked how things have changed since that time, and he stated, “We’ve increased our intentionality behind what we’re doing and creating content.” Giants has afforded Faison new opportunities to expand his career, and he is currently working on the creation of TV shows and films with his newly launched production company, Face Forward Productions. His goal is to create content that is universal in nature and appeal but told through the perspectives of persons of color.

His talents as a producer have really carved a space for him to thrive. As the Giants’ producer, his many tasks include responsibility for raising capital, securing cast and crew as well as locations. When coming onboard to the show, he never considered winning awards, which Giants recently won two Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress and Outstanding Supporting Actor and a Streamy award for Best Digital Drama Series. For Faison, the main focus was impactful storytelling that he felt could be culturally beneficial.

When sharing his thoughts on challenges as a creative, he explains, “I think whenever you do something good or something great, in this case, people always look forward to your next thing.” Faison admits that despite working on an award-winning show like Giants, the next project won’t be easy. Acquiring projects for Face Forward hasn’t come without difficulties, but he has been successful. He is partnering with creators and writers as well as landing numerous features and television shows.

Faison is working on an unscripted project with the Host Stacy Ike. He’s also partnering with writer/director Xavier Burgin (Ryan Murphy Fellow and USC Grad) to create a feature-length adaptation of his short film called On Time.

Faison wants to have creative freedom to produce his work. Partnering with the cast and crew of Giants helped solidify his artistic vision and inspired him to create Face Forward Production. “I wanted to ultimately be a shepherd of these stories that I felt were important, and I felt needed to be told. And if it requires me to be the one to tell them, then I wanted to be in a position to do it,” Faison stated.

To be able to build any empire, you really have to be able to lean on your team! When assembling a creative team, Faison looks for people who are knowledgeable and passionate about what they’re doing. Faison feels it’s vital to have a mentor who has shared similar experiences and is also relatable. He understands how important it is to connect with creatives of the same ethnic background and build a collaborative community through mentoring.

As a rising star in the entertainment industry, he offers these sage words of wisdom to those hoping to pursue a career in the field. “The first thing I would say is to understand why you’re doing it and what it is that you want to do. When you can make that mission clear, then you can be even better in how you achieve it,” Faison states. He advises not to wait for validation, but to trust in the project’s value and marketability.

In the future, fans can expect the award winning short film On Time to be made into a feature film. As seen on Issa Rae’s short film Sundays, On Time follows the life of a single mother, Renee Johnson, living in South Central LA who must make a difficult decision when she’s late for a job interview. He’s also working on a series entitled, Bra Straps and an in-progress project with Stacy Ike. He will be creating more cultural, and ethnic-focused content that he feels is absent in the industry’s market. As for Giants, there is presently no confirmation of a third season, but it could potentially happen under the right circumstances.

Make sure to follow CJ on Instagram and look out for more of his work on your screen soon!  

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