January 23, 2020
By Rachael Blaine ’21
While on a full theater scholarship at the University of Maryland, actor and singer/songwriter Bryan Terrell Clark often skipped his classes to follow his passion and audition in New York.
“College is a boost in your journey of independent thought. My passion was at its height in college,” Clark explained to a crowd of more than 300 at Susquehanna’s Winter Convocation. The event was part of the university’s weeklong commemoration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
After arguing with his mother about abandoning his scholarship and leaving his college career, the two settled on a compromise: Clark would attend Temple University, a school much closer to New York, while continuing to travel for auditions.
Clark and his siblings grew up with a mother who expected excellence and a partially absentee father who spent two decades in and out of drug rehabilitation. Clark said it was only later in his life that he could recognize his father’s addiction and his mother’s willingness to forgive – and appreciate them both.
“I saw my mother as an angel and my dad as a dragon, but they both taught me how to fly,” he said.
Clark went on to graduate from Temple and the Yale School of Drama, but he knew his passion from an early point in life and pursued it relentlessly. He landed lead roles in hit Broadway shows like Marvin Gaye in Motown: The Musical and George Washington in Hamilton. He also performed in many television shows, such as Netflix’s When They See Us, OWN’s Queen Sugar, CBS’s NCIS: New Orleans and Blue Bloods, and Fox’s Empire, and has musically collaborated with artists such as Brandy, Ciara and Michael Bublé.
Through his success, Clark explained how he was able to create his purpose. “Whatever it is you’re passionate about, follow it. It will lead to your purpose,” he said to the crowd. “Purpose is your reason why.”
For Clark, this meant co-founding inDEFINED, a philanthropic lifestyle brand that raises money for various charities and philanthropic organizations and supports arts education for at-risk youth. The brand emphasizes two areas Clark is passionate about: living without labels and arts education.
“I don’t let the reality of ‘what is’ define me,” Clark said on how he pursues his passions, and therefore, his purpose. “As long as you’re breathing and you have the motivation, you can accomplish anything.”