Actor and producer Ron Simons has made a name for himself in both theater and film. The Quintessential Gentleman recently chatted with the founder and CEO of SimonSays Entertainment to talk about his most recently-produced play, Jitney, his background, upcoming projects and more.
You started your career as a software engineer and you’re now one of the top producers on Broadway. That’s quite the transition. Can you walk us through that?
What I’m doing now is actually kind of in line with what I was doing in high school where I acted in a number of plays. And when I graduated that’s what I wanted to be – an actor.
When I got to college I took acting classes, which I loved, but I also loved computers, so I did a computer science double concentration. After college, I applied to the Yale school of Drama but didn’t finish my application. I needed to earn income, so I applied to a bunch of technology companies including Hewlett Packard (HP), which is where I eventually worked. But a few days after I was offered the position at HP, I received a phone call from the head of admissions at the Yale School of Drama, who encouraged me to complete my application submission. She pretty much hinted that I would be accepted into the program if I completed my submission. I was at a fork in the road at that point, and at the time I needed to financially support others and myself, so I chose to work at HP.
I eventually enrolled at the University of Washington School of drama, professional actors program and I graduated from there in 2001 before moving to New York City and getting an agent. I was a bit disenchanted by the projects I was seeing green lit while working as an actor, and thought “you know what? I can do better than a number of these things out there.” So I started producing, and when I say I knew nothing about producing, I knew NOTHING about producing.
I bought a bunch of books and did some research because the first project that came to me was not a play, but a film which ended up being Night Catches Us with Kerry Washington, Anthony Mackie and Wendell Pierce. After that, I produced my first Broadway show, which was Porgy and Bess, followed by another Broadway show, and then several more movies before another Broadway show. Now here I am, several projects l