Donovan Carter: Ballers
Donovan Carter stars in the HBO show Ballers. It’s about a former football superstar played by Dwayne Johnson, who now is trying to find the same success as a financial manager for current players in Miami. Sometime art imitates life and other times life imitates art. In Carter’s case, he was a standout defensive lineman with a full-ride scholarship at UCLA with aspirations of playing pro, but unfortunately that dream never materialized. Instead he decided to give acting a try and in his first big audition landed the part of NFL defensive tackle Vernon Littlefield. Risen talked with the athlete-turned-actor about his faith, family and current role.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: In real life you played college football at UCLA and your dream was to play in the NFL. How did you transition from football into acting?
Donovan Carter: Yes, I wanted to be in the NFL, but it didn’t work out for me. I wasn’t really sure what I would do next. I was trying out for a few commercials and figuring out what I wanted to do. It was really my coaches, and my dad, that encouraged me to audition for Ballers. I was a football player and it would be natural for me to play one on TV. It was my first big audition and I got the part! The opportunity to be on the show has been incredible and now we are in the second season with the third season just getting picked up too.
RM: What role has faith played in your life?
DC: God is everything to me. “For we walk by faith not by sight.” [2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV] I really had to take a step of faith to go into acting. I had a lot to learn and when I didn’t know what was going to be next in my life, I just had to trust God would open up an opportunity after football. Faith is a big part of my life.
RM: What encouragement can you share when it comes to being open to a different path than the one you may have initially set out on?
DC: I am firm believer in having no regrets and working hard. I wasn’t big into school when I was younger so college was never even on my radar. My parents weren’t married so I moved around a lot. I went to so many different elementary schools and sports was really the only constant. Fortunately, I had to keep my grades up in order to be eligible for football. I definitely would not be where I am at now if I didn’t go to UCLA. The education I got and the mentorship from the coaches has been so valuable. It’s important to remember to go after your dreams. Go after your passion. Identify something you love, that you would do for free even, and then pursue it. You don’t need a ton of experience and you can always learn. You can do anything you want.
RM: Dwayne Johnson’s character is that of a financial manager and mentor to Vernon. In your own life who would you consider a mentor or where do you go to get the most advice?
DC: First I go to God with everything. I put all my stresses, all my burdens, everything on Him and always go to God first. My father has been a big influence on me as well. He was a football coach and encouraged me. I’ve had some great coaches who give good advice too.
RM: When it comes to social media, I like how you incorporate everything from your work to personal life, Bible verses and encouragement. How do you approach the platform you’ve been given to influence others?
DC: I’m very aware of the impact of social media. Even right from the beginning when I got to UCLA, the coaches sat us down and talked about paying attention to what we put online. Whether I choose to be a role model or not, I know there may be kids and other fans looking at me, watching me and observing what I do and what I say. I am very conscious of the image I am putting out there. For example, if I am somewhere and a photograph is being taken, I choose to put my drink down first so it doesn’t give off the appearance that alcohol and parties are priority. I know I indirectly represent the show, UCLA, and my family, but it is a mixture because I also want to make sure my [platforms] are a true reflection of me as well.