NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It’s been over 20 years since Reegus Flenory did a double take after seeing an audition notice for the National Showcase Awards while strolling through the Communications Department at Tennessee State University.
“I read the brochure, and it was basically like a contest. It had acting, music and a lot of different things, and the winners would go on and compete in regionals and ultimately compete in California, so I competed,” said Flenory, a Nashville native who secured his bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication and Theatre at TSU. “I was 18 years old at the time, and I competed in the male category against all the adults, and I won best male actor for Tennessee.”
Audiences across the globe can see Flenory weekly as Dawson
Chapman on Trinity Broadcast Network’s new, cutting edge dramatic television series “Smoketown.” Flenory said acting has always been in his DNA.
“I used to sit and watch television shows like “Knight Rider.” This was probably the early 80s, and I could say the lines before the actors said them. I understood what would come next in a script. It was the kind of thing that is kind of weird,” he said.
Those natural instincts, along with years of hard work, have translated into opportunities for Flenory to work with movie stars like Michael Ealey in the film “Unconditional” and Bill Cobbs in “Much Adieu About Middle School.”
In “Smoketown,” which premiered in early July, Flenory’s character, Dawson Chapman, runs a soup kitchen along with his daughter and wife. A mysterious and shocking murder takes place at the beginning of the series, which places the Chapman family at the center of a police investigation that sends the usually quiet community into a racial tailspin.
Much like his character in “Smoketown,” Flenory said faith has played a central role in his life and career. Reegus’ mother, Judy Flenory, a TSU alum who worked 15 years as a school counselor at Bordeaux Enhanced Option Middle School, said Reegus’ love for God and family has always been a big part of his life.
“He is a very spiritual person, and I have always observed that he knew to always observe a higher power first before he does things, and that has kept him very stable because this is a very competitive field,” she said. “If you look over his career as a whole, most people probably won’t know the number of things he has done, and he has been very modest about it in my opinion. He has been involved with some well known actors and different venues, and to maintain that type of attitude in this type of business he is pursuing is a rarity.”
Reegus said he did numerous plays and free projects on and off campus during his time at TSU. “I wanted to stretch myself. I wanted to be the kind of actor who could do any kind of role.”
He said working with people like Herman Brady, a former TSU professor of Communications; and actor, director and voice-over artist Barry Scott helped him hone his craft.
“I learned a lot because we had to do everything ourselves. We had to go get props from Walmart and places like that. We had to actually get wood and nail the things together,” Reegus said. “We had to find our shows. We had to actually figure out which shows we wanted to do, and then get a budget for those shows—things that the kids really don’t have to do at a lot of the schools now.”
Reegus’ hard work paid off when he landed his first lead role in a BET (Black Entertainment Television) movie called “Winner Takes All” in 1998.
Henry Flenory, Reegus’ father, attributes a lot of his son’s success to his focus and passion.
“Usually when he does things that are out of town, I do the driving part while he studies the play or whatever he is intending on participating in,” said Henry, a retired principal who secured a master’s degree from TSU in 1978 in administration and supervision. “He has a lot of passion about what he does. He interacts with those persons in front of the camera and behind the camera and has a willingness to ask questions and to take in a lot of information.”
Evelyn Foster, office manager for Talent Trek-Nashville, one of the city’s premiere talent agencies, said Reegus has always been professional. After working with him over 20 years, Foster said she sees him like part of her family.
“Reegus is not only a great actor, but a great guy,” she said. “I think that is why he has come as far as he has.”
Reegus said working on set during the filming of “Smoketown” simply “felt right.”
“The energy on set was so positive with the crew, the cast and everyone involved,” Reegus said. “You felt the genuine spirit that the project was done in with the writer and director Shane Sooter and his wife Cassie.”
TSU alum Tamiko Robinson Steele, who portrays Amelia Chapman, Dawson’s wife in the series, said she is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the project.
“I went in very nervous of the unexpected, but was pleasantly surprised to find a team that supported and cheered for each other,” she said.
Other Nashville actors featured in “Smoketown” include Clark Harris and Mykie Fisher.
To watch Smoketown online, visit https://www.tbn.org/programs/smoketown .
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About Tennessee State University
With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.