Actor Danny Glover addresses Ballroom crowd last night

Christina Stavale

Actor and politcal activist Danny Glover greets the audience before speaking in the Ballroom last night. Glover and fellow actor Felix Justice spoke on topics ranging from arts education to international politics to method acting. BETH RANKIN | DAILLY KEN

Credit: Ron Soltys

Danny Glover’s first experience with acting was an audition for a stage play called “Papa’s Daughter,” where he was the only one who showed up and he “stumbled over every word.”

“I went to that audition because I thought I could be of some use, even if I floundered and failed,” he said. “But something else happened.”

Glover, an activist and actor known for his work in films such as The Color Purple and Angels in the Outfield, spoke to a full house last night about putting one’s life to use, no matter what avenue one might choose.

“I was born in a time … where people used themselves as vehicles of change,” Glover said. “Around my family, there was a sense of being involved and being part of a larger picture.”

Born dyslexic, it wasn’t easy for him to read — math was always his best subject, and he studied economics in college. But that didn’t stop him. He said he took the extra effort to become informed of the world around him, and to read works of predecessors such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Glover stressed the importance of having a soapbox to express one’s ideas.

He happened to have that opportunity through acting.

“It gave me a kind of space to learn the craft of acting, to say what’s important for me in the world and to say what side I’m on in the world,” he said.

Instead of just taking the movie industry for what it is, Glover said he sees some of the characters and stories he gets to portray as opportunities. For example, in the film

Touissaint, he was able to tell the story of the Haitian slave revolt and in “Freedom’s Song,” a story about young civil rights workers. Likewise, in the documentaries “Sundance,” about Hurricane Katrina, and “Soundtrack to Revolution,” about the importance of music in the civil rights movement, Glover had the opportunity to actually say something.

“Those are the kinds of things that I look back on,” Glover said, “and the chance I get to do other things, and try to shape the cultural world.”

Glover also spoke about his interaction with South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela. He portrayed him in the 1987 film “Mandela,” when the American world knew nothing of what he looked like, and at a time when no one could print his words. But despite this, when Glover met Mandela for the first time, Mandela told Glover that he was proud of his performance.

And Glover said Mandela now refers to him as “one of his sons.”

Fellow actor Felix Justice, who performed with Glover in “Freedom’s Song,” directed last night’s talk in a question-and-answer format. He also shared his own insight on the current state of black actors in the movie industry.

“My biggest disappointment is the narrowness of which black actors are portrayed,” Justice said, talking about how he’s rarely seen a black actor portray a romantic character.

“It’s almost as if Hollywood is really afraid to go across lines. I don’t believe we as black people are able to share our tender, nurturing side as much as we’d like to.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].