Actor, Benjamin Patterson, is a rising star with a plethora of talents under his belt. From acting, being a DJ, modeling, and even photography, Patterson commits to excelling in every aspect of his life and is dedicated to honing each one of his crafts. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Patterson grew up in a diverse neighborhood, becoming a DJ, playing the drums and swimming competitively through high school with television stars Lance Gross and Russell Hornsby.
“Russell and I went to rival high schools but we were friends and our parents knew each other,” said Patterson. “Lance went to the same high school as I did but graduated later than I did.”
As a little kid, Patterson just wanted to be involved in everything so he participated in school plays, his school’s choir, and learned how to be a disc jockey by the seventh grade. Though he considered himself a goofy kid who was always performing one way or another, acting never really crossed his mind. His main focus was sports and music and once in high school he developed a love for percussion.
“I made it my mission to play the drums,” said Patterson. “I was a huge Prince fan, still am, so I made it a point to take band every year.”
Shortly after high school, Patterson began working at Guitar Center for over a year and a half. While working there he became immersed in music. He was able to meet and interact with all different types of musicians and producers, which influenced him that he could play more than one instrument. Before the end of his season as an employee, he went from playing one instrument to playing four. As an aspiring musician he picked up the guitar and piano, while booking DJ gigs at house parties and local nightclubs. He continued his musical endeavors while attending San Diego State University where he was obtaining a degree in psychology. In the midst of getting his degree, he was discovered by a scout for a local modeling competition. With no intentions of actually winning, Patterson won the competition and was named International Model of the Year.
“It’s the cliché story. I was doing something that had nothing to do with modeling and I was “discovered,” Patterson said. “I was really excited. The most ironic part about it is that I didn’t enter with any expectations to win anything let alone place. I was just along for the ride.”
Fast forward a few months later, the agencies affiliated with the modeling competition convinced Patterson to move from San Diego to LA for work. Patterson started booking small commercials here and there and eventually progressed in acting in bigger campaign commercials including one with Pepsi where he costarred alongside Britney Spears and Michael Meyers starring as Austin Powers.
“I booked a GAP commercial with Sarah Jessica Parker and it was so much fun,” Patterson reflected. “I started seeing all the benefits of it [modeling] and it was a natural transition from modeling to acting.”
With becoming International Model of the year and progressing into the acting world, Patterson’s desires of having a career in psychology quickly shifted. His passion for music and his newfound love for modeling and acting, took precedence over psychology and Patterson, with the support of his family, ultimately made the decision to go with the career that would best fulfill him in the long run.
“I remember during one of my psych 400 level classes, thinking ‘ok if I make it through all of this and go to get my masters and later go into private practice, how boring is that going to be,’” Patterson recalled. “To help people is rewarding but it’s not going to be emotionally and creatively rewarding for me. Where’s the fun in that? My family was excited and very supportive. They had more faith in what they saw in me then I did in the beginning.”
Though Patterson no longer studies psychology, he credits his education on how he conducts himself in the entertainment industry and understands that psychology plays a vital role in his career.
“I attribute much of the calm that I experience or the sanity I can maintain to psychology,” Patterson said. “When you learn why people do the things they do you can take yourself out of the equation and not take things so personally. You learn to see the transparency of others actions.”
Patterson got his first break in television on “Noah’s Arc”, a dramatic comedy which predominantly featured gay, African-American males, depicting many social issues, such as same sex marriage, same sex parenting, homophobia, infidelity, and HIV and AIDS awareness. The year- long series was the first of its kind in the black LGBT community and is considered one of LOGO’s most popular series of that time. Patterson’s role in Noah’s Arc prepared him for what he’s best known for; his pivotal and culturally important role as the transgendered brother of Dr. Ben Warren, Rosalind Warren, on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy“. He got word of the audition while he was on vacation in Mexico. His trip shifted from fun in the sun, to reciting his script more than 50 times over a weekend. By the time he got to the audition, Patterson knew exactly what the character needed to get across to the audience and was sure that the role was created for him.
“My first thoughts were ‘Oh Man, I’m going to be on Grey’s Anatomy’,” said Patterson. “I knew the opportunity was going to be huge seeing how this was their first transgender role but more importantly the message that having this character gave, was my focus. I have one trans friend and met four to five male to female transgender people in my life so knowing that and having the opportunity to tell their story was very important.”
With his role in Noah’s Arc and Grey’s Anatomy, and as an African-American man, who self identifies as gay, Patterson ensures that his sexual orientation does not affect the roles he’s offered in Hollywood. He doesn’t feel that he can be type casted or limited because he is 100% dedicated to honing his craft as an actor, not a gay actor and there are two actors he looks at as inspiration to transcend beyond his sexual preferences.
“There are two actors that I follow on IG, Zachary Quinto and Matt Bomer,” Patterson said. “Their life is precisely what people need to see and it’s good to know that they have families and live their private lives but are great actors. As long as I am into my craft, I’ll never have a limit to the roles I can play. I only play roles I can fully commit to.”
Speaking of families, Patterson and his husband are new fathers to son, Zachary, who is four and half months old. Patterson considers his son as not only a blessing but a motivation for him to continue to strive for success in his career.
“It’s phenomenal. It’s very few words I can use to capture that feeling,” said Patterson. “It’s fascinating and motivating to see his development. I look at people like Kevin Hart and Steph Curry, and say here are men that are excelling in their careers and have a family. People say you can’t have both, but yes you can.”
Patterson is set to return to the television screens this summer on OWN’s new television series Greenleaf which is set to debut a two-night season premiere on June 21st and 22nd. The upcoming television drama series, created by Craig Wright, and executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and Lionsgate Television, follows the corrupted world of the Greenleaf family, a family with scandalous secrets and lies that run a mega church in Memphis. Patterson stars alongside Keith David as Bishop James Greenleaf, Lynn Whitfield as his wife and matriarch of the family, Lady Mae Greenleaf, and Merle Dandridge as Grace Greenleaf, the estranged daughter who has returned home after 20 years following the mysterious death of her sister, Faith. Patterson plays Noah Kendall, who is Merle Dandridge’s ex-boyfriend. Patterson speaks highly of the series and says fans should expect a rollercoaster of unforeseen events that will have them on their toes.
“Fans should expect major drama,” said Patterson. “It’s a powerful series that hits a lot of controversial topics. It speaks to Black Lives Matter, to sexual identity, sexual abuse, and political issues. It invites you in and you feel all the nuances. You can hear the music; you can feel the texture of the paper when you go t church. It’s a well done entertaining show that pushes a lot of boundaries and it’s beautifully done.”
Oprah is also starring in the series as Mavis McCready, Lady Mae’s sister who owns a blues nightclub and is also a close friend of Grace. Patterson discusses how it’s like working alongside Winfrey.
“Working alongside Oprah Winfrey is like a high school basketball player shooting around with Steph Curry,” Patterson said. “You come in expecting to treat someone like royalty and you end up meeting a friend. She’s very calming, soothing, yet professional. She’s very specific in the words she chooses when she speaks to you.”
Patterson, like many others, is excited for the debut of Greenleaf and even feels that the series is so good that many of the actors could be awarded for their stellar performances. Acting is not the only thing in store for Patterson’s future this summer. He is getting back to his first love, music, and will be releasing new music.
“The future is looking bright,” said Patterson. “There’s new music that’s set to hit iTunes around June 21st or 22nd. I need to get back on stage so I’m scheduling live performances in LA this summer. I’m also very aggressive with my photography so I’m hoping to get it into bigger magazines.”