Javon Johnson has played an array of characters during his acting career.
When the role for Richard Hallsen in Tyler Perry’s “The Oval” crossed his path, he saw only one word – “butler.”
“I immediately didn’t want to do it,” he says. “I wasn’t interested in playing a butler.”
Then came the call from Perry, who is at the helm of the series.
“I’ve worked with Tyler before, and we talked about Richard’s journey,” he says. “Turns out he’s so much more than just a butler.”
The second season of “The Oval” is now airing on BET. It has already been renewed for a third season. It airs at 7 p.m. Tuesdays.
The political drama tells the story of fictional U.S. President Hunter Franklin and first lady Victoria Franklin, a power-hungry interracial couple who present a perfect facade to the world while indulging in wildly scandalous behavior behind closed doors.
The series also highlights the personal side and everyday lives of the staff who run the inner workings of the nation’s most iconic residence.
The ensemble cast includes Ed Quinn, Kron Moore, Paige Hurd, Daniel Croix Henderson, Johnson, Ptosha Storey, Vaughn Hebron, Teesha Renee, Lodric Collins, Ciera Payton, Taja V. Simpson, Walter Fauntleroy, Brad Benedict, Travis Cure, Matthew Law, Bill Barrett and Derek A. Dixon.
Johnson says Hallsen is a proud family man and the esteemed White House butler who has served under several administrations at the White House, longer than anyone else there.
“What I enjoy most about Richard is that he’s not as unhinged as the other characters are,” he says. “He’s a little bit grounded, and he’s trying to stay grounded in the midst of all the chaos.”
Johnson says Hallsen’s work problems do make way to his personal life.
“It’s all been affected,” he says. “Imagine being around some unstable people behind the scenes. It trickles down.”
For the last two seasons, Johnson has portrayed Hallsen and is enjoying it.
He says there are plenty of shared characteristics.
“I’m a family man, and Richard is a prideful family man,” he says. “He’s a man of service. He was in the military, and he always tries to make the best decision, no matter the situation in front of him.”
Johnson says that from the in Season 1, viewers saw Hallsen dive deep into the drama.
“With Season 2, Richard’s heart is all over the table,” he says. “He’s not accustomed to being that overly vulnerable, which also helps him find out more about himself. For Richard, he’s been pushing the limits. And it will continue through the third season, I’m sure.”
When Johnson isn’t on set for “The Oval,” he finds the time to give back to his community.
In January, his company, Bear Fruit Conservatory, held its grand opening in upstate South Carolina.
Bear Fruit Conservatory is a nonprofit school that provides high-quality education and career development programs in multiple performing art disciplines.
Johnson was born in Anderson, South Carolina, and grew up in a blue-collar community that focused on working hard and supporting the community. From a young age, and thanks to the help of his school’s choir director, his love and interest in the performing arts were able to grow and thrive, and he would go on to receive a scholarship and attend South Carolina State University.
Johnson’s goal of the nonprofit is to provide arts opportunities to students in the area.
He says that he and Chadwick Boseman grew up in the same town and didn’t have any of those opportunities.
“There’s a lot of community people who are there with dreams that are lying dormant,” he says. “They don’t have permission to dream in that way. It’s a bit of a tragedy. Chadwick and I aren’t the only talented ones from there. We did somehow find a way out. I know what it’s like to grow up in that community, and I want to make a change. I’m part of the conversation that will expand their canvas of possibilities.”