A Mindset Legacy
Story by LISA ANDERSON
Being a Hampton in Ocala comes with a lot of expectations, but Sean Hampton appreciates the achievements his family had in the area. His grandmother, Dr. Effie Carol Mitchell, became the first licensed female physician in the state, white or black, in 1906. In 1915, she married Dr. Lee Royal Hampton, Sr., who just happened to be the first black dentist in Ocala. They eventually owned a building in the downtown area that housed both their practices and their pharmacy.
The College of Central Florida was once divided to serve both the white and black populations. According to the college’s About page, Howard Junior College opened in 1958 to serve the black community, but the name was changed shortly thereafter to Hampton Junior College in honor of Sean’s grandpa. Dr. Hampton and Dr. Mitchell-Hampton were big supporters of education in Marion County. The colleges eventually integrated and merged their facilities. Now, Hampton Center serves as the campus’ location for the dental assisting program and the Marion County Dental Clinic.
“My dad came along, and he was a dentist in Ocala for 50 years.” You can hear the admiration in Sean’s voice as he talks about his family history. “I can say their example for me was that you don’t have any excuses for not getting whatever it is you want to get. They could have really easily said, ‘Well, I’m black, I can’t do that, or I’m a woman, I can’t do that.’ But that never came up. I was never brought up with that [mindset] to use my race or position as an excuse.”
Sean never had the privilege of meeting his grandparents — they passed away before he was born — but he has taken their mindset to heart and feels it is the true legacy they left behind.
“Looking back, [Ocala] was a very nice place to grow up. It’s the kind of place you definitely want to raise a family, but probably not really the place a kid wants to grow up in.” Sean laughs as he says this, and his whole face lights up with mirth. “It was a very different place than what it is now. It was a lot smaller of a community back then. And it wasn’t a racist town by any stretch, but it definitely wasn’t as integration-friendly as you would think. There wasn’t a race problem. All of my friends were white, as I went to private school, but looking at the way life is now versus back then, it’s easier to see that, yeah, it wasn’t as progressive as maybe you’d like for it to have been.”
Realizing this doesn’t mar his memories of childhood, but he never saw himself as staying in the area. Even at 10-years-old, Sean had a dream of living in Los Angeles, California. “I felt like I wanted to live in a place that the world would come to, and L.A. felt like the place where the world went.”
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Posts will appear on June 9, 16, 23, & 30, 2021. The conclusion of this story will appear in the July 2021 issue of the magazine.
Posted on Facebook & Instagram on June 9, 2021
Follow Me (1 of 4): Sean met his wife, Jennifer, in an Ocala Publix and they’ve been together since 1998. “I was 17 and had absolutely no game at all,” he laughs as he recalls meeting her for the first time.
Being a multi-racial couple was not always easy back then. “We would frequently get looks. We had a car drive by and shout the “N” word at me.”
Primarily, the couple noticed the looks. In 2010, having been away from Ocala for five years, the couple noticed the looks again when they visited the Tampa area, but this time, they found it humorous. When they moved out of state, Sean recalls telling Jennifer, “Man, interracial couples are so 1980. They’re everywhere and nobody cares. Then we had to go back to Florida cause [Jennifer’s] mom was sick. I’ll never forget, we were walking around a grocery store and after a while, I said, ‘Do you feel like people are looking at us strangely. Is it just me?’”Sean was not alone in his observations. Jennifer felt as though people were looking at them, too, and then she realized it was because they were an interracial couple. “We both started laughing, because by that time we had been [away] for five years and just forgot that was not a thing everywhere. As kids it was a little more disturbing. As adults, having moved away and come back, it was just the funniest thing in the world to us.”
Posted on Facebook & Instagram on June 16, 2021
Follow Me (2 of 4): In 2005, Sean’s childhood dream became a reality when he and Jennifer moved to L.A. “We moved with the enthusiasm only 20 somethings can come up with,” Sean recalls.
His good friend, Chad Taylor, had already moved to the area. So, Sean went out for a visit in April 2005 to scout for places to live, and by July, they hit the road. “We had packed everything we had into a Pontiac Aztek. We drove that across the country and moved because I wanted to get into entertainment. Chad was already out there, so it felt good. He had a network of friends. We met [Chrissy Metz] through him, and we’re still really good friends. It was a lot of fun. I look back on the time very fondly.”
Posted on Facebook & Instagram on June 23, 2021
Follow Me (3 of 4): “My first technical entertainment job was as an extra on a movie called, ‘Gridiron Gang.’ It was starring The Rock. They had a submission system online where you would send in your pictures and they’d try to pick you from that. [Extras] are the lowest of the low when it comes to people on set. I had no idea about the process or anything. So, I sent in my headshot and I get a notice to come in so the director can look at me to see if he wants to cast me. It’s not like at an office. It’s to go to some location near downtown at midnight. Literally, after midnight, because they were going to be shooting overnight. They were just going to pick right there on the set. So you were going down there, and I think if you didn’t get picked they would give you like 50 bucks or something. There were ten of us that were there. We’re all dressed as thugs, in hoodies, downtown, and I’m like, ‘Oh, this is great.’”
The ten extras stood in a line as the director walked back and forth picking the actors he wanted to use for the scene. Sean was one of them, but before they were dismissed, one of the co-stars in the movie, Anna Maria Horsford walked by and made a joke, “It looks like a line-up,” she laughed.
While Sean’s scene was cut from the movie, he ran into Anna Maria Horsford years later. “I saw her at one of [the Television Academy] parties and was able to talk with her. I said, ‘You know, the first time I ever saw you was on [Gridiron Gang] when I was an extra. Now here I am at this exclusive party — you have to be on a list to get into this Hollywood A-lister party — and I’m seeing you again. You’re like this harbinger of my career. To be on set next to you when I’m the lowest person, and to be at this party and be able to talk to you like this is really validating to know that I have made this journey. You were this important part of it.’”
Posted on Facebook & Instagram on June 30, 2021
Follow Me: (4 of 4) Sean stopped acting in 2016 after a big break presented itself. “Acting is always being at someone else’s beck and call. Someone else is controlling if you work or not. I was very frustrated about not always being able to get rolls or someone not having a roll for me. Being a black actor, especially, there are not all these rolls [available]. It gets better with every year, but a decade ago it was very true that there was going to be one black guy in the whole movie. It was a lot more difficult to get in because the odds were against you.Around 2009, I figured if I could learn how to make movies then I could just cast myself and I don’t have to worry about that. So, I just started learning how to do that. I was actually able to join the Television Academy, the people who give out the Emmys, around 2010. I met my mentor, Marsha Posner Williams. She was the producer of the ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘Night Court.’ At that the time, I was still acting, and she recognized my producing capabilities. She took me under her wing. After talking with her and learning more about producing, I kind of gravitated more towards that and that’s where I really decided my passion was.It was around 2016 when I decided to stop acting. I got an audition for the show ‘NCIS.’ It was a nice role. I was producing a movie at the time, and I get the audition notice. The way it works is they give you a notice 24-hours before. They don’t care if you might have something else going on that day. It’s like, ‘This is the time. If you want the job you’ll show up.’ They can do that because actors are that desperate for work. So, I got the notice and I was like, ‘Damn it! I have an audition tomorrow.’ I was just really upset. I went to the audition and I knew I wasn’t doing my best. I felt resentful. I’m not an arrogant person, but I thought, ‘I’m probably a better producer than this guy. I’m probably a better writer than this guy, and I’m sitting here begging for a role.’ I felt like it was just putting on a show just to get this part that I really didn’t want. After the audition, I had a long talk with myself.”As he thought about things, Sean realized there was a time when he would have walked to the audition just to have a chance at the work. When he realized how resentful he was about having to be there, he began to question if he should really be acting or if he should just stop. “It was difficult because it felt like quitting. I had to tell myself there is a difference between saying I’m frustrated I can’t do this and saying I don’t want to do this anymore. I have something I really want to do and this is taking my time away from it.”