Scandal fans are used to seeing Cornelius Smith Jr. embroiled in the tense world of D.C. politics in his role as Marcus Walker, a “gladiator” at Olivia Pope & Associates. Here, he shares a sweet snapshot from a much simpler time, playing with his brother as a kid in Detroit, Michigan.
What is happening in this picture?
I think we’re in Detroit, at my grandmother’s house, visiting. Those may have been a gift. It looks like my brother is holding a bag of balls and bats and I have the two cars. One might suspect that both of those cars are mine, but they’re not. I can’t say I have a clear memory of when we took that picture, because it was so long ago, but I do recall going to visit my grandmother in Detroit. At the time, [my parents and siblings and I] were living at Selfridge Army Base, which is about 40 minutes from Detroit. We’d drive in and visit family all the time before we moved back to Detroit later on. It was really, you know, a joyous occasion.
As an army kid, did you have to move around a lot?
Well, I was actually born in Camp Pendleton in San Diego. My dad was in the Marine Corps. Early on my family did kind of bounce around. We were in Detroit and then we moved to North Carolina and then back to Detroit because my father was being placed in different areas. Eventually he landed back in Michigan and that’s where I went to elementary school and middle school.
How has Detroit changed since you were a kid?
You hear about how places have changed, and it’s one thing to hear about it but then it’s another to kind of go back and see with your own eyes. You know where buildings once were, fully furnished and operational, and you come back and see that that’s not the case. At the same point, you see new buildings and new renovation and so many different things going on in Detroit. That’s also inspiring too. You get the best of both worlds. I think that’s what comes with living through a transition.
Did the kid in this picture want to be on TV?
I think early on I knew I wanted to entertain. Maybe it was singing or dancing, but it was always some type of performance at a family gathering. Then when I got to high school, well even in middle school, even in kindergarten, I was always somehow part of the theatrical performance we’d put on for the parents. That always interested me. I somehow found myself in the center of those productions. When I really discovered it was something I could go to college for and study, that’s what really kind of got me on board. I decided to go to college and study theater. There’s nothing like being on stage. I got hooked and decided to take it seriously and approach it with respect and follow through.
What would be your dream role?
I’ve always wanted to play a superhero. Any role that really can elevate and highlight hope and faith in people’s lives.
What’s something people don’t know about you?
I love bikram yoga. I used to be a huge yogi, believe it or not. I need to get back into it.
Main image: Irvin Rivera