Leveraging Celebrity to Create a Life of Influence and Mentorship
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Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Welcome, everybody to this week's podcast episode for the Financial Freedom for Physicians podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Loo. And as you know, we talk about four pillars of freedom: time, financial, location, and emotional freedom. And it's the last pillar that I really want to emphasize in today's episode, the emotional freedom.
So emotional freedom is happiness. It can come from quality of life, your relationships with your family, spouse, significant other, or it can also be doing what you love, especially with regards to creativity. So in that light, we have an actor, an entertainer and a celebrity joining us today, his name is Randall Franks, and he's an American film and TV actor. He's a Hall of Fame entertainer and he's an award winning author and journalist. He's appeared on television’s In the Heat of the Night. Today, we're going to talk all about creativity and exploring your passions. So Randall, welcome.
Randall Franks: Chris, it's a wonderful opportunity for me to speak to your viewers, and I'm glad to be with you today.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, and it's really great because we met through PodMatch. And it's really rare that I get the opportunity to interview celebrities and people very accomplished in their field. So we're going to talk all about creativity and pursuing your passions. You took a really interesting approach, which was acting and music. So tell us more about where your background and how you got started, and we'll go from there.
Randall Franks: Of course, Chris. I was very blessed. Starting out at a young age, I started playing the violin at eight years old. And I could have never imagined what doors that would open for me in life. But just within a span of a few short years. By the time I was 13, I was traveling the country with my own band, and had reached a couple of years after that as a regular guest on the Grand Ole Opry.
So those opportunities for me, introduced me to so many wonderful mentors, both in music and in real life, who guided me through that process of becoming a music personality. The blessings of getting recognized by those that care about what we do as an audience, as folks who listen to us on radio, allowed me to then grow into opportunities in television, performing a variety shows, and eventually landing on the TV series, In the Heat of the Night; NBC is where we started, we eventually moved to CBS.
But working with TV legends like Carroll O'Connor, who I grew up watching, all in the family, we all who of that era knew Archie Bunker. And I remember the first time I saw Carroll O'Connor walk on the set, I was looking and I was just in amazement, I said, Wow, that's Archie Bunker. But I came to know Carroll O'Connor as a man and as a mentor. And we called him Pops on the show. And he was that. For me, he was a father figure. And he invested in me as a human being and as an actor and entertainer and gave me so much that I still carry with me today, so many years later.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, that's so interesting, I remember when you're referring to these shows, I was actually probably five or six years old. And I remember watching these shows. How did you, at an early age, get the courage to decide you were going to become a musician and actually make a career out of it? Because that kind of a journey is quite unstable. It's unpredictable, but the potential rewards are humongous.
Randall Franks: Well, when I was young, I was a very sickly child. I spent a lot of my time indoors. I couldn't go out and do a lot of sports and things that a lot of young people do. So music became my respite. It allowed me to focus on something that I could do, restricted to my ailments. But as my health improved, so did my opportunities to go out and find a use for that respite. And when I was growing up a couple of my favorite TV shows were the Andy Griffith Show. And the Beverly Hillbillies.
And on the Andy Griffith Show, there was a group called the Darlings who came on and played music. And that was a real group, the Dillards. And then on the Beverly Hillbillies, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs would come on that show, and they would play music with The Clampetts. And those two groups of entertainers inspired me. And I told my parents that I want to do what they do. So my inspiration as a child was that I wanted to be like someone I saw on television, which many of us do, we emulate what we see. And that desire then brought me to bring together young people around me in school, and create a band of other like minded young people who were playing Appalachian instruments, because that's the region that I'm from. And we started touring. And then the doors just began to open up for us. I think there was Providence involved in that, which eventually, as I said, led us to the Grand Ole Opry. And thankfully, they still bring me around from time to time to perform for them all these many years later.
The opportunity, though, of how I focused on that music was the opening. God blessed me with having the gift of at least learning how to play now. I'm not a prodigy, I don't consider myself to be an exceptionally talented musician. But he gave me just enough that that was a vocation that I could pursue. And it was a wonderful outlet for me as a child. And even today, as an adult, I can pick up my instrument and whatever worries come my way, they'll just evaporate. And the day becomes anew with that music that he's put into my soul. And it allows me to push it out. And there's nothing more gratifying than having somebody come up to you. Whether it's on the street, or they drop you an email, or whatever, and say, I just loved your performance of a particular song, or I loved hearing you play this event. And that's, for me, that's what all of this has been about. My entire life has been about trying to uplift others with the gifts that God shares.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Interesting, that's very interesting. We'll get into making a difference in your hometown and inspiring others through words, music and acting. One thing that you mentioned is, you went from Appalachian Bluegrass to Hollywood Star. And then you talk about Encouragers, and you actually wrote a book about it. What inspired you to write it, and tell us more about that?
Randall Franks: Well, as a matter of fact, Chris, I wrote three books. There was so much material from throughout my career, I did three different three different projects. This was the first one Encouragers I: Finding the Light, then Encouragers II: Walking with the Masters, and then, finally, Encouragers III: A Guiding Hand. And in each of these books, I've taken stories about my experience with everyday people, with musicians and entertainers that many of us would know, whether they were actors, singers or musicians, and the time or energy that they took out of their lives and placed in me. Those encouragers along the way, are the ones that opened the doors. They're the ones that mentioned my name to someone else. They're the ones who on a bad day backstage, put their arm around me and said, one day, things are gonna get a little better, you just just hang in there. Those stories are featured in here.
And from In the Heat of the Night, I've got stories of Carroll O'Connor. I've got stories of my other co-stars like Alan Autry and David Hart. They're stories of people like, even the generation prior to me who took an interest in my career. Folks like Roy Rogers, there's the great entertainers from country music like Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb, there's Jim and Jesse of the Grand Ole Opry. And Bill Monroe, as you can see behind me on my wall, was one of my greatest mentors as a child. He brought me to the Grand Ole Opry and he took me under his wing and taught me even more interest because of playing particular tunes on the fiddle and then supported me from a mentor standpoint for many years.
So in the Encourager series, that's what I focused on is these stories. There are hundreds of photos from throughout my career in the books. And there are also for those of you who are cooks, there are recipes from many of the people that I talk about in the books and each volume, there's 30 or 40 recipes of the different people that are featured. But I think the greatest message from the books, Chris is, and I hope people take this away. Each of us every day are given the opportunity to be an encourager to someone. That is the key to why we're here. We're here to make a difference in other people's lives. And people are sent into our lives each and every day that we may not at that particular moment, realize that they were sent there for us to make a difference in their life. But if we take the time, pay attention, and even just give an uplifting word that will change their life. And we'll never realize sometimes how many people we've impacted as an encourager.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I like that. The other thing is you mentioned a couple of your mentors, especially Carroll O'Connor. What was it like to work with him and some of the lessons learned from him?
Randall Franks: Carroll, as I mentioned, we called him pops. And for me, like I said, he was a father figure. I had lost my father a year before I started on In the Heat of the Night. So he really took me under his wing and gave me a lot of advice about Hollywood, the acting world. Taught me how to write screenplays, which was a very vital thing that I've been doing ever since. But it was a great joy to learn from someone who had been in the industry with such wonderful roles and learning all the aspects of watching him do every aspect of a production. He was our executive producer. So he focused on writing scripts and directing, and acting, and he shared that too with me. And so he was wonderful to work with.
Now, I will say, as a boss, sometimes he could be a tough boss. And that's true of all of us who have been blessed to supervise other people. But every lesson learned from Carroll has been a golden nugget that has paid many dividends over these past three decades since we've worked together.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, it's quite interesting. You mention a lot of these mentors, and then your musical skill and ability. And how did you wind up as a Hollywood actor? What made you go that direction?
Randall Franks: Well, as I mentioned, in the music industry, oftentimes you get audience recognition. And your career starts to elevate. And then you get to crossover and make appearances on television variety shows, and my career allowed me to do that.
As I mentioned, I put together a young group of performers. And we all grew up together. Over a course of about seven or eight years, I had 25 different youth musicians that played with my band. And as everybody hit college age, they decided to go different directions. I sort of thought, I've done the band thing for many years. Now, I want to focus on myself as a solo artist. But I'd always wanted to act, because I had not reached that goal. Remember the goal we talked about was watching Flatt and Scruggs, and the Darlings on television, and I'd said as a child, that's what I want to do. I had not reached that goal yet. So I wanted to figure out how to get there.
So I began taking acting classes as well as trying to work opportunities through the doors that had opened for me as a country music entertainer. And they started looking at me, because I already had an audience. So casting directors were aware of the audience that came with me, and so the opportunities began to open. My first role was in a CBS movie called Desperate for Love with Christian Slater, Brian Bloom, and Veronica Cartwright, and it was simple, as a high school singer. The movie was centered around a high school choir. So everybody who participated, sang in the choir pretty much, and I was one of those. And so that sort of got my foot wet, sort of sticking my toe in the water in the process began from there. And within a short period of time, I had done a couple of different projects like that one.
And I received a call one day and a casting director said they've moved In the Heat of the Night to Georgia, which is where I was living at the time. And they don't have anything for you to do. But I want you to go down to the set. That first day I'm going to send you as an extra, go be an extra on the show. So I did, and I went the first day. Five o'clock in the morning, I'm standing outside the wardrobe trailer. A man walked by me, looked me up and down and said, you look an awful lot like a police officer. I said, thank you. And he was on his way. I had no idea who he was. So I'm standing there waiting for them to say what I'm doing, where I’m going to work for the day shooting. Eventually, I went on my way.
That particular day, everybody in the cast of the police department was working. You know, we had Carroll O'Connor there. We have Howard Rollins, we had Alan Autry, David Hart, Geoffrey Thorne, and Hugh O'Connor, everybody was working in the scene. So over the course of the day, I had the opportunity, working as an extra to meet all of these stars, and was even placed in what's called a silent bid with Carroll O'Connor. So that's an opportunity to be one on one with the actor. And so that's when I formally met Mr. O'Connor. And he broke the ice, because you're told as an extra, you don't talk to the principal's unless you're spoken to. So you respect that. So he opened up the dialogue and started talking to me.
And over the course of the next several weeks, they kept bringing me back to the set of In the Heat of the Night, as an extra. They kept placing me in different scenes with the different actors. And in a few weeks, they came to me and said, we're creating another police character for the show, we want you to be it. So from my perspective, I was very naive. But they had given me an onset audition, watching how I interacted on the set, seeing how I looked with the other actors on the show, and then created something for me that lasted for five more years. And thankfully, blessed me to be on CBS and NBC as a network television star. So it's one of those, I guess, Cinderella stories in a way that doesn't happen to everybody. But the Lord blessed me with that opportunity.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. Sounds like one of those providence moments that you described earlier.
Randall Franks: Yeah. Yeah, very much. He put me there, and put people in my life that would open those doors. Because I could have just as easily just been there and been an extra, and got my $40 a day and went on my way. And that would have been it. But instead, something else was in store. And there was a reason why I was there. And I think that reason even continues emanating today, as people still watch the show. Millions watch our show every day in reruns and we still have those people who reach out and tell me how watching that show changed their life. Or how much the show meant to their father, their grandfather, grandmother. It touched so many lives, millions of people. It went around the world, and it ran in 150 countries around the world. It's translated in many different languages. And I was blessed to be a small part of that, and be a seed within that environment to share my knowledge and what God gave me to share with Carroll O'Connor and the other people, to put out there and emanate on the airwaves.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. So it's so inspiring to look at your career. And I always like talking to the generation before me because you can get a lot of experience and a lot of wisdom such as you've given.
I know a lot of people will be inspired by your story and want to check out your work and you're on YouTube and Twitter as well. So tell people how they can find you, look you up and put in and learn more about you.
Randall Franks: Well, they can visit me at RandallFranks.com, which is my website. On Twitter I'm @RandallFranks and @RandallFranksTV on YouTube. You can find me on Facebook as well as most of the social media platforms.
I'd love to have you become part of our group that follows what I do. My most recent movie that has been made available is The Crickets Dance, which is a wonderful story. Set in the 1800s, I think you'll enjoy it, if you search it out on the streaming services and check that one out. It's always a blessing to get to do new movies. There's more in store, I've got a new project that's coming up that I'm excited about. I can't share much about it as of yet, but watch out for it on our website.
And, Chris, it's always a pleasure to get to meet new folks. It's been my pleasure to be with you today. And I hope that your viewers do check me out, come out and become part of the folks that follow what I do.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, absolutely. And for all the listeners, Randall’s links and resources will be in the show notes. I always enjoy talking to people outside my field, gaining insights and wisdom and putting the pieces together. So thanks so much. And we look forward to all your future success and all of your future projects.
Randall Franks: Well, thank you, Chris. It's been a pleasure. And once again, hopefully we'll cross paths again soon, folks.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at Chris@drchrisloomdphd.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!
Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.