Actor Tory Scroggins knows as a Black person the trials and tribulations of auditioning for certain parts whether the stage, the big screen, or commercials.

Tory Scroggins has been a highly sought-after actor in Sacramento since he relocated to Sacramento. He also has other skills in the business of entertainment to keep him busy.

Sometimes Scroggins, a Sacramento regional thespian, knows he can land a part on his awesome acting chops. But other auditions already are stacked for one position — and it’s based on one’s Black or Brown skin.

For instance, Scroggins told The OBSERVER that when he auditions for a commercial, the numbers game is in full effect. To call that daunting is an understatement.

“Say for an example that there’s a television commercial being cast and they need five actors,” he said. “Well, four of them are definitely going to be white actors and the other one is going to be what they call ‘other,’ meaning Black, Latino, or Asian.”

The result, he said, is a bottleneck of actors of different ethnicities vying for a single role, whereas the white actors have four opportunities. “That’s the norm.”

That’s especially true in Hollywood, where Scroggins said auditioning was like a boot camp. But Scroggins is professionally astute and highly intelligent enough to continue about his business in quest of the most challenging roles. When the Luther Burbank High School graduate returned to Sacramento after years away in Southern California, he immediately noticed something: his skills were tailored for the city and circumstances were abundant for him to advance his craft.

Scroggins discovered the region’s numerous playhouses and stages provided enough work in stage plays for a variety of people regardless of color. It shocked him. Before he knew it, Scroggins said he was “sought after and in-demand” while landing quality roles. Since 2014, the experience has grown with great exuberance.

“I didn’t expect it to be a great theater community here, you know. I wasn’t moving here for that,” Scroggins said.

Last year he for the second time won the Sacramento Film Festival award for Outstanding Regional Actor and recently wrapped two films, sci-fi fantasy “Feystrom” and action flick “Mad as Hell.”

Scroggins has auditioned for only about three plays. Now the norm is to give Scroggins the script no sooner than he says he’ll do it.

The opportunities were far, wide, and deep for Scroggins. He wasted no time in getting involved, either.

Before COVID-19 halted in-person stage productions, he for years had been wooed by the fast-paced, back-to-back, settings-to-scenes movement offstage performance. 

He has been in at least a dozen plays, working with the finest actors, directors, and stage designers in the Sacramento area and San Francisco Bay Area.

Scroggins has starred in stage productions such as Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” “The Whipping Man,” “Blue Door,” “In The Red and Brown Water,” “Sex With a Stranger,” Winter Waltz, “Sunset Baby” and August Wilson’s “Jitney,” which opened at Flight Deck stage in Oakland.

Notably, Scroggins has bloomed under the tutelage of James Wheatly, the creative director of Celebrations Arts. One of his standout performances was in “My Children! My Africa!” with co-star Liz Frederick. 

Scroggins took his role of Thami through a character development phase that would have made legendary method acting coach Lee Strasberg blush. Thami is an educated, impoverished student who drifted into rebellion during a time of apartheid in South Africa.

Wheatly made Scroggins dig deeper than the method technique to find what works with Thami’s plight. Instead of bit roles, Wheatly elevated Scroggins to alpha-male characters with star billing. Scroggins said Wheatly has never asked him to play the same type of character twice.

“From the first time I worked with Mr. Wheatly, I felt like everything that I learned I had to throw out the window. He made it oh-so easier for me,” Scroggins said. “He’s taught me so much about breaking down scripts, understanding the scripts, and understanding the characters. But Mr. Wheatley made me simply understand that everything you need is in the script. You don’t need to make up anything. It’s right there.”

Scroggins also was brilliant in Big Idea Theater’s production of “Skeleton Crew,” with actors Brooklynn Solomon, Tarig Elsiddig, and multiple award-winner Voress Franklin in October 2019.

Understandably, Scroggins’ portrayal of Reggie in “Skeleton Crew” doesn’t click without Solomon, Elsiddig, or Franklin. Before that production, all four worked together directly or indirectly in other stage productions.  

The quartet’s work in “Skeleton Crew” sealed their chemistry and the fact that they should perform together at every opportunity.

Scroggins appreciated the rare chance to focus only on his performance. “You don’t have to worry about other people whether they are going to rise to the occasion,” he said. They are all actors that I trust completely, 100%.”

Scroggins began his career at age 19 in Los Angeles as a make-up artist to superstars such as Beyoncé, Janet Jackson and Queen Latifah. Also an accomplished photo artist, he has appeared in numerous stage plays statewide, including  “Othello,” “Rent” and “Company,” as well as television roles in “Noah’s Arc” and “Half and Half.”

The skills were there but in the business of entertainment, Scroggins wanted more doors to open than just acting.

“I was kind of like Tyler Perry and started to create opportunities for myself because I knew no one was ever going to see me the way I see myself,” Scroggins said.

He also appeared in the Netflix feature “All Day and All Night,” portraying a trans woman prison inmate. Scroggins has no problem or shame in showing he can play femme and dominant male figures.

“Tory is a gifted and engaging actor,” said Rhonda Kuykendall-Jabari, an actor from Inglewood who has worked with Scroggins. “He draws audiences into the world of the story being told.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Look for Part II as Tory Scroggins discusses serving as a makeup artist for the stars, modeling, photography, and portraying different characters on the big screen.

By Antonio Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer