By the mid ’90s, De’aundre Bonds’ acting career was headed in a promising direction. He had memorable roles in cult classics like Get on the Bus, Sunset Park, Tales From the Hood and The Wood on his resume. Bonds’ success was not by accident, it was all part of his master plan. From a young age, the California native decided to avoid the path his parents took by not allowing alcohol, drugs and the violence in his South Central neighborhood to keep him from reaching his dreams of making it in Hollywood. However, right when he was about to make one of his biggest career moves—which would have been to star in Denzel Washington’s Antwone Fisher—an unfortunate chain of events led Bonds to prison when he was charged and convicted of manslaughter in 2001.
After serving nearly a decade behind bars, Bonds was released in March 2011 and immediately began working again. The undeterred thespian will appear next alongside such mainstream stars as Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and Anthony Mackie in the upcoming period police drama, Gangster Squad. He’s also working on music and a clothing line, as well as a book and documentary about his life. Bonds’ dream may have been deferred but it’s definitely back on track. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the actor to talk about what role faith plays in his life and entrepreneurial success.
What are the details of the crime that sent you to prison?
I went over to my auntie’s house to give her some money and her boyfriend was over there. I guess he had something that he was going through that I wasn’t unaware of, because for no provoked reason he came at me in an aggressive way. When I pulled up and got out my car, I left it running to go in for a moment, and I guess he was mad I had the music up. I don’t know, but something ticked him off and he put his hands on me and knocked me down. I got up and he knocked me down again. I went in the house grabbed a knife [and] he came at me again. I stabbed him one time and he died. I stayed there and tried to help him. I waited for the ambulance; they came and took him away. Then the police came. That’s what happened.
What were your thoughts when you realized the results of your actions and likely headed to prison?
It was crazy because when I went to prison I had just booked a movie with Denzel Washington. Denzel himself gave me the part, it was Antwone Fisher and I was excited to be living my dream. I was about to go to the next level and then all of a sudden I had to go down. At the time I didn’t understand why me and then after going through it, after enduring it and after the years you learn why. It’s something you can only understand after you’ve endured it. In a crazy way I needed that. I needed to be shut down. I needed to learn myself, I needed a place where I had to really open my eyes and wake up. That’s what incarceration afforded me the opportunity to do—wake up and check myself. We’re not perfect, however, I’m striving to be the best that I can be.
Coming from a world of red carpet premieres and flashing lights, how did you adjust to incarceration?
One of the things that kept me going and focused was getting out to my family and the people that stood by my side and life in general. There’s nothing alive in prison, it’s an absolute walking death. That motivated me even more to get out of there by any means necessary because I don’t see how people can give up in something like that place. Spirituality played a major role for me to want to get out of there. All the lights were off, phones were cut off and gates were locked. It’s just you and God and He talks to you. I don’t want to get religious but for me, just praying and enduring that made me know that I needed God. He’s first but the only way I can put Him first is to make sure I’m right. He can’t be first if you ain’t right so I learned so much about my spirituality and my inner strength and the God within me, so that’s what I discovered.