Trent Dawson first appeared on "As the World
Turns" as WOAK news director Henry Coleman on November 10, 1999. I don't
recall his first scene or his first line. Henry was just a background character
brought on to fill a few holes in the WOAK storylines. But somehow this
background character grew into a scene stealer that viewers looked forward to
seeing, and eventually into one of the best things on the show today! It was a
gradual transition, due partly to the great one-liners the writers generously
bestowed on Henry, but mostly to Trent's talents in both comedy and drama and
his charisma on the screen. If Henry left Oakdale he would leave a hole that
could never be filled!
Trent Dawson was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He began acting at a young age, in church and school plays and at a local dinner theater. He told The Advocate Online, "I've been acting since I could walk. I went to a Joni Mitchell concert with my mom at LSU when I was about 2. During a break, I ran up onto the stage and started playing the piano."
Trent attended high school at the Louisiana
School for Math, Science and the Arts. Here's a photo from that time,
submitted by a former classmate who played in a band with Trent.
Trent attended Boston University for a year, then decided
to go to Europe to get away from acting and academics. He said about that
decision, "it was time for me to just go and stop dwelling on being the
best at things and competing with myself. And, often with unfortunate
consequences, I've always been impulsive and a little idealistic (or
unrealistic, depending on the situation)." While in Europe Trent performed
a number of odd jobs, including picking oranges as a migrant worker in Crete and
singing and playing guitar on the streets. He told SOD, "I was a homeless
busker for a long time, living as 'Zorba the Greek,' with no ambition, sleeping
in abandoned, bombed-out craters of hospitals from World War II and stuff like
that." It was a midnight viewing of Mel Gibson's "Hamlet" in
Athens that convinced him he needed to return home and get back into acting
(thank you Mel!).
After returning to the States from his year-long adventure
abroad, Trent studied theater at the University of Colorado where he also
participated in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival during the summers. Upon
graduation he moved to New York to live the life of a struggling actor, working
as a waiter and a temp before landing a role in a national touring production of
"Romeo and Juliet." He went on to perform in various plays across the
country and in New York. Throughout his career he has performed in 18 of
Shakespeare's plays. He also played a major role in the Broadway
production of "The Herbal Bed," a play which was a hit in England, but
unfortunately did not fare as well in New York. Interestingly, Trent's role was
played by Ralph Fiennes in the England production (he thinks!).
In the fall of 1996 Trent founded the Blue Coat Repertory
Company with some of his peers, most of whom he had met in Colorado. They
did two shows in their first year, one of which won best Off Off Broadway show
of the year. The members of the company soon became busy with other work
and took a break for a while. They have recently come together again to
work on producing "an extraordinary play for its New York debut,"
which they hope to move to Off Broadway.
When asked which were his favorite roles, Trent replied,
"I got to a point a while ago where the role taken was a much smaller
priority than the quality of the creative team, i.e. writing, directing, fellow
actors. I've played some of the greatest roles written, but those experiences
become moot if you don't have a good team."
ATWT is not Trent's first soap opera. He was a day player
on "Guiding Light" a few years ago, where he played the antithesis of
Henry, a priest!
Trent auditioned for the role of Henry in October, 1999. He
said of the experience, "I had auditioned for (Casting Director) Jimmy Bohr
a couple of times while he was with 'Another World.' Last summer, he saw me play
Oberon in an unfortunate production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' I had just
changed agencies, and told my new reps that I was very interested in the
training that a soap could offer. Soon after the play, Jimmy called me in for
Henry. His only tidbit of advice reminded me of an old acting adage - play the
opposite. I did that for him, a day or two later for TPTB, and booked it."
It was originally just a two week recurring role, but lucky for us it has lasted
8 months and counting! Trent would like to work more with Elizabeth Hubbard
(Lucinda), Tom Eplin (Jake), and Larry Bryggman (John), and this viewer agrees
that those would be some incredible pairings!
Speaking of his experiences on the set of ATWT, Trent said,
"I've learned from every actor on the show, directly or indirectly. I came
in with an itinerary of sorts regarding camera skills, and since I was
surrounded by people who had more of these skills, every day was full. I'm still
learning - I thank the soap for reigniting a bit of curiosity in me, even when
there are days that the red flag goes up and you say 'now this is just
Trent often goes beyond what's written in the script to
give Henry more depth. He told CBS.com, "sometimes I try to add a lot of
dimension into scripts that don't necessarily have it there, and the directors
say, 'no, today he just needs to be evil.' I don't have as much control over it
as I'd like sometimes, but you know, we'll see. I'm trying to give him more
humanity!" And it shows. But an actor can only do so much with what's
written, it's up to the writers to give him more to work with. They need to
flesh out Henry's character a little more. What is his background? Where does he
live? What does he do when he's not at the station? Trent agrees, saying,
"my big joke around the set is 'what kind of relationship does he have with
his mother?' How did Henry get so screwed up? But [he needs] something, whether
it's a romantic interest, or where I see how far my schemes have gone."
There are many potential storylines for Henry. Some viewers are even calling for
him to be Lucinda's or John's long-lost son, in order to weave him more securely
into the fabric of Oakdale.
It may seem as if Trent Dawson came out of nowhere to steal viewers' hearts as the lovable rascal Henry Coleman, but he didn't. He has almost a lifetime of acting experience behind him. This is just the first time that TV viewers across the country have had a chance to see what he can do. And if you go by the enormous positive reaction of those viewers, this is just the first of many great things to come in the career of Trent Dawson.
*Information for this bio was gathered from articles on CBS.com, The Advocate Online (Feb. 13, 2000), and SOD (July 11, 2000), as well as from Trent himself.