Eric D. Hill Jr.

Interview with Eric D. Hill Jr.: Supporting a Child's Dreams with Conscious Parenting

Eric D. Hill Jr. is a young actor that is most known for playing R.J. in the Netflix series, 'Orange is the New Black' and most recently as Sergio Taylor, in ‘Brotherly Love'. The success of Hill's acting career directly links to the conscious parental involvement of his parents. Although raised in dual homes, the two parents worked together to raise an articulate and well-cultured young man. One candid conversation with his father changed the trajectory of their relationship, and his father has done everything to be an engaged father.
Written By: Adam Higgins
Photography By: Drea Nicole Photography

"It’s been an amazing journey to watch [my father's] journey as a black man. As I grew older, my father has stepped up and done everything he could to be in my corner."

Eric D. Hill Jr. stands inside the InterContinental Atlanta Buckhead Hotel, and gazes through a large window watching the rain fall into the urban forest of trees. Hill prepares for a busy day of media interviews and college screenings of his new film, Brotherly Love.

In Brotherly Love, Hill plays Sergio Taylor, a rising high school basketball player dealing with the new pressures of fame. The intricate love story deals with the Taylor family living in the violent climate of Philadelphia, and making the right decisions does not come easy for the family.

Hill’s success as a young actor is a direct correlation to his parent’s active involvement into his dreams. His parents put endless hours and sacrifices into grooming him as a man, and fulfilling a career he has wanted since an early age.

Although his mother and father were separated, the two worked together to raise him. The single parent living arrangement has become a norm and the new modern family. According to the 2012 U.S. Census, Black children are 55 percent more likely to live in single parent home than White children. Regardless of the dual homes, conscious parents engage into the desires of their children.

“My family was normal. Everyone around me had a father that was not around or they saw on the weekends. At a point in my life, I thought it was a privilege or one up that my dad did come around and attend a school play,” says Hill.

Whether trips to London or Brazil, his mother made a concerted effort to keep him cultured. His father a community theater actor himself helps with the mental and technical aspect of acting. His father once converted the New York apartment into an impromptu studio space in the eleventh hour to quickly record an audition tape.

At age 14, Hill's mother sends him to live with his father. Attending the private college preparatory school, Horace Mann was no longer financially viable. Public school in the Bronx was not an option, and Hill’s father lived in a better public school district.

Up until this point, how his father split his time with him was not enough for Hill. This transition provides an opportunity for consistency in the relationship. Hill takes the opportunity to candidly discuss their relationship status, and the heartfelt conversation leads to both crying in the backyard.

The father-son dynamic is like no other. Raising a son exposes the father’s faults as the son is a reflection of the father. Simultaneously, the son raises the father to show the father were he needs to grow.

“We vowed on that day that we were going to move forward with our relationship, and he has been the father that I always wanted since then.” Hill continues, “It’s been an amazing journey to watch his journey as a black man. As I grew older, my father has stepped up and done everything he could to be in my corner.”

"Everything I have around me, I believe is a result of being fortunate enough to have a circle of people were its just greatness."

At age 16, Hill tells his mother he wants to be model. A week later his mother finds an acting and model workshop. The acting workshop met for eight weeks at a hotel. The workshop gave Hill just enough knowledge and techniques to convince a booking agent to sign him at the workshop’s culminating showcase.

“My mother is the reason I act.” Hill continues, “My mom is the type of person once she wants to get involved into something she goes to the learning annex or finds everything she can on google.”

Hills acting career uncharacteristically accelerates. Unlike the typical tumultuous trajectory of acting careers, Hill quickly books an audition for the Video Music Awards a week after completing the workshop program. Three months later he books a supporting role on Law and Order. Then a couple months after, he books a Nike commercial.

With the quick and immediate success, he is overly optimistic about the trajectory of his career. However, reality sets, and he goes into a drought.

“It was a year and half until I booked my next project. It was like ‘Oh okay, acting is going to require a lot of patience’,” says Hill.

Acting is like baseball. As a child, Hill’s father encouraged Hill to play little league baseball. Admittedly, Hill was not good at batting, and struck out every time. In baseball, a good hitter bats .300. Meaning, the player failed to hit the ball in 70 percent of their attempts.

The same patience to find your swing is required of actors. Actors will get one yes out of 100 no’s. Hill’s stick-to-itiveness was acquired early while he kept stepping to plate.

“I think I struck out every time. Every single time I went to bat I struck out. When everyone gets on base, and you’re not, you have to deal with it,” says Hill.

In 2014, he books his most notable role as RJ on Orange is the New Black. Interestingly, he was not initially casted for RJ. Initially, he books a different role. A couple months later he receives news from the manager that the show wants to recast, but has an audition set for another role on the show -- RJ.

“It hadn’t hit me yet that I was not going to be on the show,” says Hill.

The day before the audition, Hill decides to get a haircut. He asks the barber for a number one, low Caesar. However, the barber cuts his hair too low, and Hill looks bald.

“The one little mistake with the barber switched up my look, and it ended up working out beautifully,” says Hill.

The casting team was looking for a different look, and gave Hill the role as RJ.

“Everything I have around me, I believe is a result of being fortunate enough to have a circle of people were its just greatness. When anybody is fortunate to be in that circle and surrounded by greatness, that’s why I have had the opportunities I’ve had.