On Father’s Day, June 21st, HBO premieres a new half-hour dramedy, Ballers that follows the lives of professional football players during the off-season. Former UCLA defensive lineman and Ballers series regular, Donovan Carter stars as Vernon Littlefield, a pro ball player whose focus is family.
Family is a character trait familiar with Carter. For many years, Carter and his father shared football memories from pop warner football to college, and his father watched his son tackle and sack quarterbacks. On Sunday, Carter and his father will watch the series premiere together, and share this special moment as Carter transitions to his new career as an actor.
As a former athlete, acting was not in his post college plans. Indeed, whether it was a coach or casting director calling his number, Carter’s fathers taught him to seize the moment, and be prepared to get your call.
“My father always told me, ‘Be ready.’ If I was first, second or third string, I needed to be ready. In football, you never know what will happen. Players are one play away of being hurt or tired. So when you get in the game, you have to show you are ready, and they won’t take you out of the game.”
In order to be ready for your call, Carter's father reinforced discipline. Discipline was an acquired trait that his father harped on consistently.
Carter is a Washington D.C native. His mother, a Baltimore native and his father, a Los Angeles native never married. At the age of 8, he moved to Los Angeles to live with his father. His father, a former navy officer, ran a structured home that provided a great deal of discipline.
At age 10, his father introduced Carter to tackle football. Football training is a sport that resembles the rigid military-like training. His father coached him through pop warner until high school.
His father had high standards for school. Carter, the loquacious child received an unsatisfactory report card in middle school. As a discipline measure, his father takes Carter to the park at six in the morning before school, and has Carter running hills and laps.
“He made me understand I had to grow up and mature. He said ‘It was time for me to be a man.’ He wanted to instill discipline. At the time, I hated the early morning workouts. ‘I was like I should be sleeping right now.’ He was instilling work ethic, and made me a better player”
The work ethic produced a full athletic scholarship to UCLA. He transitions from linebacker in high school to a defensive tackle for the Bruins. His first college year he did not see any action, yet by his junior year he works his way into a consistent rotation, and selected in the Collegiate All-Star Bowl Game his senior year.
In 2012, he graduates college. He has a few try-outs with pro teams, but no offers.
“I wanted to wake up, and love what I do.”
He seeks advice from his coaches. His coaches introduce him to an acting agency, and he begins shooting commercials. Then, his coaches get an email about the HBO series, Ballers. The show wanted real football players to audition.
At first he was intimidated by the amount of lines to memorize. He calls his dad for advice.
“My dad gave me that extra confidence. The audition process was three months, and I’m now a series regular on the show.”
Carter is fearless as he approaches his new career. He applies the same work ethic as he did with football.
“I’m not afraid to fail. I at least want to try.”