On the closing night of the Toronto Black Film Festival, during a panel discussion titled, “Black Actors in Hollywood, Then and Now”, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson took the opportunity to stress the importance of having a business mindset.

A former NFL player, Williamson made his mark in the 1970s by being one of the first prominent African-American Action stars.

“Hollywood wants to make money… they are not trying to make a social change,” Williamson told a room full of attentive audience members.

In fact, seeking change is the one of the reasons why Williamson left his successful career as a professional defensive cornerback. It may be a surprise that a man who has acted in more than 60 films never even desired to be an actor.

“It’s better to be in control of your own destiny than have somebody else control it for you.” – Fred “The Hammer” Williamson

Much of his motivation came from the lack of dignity displayed through the interpretation of Black characters within the media. As an answer to his frustrations, he entered the television and film business and studied it, inside and out. He stresses that knowing the business is of the utmost importance when pursuing any career.

“It’s better to be in control of your own destiny than have somebody else control it for you,” says Williamson. “Sooner or later, no matter how big of a star you are, the phone is going to stop ringing. That’s why you see a lot of actors disappear because they didn’t learn the business of the business.”

Moderated by Rosey Edeh, a Global News anchor of the Morning Show, the guest panel also included Lanette Ware, a Lifetime Member of the Actors Studio and Bill Cobbs, who has starred in over 160 television programs and movies.

Attendees like actor/blogger Anne Thornely-Brown say they benefited from the candid nature of the panel, greatly.

“I’m an actress but I also have a MBA (Master of Business Administration) and an MSW (Master of Social Work). They stressed the point that you got to know about business,” shares Brown. “If you want to be an actor and you just sit around waiting for opportunities, they’re not always going to be back to back. Knowing about business can only help you when you want to get to the point of producing your own projects.”

Photos By. Janelle Scott-Johnson