We had the good fortune of connecting with Daisun “D.C.” Cohn-Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Daisun “D.C.”, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I love this question. There are so many ways of thinking about risk and contexts that it exists in. With me, from an early age I was definitely an “own-drum-beat-marcher.” Believe me, part of this approach to life lead to some bumps and bruises, and even breaks, but also, FAR more amazing opportunities to grow. And look, I’m a Black man in America so this is, of course, within reason. I don’t take risks when it comes to my larger physical and legal safety or that of those around me. However, when we’re talking about jumping into the figurative unknown, I see “risk” as a manufactured construct, framing how society understands “normal” and “acceptable” behavior. In that line of thinking, being an artist of any kind is the greatest “risk,” in our society.
To me though, the real risk is NOT honoring one’s most authentic self and potential. And potential IS personal. It’s not what our parents, teachers, or society tell us it is. It is unique to each of us. I feel like understanding and developing personal potential is necessary for our personal evolution, and diverting from it is the greatest waste, and “risk” to our human story and larger society. And I think most artists innately know this.
I can tell you there was a period in my life where this all came into focus for me. At 24 I had my graduate degree and was teaching high school in NYC. I loved the kids and affecting young minds, but the lifestyle made me miserably stressed, physically unhealthy, and depressed. I had an oppressive rookie principle, no time to exercise, and my long term, romantic relationship crashed and burned. My health wasn’t “healthy” across the board, or even on the board! The true risk for me would have been continuing that path. Instead, I began transitioning back to acting. I found more time to write. I eventually moved to Los Angeles for a fresh start near the beach, where the pressures of economic survival were less all-encompassing, and there was more time to create and collaborate with others. More space to breathe.
I’m telling you not a day goes by that I feel like it was a risky choice. And look, I’m sure most people would disagree with me, especially since I moved while on unemployment. I had no job lined up, no agent, no car, and like many newbies to L.A., for the first several months I was sleeping on a friend’s couch. Actually, not even her couch, because it was too small. I was sleeping on the couch cushions on the floor! Yet, as time went on I managed to secure my own room, with a real mattress, and the day that I found out unemployment was finished, I was in bed with a 104 fever, passed out while deliriously scouring craigslist for work, only to be woken up by a casting director telling me I had booked a Toyota commercial!
Then a few years later, while working as a tutor, I happened to meet an educational psychologist at a client meeting, who saw me relating to our mutual client about life stuff. She observed me actualizing one of my greatest strengths and passions, and she really saw ME. With her help I built the foundation of “Day 1 Life Coaching,” my teen and family consulting company. So in the end I was still able to work with kids, and now I can actually enjoy it.
Long answer, I know… To me, when you are honoring your true path everything falls into your lap. The biggest “risk” is staying “safe.” As actors, we always hear teachers and directors say to make bold choices and think outside of the box. But really what they are saying is to forget about the collective norm and think “inside” our own personal box! Each of us brings something unique to the world. Whenever we allow that to shine through, the possibilities are endless. And I’ve found that being authentic in this world often requires taking the plunge.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Well at my core I’m a communicator. It’s what I’ve always done, whether as a teacher, a writer, an actor… As an artist. I think the greatest art can be found in each individual waking up in the morning and surviving until bed! Life is hard, weird, random, and wondrous, and the art of living through a day is the most amazing, and beautiful originality we will ever experience. Art is humanity and humanity is art, and as an actor and writer, this is where my inspiration comes from. I observe myself and everything around me with more conscious intent than when I was younger and more impulsive, and I try to see the uniqueness in any part of those in front of me. How they walk, talk on the phone, and even how they talk on their phones while they walk! In addition, I’ve always paid close attention to the larger world, it’s beauty and horrific injustices. There’s a lot of head scratching when we awake to the reality outside of our own individual experiences. In fact, the absurdity of 21st century life feeds non-stop creativity for me, while also creating the biggest hurdle: There is so much to focus on that it can be hard to focus! A million ideas a day, but only so much time to work on one.
Currently that “one” is the weekly social media, news recap series “WTF Weekly.” It began through a partnership with a wonderful company, “Common Ally,” and now is exclusively self-produced. The amazing thing about the show is that I am able to weave together every part of myself. I was a Political Science and Writing major in college, and after, I got a teaching degree in History/Political Science, Political Theory. I’ve also been an actor most of my life, starting in Off-Broadway theater as a teenager in New York, performing and directing in college, and many years later graduating from the Second City Hollywood improv/sketch conservatory, and doing the “Hollywood Shuffle.” I’ve also been socially and politically active since childhood and later focused on teaching towards justice in the classroom.
I deeply believe that this particular moment, of BLM, climate disaster, resurgent ethno-nationalism, Me Too, gender liberation, etc, calls for creative people to use their super powers to help educate and create positive change. WTF Weekly, has been an inspired and passionate experience for me so far, pushing me as a writer, performer, comedian… As a communicator. And it has left me feeling more in control of my art than ever before.
For me, acting as a career was always a pathway to something more. I love the craft of performing, but the platform and what it could communicate is even more important to me than the experience. I remember seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Franken, and thinking “that path to politics looks more fun than interning on Capitol Hill!” Last year I was elected to be a Delegate for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention. I actually beat my city Councilman for a spot. It was another reminder that I was on the right path. Teaching is deeply engrained in me as well, and if there is any way that people can be reached with information and a reminder of humanity, it is through the visual medium.
So professionally I am at a place where I am grateful for the projects I’ve worked on and the commercials that have paid me nicely, but excitingly embracing change. On some level I’ve always sensed that my acting went hand in hand with my writing. The inspiration I’ve felt writing and producing work that I’ve acted in, has always surpassed the positive spike of getting an audition, or even booking something. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take all the auditions, and booked jobs any and every day, but for me to fit the box that any given project is looking to fill perfectly is a miracle! And I’ve been blessed many times over. However, creating your own box, filling it, and showcasing what YOU know you are capable of, and want to bring into the world seems to be the real path to authentic artistry in this industry.
I also have a teen and family life coaching company that focuses on helping teenagers survive and flourish into adults, and helping families communicate with more empathy and understanding to find peace at home. It began as a side hustle and quickly became a more central mission. The most important thing that my young clients and sometimes their parents often must grapple with before any progress can be made, is facing their most authentic selves, and how WHO they think they are and HOW they act are not always in alignment.
Every time I talk to a client I am talking to myself as well. I am reminding myself how to be consistent, how to plan my time well, how to organize and prioritize, and to honor myself by living my ideals. As an artist this has become my North Star. I know that if I am grounded in myself, my work will reflect my unique worldview and potential, and my heart will be communicated to others. That is the potential power that each of us has in the entertainment medium, and affecting, educating, and inspiring others is what we should all be about. It’s what I’m about.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
L.A. is a fascinating place because it can be whatever you want it to be. Obviously Covid has muted some of the city’s nightlife, but between the mountains and beach are endless sunny days. I feel like I read that in an airplane magazine. My L.A. is active. Sometimes I take my puppy Naala hiking up in Mandeville Canyon, or I take a drive up the PCH to Malibu to beach it out at Point Dune. I like bike around down the Ballona Creek bike path to La Playa for a green smoothie at Play Cantina. Also, I love the Hollywood Bowl nights which are live and energetic.
When my friend’s are in town we definitely have breakfast at Lodge Bread in Culver, or Flake in Venice, lunch at Hoy Ka Thai, in East Hollywood, or Spoke right by the LA river, and dinner at Hatchet Hall, Little Fatty, or Mohawk Bend.In the summer there are dance parties or live music at Levitt Pavilion, or at CAAM, and definitely Jazz at LACMA on Fridays and Salsa on Saturdays which remind me of New York. And if the Knicks are in town, we gotta take the train downtown to Staples and then hit up the Pie Hole for dessert.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents who never pushed the idea that my life path was “supposed” to be a certain way. Life-long friends still with me for the ride, and my newer peoples who power my creativity and resilience. I’ve had amazing mentors and teachers my entire life from my Godfather Joe, and Derek Edwards the head of my teen summer camp, to the late Lem Martinez-Carrol, my high school history teacher and later teacher mentor… And I can’t forget about the brilliant Dr. Julia Jordan-Zachary my college advisor, Jackie Cohen who introduced me to theater acting at 14, and Dr. Dani Levine, who saw coaching magic in me 20 years later… And of course, and sadly, the ex-girlfriends at whose expense I learned and grew from. Sorry ladies, but I thank you deeply. Oh, and my therapist Cynthia gets a big shoutout too. The list is endless. No matter how individualistic our society may be in ideology, none of us do it alone. I am a product of my village.