Actor Marvin Keitt doesn't have a magic potion for success, but he did learn the importance of perseverance and determination while growing up in Orangeburg, lessons that have served him well in his profession.
After first being bitten by the acting bug in the early 1980s, the writer and actor continues to hone his craft, landing appearances in everything from commercials to television shows and movies.
"What I've been doing has prepared me and gotten me ready. I am now eligible for a Screen Actors Guild Award for speaking roles. So I've paid my dues by doing extra work on a lot of these shows -- some of them feature," Keitt said.
The 54-year-old is the son of Orangeburg City Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt and Joe Keitt, a retired public safety officer. He resides in New Jersey, but grew up in Orangeburg and graduated from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School in 1981.
He has appeared on two popular soap operas, "Ryan's Hope" and "The Guiding Light," and was featured in a national billboard and print advertising campaign for Coors beer.
"I started back in the '80s when I did 'Ryan's Hope' and 'Guiding Light,' and I had a national ad with Coors beer. I got out of the business, had a family, and now that my daughter's grown and I've got grandkids, I figured it was time for me to get back to what I wanted to do," Keitt said. "This was my passion."
His most current roles include an upcoming appearance as a hospital orderly in "Blue Bloods," an American police drama series that airs on CBS. Keitt said he will appear on the show later this month in the episode titled "The Forgotten One."
He has also appeared as a congressman in "Madam Secretary," an American political drama TV series, which also airs on CBS.
Keitt is also set to appear in an ESPN-Hampton Inn commercial that he said will run through football season. In addition, he will appear in a commerical for Nuheara's IQbuds, wireless earbud headphones, and a Nanohealth commercial for back pain therapy.
The acting world has changed since he first started out in the field more than 20 years ago, Keitt said. He went to New York after graduating from high school, and after appearing on the two popular soap operas in the early '80s, he eventually returned to Orangeburg to study marketing at South Carolina State University for two years.
"I went back to New York and said, 'OK, here we go.' I gave it like 10 years, and it wasn't as consistent. Everything is at the push of a button now. Back then when I got into the business, you had to walk the pavement every day, going from one agent's office to another, seeing casting directors -- everybody who would see you.
"Now I get on the Internet and there are different publications you can subscribe to via Internet and they have castings about the different shows. You submit your picture and resume; they then take a look at it. You're called in for an audition and they let you know you got the part," he said. "It's a lot easier to do than what I used to do."
Keitt added, "There are also a lot more shows available now. You know, you have the Internet, YouTube, I mean a number of things. NetFlix, HBO -- there are a lot of shows that are available now that weren't then. You know, you were limited then.
"So if you had everybody and their mother wanting to be a star, the roles were few and far between. Now it's a number of things out there that you be able to be a part of."
Keitt has appeared in both Amazon's "Mozart in the Jungle," a comedy-drama web television series, and "Sneaky Pete," an American crime drama series. He has also appeared in the TV drama series "Instinct" and "Seven Seconds," a crime drama TV series starring actress Regina King.
In addition, he completed a commercial for the short film "Me Two," which was written and directed by Ben Fraternale and is currently being released at film festivals.
That's not the only film work Keitt has done.
"I play an FBI agent in a movie titled 'Snake Head,' which should be out by the end of this year or the beginning of next year. It takes place down in Chinatown and features a madam who is importing and exporting girls," he said.
He has also appeared in the short film "Easy Reno," a movie about "a guy selling a device that can take you back in time for 30 seconds to redo anything you needed to redo," Keitt said.
"I play the guy who invented the device. It's a short film that is in a lot of film festivals," he said, noting that he has also lent his talent to the production of an educational video that has become a part of "We Are New York," an Emmy Award-winning television show created to help immigrant New Yorkers practice English while informing them of the city's resources.
Keitt was in the drama club at O-W and the Henderson-Davis Players drama guild at S.C. State. While in Orangeburg, he said he learned that there were no limits on where your talent could take you.
"Anything that you want in life is attainable. You just have to figure out a way to achieve it. I've met people from Orangeburg from different walks of life and in different places that I've gone and been, and every one of them are leaders. They're not followers," Keitt said.
"So, that little town has something special about it that creates a drive, a hunger for more. It's a thirst for knowledge and also for pursuing whatever it is you want to do if you want to do it."
Keitt wrote his first book, "Trouble in My Way," about a family dealing with addiction in 2011. It was published by Publish America. In between his acting pursuits, he said he has been asked to do a sequel to the book.
"One thing I'm looking at maybe working on is converting it from a book to a screenplay for a made-for-television movie. I've been talking with some people, and we're looking at trying to do some things," Keitt said.
"That's one of the projects on the plate. I'm finishing up a children's book. I'm just trying to keep my hand in a little bit of everything."