Actor Hill Harper, who plays Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on the hit CBS crime investigation show “CSI: NY,” is expanding his starring role to the book scene.
Harper is on a national tour promoting his new book, “Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE your Destiny,” Gotham Books ($22.50). The book aims to empower and motivate young women.
It includes personal examples, experiences and advice from some well-known women and men, including Nikki Giovanni, Ciara, Michelle Obama and Blair Underwood.
The book follows the success of his “Letters to a Young Brother MANifest your Destiny,” Gotham ($20), which was published two years ago and received several awards, including two from the NAACP, and was named Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association in 2007.
Harper talked with the Free Press about the new book and acting.
What is the overall message that you are trying to get across with your new book?
The overall message of “Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny” has everything to do with self-worth and self-esteem. A lot of people, especially our young women, are struggling with self-worth and self-esteem issues. So the focus of this book is to build up, and build back up that self-esteem and self-worth.
Why is it important for young women to read this book?
In many cases, these women are being raised in single-parent households where the mother is the primary parent, and they don’t have a great deal of platonic older male affection. What happens when you’re younger, what you don’t realize as a teenager, is that you’re going out seeking affection, but they may be seeking it at the wrong place, wrong time, with the wrong people, in the wrong way. And that is why we are seeing many of the negative things that we are seeing in our community. (With) this book I want them to take a step that I call a hug on paper. That’s what it is, a platonic hug from an older male to a young teenage girl.
What inspired you to write both books after your success in acting?
I started traveling and speaking to a lot of groups of youth all over the country and I ended up being asked a lot of questions. You find out how few of them don’t have positive role models in their lives to help them navigate the journey from boyhood to manhood or from girlhood to womanhood. So when I was younger I was given books that meant a lot to me and helped me navigate that journey. So I wanted to see if I could write a book that could help others.
What was the most difficult topic?
Depression and the difference between having the blues and being depressed. Number one, this is not an area of expertise for me. My father was a psychiatrist, but just because my father was doesn’t mean I really know anything about the subject. Number two, I think the types of depression that girls suffer from are different and more complex from the types of depression that young males suffer. I didn’t have an organic insight into that because I’m not a young woman, so I had to go and seek help with that section.
How many girls did you interview?
About 100, just a lot.
Q: At what age group is the book aimed?
In my mind, the book is for anyone who is still in school. That could be anywhere from 12 on the low end and 24 on the high end. But it’s mainly geared toward high school kids.
Explain “red flags” and why they are so important.
We may be doing something with somebody or hanging out with them and they may do something and or we may do something with that person that sends up our own internal red flag. Many times we ignore it, and when that red flag goes up internally we use our intuition telling us “this probably isn’t the right thing for us to be doing” or “back away” or “change” or maybe not hang out with this person - any of those things.
So it’s up to us to use our intuition and pay attention to red flags because usually it’s not the first flag or the second flag or the third flag that gets us in trouble, it’s the ones down the line. If we keep ignoring them, then we end up making bigger and bigger mistakes.
I have a movie with Ciara called “Momma I Want to Sing” that’s going to come out in October. Then with writing, I’m working on another book. I’m not exactly sure of the title yet, but it’s definitely going to be for adults this time. It’s going to be adult topics and adult issues. It’s probably going to be pretty bold in terms of the language and the way I put it together. So we’re going to run that and take a couple of risks and hopefully create a book that people will respond to.
Do you have any advice for a young person who would like to become an actor?
Yes, if you want to act and pursue acting, like everything else you need to build a foundation in it so you can support it. That means take acting classes, become good at the craft and act as much as you can. Do student films, community theater, do whatever you can do, and eventually create your own work. I really recommend that you write your own works, put them up on YouTube or do your own one-woman or one-man plays. You don’t have to wait for someone else to put you into a project.