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What Ever Happened to… Shavar Ross

Popularly remembered as Dudley from Diff’rent Strokes, Shavar Ross has amassed more than 30 acting credits over three decades. Today, the 42-year-old married father of two has thrown in his “acting towel” to pursue a new path. Ross tells JET what he’s been up to and what’s next for his professional life.

JET: What are you currently working on?

Shavar Ross: I’m working toward my bachelor’s degree, majoring in psychology. I want to continue on in my education and ultimately work on a doctorate in psychology. My main goal is to finish. Everyone who knows me knows I’ll go all the way, God willing. I’m not sure which specific field I want to go into yet, but I’m very interested in the spiritual aspects of how the mind works. 

JET: How did you come to this career goal?

SR: I believe there is a synergy between the mind and the spirit. I’ve seen the spiritual side of things during my four years as a non-denominational pastor at The Alive Church in Hollywood, and as a Christian man in general. I’d like to find out how the mind and the spirit work together.

JET: Have you always been interested in health issues?

SR: My father passed away at the age of 38 from a heart attack. Shortly after that, I became an emergency medical technician. I was 19, giving CPR to gang members in L.A. Then, after my son was born with autism 20 years ago, I became very involved with the needs of people with development disabilities, providing caregiving and counseling.

JET: Are you looking for any new television or film roles?

SR: Acting is finally out of my system. It was fun to go on auditions when I was younger.  But now I don’t have time for the instability— the ups and downs of the business. I have a wife and kids.

JET: Did you ever work behind the camera?

I have written, directed and edited three films. My first feature film was Lord Help Us, in 2007. It was a fun experience, although it was time-consuming because it took me a while to get the funding, almost a year. We shot it in 16 days. Lord Help Us was an official selection of The American Black Film Festival. If I ever do return to filmmaking, I’d like to explore documentaries.

JET: How did you get into acting?

SR: I stumbled into it. My father was an actor and was with William Morris. After my parents separated, he went to California. I went to visit him when I was around 8 or 9 during Christmas vacation. We went to see a play with Kim Fields. On the way out, an agent came up to my dad, and I got discovered. I booked commercials within two weeks.

JET: Which of your roles ranks as your favorite?

SR: In 1984, I played a young Booker T. Washington in the TV movie Booker. Stan Lathan directed the film, which starred Levar Burton. It was a positive experience. While making Booker, what stuck with me was the importance of education.

JET: How did you stay centered as a child star?

SR: I would say my close relationship with God and being morally grounded. I think there are a lot of issues for former child actors making a transition into the real world. There’s a season for everything and everybody. It’s okay to do something else and do something different.

Follow Ross at ShavarRoss.com

Facebook: Ross.Shavar

Twitter: @shavar