The Temptations are golden

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Sitting in the audience of the Golden Gate Theater watching the “Ain’t Too Proud” tour as these men recapture the era of Love and protest. My brotha Harrell was doing his thing as Melvin Franklin. From left are Mariners Paul James, Jalen Harris, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Harrell Holmes Jr. and James T. Lane from the National Touring Company of “Ain’t Too Proud.” – Photo: © 2021 Emilio Madrid

by William Palmer, Editor in Chief

In San Francisco on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. the phone rings, and Charlie, the PR person for “Ain’t Too Proud,” is on the line: “Hey, William, are we still on for the interview?” 

“Sure,” I reply, hoping further conversation would remind me which interview this is for.

Last night was my first snafu as editor in chief. I had double booked Bay View TV on our IG LIVE for Thursday at 9:00 a.m. But nothing is by accident. Now that I’m going on later, I can take this “surprise” phone interview with Harrell Holmes Jr. playing Melvin Franklin. 

Soul Brotha 9 (SB9): Welcome to SF Bay View in Review. This is your host Soul Brotha #9 aka Editor in Chief. I’m here today with Harrell Holmes Jr. from “Ain’t Too Proud,” the life and times of The Temptations. He’s playing Melvin Franklin. Let’s review this musical that’s playing at the Golden Gate Theater until Dec. 4. Let’s give a community welcome to Harrell Holmes Jr.

Herrell: Hello, hello, thanks for having me and thank you.

SB9: I see you are a triple threat and you went to AMDA? What’s AMDA?

Herrell: Yes, yes I am. AMDA is short for American Musical Dramatic Academy of Los Angeles. 

SB9: Now I know. So, share your beginnings with us. What made you become this triple threat?

Herrell: I’m originally from Saginaw, Michigan. A little city Saginaw, an hour and a half out of Detroit. How I started was crazy. I saw The Temptations mini series when I was 7. I was blown away. I watched it three times in one day. The movie is like three hours long. Instantly I gravitated to The Temptations, the moves, the music, the way they dressed, everything. I remember learning “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” I went to my mom and told her I want to perform this song in my third grade talent show. She looked at me like I was crazy, “What do you know about The Temptations as a 7-year-old?” The kids had no idea who they were, but the parents went crazy.

SB9: Those community talent shows are the breeding ground for undiscovered stars. I hear life imitates art. I found the beginnings of Otis Williams was a lot like mine. What do you share in common?

Herrell: I started my own group called The Little Temptations. That’s really how I started performing. I got four of my friends and did all the singing. We’d go around Michigan singing Temptations’ songs dressed in suits. Then from there I did Star Search when I was 11. My first time doing TV. I had very supportive parents that said if you really want to make it happen, let’s move to Los Angeles and go for it.

SB9: That’s how you got to AMDA. You really were blessed with those parents. What are you doing now beside The Temptations? I’d love to know the creative ideas of an artist that started living his dreams at 7.

Herrell: “The Watching” is an independent horror film I did that’s going to be released next year. We went out to Utah and filmed it in six days. That was incredible! It was my first film set I’d done which I co-starred in. I actually don’t want to give too much away about that one. Just know it’s a different type of horror film. It was written and produced by Mali Bonner, a new filmmaker and writer. See more at Mali-B Productions.

SB9: Ok. Thanks for the scoop. How does it feel to be a part of this cast of “Ain’t Too Proud”?

Herrell: To be honest with you, this “Ain’t Too Proud” is one of my first major jobs. First time doing theater. Really getting that major role. So “Ain’t Too Proud” is the big job for me right now. And looking to do more film and TV in the future for sure. 

We used to sing about Love even in the time of pain and suffering that we went through in this country.

SB9: Can I get tickets?

Herrell: Yeesss. It’s a must see here at Golden Gate Theater through Dec. 4. It’s a great family show. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the film or not. I’ve heard it described as the film on stage. A Tony Award winning show. I hope you get a chance to make it out.

SB9: I look forward to seeing you live and in action. I’m a self-taught artist and born activist. I call myself an Artivist. How do you see yourself as an Artivist? How do you see yourself contributing to the empowerment of the Black community through your art?

Herrell: I see myself doing that by being fortunate enough to tell this story, which is about real people, real people that lived – Otis is still living – but these are icons whose music became the sound of America. We are fortunate enough to tell their stories every night. These people lived through such a tumultuous time in the ‘60s when so much was going on. They were able to convey this love through their music and it’s reached generations. 

The music has lived on since the early ‘60s and we’re in 2022. The music is still relevant today, still reaching people, and that’s how I’m able to contribute by telling these stories. I love that when people of color, when all people come to the show, but especially when we get to inspire people of color with us being pretty much an all-Black show. It’s incredible to tell these stories and to spread that love just like they did back then.

SB9: Now they say you are a throwback to the days of the charismatic live bands and legendary soul artistry. You mention about the ‘60s, to be on stage, to be in front of white audiences, crossing over was a big deal. How does your career affect the culture? As an artist, in the industry, we saw what happened to Ye and Kyrie. What is your take on it?

They were looked at as less than human, but as long as they were entertaining people, it was all good.

Herrell: Uhh, that is tough, man. I like the fact that what we are doing is a positive message that we are spreading. You know, one of the great things about doing this show is that it represents us and in a great way. You know, it’s Black excellence on that stage. When we look out in the audience, we see people of all ages and all races. You know, I love that we get a chance to represent that. That we get a chance to bring people to this legendary group, Motown and Black excellence. The fact that we get to promote that across the country is incredible. We brought this story to so many people and they get a chance to see our culture, some highlights of our culture. 

At the same time what I love about our show is that we get to keep it real at the same time. We show that in the ‘60s The Temptations were shot at. They were looked at as less than human. But as long as they were entertaining people, it was all good. But, when it comes to us being Black people, we still didn’t get that respect. Unfortunately that still happens today. It’s relevant today. But, in the same vein, we get a chance to entertain the people but also give them the message: 

Yes, we are real people – that outside of music we are still gaining. That The Temptations are real people that went through real things that are still relevant today. Luckily through our show we get a chance to spread that Love and also tell that message. At the end of the day, it’s all about Love for everybody. That for those two and a half hours we can all come together, get this message and have a great time. And still Love each other, because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.

SB9: I respect everything that you said. That the power of Love is uniting. It conquers hate. I thank you for taking on this role and reminding our community that we used to sing about Love even in the time of pain and suffering that we went through in this country. 

Harrell: Absolutely.

SB9: I hope that Black media, our musical talent remembers that. We know you been through some stuff, but let’s talk about the Love we have for each other to conquer hate and heal each other. Thank you Harrell Holmes Jr. for sharing your personal thoughts and career with SF Bay View. I look forward to seeing the play.

Harrell: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you for the great questions, man. Those were thought provoking questions and I appreciate that. Continue the work that you’re doing on the activist side. We are really activists in our own way, I believe, as artists. We have a responsibility to bring joy and make someone smile. The one thing about this show is they get all of those things; it’s full of great music, happy songs. The Temptations are known for crossing over like you said. One thing I like about this play is we get to dive into most people and we touch on those topics. We are humans at the end of the day and want to be viewed as such. We differently need it to show that report out there. Thank you for having me. 

SB9: God bless and peace.

Harrell: Peace.

I did get those tickets from Charlie. I was dressed to the 9s like the bad and bougie soul brotha I am catching a musical at the Golden Gate Theater. Harrell is a triple threat from American Musical Dramatic Academy. This is his tour debut and he blew the packed house away with his depth of acting, singing and dancing. His character, the legendary Melvin Franklin, was the voice of reason. He sided with Otis “when he’s right.” 

“Ain’t Too Proud” shows it all. It deals with living your dream, crooked managers, jealousy, leadership, vision and racist America. We can glean a lesson or two from this musical and be thoroughly entertained. I won’t give much of it away, but Harrell and the cast truly embodied the Motown era of R&B with the soul of the legends. Being a Temp could mean temporary, but for me it meant the temperature was hot! Who didn’t want to be a Temptation? They were soul brothas and Harrell has a bright future ahead. Come visit us at the Bay View next time you’re in San Francisco, Harrell. Thanks for sharing your talents with the community.

William Palmer, Editor in Chief of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, is an advocate for juvenile justice, holistic reentry expert and a social engineer. He can be reached at