BRISTOL, Tenn. – One of King's own returned to campus recently. While at King University, actor, producer, director and alumnus Cylk Cozart spoke at the University's President's Roundtable Breakfast. Cozart spoke on his time at King and how it shaped who he became.
John King, vice president of Development and Enrollment Management for King said, "As an alumnus of King, we are certainly proud that Cylk went on to be so successful in the entertainment industry. We were thrilled to have him back on campus for the first time since he left in the late '70s".
In the mid-'70s, Cozart transferred from Montreat College to then King College on a basketball scholarship. While at King he studied psychology. Upon leaving King in 1979, he pursued his dream of playing professional ball. A foot injury during the NBA Summer Pro League he was playing for ended that dream.
When asked what it was like to be back on King's campus, Cozart said it was very surreal. "It is very personal to me because when I came to King, I wasn't thinking so much about the future. I remember when I first walked onto campus. I was a basketball player on a scholarship and glad to be at King. For me, one of the great things [about King] was the professors. You could just go to their cottage anytime and ask questions. It made me so much more comfortable. Everyone knew how high King was rated academically. King professors taught me how to study."
Without realizing it at the time, the professors at King instilled in Cozart a love for education. "It was a residual affect. At the breakfast this morning, I discussed how the faculty at King had embraced me; they embraced all the students, but I took it personally because I didn't have that anywhere else.
Coach Al Nida, Cozart's basketball coach at King, was his biggest influence while here. "I still keep in touch with him after all these years." Another person at King who also had a great influence on him was professor of theatre Penny Mattice. "I still talk about her today. She was such a tremendous influence on my career in acting. Both Coach Nida and Ms. Mattice were so supportive of me."
After his NBA aspirations came to an end, Cozart spent time in Atlanta working for a top child psychologist. While working with children through the medium of video, he had an epiphany about the possibility of him transitioning to a career in acting. "I thought to myself I could do that. It triggered something in me. That's where it began. I didn't realize at the time that my performances on the basketball court had helped groom me for a career in acting. It all factored together. The next thing you know I'm in the number one movie in the country and being flown all over the world."
His debut acting role was in the movie "Blue Skies Again" opposite Andy Garcia and Mimi Rogers. Since then he has starred in movies such as "Conspiracy Theory" alongside Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts; "White Men Can't Jump" with Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes; and "Eraser" with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cozart has 30 films and more than 20 television shows to his credit. He has also spent time acting in shows on Off-Broadway, dinner theatre and Theatre-in-the-Round.
Although he has seen substantial success throughout his acting career, Cozart said he always tried to remain humble. "I don't think you are born with humility; it is something you acquire. When I left King, one major thing Coach Nida taught me that I took away was to be humble. I have carried that all through my career."
During his visit to King, Cozart took time to meet with several theatre students. He shared with them the importance of understanding the differences between the mediums of television, film and theatre. "If you don't know the difference between those three mediums, you are not going to utilize yourself to the max. Actors control theatre; writers control television; but for movies, the director has the control." He stressed to the students that acting is not just singing and dancing; it is communication."
Associate professor of theatre Elizabeth Dollar commented, "The theatre students were thrilled to meet Cylk. His journey in the film, TV and theatre industry is an inspiration to them. Cylk's success has come not only from his talent but also his work ethic and dedication, and that's what the next generation needs to see."
Today, Cozart has moved from Los Angeles back home to Knoxville, Tenn. He has established his own production company, Coz'Arts Entertainment, of which he is the CEO. The company has several divisions including a consulting business and management company.
"Through my consulting business, I teach acting to doctors, lawyers and business people. If you are a lawyer, in essence, you are an actor. [The lawyer] has to convince the jury that his client did not do that of which he is accused. I thought it would be a good idea to teach a different way of communication to those who may affect our lives in dramatic ways.
"People want to share their emotions and express themselves. I found out through being an actor, teaching acting, and now, being a director that everyone craves that. When you can figure out how a person's brain works – how they learn – you can move them into a place about which they are passionate," added Cozart.
Cozart's time spent at King studying psychology, performing theatre, and playing on the basketball court along with time spent absorbing life-lessons from the professors and coaches are still evident today. It is easy to see that his passion for learning is evident through all his endeavors.
"I like to leave things a little better than they were before I came," said Cozart.