Getting to know local actor Ray Cunningham Jr.
In this article we turn our attention to Ray Cunningham Jr. a Rochester, N.Y. native and a gifted actor making a name for himself within the film industry. I asked Ray a series of questions, here is what we discussed.
Tell us a little about yourself, where your from, grew up, what H.S./College you attended, etc.
My name is Ray Cunningham. I’m from Rochester N.Y. I went to Wilson Magnet High School and transferred to New Horizons Christian Prep school for basketball. Upon graduation, I took a break to care for my family before going back to school at Monroe Community College. Ultimately, the entire journey led me to finally pursue my dream of acting.
What inspired you to get into acting? Early experiences worth sharing?
I always wanted to be a top actor, but never had the confidence as a kid dealing with self image issues that most young people face and ADHD. So, as a kid I kept me head down and focused most of my youth on basketball. I found confidence it as I got older. Both in college and through various network marketing business ventures, I discovered a natural affinity for speaking in front of people. A good friend and aspiring director, D.J. noticed this gift and encouraged me to finally give acting a shot.
Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.
A few years into my acting career my family experienced a tragedy where my mother got really sick. At the time, she was hospitalized in the ICU for three weeks and it left me in a spiral trying to determine what to do in my career and my life should I lose my mom. Two books got me through that season and saved me from the fear and depression I was facing. The first was “The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho which I reread with a fresh perspective. The second was “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. These books were God sent, reminding me of the importance of focusing on my dreams and goals no matter what. They gave me the faith to believe that my mom was going to make it. I remembered that she would want me to fight just as she was fighting. I began to ask myself what I was capable of and challenged myself in new ways. Then and there, I promised my mom that I would never give up, that she would get to see me live my dream of becoming an actor, and that she would someday experience my success as her own. With the help of God and my friends, one of the darkest years of my life became the turn around that catapulted me to my current status.
What do you believe sets you apart from other actors?
I believe my work ethic sets me apart. Since I was a kid, I always had to work harder than everyone else to get to where I wanted to be. In basketball I was always told I was too short to get to reach my goals. In education, I had to work around ADHD to learn to focus on tasks and succeed in school. In acting, I got a later start than most, but have worked hard to make the most of the last 8 years. I’m a very detail-oriented person since my days of playing basketball. In a field like acting, the smallest detail can separate you from the crowd which may be the difference between you and someone else getting a role.
Do you have other interests or hobbies?
I’m still interesting in basketball and it remains a large part of my life. I enjoy working out. I am a huge football fan, Go Philadelphia Eagles!! I’m a bit of a gaming nerd and can spend hours on role playing games (RPGs). Some of my favorites are Final Fantasy 10, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Pokemon. Lastly, and perhaps most naturally, I’m an extreme fan of movies and TV shows.
Any projects you have out or or currently working on?
My most recent project wrapped in March is a comedy called Slightly New. It will air on Amazon Prime next year. I also have a movie Scavengers premiering this Spring. You may also see me in some commercials around the Rochester area or nationally.
A pair of troublemaking slackers have 72 hours to save their failing used car dealership, their friendship, and themselves.
Ryan (Ray Cunningham) is Haunted by his past and not sure how to cope with the state of the world. Josh (Daniel Repas) Keeps trying to help Ryan emotionally but is he to isolated and secluded? Kaitlyn (Emily Waterhouse) and Sam (Shelia Weiss) Try and figure out why people are mysteriously disappearing from camp. With only one doctor left in the camp being Chris (Tim Novotny) is there any hope or chance of survival in a zombie apocalypse?
“Who Killed Me?”
A short film that will be making a festival run this year in hopes of getting picked up and made into a feature. It’s about: A ride share driver is given a second chance at life. 24 hours to solve your own murder and come back to life.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope to have had my big break so that I can star in or headline a major motion picture or critically acclaimed TV series. I hope to work with great actors such as Dwayne Johnson, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Will Smith. I’d like to be in position to win an Oscar and an Emmy.
Other personal goals include helping others and taking care of my family.
What advice can you give in regards to individuals looking to enter your line of work?
Not to steal from Nike, but just do it! Don’t allow fear of failure to keep you from going after your dreams. A good friend told me to never be scared to be bad. Every great actor has likely had a bad audition or bad review. Take classes, or if you can’t afford them read books on acting, utilize Youtube and other opportunities to learn about the field. Get trained and get on set to learn as much as you can. I was fortunate to work with Rod Rowland out of Atlanta who taught me a great deal about using my uniqueness to separate myself from the crowd. Get coaching. I’ve been blessed to work with Hoyt Richards who assists me with preparation for projects. Take headshots, find a community of like minded individuals, and have grit.
How can we follow along in your journey? YouTube? Social media? Sites?
You can follow me on