I think when you turn on the TV, open your social media app, or just scan the newspaper, you quickly realize that not everywhere in the world did people wake up on the sunny side of the street, or that there was not even one to wake up to in the first place. But I feel – and I know I’m just a writer so who am I to think I know it all – but maybe not everyone has to wake up on the bright side of life. In fact, it’s the grey areas of the journey, the shadows, that truly make you the person you are.
For Haulston Mann, I think there is no truer statement.
When you take a quick look at him, you would probably think he has had it good for most of his life. First, there is no denying his is a good-looking guy and in great shape – I mean he has on his resume the parts of Rocky in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Spike in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, both characters known to spend most of their respective shows in very little clothing, including the infamous Golden Speedo for Rocky.
“Another one of the first things people ask me about is my name and how I got it,” Haulston mentioned. “My mother is named Jamie, my dad is named Chad, and then my little brother is Chase. But my name came from my grandmother because Halston was her favorite perfume, so they added the ‘u’ in my name to make it unique.”
You could probably guess by his name’s origin, Mann has a special
connection with his mother’s mother, who he affectionately calls Maw
Maw, but who is legally known as Kaye Puckett. In addition to his father’s
mother, his brother and parents, the six of them made up the core of his
family growing up.
“Maw Maw was the person I spent a lot of my time with when my parents
would go to jail or be put into rehab, especially when I was a younger kid,”
Mann explained. “So, she was definitely an important part of my life
growing up. I remember the first time I went to live with her I was around
7 years old, and I didn’t understand what was happening or what rehab
I know it might seem abrupt to jump right into Mann’s past without a
segue. But for Mann, I think that it is so much a part of who he is, he
knows no other way but to share it because it is also so connected to
who he has become.
“Looking back now, I think because we were kids, we didn’t notice the
signs that our parents were using,” Mann said about his early childhood.
“We would go out and play with our friends during the day, come home
at night, and then go to school in the morning because that is what our
friends were doing.”
Mann noted that he did however turn his energies toward success in school. That success not only included running for and winning office in student council every year, but he was elected the State Secretary of the Arkansas Association of Student Councils while also being voted Prom King.
“It was my drive that I put into school that kept me focused,” Mann went on to say. “I know that I probably pushed to accomplish so much at school, so that I could get the attention at school that I was not getting from my parents at home when they were not around.”
However, as he began to grow up, he admits that his relationship with his parents as he began to understand the situation did take its toll. His relationship with his father he said had just become him accepting that he was an addict and would be in and out, but it was his relationship with his mother – who was clean for about 5 years from the ages of 8-13 – that was shaken the most by their drug abuse.
“Around when I was 13, my mom relapsed,” Mann said. “That was probably when it got the worst. I admit, I never held a lot of anger toward my father because I kind of never expected him really to be fully there and around. It doesn’t mean that when he was there and was clean that we didn’t connect and that I don’t love him, but I didn’t have any expectations for him. My mom, however, I did have a lot of expectations for her and our relationship got pretty broken up when she relapsed. I remember that the tipping point came when I was 15 and I was supposed to travel to Little Rock, a few hours away from my hometown, to participate in the Poetry Out Loud Poetry Contest that I had been chosen as a State Finalist for. My mom was supposed to pick me up, she was going to take me to dinner and we were supposed to hangout because at this point I had moved out from living with her. She had used at some point that day and didn’t answer her phone that night, so I had to have an older cousin take me the next day to the contest. It was then that I told her I could not have a relationship with her when she was using.”
Haulston Mann as Rocky
Whether that was the exact catalyst or not, Mann explains that soon thereafter his mom checked herself into a faith-based rehab center and got clean while renewing her relationship with Christ. She was even able to get his father to attend a faith-based rehab center that was for men, and he got clean too.
“I never expected that my dad would ever get clean,” Mann said with surprise. “I mean right now, this is the first time that I can remember that we have a family home that we can all come back to. So, I am very excited about it and how far they have come.”
“Something too, that I always noticed, is my mom always had a good street smarts and intelligence about her,” Mann pointed out. “I think it came from all her experiences while using. She just knew people really well. So now she uses that knowledge in her job, where she is the Assistant Director of a faith-based rehab center in Jonesboro for women, and my father is probably the best tile setter in Arkansas and is on the board of a ministry that focuses on faith-based rehab for men.”
One might ask themselves how this guy built for sports and martial arts and seemed to be focused on Academic pursuits while dealing with his family life, found himself in acting. Well don’t worry, I got to the bottom of that too.
“When I was 17,” Mann remembered, “I was an athlete in high school playing football, I really got into Jiu-Jitsu and I dabbled in soccer. One of the steadfast things my mother always told us growing up was we had to play at least one sport every year. I also did a lot of stuff with student council, so public speaking and community outreach became something I was doing a lot in my elected offices. It was through that I found out that I truly loved making people laugh and being in front of an audience. Around my senior year my girlfriend (at the time) asked me to audition for this show with her, a musical, which she had to talk me into to doing.”
From that, Mann was cast as Jack Scott, who in the stage adaptation of High School Musical is the narrator who pushes the story along through the morning announcements.
“I can remember my very first monologue in the show,” Mann grinned. “I remember hearing the whole audience laugh when I was doing it, and from that moment on I knew that this was what I wanted to do. As I started finding out more and more about the craft, though, that’s when it transformed and grew from not just entertaining people but giving people a place where they can come together in a communion and share a story. But the funny jokes were the start of it all.”
Along with his love for acting, you can also find Mann meal prepping and in the gym, pursuing his other passion, fitness.
“After I quit sports in high school, I always felt a need to remain physical and keep active,” Mann said. “So, it was really in my freshman year of college when I saw an event called the Tough Mudder,
that I got into training which started out specifically for that. After that, I got into
nutrition when I was cast as Spike, knowing that I had a few months to really get into
even better shape for that character who is supposed to have a heart of a golden
retriever and an amazing body.”
For Mann, nutrition and working out became his meditation, a way for him to focus
on himself and get his body in the best condition and a way to find his center.
“Now I have gotten to a point where working out and eating healthy is a way of life for
me,” Mann said. “I also understand that so many of the roles I am cast for are
capitalizing on the work I have put into my physique, so that makes me feel good
about those results.”
As our interview started coming to a close, I have to admit, I started to sense that
there was some goofiness and more to be found behind all those muscles. So, I had
to get to the bottom of who Mann was when no one was looking.
“I can’t help but say that I have always been drawn to writing and poetry,” Mann said.
“I don’t think I am good at it really, but writing poetry is something I have always
thought about. I have always had this idolized image of Charles Bukowski, I think
he has written some good stuff. I also like song writing for myself. So, if I was not an actor or doing mixed martial arts or something like that, I would love to be a cool nomadic poet – like one of those beat generation poets. Oh, I also love cartoons. Like I could watch them all day long, every day, type of love. So, give me a big bowl of chicken lo mein, and episodes of my favorite Anime, Cowboy Bepop, and I am good to go.”
Care to know exactly what “Cowboy Bepop” is? Take a sneak peek into some footage that explains what this show is by watching a YouTube clip by CLICKING HERE.
And there you have it folks, yet another layer of the onion that you may not have seen coming, but also just adds to the charm of this guy who does in fact have a heart of a golden retriever.
“My teacher at MCS (Matthew Corozine Studio), Ted Wold, characterized me the best way that I think has ever been said by another person about me,” Mann said. “He said that he thought I was 95% heart and 5% muscle. I would absolutely agree.”
You can catch Mann’s performance in Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead in the role of Matt when it opens, running February 2-4 | 9-11 at Matthew Corozine Studio Theatre, located at 357 West 36th, #202, New York, NY, 10018. Tickets are on sale for $18 at www.BrownPaperTickets.com, and the show will last 90 minutes with no intermission.