You never know who might be sitting next to you in classes at James Sprunt Community College. That was the case for a few barber students who started classes this past Spring.
Jared Williams, a barber student had just sat down when he looked over at the guy next to him, Cannon Herring.
“It was the first day of school,” said Cannon, “Jared was just looking at me and I’m looking at him, and just out of nowhere, he says ‘you played that kid in that movie didn’t you,’ and I just started smiling.”
That smiling gave Cannon’s secret away, to which Jared exclaimed out loud in front of the whole class, “YOU DID, YOU DID!”
“I wasn’t going to say anything about it,” explained Cannon, who is 25 years old. “But then I got exposed, and now I don’t think I’m ever going to hear the end of it.”
Cannon, also known by his stage name Cannon Jay, played the character of Bryson in the hit movie Not Easily Broken eleven years ago. The movie was based on a book originally written by the Bishop T.D. Jakes, who also had a small acting part in the film.
“It was definitely a cool experience,” said Cannon. “I got a lucky break. Stuff like that doesn’t just happen. It was definitely surreal and crazy.”
Cannon found himself in Hollywood after his family moved from Florida, as Cannon says, “on a whim.”
His father had just recently got of the military and accepted a job working security detail for then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It was during that move to California that life got interesting for Cannon.
“Some lady approached my Mom at the mall, and said, ‘has anyone ever told you that your son could be in the movies?’ said Cannon. “I picked my Mom’s ear about it for weeks and weeks and weeks. Finally my parents let me go to this acting workshop camp, and I don’t know, for the time I fell in love with it and I really enjoyed it.”
Cannon first appeared in a couple of local commercials, and was then featured on nationally broadcast commercials for Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and a few toy companies.
“Then I got a phone call to audition for Nickelodeon,” says Cannon. “It was for the TV show iCarly. I got a small role on the show and that is what got my foot in the door. I ended up getting to sing and dance and do all the videos for Kidz Bop… then I got a big role in a movie that my agent got me an audition for.”
That movie took months to film and was a major production release for Sony.
“You get the whole Hollywood life,” said Cannon. “I had a trailer and I had one of those chairs with my name on it. I definitely had the full effect and I got to work along side some pretty big household names like Kevin Hart and Taraji P. Henson, who are really big right now.”
Adding to the experience, during the filming of the movie, Cannon was coached in baseball by Morris Chestnut, one of the main characters.
“Morris Chestnut also played the main guy in the movie Like Mike, where he coached basketball,” said Cannon. “I really liked that movie, so when we were filming the baseball scene and he was coaching me, that was just so cool to be able to relate it to a movie I had already seen…. “
Shooting those scenes were really fun for Cannon.
“I had to swing at the bat and hit the ball, and there was a few times I was supposed to miss but I would hit it on accident or vice versa,” Cannon explained. “One of the close up shots in the movie was like a really cool slow motion that they filmed of me hitting the ball…. I actually did that, none of that was fake, all of those were of my hits.”
In addition to being coached in baseball, Cannon also had to go through three weeks of swimming training.
“I did all my own swimming stunts in the movie because the character Bryson was a Junior Olympian swimmer.”
Cannon says that if he could have done all big feature films all day, everyday, he would have definitely stuck with it.
“It was hard. You go on twenty auditions for every one that you might get a call back,” says Cannon. “After the movie, I just decided not to do it anymore. I don’t know if I got nervous or intimidated or what…. I fell in love with skateboarding, surfing, and playing outside and not being an actor kid.”
It was the skateboarding that gave him yet another extraordinary, unique experience in his life that not many can claim to have had.
“I had just recently broken my leg and I was in a full leg cast,” said Cannon. “My Dad was working with the Schwarzenegger family, and they had like a family appreciation dinner, so my family went.”
While he was sitting there, not really knowing what was going on, he decided he would try to get up and get something to eat.
“I wasn’t but 13 at the time, and this lady comes up to me because I started to get up to get a plate,” said Cannon. “She was like, let me help you out and let me get you something to eat. I said ‘thank you so much and I told her I appreciated it.’”
That lady was Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wife. Her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was the sister of John F. Kennedy, the former President of the United States.
“My Dad was like, ‘oh my goodness, do you know who that was?’”
“I was like ‘yeah, that’s Mrs. Schwarzenegger,’ and then he explained to me who she was and he told me that I was probably one of the few people she has ever prepared a plate of food for.”
Cannon didn’t know any different at the time, but he has since realized it was a big deal.
“Seeing the house and going into her house, she had boxing gloves from Muhammad Ali that were signed to JFK, all the history and stuff in the house was really cool…. being exposed to celebrities and famous people… it was just amazing.”
And then there’s this.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger came up to me at the dinner with a sharpie in his hand and asked me if he could sign my cast, because he had never done that before.”
Not too many people can say that has happened to them.
“The California journey was about four years in total. It was wild to say the least.”
Cannon’s father took a job doing contract work in Afghanistan, so while his Dad went overseas, Cannon and the rest of his family moved to Ellijay, Georgia.
“I went from Los Angeles County, California to Gilmer County, Georgia,” said Cannon. “We had 150 people in my high school, and before that, we had 150 people in the house next door to me. It was culture shock to say the least… but we never looked back.”
After completing high school in Georgia, Cannon moved to Florida, again for his Father’s work.
It was during that time that Cannon’s Grandfather was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan when the U.S. Embassy was attacked in 2012.
“It made me really sad, and it woke me up.” said Cannon. “It had been a year since I graduated from high school, and I hadn’t done anything yet. I wasn’t in college, I hadn’t talked to a recruiter, I was just co-existing.”
“I knew that I wanted to be a Marine, so after my Grandpa was killed, I was unpleasantly reminded of what I needed to do…. I joined the Marines and was stationed in Jacksonville, NC from 2013 until I got out in 2018.”
Cannon served as a 4th generation Marine, saying “The Marine Corps ran in my family.”
“I didn’t think I wanted to be anything other than a Marine, but then I changed my mind, and I was like, what do I want to do, what is my drive, where is my passion?”
“That’s how I got to James Sprunt’s Barber School,” said Cannon. “I wanted to fall into a good lifelong profession and still be able to travel, do my thing, and not have like a 9-5 type of job… the cost of living here is low, and no matter what I do, I know I can probably get a job cutting hair.”
Cannon has enjoyed his experience at James Sprunt so far, saying that “This has been great. I had never been to college before or experienced the college environment.”
In five years Cannon says he hopes to have his own barber shop open in Wilmington so that he can be closer to his children, and in 10 years he hopes to branch out to Atlanta, and in 15 years, open up a shop in New York.
“I want to have barber shops up and down the East Coast,” he said.
Cannon has also thought about going back to the industry that has made him famous, but in a behind-the-scenes capacity.
“My brother works in the film industry doing lighting and handling equipment in Atlanta,” said Cannon. “He told me about the film makers union for hairstylists, both men and women, barbers and cosmetologists, who’s sole job is just to be on the set 24/7 or however long they are filming… you film for six, seven, or eight months. A lot of the stylists are responsible for making the character look exactly like they are supposed to throughout the lapse of time.”
But all of that depends on his children.
“It would definitely be cool to kind of circle right back around and be on the other side of things… there is a huge market for production hairstylists.”
And you don’t have to move to California to do that, Cannon says that there are jobs in Wilmington, Southport and all up and down the East Coast where movies are being filmed and produced that are in need of barbers and cosmetologists.
“To me barbering is really cool, it is just like super traditional and old school,” said Cannon. “Realistically I am exactly where I want to be and I am as happy as I can be right now.”
Cannon says that he wasn’t sure if college life was going to be right for him and he wasn’t sure of what to expect.
“I thought I would care about the age gap, being older than some of the students who are just out of high school, but being here in class, I realized it doesn’t matter,” Cannon said. “We are all here for the same exact purpose… and we can learn from each other, because our life experience is different.”
As for advice he would give his fellow Marines, he says, “Don’t ever feel like it is ever too late to do anything. One of the best parts of being a Marine was the education that comes with it. Being able to use my GI Bill and to be able to pay my rent, my lights and my car and my gas and my tuition and everything for a couple of years of sacrifice was definitely worth it.”
He goes on to say “Whether you did 20 years in the Marines or you did four years, you paid the sacrifice and one of those sacrifices is for us to have the GI Bill. Definitely use it. Pursue it. You literally paid for it. Don’t let it go to waste.”
– Cheryl Hemric / James Sprunt Community College
For media related questions, please contact Cheryl Hemric, director of marketing and public information at (910) 275-6170.
James Sprunt Community College is one of the premier institutions in the North Carolina Community College System. Our college serves more than 5,000 students annually from our Kenansville and WestPark campuses and three specialized centers. Learn more at http://www.jamessprunt.edu.