collins-pennie_web.jpgAlthough Collins Pennie was in Fame, Prom Night and Half Nelson, many people may not know him. With Pennie’s upcoming projects set to hit the screen, stage, and MP3 players across America, however; it is possible that he could become a household name by the end of 2010.

Pennie, an actor, dancer, and singer, is starring as Chance Harris in Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming, due out some time this year.  The City of Miami Community Redevelopment Agency, in partnership with the American Black Film Festival, is screening the movie for free at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami on Sunday, June 27  at 5 p.m. as a part of the ABFF’s community outreach efforts. The organization’s annual film festival began on Wednesday, June 23 in Miami Beach and will continue throughout the weekend.

Idris Elba is presiding over the festival, and appears in Takers with Chris Brown, T. I. and  Zoe Saldana. Also in attendance is Spike Lee, for his interview with Soledad O'Brien this Saturday, June 26. Lee is also teaching a filmmaker workshop.

David Banner, Boris Kodjoe and Kenya Moore are expected to attend, also, for The Confidant.

In addition, there will be a screening of HBO's Treme.

In the movie Stomp 2, the sequel to the 2007 film, screenwriters Albert Leon and Meena Payne decided to give Chance more hardships to overcome and teach him about being a man, according to Pennie.  However, the concept of the first film, of battling it out step-style remains the same in the sequel.

“Chance is in a transitional stage in his life,” Pennie told the South Florida Times in an interview earlier this week.  “He is learning to take responsibility for himself and confront situations instead of running from them.”

Chance isn’t the only character Pennie is portraying this year. He also appears with Jada Pinkett Smith on TNT‘s “Hawthorne,” as Marcus Leeds.  In his own words: “Marcus is a very genuine guy; very ambitious.  He’s a very determined, driven, smart guy.”

Pennie, who said he is inspired by Jada’s hubby and our nation’s commander-in-chief, likes that his “Hawthorne” character is in a hospital setting.  In addition to enjoying his role opposite Mrs. Smith, Pennie will also be seen this summer on Broadway, in Rent, with Wayne Brady, Neil Patrick Harris, Vanessa Hudgens, and Tracie Thoms.

“I’m from NY, and Rent was the very first play I saw on Broadway,” said the 25-year-old Brooklyn native.  “It’s so New York and has such a legacy.”

Pennie will be playing Benjamin “Benny” Coffin III, a role previously played by Taye Diggs in the film and stage production.

Life has not always been easy for Pennie, who spent half of his childhood going from one foster home to another, until he moved out on his own at 15 years old.  From there, he focused all of his attention on his artistic craft to earn a living; even going as far as sneaking into acting classes and auditions, trying to land roles all around New York.

His first big break came in 2002 with a role in “As the World Turns,” followed two years later with a guest appearance on “Law & Order.”  From that point, Pennie guest starred in various TV shows, like “CSI: Miami,” “Without a Trace,” and “Shark.”

In the dancing aspect of his career, Pennie said, “With any art, I do it because I love it.  As long as I’m alive I will continue to dance.”  Of course, his dance background was a huge asset in landing his current role in Stomp the Yard 2.

As far as his singing ambitions, Pennie will get to flex his vocal talent in Rent. He is also in the studio recording tracks, hopeful that he will release a mix tap in August.  When he’s not acting, dancing or singing, Pennie likes to enjoy his down time with friends and family; like celebrating his June 20th birthday in Seattle.

The book lover has Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Blink and The Tipping Point in his collection, but his fondness for Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist offers a clue to Pennie’s journey. The hugely popular book is a fable about following your dreams.

Pennie, an avid traveler, said that of all of his favorite destinations, home is where his heart is.

“Being in LA and other places I’ve been, you’re in your house and you drive to where you want to go,” said the graduate of Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute in NYC.  “You walk outside in New York and you’re inspired in a whole new direction. There’s a closeness there because there’s so many people.”

All in all, Pennie is taking his fame in stride and making sure to keep moving forward.

“My dad always said, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’” said Pennie, who is also inspired by his mother’s strength and determination.  “I was resourceful and determined.  I had the will, so I made the way.”

KAliciaG@Aol.com

Photo: Collins Pennie

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming screening, presented by the American Black Film Festival

WHERE: Booker T. Washington High School 1200 NW 6th Ave., Miami

WHEN: Sunday, June 27

COST: Free

CONTACT: For more information about the festival, please visit www.abff.com.