"A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step." – Lao Tzu
For most of us, the journey of life is filled with ups and downs, but how we handle them can make or break us. For playwright, director, producer and entrepreneur Nial Martin, the down times became almost too much to bear. Yet, through his own resilience, great friends, divine intervention and one very special legend, he has survived to not only tell his story to YBE Magazine, but to share his struggles through the upcoming national tour of his play His Double Life.
Follow along as we take a look at Nial’s journey in his own words.
Learning disability A lot of people don’t know I’m dyslexic. Going through school, I had a major issue with reading. I didn’t learn how to read until I was in the 9th or 10th grade. And that’s something I’ve struggled with. Even now, I have to stare at something and sound the words out. I take it as a gift because there’s so many young people out there now who are dealing with the same thing, who are dealing with the shame of that.
You know how sometimes in school we had to select a chapter of a book to read, I would always excuse myself whenever it was my turn, because I didn’t want to read in front of the class. So my mom entered me in private school to help me with my reading, which it did. I was also out of school a lot because of doing commercials and print work.
Trying to fit in I struggled with my sexuality. I tried playing football, but I hated it, because I didn’t understand anything of it. I played football and baseball just to please my family, because that was the manly thing to do.
I remember trying to date females. I had this one girlfriend in school and I hated it because I was so uncomfortable. I regret it because I broke her heart. But I was trying to please other people instead of pleasing myself. So I took all of those situations and used it to write His Double Life.
On depression Well, for me, with depression, that was something I definitely dealt with for a long time. Not having my father in my life, not really feeling loved by people. Even though I knew my mom loved me, I felt like I was missing something – that unconditional love. I guess because I just had this “dark” secret and a lot of people couldn’t understand me.
I’m the type of person that’s hard to figure out sometimes. I’m very shy, I’m very insecure. That’s something that I have been working on. I’ve been depressed for a long time. I tried to commit suicide twice – once by taking pills, once by slicing my wrists. I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I got tired of people putting me down, telling me that I’m not good enough, that I’m too ugly or too fat. I just felt alone in this world and being picked on in school.
Suicide attempt There was a point in my life where I got so depressed. I was driving home on I-95, and someone had lied to me about something, made me feel like I wasn’t good enough, and I just lost it. I drove to my friend’s house, went into the kitchen, grabbed a knife, went to the bathroom and sliced my wrist. When I did it, it hurt but felt good because it was a relief. I went out to get another knife to cut deeper and my friend took me into the room, prayed over me and I went to sleep. I slept like a baby. It was a peace I had never had before when I slept. I remember my friend telling me that if I killed myself, I would never meet Janet Jackson.
The turning point - meeting a legend
Ten or fifteen years [after my suicide attempt], I met Janet Jackson and I told her my story of how she inspired me and how her music saved my life. She gave me a big hug and told me “I didn’t save you; God saved you. He only used me as a vessel to get you through.” At that point, it was like a spirit talking to me. There was a calmness in her voice telling me that I could do anything I wanted to, despite anybody’s decisions or anything they say about me. God has the final say so in life.
Overcoming I just never felt like myself, I never felt truly loved. I didn’t love myself. But now, at age 36, I love Nial. There was a point in my life where I had to revamp myself, revamp my soul. I had to come to a point where I admitted to myself that I like men. I’m at a point now where I don’t give a fuck [about other people’s opinions]. I’m just trying to get back to a place where I love Nial. Hopefully I’ll meet that special one some day to share my life with. I’m about family life. I truly want to settle down with somebody special. But we’ll see.
Creating No Jive Productions
Life is truly a journey for me. I created No Jive Productions at the age of 16 years old. A guy with a dream that wanted to pursue something, wanted to be my own boss, wanted to make change in the community, wanted to make change in people’s lives through theater. Theater has changed my life in so many ways. I’m able to be somebody on stage that I’m normally not in person. As I said before, I’m very shy in person, so I won’t go up to you and start a conversation, but my alter ego will.
As far as the meaning behind No Jive, the ‘N’ in ‘No’ stands for Nial, the ‘J’ in ‘Jive’ stands for Journey. So No Jive Productions is Nial’s Journey and where that journey takes me, that’s where I’ll end up. Right now, it's taking us on a national tour, starting in October.
In my meeting with the team about launching this tour, we said we don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it. I’m not trying to and I don’t want my team to live from paycheck to paycheck. That’s not the way to live. You need to live life at a point where you can travel when you want to or just live comfortably. You don’t need to be rich to be happy. When you’re not stressed, you’re not worried about anything – to me that’s living comfortable.
His Double Life
The stage play somewhat mirrors my life. It’s about a young man who’s struggling with his sexuality and trying to come to terms with it and looking for and craving that unconditional love from his father that he never received. There’s a point in the show where the father needs a kidney transplant and the only person who can give it to him is his gay son.
Throughout the play, you see how the son, Matthew, is fighting to gain his father’s affection and approval. I’m still struggling to build that relationship with my dad.
On family and the relationship with his father I feel like he’s abandoned me more than one time. I have reached out to him to say, “Hey, I’m here. Can you see me? What else do I need to do to get your love, get your affection, get your attention?” It’s not like I’m a bum or crack addict. I’m making moves, doing stuff with my life. It makes me wonder what I did wrong.
I remember going to North Carolina to visit my father’s side of the family. I never had an opportunity to meet them before. I met my aunt and my grandma for the first time two years ago. My aunt didn’t even know he had another child. She came to the door with tears in her eyes and said, “You look just like your father.”
I do have to give credit to my mom. One thing she’s never done is spoken badly about him. She told me growing up that she needed me to see it for myself, because she didn’t want to flood you with a perception of him that you might not think is true. I thank her for that all the time, for letting me see it with my own eyes.
I used to look at myself as being at fault in some way. I don’t anymore. That was one of the reasons I wanted to commit suicide, because I felt so alone. There’s only so much a mother can do to show their son how to be a man. My mom is a strong woman, she’s been there for me, she put me through college, she helped me in theater. I still struggle with the desire to see him. Some days I feel like it’s not worth it, and some days I feel like I wish I had my dad. Sometimes, I just feel very lonely. Even though I’m at a point in my life where I’ve just accepted it and knowing there’s nothing I can do about it.
There comes a point where you just have to let go.
Carlos Harris, Vice President of No Jive, he’s like the father I never had. I talk to him pretty much about everything. He’s really been the backer of No Jive, helping me out as far as finances and even emotionally. He’s been the dad I never had. And I’m so thankful for him. He said to me “Nial, I believe in you and whatever it takes, we’re going to make it happen.”
It’s a good feeling. It’s a really good feeling to know you have somebody that’s in your corner and to have a team that’s in your corner that works like they are making millions of dollars. It’s hard to find people to come together like that. When you have deadlines they work hard to meet those deadlines. It says a lot to me about character.
As long as I have people that continue to believe and support me and I believe in myself, everything’s going to work out. I don’t forget people who help me out along the way. When you value people and you treat people good, then they’ll value you in return.
The future My ultimate goal is that I want to be able to help so many people that are going through what I’ve been through – people that have been bullied in school, people who have been called faggot or punk because they’re not built a certain way or acting manly. I want to build jobs and generate income for people from all walks of life so I can help them to pursue their dreams.
Right now, I just finished writing six episodes for my sitcom. Next step is filming it and pitching it to the networks. I also wrote the movie version for His Double Life. I’m going to film and pitch that. I’ve also got the national tour.
I’m excited about the tour. I’m excited, afraid, nervous, a little of everything. Even though I’ve done the play before, it’s a step up as far as having major names in the show. So it’s scary, but I’m ready for the challenge.