Community Spotlight: John Wells
John W. Wells III is an actor, playwright, author, and so much more. His love for storytelling centers narratives that still aren't widely told. What does it look like to have Black folk be the lead in stories about love, action, or self-reflection? From a queer accountant struggling with his sexuality to a young kid fighting the supernatural, the stories John tells are dynamic and diverse. For this month's community spotlight, we decided to bask in the shine of his story.
“I didn’t want to submit to someone to tell me that my story was good enough to tell,” said John W. Wells III (He/Him/His) when asked how he came to self-publish his first novel The Last Angel Warrior: The Kailb Andrew Chronicles Book 1 earlier this year.
An actor, playwright, and now author, Wells’ creativity is rooted in telling stories that shed light on Black experiences through diverse lenses and mediums. Born and raised in Southern California, Wells spent much of his childhood in Murrieta where his family was well-known due to his dad being the only Black minister in the area. Growing up, Wells questioned where he fit into the world, a sentiment that many Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and Queer folx can identify with. This feeling inspired his exploration of identity through his work.
In The Last Angel Warrior, Wells’ fantasy fiction novel, 16-year old Kalib Andrews escapes his adoptive family and runs from a secret society trying to kill him for being magical. In the story, Wells weaves in spiritual mysticism such as nephilim, angels and demons with themes of self-discovery.
“In the Book of Genesis, there’s a verse that denotes Nephilim were the ‘mighty men of renown,’ and that scripture always interested me,” said Wells. “Once I ran with that, I wanted to bring in other lores and myths about gods. These were powerful beings that people feared, so what would it look like for these not to be myths?”
The idea of being feared for strength and identity is not a foreign concept for the Black community. Themes of the supernatural can sometimes be applicable to our reality, and Wells is joining a flourishing group of BIPOC writers exploring these themes through a genre that has historically been White-dominanted. When asked how he was able to get published, he shared that he was able to self-publish through his own publishing house, Loud Fridge Publishing, a branch of his own business, Loud Fridge Theatre Group, which he founded in 2019 to tell “marginalized stories with a mission and vision for diversity.”
Loud Fridge Theatre Group produced their first play, “Straight” by Scott Elmegreen and Drew Fornarola last July 25 - August 4. The story explored the tug-of-war of sexuality experienced by investment banker Ben, played by Wells, who’s in a serious relationship with PhD. candidate Emily, but is also seeing history student Chris, and has to reconcile with the nuances of his identity and infidelity. Initially written through a White lens, LFTG cast Ben and Emily as Black characters to normalize how we see Black characters in social, educational and professional spaces. While the story focuses on the exploration of Ben's sexuality, it isn't his Blackness that's negotiated or exploited.
The intention to normalize Black experiences in the stories we normally see through a lens of Whiteness, without making Blackness the focal point, speaks to the ethos, or spirit, of the stories Wells wants to tell.
He says, “I want to see a world where we can just tell the authentic story in a way that doesn’t exclude the story that needs to be told."