Gregory Marks is an actor, writer, filmmaker, fashion merchandiser and motivational speaker. He’s also an ex-drug user, was previously homeless and a Pierce College alumnus.
Marks was born and raised in Tacoma. Over time, he found himself using drugs and becoming involved in situations he’d later regret but that led him to where he is now.
“I think the greatest thing that I ever did was make the decision to become clean,” Marks said. “All the people who are following me, the organization, movies, it wouldn’t have happened if I wouldn’t have done that.”
In 1985, the Crypts came up from Los Angeles and brought crack cocaine with them, which at the time was called free base, according to Marks. On graduation night for his high school, though he didn’t graduate himself, Marks attended a party where he was offered the substance for the first time.
“I started doing it progressively,” Marks said. “(It) took control of my whole life for 20 years.”
The next year, Marks traveled to Oregon to participate in Job Corp, where he received a GED. He returned to Tacoma and started working in construction for his father.
“I was what they call a functioning addict,” Marks said. “Most of the time, I had a job. I was in between jobs all the time because I was very good at what I did in construction.”
Marks said he never had difficulty earning money but that, because of his addiction to crack, it never felt like enough.
“I found a way to actually earn money to get drugs, but it never pans out,” Marks said. “You never make enough money to buy enough drugs for a drug addict and if you do make enough money to get enough drugs for a drug addict, they’re probably going to die.”
When Marks was 35, he decided it was time to get clean.
“I was with my friend and we were smoking crack for two days,” Marks said. “The sun was coming up on the final day and he had to go to work.”
The friend allowed Marks to stay at the house and promised that, after he got paid that day, he would be buying more crack for them both. After the friend left, however, Marks had a wake up call.
“I was sitting there looking around; it was all dark and smoky and gross,” Marks said. “I felt like there were spirits flying around my head.”
Having been open with his dad about his drug use, Marks felt it was time to call his father.
“He never put me down or called me a loser or anything,” Marks said. “He always encouraged me to be the person I could be.”
Marks’ conversation led to him admitting he was ready to quit and needed to get treatment. His father gave him a number to call, but the treatment center was asking for money that Marks didn’t have.
“I called my dad back and I said, ‘Dad, he said it cost $500 to get in,’” Marks said.
Marks’ father asked what it was that he was going to do about the situation, knowing his son couldn’t afford that kind of money.
“I was hoping I could borrow the money from you,” Marks had said to his father. “He said, ‘You know, Greg, I have $500 and I could give it to you but if I gave it to you, I’d be doing you a disservice. All the time you were doing drugs, drinking, chasing women and doing all that, you found a way to do it. If you really want to get clean, you’ll find a way to do it.’”
Marks’ father then told him that he loved him and that it was the most difficult thing he had ever done. Marks hung up crying. A few seconds later, however, Marks’ phone rang again. The treatment center had called him back, saying that, if he could get there within the hour, he would be let in for free.
Marks called up a friend, who owned a landscaping company, and asked him to pick him up and take him to the center.
“He had heard me say, ‘I want to go to treatment’ or ‘I want to get better’ a bunch of times, so he was like, ‘Greg, I don’t have time for this,’” Marks said. “I said, ‘If you don’t take me to treatment today, I could be dead by tonight.’”
The friend picked up Marks and he rode in the back of the dump truck to the treatment center where Marks started his road to recovery and, eventually, to where he is today.
Because the treatment center was tied to a church, Marks stayed within the church for about three years. During that time, he had a youth group, did his deaconship and became a licensed minister. After a while, though, Marks decided it was time to go.
Having been addicted to drugs since he was 16-years-old, Marks didn’t feel he ever had the ability to view life through a correct perspective. After he got clean, his perspective became clearer and he felt ready to explore new ideas.
“I wanted to experience what I could do on my own, out in the real world,” Marks said. “So I left the church and that’s when I started work.”
Marks, who had always dreamed of acting, felt scared to pursue his dream. That changed, however, when he watched a certain commercial.
“There was a guy sitting in a chair in the background and that’s all he was doing,” Marks said. “I could do that. I know I could do that, but how do you get to be able to be that guy sitting in the chair in the background?”
Marks researched the career, got himself an agent and started taking the steps to becoming an actor, having never taken a single class.
Marks got some parts in background pieces, working in television commercials and other small parts. With everything in life, however, Marks found himself wanting more.
“It wasn’t enough for me just to be in the background, I wanted to be actually in the scene,” Marks said. “It wasn’t enough for me to be in the scene, I wanted to be the lead. It’s not enough for me to be in a movie, I want to make a movie. It just keeps growing.”
While acting, Marks continued to work a regular job. After a back injury, however, Marks was no longer able to work but was granted L&I as compensation.
Excited, Marks tried to go to film school but wasn’t allowed because it wasn’t considered a secured income. Instead, he decided to come to Pierce College Fort Steilacoom.
In summer 2014, Marks graduated from Pierce College with a degree in fashion merchandising. He’s now worked on fashion shows, is the public relations director for Seattle Fashion Week and is known mostly for fashion and acting in Seattle.
Marks has been in several small parts for big pictures such as Lucky Them, Eden and the television show Grimm. He’s currently working on making his short film, Shift Paradigm, into a full-length feature film.
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