Charles Everett Whitaker III didn’t go to Hollywood to become a famous actor. Instead, in 2005, the now 38-year-old packed a duffle bag and his laptop, cleaned out his bank account and set out to become a screenwriter and film director.
In 2019, Whitaker debuted his young-adult novel “The Red Rover: Origins,” and in July he released the sequel, “Clash of the Celestials.”
“My mom kept telling me, ‘You can’t get famous in my living room,’” he said. “That’s why I left. I was treading water in New York, even though New York is the town where a lot of great things can happen.”
Whitaker recently worked as a set assistant for the director Guy Ritchie on “The Gentlemen,” starring Colin Farrell, Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam and Hugh Grant, for Miramax/STC. He also worked on Kenneth Bran-agh’s fantasy adventure “Artemis Fowl.” Both films are expected to be released next year.
Whitaker was selected as a finalist in the Warner Bros. Emerging Film Directors Workshop in 2016. His credits include a sports feature, “B Squad,” and a political-drama pilot, “Capitol Hill,” and he wrote, directed and produced two short films, “The Forgotten Man” and “The Real Wannabees of Hollywood.”
Originally from Hollis, Queens, Whitaker graduated from Bayside High School in 1999. He went on to Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., graduating in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in radio and television production.
While he was away at school, his parents divorced, and his mother, Deboran Whitaker, moved to south Freeport.
“I came home from college, and my stuff was in black trash bags,” he recalled. “I had to start over in Freeport.”
His first week in the village, he got a Freeport Memorial Library card. The library became his place to think, his “home.” He eventually found a job in the city, as an assistant to actress Kathy Bates. He also dabbled in standup comedy, and spent his evenings at the Gotham Comedy Club in the East Village.
“I did comedy to grab some attention,” he said. “But as much as I love comedy . . . I had to make a conscious decision to find a format for a larger audience, so I thought [TV and film] was best for me in the long term.” So he was off to L.A.
Coming home this year was special for Whitaker, because his return followed the debut of his young adult novel. The last time he visited Freeport was eight years ago, and he said he was eager to get to the library to share his books with staff members and young readers.
“‘Red Rover’ is a ‘Harry Potter’-meets- ‘Star Trek’ series,” he said.
Set in the 23rd century, the “Red Rover” series is a space exploration story about seven teenagers aboard the Rover Base Alpha space station, searching for a new planet to colonize. The book chronicles the teens’ adventures in military and survival skills training.
In the second novel, “Clash of the Celestials,” the story picks up with the teens landing on a new planet where welcoming inhabitants meet them, but eventually, a series of events makes things go awry.
Whitaker’s plan is to make “Red Rover” into an eight-book series, with the third book, “Frequency of Distress: A World in Captivity,” due to be released soon, though he didn’t give a specific date. Eventually, he wants to turn the series into a film franchise. He acknowledges that becoming an author wasn’t part of the plan, but it’s a part of his journey.
Freeport librarian Cindy Soto, head of the Children’s Department, welcomed Whitaker to the library on Sept. 5. He presented Soto with signed copies of “Red Rover: Origins” and “Clash of the Celestials.”
“He’s a great role model for our kids,” Soto said. “We can’t wait for him to return to share more of his work with our kids.”
Soto said she was excited to get her hands on Whitaker’s books, because most Freeport authors write for adults. She stressed the importance of helping young readers connect with books outside the classroom.
“As the kids get older, reading isn’t something they do on their own time, aside from what is required at school,” Soto said. “We want to keep them interested in reading that isn’t required in school.”
Other well-known children’s and young-adult writers who have visited the Freeport library include Jason Reynolds, Tomie dePaola and M.L. Green. On Nov. 15, Peter Lerangis, author of “The 39 Clues,” will meet with fifth- and sixth- graders from Caroline G. Atkinson School at the library.
Whitaker is expected to host a reading for Freeport’s young-adult readers at a later date.
The library has a collection of Freeport authors’ signed books in its Long Island room. Whitaker’s books will now be added to that collection.