“Staying true to myself. I’m odd. Some have called me quirky.” Q&A with Detroit Legal News #lmamkt

Thank you, Sheila Pursglove, Joel K. Epstein, Brian Cox, Brad Thompson, and crew! Front page above the fold TWO WEEKS in a row? It’s the hair, isn’t it? Tell me it’s the hair. In all seriousness, thank you for the kindness, friendship, and support – it means the world.

Link to full Q&A: https://legalnews.com/detroit/1519502/

Roy Sexton leads Clark Hill Law’s marketing, branding, and communications efforts in collaboration with the firm’s team of marketing and business development professionals. He has nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, business development, and strategic planning.

Sexton is passionate about problem solving, facilitating business growth, crafting communications strategy, and enhancing law firm culture. He works closely with the marketing team to advance the firm’s digital and social media presence and external engagement, using multi-channel distribution and data collection. This enables the team to quantify results and use those results to produce thoughtfully and strategically organized content for clients and prospects. He also advises attorneys on marketing and business development strategy by curating relationships among external publications and media outlets and creating the appropriate platforms and opportunities for attorneys to promote their knowledge and practice.

A resident of Saline, Sexton has been heavily involved regionally and nationally in the Legal Marketing Association – LMA International (LMA) as a board member, content expert, and presenter. He will serve as the LMA’s president in 2023. In addition, Sexton is a published author of two books: “ReelRoyReviews,” Volumes 1 and 2.

What would surprise people about your job?

People still seem pleasantly surprised that I have a global focus. Clark Hill is a huge firm with an international footprint, and, while Michigan will always be home, my responsibilities span the U.S., Mexico, and Ireland. And my fab boss Susan Ahern, our CMBDO, is based in Dublin. I’ve learned to become quite savvy about time zones!

What’s your favorite law-related TV show?

I always say “The Good Wife.” The trials and tribulations of Alan Cumming’s character in particular. In a law firm, no two days are the same when you hold a marketing role. It’s thrilling and sometimes comical how your work runs the gamut from the sublime to, well, I won’t finish that sentence.

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be?

Weird as this is to type, I’d trade places with my mom Susie Sexton (who recently passed) so she could have a good chance to say goodbye. She left this world rather abruptly (heart attack), and, having sheltered away for months and months because of COVID, I don’t know that she got a chance to reconnect with people she loved before she vanished. I don’t mean all that to seem as dour as it reads, but I wish she’d had one truly happy day before she was gone.

What do you do to relax?

My inner introvert shines on days off. Admittedly, I have to get through any and all chores first. I also eat the things I don’t much like on my plate first too. But once I’m free and clear, it’s pajamas, comic books, bad pop music, playing with our fur baby Hudson, having a quiet dinner with my husband, and watching some escapist TV.

What other career path might you have chosen?

I have a master’s degree in theatre and thought for a while that I would get a Ph.D. and go into academia. But I wanted to eat. I still wonder what would have happened if I’d tried the “chuck it all and audition for Broadway/Hollywood” route also. But I have such a happy and fulfilling life that I have zero regrets.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self?

Enjoy the moments with people you might not know you will see again. We are always all so enmeshed in petty dramas or accomplishing some task or rushing off to the next event that we miss the moments that matter. I wish I’d curbed my rampant collecting habits (books, movies, music, toys) early on and put more energy into collecting experiences. And I wish I’d enjoyed being skinny! I was so self-conscious back then about not looking like a Men’s Health model, and I should have just appreciated being me!

Favorite local hangouts?

Seva Ann Arbor has become our “Cheers.” We are vegetarians and still a bit cautious about getting out and about too many places. The food is glorious but it’s the staff who have made us feel so welcome and loved. Every Saturday night – and sometimes Fridays too. I also am a bit obsessed with Target, and I love Vault of Midnight (comic book shop). I really need to get a life!

Favorite websites?

http://www.cbr.com (Comic Book Resources), http://www.ew.com (Entertainment Weekly), http://www.micechat.com (Disney news), http://www.actionfigureinsider.com (what it sounds like!), and http://www.cnn.com

Favorite app?

Oh, I’m such a menace on all social media apps. And I still love iTunes/Apple Music (lord, I’m a dinosaur). And Layout is a great little app for simple photo collages.

Favorite music?

I’m a gay man raised in the ’80s: Madonna, Janet Jackson, Tori Amos, Cher, Whitney Houston, George Michael, New Order, Kylie Minogue, Annie Lennox, k.d. lang … basically any and all dance pop with a slight edge to it. And that sensibility continues: Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry … well, you get the gist.

What is your happiest childhood memory?

I didn’t have many birthday parties. I am an only child, but it just wasn’t something we did. My birthday is December 28, which coincided with my parents’ wedding anniversary. Smack dab in the middle of the holidays, not super conducive to adding another gathering to the mix. But I remember one (of two) childhood parties where my parents, grandparents, and a couple of friends all gathered in our dining room for cake and ice cream. And it was all just quiet and loving and warm. I had a wonderful childhood, and have so many memories but that one sticks out right now as I just turned 50!

What is your most treasured material possession?

When he died, my grandfather Roy Duncan left me his mother’s college ring with “1900” (her graduation year) emblazoned across it. He wore it every day of his life, and I’ve worn it every day of my life since he passed in 1983. In fact, my fingers are so fat now I can’t remove it even if I wanted to. And I don’t! I just think it’s a beautiful reminder of legacy.

What do you wish someone would invent?

Something that makes everyone less reactionary and adversarial over the smallest things. As I age, I just find it harder and harder to understand why people point out flaws, undercut others, argue to prove a point … it’s just so much time wasted. And when I’m being ugly or receiving ugliness, I just feel it as tension in my chest, and I don’t know why people want to walk around like that.

What has been your favorite year so far and why?

2000 – the year I met my husband. It was also a very tough year – I came out to my parents (didn’t go well … like spectacularly so) and John ended up getting a foreign assignment in Japan just months after we met. But it was a year that brought him into my life, it was a year that taught me resilience, and it was a year that set me on a path to genuine happiness.

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been?

Tokyo, Japan when I was in high school. The U.S. Senate had a program in the ‘80s with Youth for Understanding where they sent two “youth ambassadors” from each state to Japan for the summer. I’d never been anywhere. To be immersed in such a vibrant, dynamic, bustling environment with so much to see and try and do, it was overwhelming in all the best ways. A transformative summer. I still feel electricity in my bones when I’m in big city like that.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?

Help everyone be a bit kinder. It’s easy and lazy to be mean. It takes a little effort to show appreciation. But is so much more rewarding.

What’s one thing you would like to learn to do?

Play the piano. Not ever gonna happen. I’ve tried a few times. I don’t have the discipline. But I wish I could accompany myself as a singer. Would save money!

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I wrote a column for our hometown paper in high school. It was called “AdoleSENSE” and was about my experience in small town America. I also wrote the occasional feature story, and the longer they were, the more money I got. I could write a LOT … which bought me more comic books. I also won the national PTA Reflections writing contest three (or four?) years in a row in elementary school.

If you could have dinner with three people, past or present, who would they be?

Jennifer Garner, Wanda Sykes, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Mindy Kaling, Kelly Ripa, Parker Posey, Aidy Bryant, and Jane Fonda. Yes, I know that is triple the requested number. This answer has evolved for me over the years. Now I just want to have dinner with nice people who will make me laugh or inspire me.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

From my boss Susan Ahern: “Take the pause. Not everything has to be rushed. Pick up the phone before the e-mails escalate. You don’t need to feel pressured to entertain or make everyone laugh. Just be.” It’s a paraphrased compilation of thoughts, but her advice has been transformative.

Favorite place to spend money?

Seva Ann Arbor, Target, Vault of Midnight … and Amazon.com! Heaven help me.

What is your motto?

“It’s okay to not be okay.” Something more recent, but I have a lapel pin with that thought and I wear it frequently. As much to remind myself as anyone else!

Which living person do you most admire?

My dad Don Sexton has been through a lot the past couple of years. He retired, lost my mom, began a new relationship with a wonderful soul, transformed his home (still working on that), travels, and has remained buoyant and resilient throughout. I admire how he has embraced life when others might have crumbled. It’s kept me from crumbling myself just to observe!

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Staying true to myself. I’m odd. Some have called me quirky. But (mostly) I’ve not twisted myself into some unrecognizable version of Roy to get ahead or to be liked. At least I hope that’s the case!

What is the most unusual thing you have done?

I don’t know if this qualifies, but my husband John Mola is a fan of the singing group 98 Degrees. Over the years, we’ve seen them multiple times as they’ve devolved into a career of casino performing. Consequently, their meet and greets are pretty affordable, and we’ve gotten to the point of affirmative facial recognition from them when we show up! Jeff Timmons even follows me on Twitter. Ah, we’ve arrived!

“America is just one big strip club.” Hustlers, IT Chapter Two, and Theatre Nova’s latest production Admissions

  • [Image Source: Wikipedia]

    “… the ‘Horatio Alger myth’: a teenage boy works hard to escape poverty. Often it is not hard work that rescues the boy from his fate but rather some extraordinary act of bravery or honesty. The boy might return a large sum of lost money or rescue someone from an overturned carriage. This brings the boy—and his plight—to the attention of a wealthy individual.” – Wikipedia entry on author Horatio Alger
  • [Image Source: Wikipedia]

    “America is just one big strip club … You have people tossing the money and people doing the dance.” – Jennifer Lopez’ “Ramona” in Hustlers
  • “From one angle … motherhood can be viewed as one long journey of overcoming obstacles. I salute mothers everywhere who overcome obstacles with grace, courage and tenacity. … There was this huge obstacle in the way that needed to be fixed for my daughter’s sake.” – amalgamation of quotes from scandal-ridden Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman
  • “Motherhood is a kind of madness.” – Jennifer Lopez’ “Ramona” in Hustlers

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

America is a “land of opportunity,” that is, if you are on the right side of the carnival game. This fall’s cinematic completion of Stephen King’s classic novel It, directed again as a labor of love by Andy Muschietti, opens with a grown man defeating a little girl in one such street fair contest and then magnanimously leaning down, whispering in her ear “thank you for letting me win,” and handing her the ugly stuffed frog (I think it was a frog?) he receives as a prize. It is as warm a moment as it is pandering, the young man’s buddy looking on admiringly. As the two men wander away, they lock in an embrace. Things aren’t what they seem. Moments later they are victims of one of the most brutal gay bashings I’ve seen on screen, the result of malevolent Pennywise the Clown’s supernatural influence on an already provincial, ugly, small-minded Maine town. (Truth be told, small-minded small towns are one of King’s favorite literary targets, God love him). There’s your American dream, folks, in one cynical, tragic, and heartbreaking 15 minute sprawl. [King based the incident in his novel on a real-life hate crime in Bangor, Maine, in 1986, at a time when few people would publicly address such horror.]

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

Hustlers, written and directed with sizzle and sass by Lorene Scafaria, brings Jennifer Lopez, the actor, back on screen in a fiery mama lion performance, the likes of which we haven’t seen from her in years. Lopez is a multi-hyphenate talent and by all accounts a pretty likable human being, but she has not been willing to play anything other than that on screen in a long time. Her stripper den mother Ramona avails herself of the 2008 financial crisis and the ugly stew of capitalistic greed, toxic masculinity, rampant misogyny, female objectification, and weaponized sexuality that seems to be Wall Street’s stock-in-trade (if the movies are to be believed … paging Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko). Imagine if Magic Mike were written and produced by the team who put together The Big Short.

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

Ramona and her pals (a dynamite ensemble that includes Crazy Rich AsiansConstance Wu, Akeelah and the Bee‘s Keke Palmer, and Riverdale‘s Lili Reinhart with crackerjack supporting turns by Julia Styles, Trace Lysette, Mercedes Ruehl, and singers Cardi B and Lizzo) gleefully (and illegally) flip the script on predatory men, drugging them, dragging them to strip clubs, draining their corporate credit cards, and leaving them in a heap of deflated machismo, far too embarrassed to press any charges. The women’s motivation? A mix of revenge, justice, and primarily a desire to provide better lives for their daughters, grandmothers, and other women in their lives.

[Image Source: Theatre NOVA’s Facebook Page]

The third leg of that “American dream”? College education and that carnival game that is the admissions process are addressed with incisive wit, searing criticism, and deft balance in the timely Michigan premiere of Joshua Harmon’s play Admissions by Ann Arbor’s Theatre NOVA, directed with aplomb by David Wolber. (Note: this show must be a beast to learn and to mount, with its zig-zagging clutch of monologues and whiplash inducing reversals of philosophy. I suspect Wolber and cast must share the kind of  brainpower required to complete the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in record time.)

Hill and Burcon [Image Source: Theatre NOVA’s Facebook Page]

In Admissions, a cheerfully smug couple Sherri and Bill, both working in administration at a New England prep school (Diane Hill and Joe Bailey, both at the top of their games here), are faced with the consequences of their own best liberal intentions to create “balanced diversity” at Hillcrest (the setting of the piece) when their own son, a student there, is wait-listed for Yale University. Their boy Charlie – a brilliant whirlwind of well-meaning confusion and privileged petulance in Jeremy Kucharek’s thoughtful performance – is passed over by Yale in favor of his best friend at Hillcrest (and the child of his parents’ best friends), a young man of color, whom Charlie believes to be “less accomplished than himself.” As you can imagine, in the grand tradition of school-based satiric comedies like God of Carnage or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, matters escalate and spiral quickly. Cynthia Szczesny as Sherri’s befuddled assistant and Sarah Burcon as Sherri’s best pal Ginnie serve as a kind of de facto Greek chorus, highlighting the absurdity of the situation and the dire consequences of good intentions that are as ego-driven as they are divorced from day-to-day reality.

Bailey, Hill, and Kucharek [Image Source: Wikipedia]

I don’t want to spoil the twists and turns the narrative takes, but, suffice it to say this is neither a play the MAGA crowd will love nor one any Bernie Bros will embrace. Admissions casts a pretty scathing eye on us all and the mechanisms we craft to make a better world in our own images (whatever we believe those images to be). The title, of course, is a play on words: the literal use of “admissions” in terms of higher education and the figurative in terms of those honest truths we can’t bear to say out loud. A special shout out to Daniel C. Walker’s brilliant and economical use of Theatre NOVA’s warm, inviting, but challenging physical space. The use of a turntable to contrast home and office is smart, efficient, and (perhaps unintentionally) symbolic of the topsy turvy nature of the play itself.

[Admissions runs through October 13 and tickets may be purchased at www.theatrenova.org.]

And now back to It, Chapter Two. The first film nailed the pastoral qualities of youth in America, with that bubbling, malevolent, churning undercurrent of impending adulthood, cultural manipulation, and familial and societal abuse that Stephen King does so very well. The second film – not dissimilar to the second half of the 1990 ABC mini-series – suffers structurally in that the Losers Club are reunited in adulthood, seemingly all amnesiac to the horrifying events of their youths at the hands of ugly townspeople, parents, bullies, and Pennywise himself. It, Chapter Two is at its strongest in flashbacks to the children of the first film, filling in the gaps of the fateful summer depicted in Chapter One.

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

 

That said, the adult cast of Chapter Two – including Mamas Jessica Chastain, Trainwreck‘s Bill Hader, X-Men‘s James McAvoy, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransome, and Andy Bean – do yeoman’s work selling the turmoil of adults, who have successfully “forgotten” the abuses of small town American living to achieve material success (if not emotional happiness) in the “big city.” Pennywise, brilliantly played again to maximum creepiness by Bill Skarsgard, is the inversion of the Horatio Alger myth and more likely a corollary to the true American experience. It is not a helping hand magnanimously offered that pulls someone up the corporate ladder, once said individual has demonstrated his or her “heart of gold;” it is fear, it is persecution, and it is one heaping chip on one’s shoulder, propelling us onward toward “happiness,” the achievement of which may never be all it’s cracked up to be.  If there’s a through-line in the three very disparate entertainments I took in this weekend, it’s that.

  • “The essential and defining characteristic of childhood is not the effortless merging of dream and reality, but only alienation. There are no words for childhood’s dark turns and exhalations. A wise child recognizes it and submits to the necessary consequences. A child who counts the cost is a child no longer.” – Stephen King, Salem’s Lot.

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Reel Roy Reviews is now TWO books! You can purchase your copies by clicking here (print and digital). In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the first book is currently is being carried by BookboundCommon Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.