Between starring in “Twelfth Night” and working as a barista at Hillside Grounds on West Campus, Charlie Johnson has his hands full at Azusa Pacific University.
Walking through Duke Commons in the morning before chapel, you’ll likely find Charlie Johnson taking orders from behind the counter at the campus coffee shop. For Johnson, the job is another way to leave an impression on the APU community.
Originally born in Maryland, Johnson has lived almost his entire life just north of Los Angeles in Santa Clarita — or as he describes it, “Awesome-town.” Johnson calls California home and admits his birth in Maryland is “very off-brand” for him.
Although he goes home during holiday breaks, Johnson spends his summers working on Santa Catalina Island as a camp counselor for Catalina Island Camp (CIC). From June to August, he lives and works on the island where he oversees upwards of ten kids each session.
“Catalina Island Camp is probably the best place I have or ever will work. When you work there, you’re part of a work environment that is so refreshing and inspiring; I am so deeply honored to work in such a wonderful setting with amazing people,” he said.
The camp offers a variety of different opportunities for children and teens to experience the outdoors and unplug from technology. Johnson, who previously worked as a cabin counselor, plans to work as the arts and crafts specialist this summer on the island.
“Seeing a camper blossom into a capable and confident individual is such an incredible thing to see unfold. CIC is a safe, supportive and nurturing environment that is designed to provide campers with a unique and enriching experience, and I absolutely treasure the time I get to work there,” he said.
In addition to his work as a barista, Johnson is a member of the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) stage and screen acting program. Growing up roughly an hour from Azusa, his decision to come to APU came down to a moment during his audition for the program.
“Usually when going in for an audition, the panel of people making decisions feel very cold and [like they] are just going through the motions until they can leave. At APU I had the pleasure of auditioning for Kirsten Humer and Alex Hluch, who engaged with me with a smile on their faces, made me feel important and had me leave the audition glowing,” Johnson said.
His resume in the program confirms that coming to APU was the right decision. This year Johnson starred in two mainstage productions for the university: “The Phantom of the Opera” in the fall and “Twelfth Night” most recently. His roles as Ubaldo Piangi and Feste, respectively, were his first principal roles at the university.
“Twelfth Night has been my absolute favorite [show] to be a part of. I played the fool, Feste, and even though my character didn’t like any of the other characters in the show, I adored that cast and crew. The energy was so uplifting, and I seriously appreciate the opportunity that was given to me,” he said.
If you see Johnson around campus, you might notice his tattoo — a small Lego knight adorned with a sword and shield. The character is a living testament to his grandmother and the special bond they shared.
“About a year ago on Easter, my grandma passed away very suddenly. She was a remarkably special person and such an integral part of who I am, so I thought getting a tattoo in honor of her would be a nice tribute,” he explained.
The Lego figure commemorates a family trip to Legoland where his grandmother got Charlie and his brother a full set of toy armor, including a helmet and sword.
“When we got home, we of course wanted to play rescue the princess, which obviously meant grandma had to be the princess! I went into her closet and grabbed this hideous gingham floor-length dress for her to put on, which she did without hesitation. We played together for hours on end, and, even when she was obviously tired, she kept up with us two rambunctious little kids,” Johnson said.
The trip to Legoland and the backyard adventure that ensued remained a core memory that stayed with the Johnson family long after. The Lego knight serves as a constant reminder of that day and the love between family members.
Johnson, a current junior in the BFA program, has plans to audition for anything and everything he can. He plans to stay in Los Angeles while looking for work as an actor although he did share a number of other potential career ideas.
“I’m also very much thinking about becoming a flight attendant. Or a fireman. We’ll see where life takes us,” he said.