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Why this NCIS star is offering a 'hand up, not a hand out' to those experiencing homelessness in Santa Barbara

Actor Duane Henry starred in NCIS and revealed his motivation for helping those experiencing homelessness in Santa Barbara
Duane Henry
Actor Duane Henry starred in NCIS and revealed his motivation for helping those experiencing homelessness in Santa Barbara

Duane Henry, who played Clayton Reeves in NCIS, told KCLU that he experienced homelessness himself and now is focused on helping others.

He played M16 Intelligence Operative Clayton Reeves in NCIS.

But for Duane Henry, the path to small screen success wasn’t paved with gold.

"I'm from a small city in Birmingham. Very working class, blue-collared," he told KCLU.

Henry said he grew up on the same street as rock star Ozzy Osbourne - but that's where their similarities end.

"I come from a predominant West Indian background. You know, my granddad came from Jamaica in the Windrush era in the mid to late 60s, so I'm black British Caribbean descent. So yeah, it was tough," said Henry.

The actor said he was raised by a single mom, who welcomed him as a teenager.

"I grew up in a single parent household. My mum had me when she was young -16. She was always my protector, and so I didn't really know the ins and outs of any struggles until I got a bit older and looked back and was like, 'Oh wow, we went through it', you know? But at the time, I think as long as you have love it kind of cushions a lot of this stuff, you know? So yeah, it was a bit tough growing up. Didn't always have what I wanted, but I had what I needed apparently," he said.

Before landing his big break as the series regular role on the hit military police procedural series, Henry found himself homeless.

"I was homeless! The first year I got here [California] was very tough. I met a couple of friends, you know, couch surfing, trying to figure it out. And Hollywood wasn't as glamorous as I thought it was. I thought it was going to be paved with gold and everything was amazing. But no, the reality hit me. I was like, damn, it's tough here," he said.

"There's a lot of people struggling and going through it. And I guess it was just I was just a bit naïve when I first got here, but I used that drive even more to figure it out. So it was tough - the homelessness, you know, and I'd been homeless on and off for a while. Everyone's been through this. It's not just me. I'm not special. People have been homeless before. Fortunately, I didn't obviously have to stay on the streets, but there were times where I'd crash in a car or two or just stay up," he said.

By day, he was living the Hollywood dream – even auditioning with Jennifer Lopez. He’s now turned his experience of not having a place to call his own, without security or privacy, into seeking ways to help others in the same position and has become an advocate for those who find themselves experiencing homelessness amid rising prices and a lack of affordable housing, especially in Santa Barbara, where he now lives.

"It's always stuck with me. So I've always said, no matter what it's going to happen in my life, I'm always going to resonate with the homeless," he said.

"Even in London I was homeless, I was in emergency accommodation. I was there probably for about a month or 2 or 3 months. I don't know what it was. A lot of vulnerable people in there, and even when I was living now, I was still acting. I'm still doing my thing. I did a Michael Winterbottom film called The Road to Guantanemo, in Iran, which was incredible. I was in Tehran," he said.

"I love Santa Barbara. They're going to set precedents in terms of what we're doing with the homeless community here with the self contained tiny homes. They haven't seen it being done anywhere else, so it's a great launching pad, and I'm glad to be a part of it, even if I can just lend my voice on my face when and how I could," said Henry.

"I always have like, not a handout, but hand up."

And while Henry might have his eyes on the stars, he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 7 Golden Mike Awards, 4 Los Angeles Press Club Awards and 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for ten years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.