For veteran actor Charles Malik Whitfield, the journey is more important than the destination – and right now, Whitfield is on the ride of his life. “Acting isn’t necessarily about who’s the best,” according to Whitfield, ”sometimes it’s about whose spirit is in the right place – spiritual warfare, if you will.”

malik-bioWhitfield currently stars as a series regular in Tyler Perry’s “If Loving You Is Wrong” for OWN. He made his TV debut with a recurring role on the long-running show, “Law and Order.” A contract role on the daytime drama, “One Life to Live,” soon followed. Whitfield has appeared in dozens of prime-time shows, including a series regular role on the CBS drama, “The Guardian.” One of only a handful of actors to have guest-starred in all three CSI franchises (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “CSI: NY,” and “CSI: Miami”), Whitfield’s credits include “The Good Wife,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Supernatural,” “The Mentalist,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” “White Collar,” “Scorpion” and “Castle.”

Whitfield’s role in “Notorious” provided Fox Searchlight with its biggest opening weekend ever, while the home video release of the biopic about Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace led first-week sales, as well. Whitfield’s Showtime movie, “Blue,” won top honors at both the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the American Black Film Festival.

One of Whitfield’s proudest professional moments so far is his starring role in the Emmy-winning mini-series, “The Temptations.” Nominated for an NAACP Image Award for his portrayal of Otis Williams, Whitfield says people still applaud his performance, more than a decade later. “Whether I’m in Cuba, Morocco or South Africa, and people bring me a DVD to have signed, I’m blown away,” Whitfield reflects. “It’s affected so many wonderful people around the world. I never knew growing up that I would play a member of the Temptations, and I don’t believe the Temptations believed that their story would be important or poignant enough to be a told a few decades later.”

On Broadway, Whitfield has performed before audiences at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, winning rave reviews for his roles in critically-acclaimed productions of “The L Word,” “Asylum,” “Shyster,” and “Christ Child.” “There’s nothing as challenging as the theater,” Whitfield notes. “And there’s nothing as rewarding, especially immediately.”

Despite his impressive body of work, Whitfield could have easily ended up on a dramatically different path, if it weren’t for critical decisions he made as a teenager. A native of the Bronx, New York, Whitfield admits, “I came up through the journey of selling drugs. I made my first million dollars at age 14. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s an unfortunate part of my past.” A high school teacher introduced Whitfield to acting, which became an outlet for him to channel his energy and passion. He realized that acting was his true calling after performing a monologue about losing his best friend to the drug wars, at a group home for boys. “This young kid came up to me afterward and said, ‘I felt like you were talking about me.’ And he was crying. He said, ‘I just lost my big brother.’ It moved me. From that moment on, I decided to take it seriously and make it happen.”

With more than 20 films to his credit, Whitfield continues to make it happen alongside some of the biggest names in the entertainment business. Whether acting alongside Gene Hackman in “Behind Enemy Lines,” Jon Voight in “Second String,” or Samuel L. Jackson in “Fresh,” he learns valuable lessons from each experience. “Sam Jackson told me once one of the most important things that helps me dictate what I want to do,” Whitfield reveals. “He said, ‘Malik, why aren’t you doing this?’ I said, ‘I’m just not sure it’s the right move,’ He goes, ‘What do you mean, the right move? You’re an actor. You get paid to act. If it’s a role that you just can’t stand because it takes you out of your personal zone, or something you can’t live with, don’t do it. But other than that, you go out and you act and you go work.’ And that was enough for me.”

But it was an experience on the set of the directorial debut of the late Gregory Hines that changed Whitfield’s approach to his craft. Whitfield recalls a conversation the two had in the middle of shooting “Bleeding Hearts.” “And Gregory Hines said, [which Whitfield recalls with an impeccable impression], ‘Malik, I want to talk to you. And I said, ‘Wow, don’t we have to do the shot?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, well we are.’ And the producers come up: ‘Gregory we need the shot! C’mon, we gotta go now!’ And he said, ‘I’m talking to Malik. Wait!’ And I go, ‘So, what’s up?’ He says, ‘How you doin’?’ [Malik]: ‘I’m good. You wanna talk later?’ He says, ‘No, relax. Take it easy.’ The producers were like, ‘We’re waiting.’ He said, ‘Don’t come back until I get up to go shoot. Everything will be fine.’ And we talked for about 15 minutes and it blew me away how calmly he was able to handle the whirlwind of pressure. Under deadlines and with money burning, here was this man handling it really effortlessly and with so much class and with so much beauty. I just said, ‘Wow, that’s what I want.’ It changed the way I approached everything thereafter.”

In addition to raising his children, Whitfield also finds time to teach an acting class, in an effort to help aspiring thespians develop their craft. He’s in pre-production on an autobiography of his professional and personal journey, which he intends to direct. “As a young kid coming up, I never really believed my voice or anything I had to say meant anything,” Whitfield reflects. “Through acting, I have an opportunity not only to say something, but to be a part of something, saying something. To be a part of that scenario, to have that kind of impact, is something rare and special.”