Darryl Phipps was a troubled eighth-grade foster child in Goldthwaite when a man who would become one of his mentors challenged him.

Heath Henry asked Phipps if he was going to use his past as an excuse for being in trouble — or as a testimony to show how a young man could overcome his past and become a role model.

Phipps, a 27-year-old Brownwood High School graduate, chose the latter, overcoming his past as “a very troubled kid on a wrong path.”

“You don’t have to stay that way,” Phipps said.

Phipps lives in Manhattan, where he is pursuing an acting career. While earning money as an actor, he’s not yet where he wants to be and supplements his acting income by catering and teaching karate. He hopes that will change, and has made plans to move to Los Angeles.

Phipps was in Brownwood recently for a friend’s wedding.

A polite, friendly man, Phipps discussed his acting career and a past that included witnessing his mother beat his 7-year-old sister to death.

His current project, a Web-based, action-adventure series called “Guardian,” will begin shooting in December and has an initial release scheduled for January 2010. Phipps has the lead role. The show will be available via Web sites including YouTube, MySpace and HeadShotFilms.com.

While Phipps is an actor, the earlier events in his life weren’t roles.

Born in Queens, N.Y., he never knew his father. At the age of 1, he and other relatives moved to Cleveland, Texas, at the behest of a relative who lived there.

Phipps was 11 when his mother became angry with his 7-year-old sister and began beating her. His mother made him hold down his sister’s legs as the beating continued, and the girl died. Phipps’ mother was arrested and sentenced to prison, and Phipps entered foster care. As a foster child, he lived in a home in Goldthwaite. In school, he was in trouble frequently for “acting out” and mouthing off. That led to Heath Henry’s challenge.

Phipps later lived in a foster home in Brownwood, and he did well in high school, playing football, learning karate and getting interested in acting.

After high school, Phipps attended Cisco Junior College and later joined the Texas State Guard. In July 2007, Phipps moved to Manhattan, determined to pursue his acting dream. He graduated from an acting school.

His pursuits were interrupted in June 2009, when Phipps found himself in the 35th District Courtroom, facing Judge Steve Ellis. He pleaded no contest to sexual assault of a child in a case involving Phipps when he was a teenager and dating an underaged girl. They had a sexual relationship, but the girl was not old enough to legally consent.

Phipps nearly took a plea bargain that would have sent him to prison for a short time, but he decided to plead no contest and face the judge for punishment.

Neither Phipps’ ex-girlfriend – now a woman in her 20s – nor her parents wanted to see Phipps prosecuted. There was testimony of a single altercation between the two in which the girl’s arms were bruised, and Ellis convicted Phipps of misdemeanor assault. Ellis sentenced him to 11 days in the Brown County Jail, with credit for time already served.

Now, Phipps hopes to accelerate his acting career. He said he doesn’t strive for fame and fortune – his goal is to be a working actor and an example for others to emulate in following their dreams.

One of his biggest influences, he said is “God, because I’m very spiritual now.” He is single, and figures God will steer him to the right wife.

Phipps’ attorney from the court case, John Lee Blagg, said he thinks Phipps has a promising future and has “a lot going for him” including a pleasant personality and strong work ethic.

“He’s really overcome a lot of difficulties. He’s done extremely well,” Blagg said. “In high school he set some pretty large goals for himself. He’s a good guy and I think he’s got a good future ahead of him.”