On the OWN network, you portray Davis West in the drama series ‘Queen Sugar.’ Discuss your character on the show and what attracted you to the role.
Davis West is a professional basketball player who is married to Charley Bordelon West (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) and she and her siblings Ralph Angel Bordelon (Kofi Siriboe) and sister Nova Bordelon (Rutina Wesley) are the three central characters of the show who inherited their late father’s sugarcane farm.
My character in season one was engraved in this controversial scandal where I was accused of sexual assault and rape and it turned into a downward spiral of all kinds of things for the family, my career and reputation. Where Davis is now is trying to make things right for his wife and son.
What attracted me to the role initially is the fact that Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey were executive producing the project, and as an admirer of their work, I jumped on it. When I read the material and saw the description of the character and what it was about I was ready to dive in. I like playing somewhat reprehensible or controversial characters. I like the conflict and the controversy that can be brought to the viewers— where the character can kind of pull and tug on the audience’s emotions a little bit and get them more engaged. That’s what I like!
What can fans expect from the 2-night Season 2 premiere?
They can expect more of the same energy and themes as season one but it’s even more artistically delicious as I like to call it. You want to just soak it all up from the cinematography to the acting and the music— and more of the universal issues that we are facing in real life today will be touched on even more so. The show will go even more in-depth without giving too much away, but Queen Sugar is still Queen Sugar and it’s going to put you on an emotional roller-coaster. It did the same for us filming it so I know it’s going to the same for everyone else.
What was it like working with the cast during season one?
It was awesome! We got along from day one. I know a lot of people hear that and say “It couldn’t have been that great,” <laughs!> but we have been like family since day one. We don’t get to hang out all the time and do a lot of stuff together because our schedules can be different but when we do get a chance to get together it is a family atmosphere and we have some of the most fun. It’s one of the best cast I’ve ever worked with and I don’t say what I don’t mean. It’s awesome! They are all awesome, great, intelligent, driven and passionate people. I love them!
You are one of eight children and graduated from our father’s alma mater, Alcorn State University, Yay! Tell us what it was like auditioning for the role knowing Oprah and Ava were involved? And would you consider directing in the future?
I’ve always had aspirations of being a director at some point in my career but as far as auditioning for the show, when I auditioned I got called back in to test read and that’s when it really sank in. Before this happened I was ready to give up on acting though it wasn’t by choice it was just life had its peaks and valleys and I was in one of the deeper valleys at the time. When I went in to read for Ava I wasn’t afraid, but excited because I had just had an in-depth conversation about Ava with a close friend of mines maybe a few days before I got the call to fly from Atlanta to Los Angeles to test read. Ava made me feel very comfortable and welcomed. It was an awesome experience knowing that I was there for a reason and not just an audition. Ava is very particular about what she does and I see that now and I understand why I was there. I guess I was what they were looking for so it was such a blessing! To be in the room with her I said, this is not a time to be afraid or to not be me. We talked for like ten minutes and then we did the read. It was one of the best experiences ever because it was brand new. It’s like if you don’t really enjoy a roller-coaster but you get on it anyway and then feel the excitement of it—that’s how I felt being in the room soaking it all in and enjoying the moment.
As far as directing I have actually written a couple of screenplays and I am working on a novel as well. So my creative side is being fed by being on the set with such talented men and women especially the women of the directorial team for Queen Sugar. Last season and this season have been all female directors, and it has given me a new insight on capturing the moment, the best moments because it brings about a balance that I think has been long overdue— and that is to have the perspective of a woman who is passionate about what she does and has lived life… that specific voice, it adds a certain flavor that we haven’t had in a while on television and to a have that be the mainstay for the show and watching it gives me an incentive and more motivation to learn what goes on behind the camera as I see how they work, the technical stuff like lighting and things like that… and how the directors look to see and find those little moments and morsels that adds so much more to the storyline or what I like to call it, “the artistic deliciousness of it all.”
You authored the book “Who the Hell Do I Think I Am,” which included a self-help portion for readers. What made you write this type of book?
Well, the self-help book “Who the Hell Do I think I Am” was written during a period I found to be necessary because I wasn’t happy with who I was. It wasn’t that I was not satisfied as far as success or external things but more so with who I was and how I saw myself on the inside. I knew I could be better and I just started going through all these different things and taking a personal inventory; an emotional, mental and sociological inventory—not to say there was anything wrong with me sociologically it’s just my psyche is such that I go in deep about myself to find my own truth because there is one person in this world no one can lie to and that is him or herself. I decided to be honest with myself and see what it was that could make me better in a world that I think needs that kind of stuff and I came up with different concepts, categorized them and it just flowed. I didn’t even expect to write the book. It really began with me writing different things that I wanted to focus on as far as changing myself and later I said, Oh, Let me publish it and put it on Amazon.
What advice would you give to young men and women who want to get into the same profession as yourself?
One thing I do and something that I suggest is to speak only what you want. We all have the power of manifestation to some degree. I would do this early in my career and wonder and hope that nothing negative happened; hoping that I didn’t bomb and things like that. So I just got into this groove of speaking what I wanted and not giving up on it. Like I said earlier, I was ready to give up on acting, but I knew I was always going to come back to it. My advice: Never…ever…ever stop! Keep chipping away at it, keep going at it even when you think this is it, you’re done! You don’t have anything left. Know that you always have something left and something to give. Believe that you are worthy of it and you can achieve it. There will be a lot of competition but I’m telling you— coming from a person who was at a very low point in their life things turned around for me literally in a matter of twenty-four hours.
Interview by the Twins of Media
Photo credit: Tarji Michelle Smedley
Video courtesy of Twitter/ Queen Sugar
— Queen Sugar (@QueenSugarOWN) May 22, 2017