“I believe it’s my most honest work to date.”

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13. Okay, so I want to switch gears and talk about one of your other passions: acting. From The New Edition Story to Star, Little, and now you’re on The Chi. What has been one of your favorite behind-the-scenes moments from working on the show?

I really respect the entire cast. I get full when I’m around people who are constantly pushing the envelope in their craft. Curtiss Cook, who plays Douda, man, I love the cat man. I love to just break bread with him. He’s a classically trained actor and I’m not, but I’m a sponge and I’m a child of the arts, so he’s awesome and always pouring that knowledge into me. I appreciate that camaraderie, so those are the moments that mean the most to me. Although it doesn’t feel that way on camera, it’s actually all love off camera.

14. Your character Trig is dating a trans woman, which received mixed reactions from fans, especially people from the Black community. Why was it important for you to tell this story?

I want to be of service. While I’m in my youth, I want to walk in that light and be of service. I feel that the world is in need of understanding. Us, as the Black community, have been in pain for so long, and there’s just things that we need to let go that don’t help us. It doesn’t help us to look down on someone for their differences, when all they want is love. How could you be upset with that? If you’ve ever been to a pride parade, how could you be mad at that? It’s nothing but love, joy, fun, laughter, expression, freedom, and strength. I believe in art that helps activate that bit of consciousness that makes people think and see the world differently. These stories are real people. There are people dying. There are trans women who are being killed, being beaten, being hurt, feeling ashamed to love, and not feeling protected by their own people. I want to show the dynamic of a man who can love someone who’s able to love him. He has his own fights, he has his own ideas of who he is, but that’s also because of the world and how the world views him.

And, like all of us, we’re not given the freedom to be who we are in our full complexity, and we’re very complex people and sometimes, in a lot of ways, we can be our own worst enemy. That is why we have a lot of hypermasculinity within our community. That’s killing us. We need art, because art changes and shakes things up. We need art to help bust those walls down to even start the conversation. Positive or negative, either way, it’s a conversation we’re having. Love is love, and one thing ain’t got nothing to do with the other. Ultimately, just mind your business. It’s like if a person is not robbing, stealing, killing, what’s that got to do with you. It’s important to show these types of stories. These people are real and it’s unfair to not be able to see yourself on TV. It’s unfair to not be able to see yourself on shows that are supposed to be depicting real life. The real world is here and it’s going to pass you by and you’ll be dealing with this hate that has nothing to do with anyone else but yourself. And Black people, we laugh a lot and we love, and that’s our power. Don’t adapt to this other bullshit that America has given us.

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