Actor Keith Powers Reflects On Filming The New Edition Story, Becoming An Actor, & More In Our Interview
When you see him, you can’t help but notice him. His talent is just that immense. You may have gotten your formal introduction when you saw him as Dr. Dre’s little brother, Tyree Clayton, in the 2015 biopic film, Straight Outta Compton, or as Theo in MTV’s Faking It. Born and raised in ‘Sactown’, Sacramento, California, Keith Powers has become Hollywood’s new ‘it guy’.
The 24-year-old has already been featured in a number of films and TV shows that have put him on the map as one of the most notable rising actors—and you haven’t seen the last of him yet. Stepping his foot into the entertainment world at the tender age of nine, Powers started out in modeling; however, his heart’s desire was set on a different path. He stopped modeling to focus more on his first love—sports. With dreams of playing pro football, Powers was going to let nothing get in the way of that. After his football aspirations didn’t work out, the model signed to another modeling agency, pursuing modeling, once again.
His distinct look landed him on the set of commercials, being the face of multiple commercial campaigns. Subsequently, Powers also transitioned into the theatrical side, gaining a newfound love for acting. In 2013, he made his acting debut in the film, House Party: Tonight’s The Night. Since then, Powers has been seen in quite a few of your favorites, such as Freeform’s Recovery Road, AMC’s The Fear of The Walking Dead, and Sin City Saints.
His latest victory happens to be snagging one of the leading roles, as New Edition member, Ronnie DeVoe, in the forthcoming 2017 three-part miniseries, The New Edition Story, premiering on BET, January 24th – 26th. The series will tell the story of legendary boy group, New Edition, and their highs and lows on the way to stardom.
Check out our interview with Keith Powers, as he reflects on filming The New Edition Story, what it’s like to be an African-American male in the industry, and his 2017 projects.
Parlé Mag: I think it’s only right to start off by discussing your newest upcoming role in The New Edition Story—in which you will be portraying Ronnie DeVoe. What was the story behind you actually becoming a part of that film?
Keith Powers: I mean, well, I heard about the project way before, of course. Heard about the project, went out for it. When I first went out for it, I was auditioning for Ralph Tresvant. Tested for Ralph Tresvant, didn’t get Ralph Tresvant. Then, they brought me back to play Ronnie DeVoe. Even when they brought me back, I still went through a process to where I was dancing and in boot camp with the other members, who were already cast [in the film]. It felt like I was cast, but I wasn’t really cast yet. One day, after rehearsal, they were just like, “We got some news!”. Then, they basically surprised me with the ‘and, Keith is the latest member to join The New Edition…blah, blah, blah…’. But, it was amazing!
Parlé Mag: Nice! So, how was the process when it came to developing the character and actually bringing Ronnie’s personality to life on screen?
Keith Powers: The process was amazing. I mean, one, it was hard. I had to get down his accent; I had to get down how he talked. I had to get down how he danced. He was a dancer; he was the most effortless dancer. I had to get that down, and I’m not a dancer. That was tough! Also, just getting down the mannerisms. Like, how he moved his hands. I would just watch interviews before going to sleep. I watched interviews for hella long. Just back to back, to back, to back, to back. I would listen to the music all day; I had a CD in my car that just stayed on repeat. So, stuff like that, just to keep my head in that space.
Parlé Mag: What would you say was your favorite part about working on the film, with New Edition and the rest of the cast?
Keith Powers: What was my favorite thing? Well, my favorite thing about it, I think it was just I gained a lot of friends—more friends, and I learned so much about New Edition. I was able to, you know, be a part of something that’s most likely going to be history, and I think that was huge! Man, met so many amazing people, worked with legends, like Michael Rapaport, Wood Harris, and worked with Yvette Nicole Brown. I worked with Lala. I worked with Monica Calhoun!
Parlé Mag: Wow!
Keith Powers: Yeah, it was crazy! It was so many people in our film. DC Young [Fly] makes an appearance in there. [laughs]
Parlé Mag: Really? [laughs]
Keith Powers: Yeah, it gets crazy! We got a lot of people in our film, and it’s very iconic. It’s like this generation’s Temptations.
Parlé Mag: I know that had to be exciting!
Keith Powers: Oh, so exciting!
Parlé Mag: So, as an actor, would you say it’s more challenging to do biopics—being that these characters are based on real people—than it is to play fictional characters?
Keith Powers: Definitely! Way more challenging. It’s stressful. You know what I’m saying? Because it’s like, dang, this is a big deal and responsibility. So, it’s super stressful. But it’s also, at the same time, it’s exciting. It’s like, ‘man, I get to do something like this; I get to be a part of history and a part of something that my parents and everyone loves so much.’. But, it’s definitely no joke; It’s definitely hard. I think the biggest challenge was getting the dances down—knowing I wasn’t a dancer and was playing a good dancer in the group! That was the most challenging, but I got through it.
Parlé Mag: So, besides the New Edition movie, we can also expect to see you in a new drama series, called “Famous In Love”.
Keith Powers: Yep!
Parlé Mag: Could you tell us a little bit about your character, Jordan Wilder?
Keith Powers: Jordan Wilder is—from the outside looking in, he’s the Hollywood bad boy, but he’s also that actor. We play actors in the actual show, which is crazy! It’s kind of like Entourage. But, he’s the guy, the actor, who’s big in the independent festival world, type actor, but he’s also a bad boy, like how Shia LaBeouf was getting into fights, outside of bars, and stuff like that.
Parlé Mag: Right.
Keith Powers: That’s the type of character he is. But, on the inside, once you really get to dig down and see who Jordan is, he’s really like the hopeless romantic type. He’s very caring. Really into his craft. He comes from a crazy background. He’s very misunderstood. I think that’s what I love about him so much because it’s two kinds of sides that he plays. It’s amazing.
Parlé Mag: Now, you started out in modeling and transitioned into acting, what initially made you get into acting?
Keith Powers: Well, I kind of just fell into it, and, when I fell into it, I fell in love, basically. It was the type of thing where, you know, you’re a model and you get one foot in the door and all aspects of the entertainment industry. They asked me if I wanted to get signed, commercially; I got signed, commercially. After that, my agency became theatrical. Then, they got me a manager. My manager basically told me that I had to prove myself or she was going to drop me. I took a bunch of classes; I read a bunch of books. On my third audition—when I got my manager, I booked my first feature film. The rest is history. I fell in love; I got the bug. I just kept taking classes, just doing my craft and sharpening my talents.
Parlé Mag: As an African-American male, coming into such a cutthroat industry, and seeing the limited job opportunities—in all fields, for minorities, did you have any fears when you first started out?
Keith Powers: I didn’t have any fears, but, as I started acting more, it was more so ‘I just want the same opportunities’. You know, as an African-American, we just want the same opportunities as Caucasian actors or any type of other actors. We don’t want to play the typical, stereotypical role. We don’t always want to be that athlete. We don’t always want to be, maybe, the drug dealer or the burglar. You know what I’m saying?
Parlé Mag: Most definitely.
Keith Powers: The only times that we ever really get to step outside of the box is if we’re producing our own films. We may get a role in like a Marvel film or if it’s a biopic. Like, that’s not me complaining or anything. It’s just the politics. It also just shows that we need to have more filmmakers; the more filmmakers we have, the more jobs we have for ourselves. But, yeah, I mean, it’s just the opportunities. I don’t ever feel like I’m treated differently. I feel like I get so much love! I know it’s a business; so I don’t try to get too invested into people because, it’s like, they don’t owe me anything. [laughs] They’re doing their job; they just want to get paid. So, at the end of the day, I just want to do me, but, also, just want to be respectful and just be very professional. I’ve never felt disrespect, off set, or nothing. But, I always felt like the opportunities were slim, though.
Parlé Mag: Who would you say your top five actors are?
Keith Powers: Top five actors are—I don’t know, this is just like commercially, I guess. [laughs] But, it would be Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt.
Parlé Mag: Great picks!
Keith Powers: Yep! I feel like they never fail, for me.
Parlé Mag: Since the beginning, who would you say has been your biggest support system?
Keith Powers: My family. My family has always been behind me. They just always been behind me; they don’t even second-guess it. Anything I’m doing, they rep hard and they talk about it. They just show so much love. So, I would say, my family, in general.
Parlé Mag: What do you think the recipe for maintaining success as an actor is?
Keith Powers: The recipe for maintaining success is staying on your craft, making sure your craft is up to par. Just never giving up. Just keep pushing, as if you’ve never booked a job in your life—if I’m speaking in acting terms. Like, even if you got three projects lined up, act like you don’t have anything. That’s how you got to stay on top of things. It’s also good to study other actors; I think I got to work on that more. But, I’d say, stay in class, stay reading books, stay learning the craft more, and more, and more. So you won’t be rusty. Take different classes. Take improv classes, audition classes, anything you can just to keep your tools sharp and just stay on your game. Just like anything else in life. Like, a sport or anything.
Parlé Mag: What did 2016 teach you?
Keith Powers: 2016 taught me that stuff can happen very fast! I did three projects, back to back, to back, to back, towards the end of the year, and I’m just thinking, like, ‘Dude, just imagine if I would’ve done three at the beginning and three at the end.’. That just shows this stuff could happen so fast. So, just stick to it.
Parlé Mag: Wow!
Keith Powers: Yeah! I don’t know; just stick to it and just know that things can change fast. 2017 could be one of my most important years of my career.
Parlé Mag: Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
Keith Powers: New Year’s resolutions would be to do a couple more films. I want to buy a house.
Parlé Mag: Okay!
Keith Powers: I want to eat better; I need to eat better and continue to work out more.
Parlé Mag: From here, what’s next? What can the fans look to in the months to come?
Keith Powers: The New Edition Story, January 24th, 25th, 26th. Famous In Love, April 18th. Reality High, in the summer!
Photo Credit: Ro.lexx
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