Check out our chat with actor, producer and writer Melvin Jackson Jr. You know him from HBO The Wire, Everybody Hates Chris and tonight he will be playing Kurtis Blow in BET’s three night miniseries The New Edition Story.
Interview by Stephanie Hodgson
On playing Kurtis Blow, I know you probably had to learn a lot about him to play him. Can you tell me something you’ve learned that you have in common with Kurtis Blow? And also something you learned from playing him.
Something that we have in common…what we both have in common is a love of music. What I learned about Kurtis Blow I learned after playing him because I didn’t want to psych myself out. Sometimes you can learn so much about a person it kind of becomes intimidating, so beforehand I learned the basic stuff. He was first rapper to sign a major deal and the first rapper to tour overseas. Certain things he did helped hip hop. Without him there wouldn’t be any Jay Z or people like that or Run DMC. Reverend Run was actually his DJ. So a lot of people don’t know certain things. He has a great story that needs to be told as well.
Working on the movie, with it being in a different time period, did you find yourself playing more music from that time period than listening to the stuff that is out now?
Of course I am fan of New Edition, so I been playing them forever, so when I knew I was going to be in the movie I was playing it even more and even afterwards now. It’s a part of my life. It’s a real moment—it’s like wow, I’m a part of this movie! So the music is always is embedded in my head –Candy Girl, If It Isn’t’ Love– it’s just a list of hits that go on and on. You don’t even need to find the song to play, you already had it right there in your playlist!
I watched your Empire After Show! Pretty cool! Did you enjoy doing it?
I watched Empire from day one because I loved the whole concept. Me coming from a music background as far managing artists, so I knew that world. The music business! I can relate to that and I can understand that and then it was the way they told the story! It was greatly done. Greatly written. I was a fan. Definitely a fan of Terrence Howard and Taraji, that was already a given. I love what they are doing with the show. I was blessed to do the after show for a show I watched already.
If you could play a role on Empire what type of person would you like to play?
I would definitely like to play a rapper in it. Performing! Or a business person, wearing the suits, you know, business-minded, an executive.
You stay immersed in projects,whether producing, writing or acting. Do you have a preference to work on when acting, webseries, TV or film?
I love TV, because it’s for one thing- consistent! You know when you go on a show when it’s coming out and you know weekly when it will be on. It’s consistent after moving place to place, but I am always open to TV or film– but TV, I love it! Probably my start on The Wire.
You stay busy on a few things at once, so do you have a schedule to keep everything active or do you go by which project presents itself at the time?
Pretty much I go by which project is happening at the time. When I am writing I will definitely work on my writing, when producing a project getting things in order to start filming. I go day by day and by which projects require which type of attention. It is about organizing and being somewhat of a perfectionist about it.
What is it like to produce something and also play a character in it?
It’s amazing to bring something to life and be able to facilitate that by playing a character in it. Especially if it is something you have written as well. It’s kind of like mind blowing, because it’s something I created. It’s almost like birthing a child, to see something you create now come to life.
Does it bother you if an actor changes lines you wrote?
No! Being an actor you need to make the character feel more like you. Some actors are able to do that and add more to it. I’m okay with someone not acting something out as exactly like I wrote it as long as it is not changing the whole dynamic of what I want people to come away with.
You recently spoke out on social media about wanting to be a leader in a love movement and getting people to get along and live with positivity. Can you tell me more about that for people who may have missed that?
Well, it just came out one day. I call myself the leader of the love movement because I feel like it is important to spread love, we spread a lot of hate in this world! I think it is important to spread love and be able to impact people in a positive, not a negative way. I feel like if we can love people and it doesn’t matter what color we are or what nationality we are the world will be so much better because there is so much hate in it and anger. We are angry at the police, we are angry at this person because they look different, we stay angry because this person has more than we have instead of just loving them for who they are as a person-the way God looks at us! It’s very important to me, and so I continue to fight for love. Not to be cliché, but we need to change the world, put more good in the world.
I know you have lived outside the country, can you tell me what that was like and also is there anything that you think that us, as Americans, could stand to learn from other countries?
Living overseas was mind-blowing. It opened my eyes to so many different cultures and allowed me to be able to be around different nationalities, and from that I feel like I’m different. We are all equal and I think there is so much stuff going on overseas that we don’t really understand. Like they are having to use the same water to wash with as to drink it. There is a lot we have that they don’t. They want to come to America because they think our country is so great. We as individuals have to stop complaining about the things that we don’t have and remember the things that we do have and how these third world countries don’t have these things, like shoes to walk in, clothes on their back, the things we take for granted. I was blessed to have that experience at such a young age to be able to go overseas and be able to be globally minded and not just all I know about is my little area. Now I have a global intellect and I am not just stagnant in my area. I can go to different countries and I can do the same thing I do here –to continue to pour out love and mentor people and inspired them.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
My goal is definitely to build a production company so that I will be able to greenlight different projects. A lot of people have projects they are trying to do and actors that are not getting opportunities. I’d like to be able to get them jobs and keep them working because so many talented actors are not working and we continue to utilize the same people over and over, and there is nothing wrong with that but we need some new people in that as well, make some new stars. I want to have a hand in actually changing this industry and how we perceive it, the diversity, the whole thing. Have new faces and be able to keep them working and I want to also be able to tell our stores and to be able to do that we need to have more stuff that we can relate to, not something somebody thinks we can relate to but we know that we can relate to. Tell our stories. So I want to have a hand in that too, producing and greenlighting projects we want to do. There is no reason we cannot do it, we just need to be in the position to do it.
Follow Melvin on social media to keep up with his many projects this year!