[EXCLUSIVE] MAMOUDOU ATHIE: PATTI CAKE$
The new film, Patti Cake$, which stars Mamoudou Athie is one of those films that could easily become the next blockbuster. Already being heralded as a classic, the film follows the story of aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski, also known as Patti Cake$ & Killa P, who is striving to become that next great inspiration in hip-hop. Immediately, the film touches on and conquers the idea and premise of someone defeating the odds to live and follow their passion in life. We’ve had the opportunity to screen the film, and it’s such an amazing story that will inspire a world of aspiring entertainers and beyond.
We were blessed with the opportunity of speaking with Mamoudou Athie about the film, and his role in the film, which drops tomorrow!
U.G. Digital Mag: I really treasure today’s conversation so much. I’ve been able to hear so many positive things in reference to this new film, and of course, being able to screen it for myself was the icing on the cake. So many people are talking about it. Talk about doing this film.
Mamoudou Athie: I’m really fortunate. I initially got the script, and I hadn’t read the entire thing because at first, I was like “this guy isn’t for me. I wasn’t sure it would work out because off the jump, I just didn’t know about this dude. Long story short, one of my best friends who I went to school with, we did ‘The Get Down” together, and his name is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and he’s a fantastic actor. This role had been in my mind ever since I read the entire script, and the casting director, Jessica Kelly, was very vocal, thinking I should go in for this. I just didn’t think I was the guy. Once I finally read the script I thought it was fantastic. By this point, I thought it was cast already. My buddy Yahya met Jeremy and he called me, saying the role wasn’t for him because he thought he was too old for it, but he thought it would be good for me. I auditioned a couple of times, and was just like Geremy Jasper was a fucking beast. I had to work with him. That’s kinda how we started. Geremy has been nothing but amazing and supportive ever since.
U.G. Digital Mag: There have been rave reviews so far, even looking at The New York Times, and hearing from the many people who have seen it already. What I enjoyed the most is there are so many stereotypes in hip-hop, and when you look at the film, it’s easy for people to look and instantly judge, but it really is an amazing movie. I love the entire story that resonates, with the idea of this legend in the making with Danielle Macdonald, and I think the film is really good.
Mamoudou Athie: She’s amazing in it. Geremy wrote a beautiful nuance with really diverse characters, and everyone is so relatable, from Danielle and Bridget, to Cathy, Sid, and more. It was a joy to be on set everyday.
U.G. Digital Mag: There’s some really powerful people here.
Mamoudou Athie: It’s really a special group. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but it’s so true. I’ve been very fortunate to work with people that I have wanted to work with. I genuinely get along with all of the cast, and these guys, we hang out when we’re in the same city. It’s like a really tight-knit family, and I know it seems so corny to say, but it’s true.
U.G. Digital Mag: When you think back at seeing the script, and not thinking it was for you, what was steering you away? Why did you feel it wasn’t for you?
Mamoudou Athie: I grew up in a very religious background, and I looked at it like it was the anti-christ [laughing]. That was honestly my whole thing. I felt uncomfortable with it. But when I finally met Geremy, and I also had been silently obsessing over it, I said I’d see what it actually what it was. It wasn’t what it appeared to be on the surface. There was way more nuance, and a lot more going on than I anticipated and gave credit for. I pinch myself everyday because I almost passed this amazing opportunity up, and it’s kinda crazy.
U.G. Digital Mag: Knowing your experience, and having completing the film, what are your thoughts now in how you feel it will do?
Mamoudou Athie: Everyone I’ve met who have seen it felt it was good. What else are they going to say, like, we hate you? [laughing]
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s funny though because when people meet you, they often will say that out of courtesy, but I think with this, it’s truly real and genuine.
Mamoudou Athie: Exactly. I can tell. People are very offusive in their love for it. In this unfortunately bleak time in history, this movie is hopeful in a way that is really welcoming. It’s a welcome change from some of the other stuff going on. It’s a beautiful movie about these flawed and interesting people pursing their dreams. It’s very relatable, and very much for and about the underdog.
U.G. Digital Mag: I agree with that. I love the whole premise of these people pursuing their dreams. It’s amazing again just connecting with you. Here at UGD, we’re all about pushing the ability to live your passion and live your life. It fits our magazine perfectly, and there’s so much for people to gain.
Mamoudou Athie: That would be really special.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think the film puts you in a good place because of roles you’ve done before. You played Grandmaster Flash, and I thought that was amazing. What was your thought in having that opportunity, and then transitioning to this?
Mamoudou Athie: Flash was the first role I played for myself. That one was the stretch. When I auditioned for the part, it only said master DJ. It didn’t have a name attached to the character. I went in and did my thing, and then I eventually got it, and when to meet Baz. When I walked in, everyone was talking about Flash. People were asking if I studied Flash because I had his mannerisms down. I still didn’t know who they were talking about until they said Grandmaster Flash. I immediately lost my mind, and there was an immediate sense of intense fear and dread.
U.G. Digital Mag: But it’s cool. Your portrayal showed that the culture is within you, and it’s authentic.
Mamoudou Athie: Here’s what I really loved. A lot of times, you see hip-hop themed stories and movies, and all this gangster stuff, but hip-hop started in a really positive place. Kurtis Blow came on set and was teaching people how to rap, and Flash came on and taught me how to spin. They told these stories about how these block parties went and they sound amazing. The thing that numbs me out is a lot of these stories don’t show that. Hip-hop is being commercialized right now. A lot of people are taking it back like Chance, Kendrick, and Jay-Z. A lot of people are doing a different kind fo things these days.
U.G. Digital Mag: I get what you’re saying. Life imitates art, so I love to see things like The Get Down, and Patti Cake$. We can see where it began. The more we have films like these, the better things get and the more change we’ll see. I see change already.
Mamoudou Athie: Exactly. He’s doing some really great stuff, supporting the community. That’s what it’s about, and it’s real exciting.
U.G. Digital Mag: Exactly. It’s all really amazing. What are some other things we can look out for from you? I know there’s a handful of projects you’ve been working on.
Mamoudou Athie: The one I’m most excited about coming out after this is is “Unicorn Store”. It’s very similar in which I love the people I worked with. I learned so much between the director and the lead. Pretty much everything I had was with her. I was able to learn how she does it. There’s one moment in the movie that I can’t necessarily say much about, but I needed to be very confused. The way she set up the shots, I had no idea what she was talking about. She’s really a beast, and I loved making that movie.
U.G. Digital Mag: I’m also looking forward to Underwater.
Mamoudou Athie: Right. I got to work with another one of my heroes, Vincent Cassel. He was one of the funniest people to be on set with. Unbelievably hilarious. I’ve never laughed so much before take.
U.G. Digital Mag: In all realness, you have to be living the life, doing what you love, laughing, and having a good time. You can’t ask for anything better.
Mamoudou Athie: Thank you, and that’s the big thing. He was saying that he’s been doing this too long not to have a good time, so he’s going to have fun. I love that mindset. I learned a lot.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s all amazing. There’s so many people who learn from you as well, and I appreciate you for this opportunity. For those who like to keep up with you, how can they stay connected?
Mamoudou Athie: Oh wow, I don’t really keep up with social media, but I’m around in New York.
U.G. Digital Mag: I promise man, we’re watching these movies, and I enjoyed being able to screen Patti Cake$. I’m looking forward to your upcoming movies as well, especially Underwater and Watch Room.
Mamoudou Athie: Oh wow.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think you’re an amazing actor. There’s so many people out there doing this, and sometimes it’s hard to see who’s really in this for the love, and how genuine someone really is. We can see that in you, and it’s appreciate.
Mamoudou Athie: That means so much. Thank you so much.