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Come along on the journey of Brook Brovaz, who after establishing themselves as super producers within the industry, and shifting over to the artists' side with the release of their new album, The Producer's Perspective.
Check out their feature by clicking HERE!
If Loving You is Wrong has become one of the OWN Network’s most popular series. In fact, it’s become insanely popular as each week, viewers are learning more and more way they relate to each of the show’s characters. Today, we were blessed to sit down with April Parker-Jones, who effortlessly portrays the role of blue collar mom Natalie Henning. As the fiancé of Lushion, portrayed by Charles Malik Whitlock, she’s very much like many of today’s everyday women. She works hard to make sure she and her family are good, and she nurtures her relationships and friendships the best she knows how, but she can flip the script and get wild on you when the moment calls. Natalie doesn’t take any less, and that characterization by Jones has placed the show as one of OWN’s top-rated shows to date.
Take a moment and check out this clip from the show...
Below, Jones talks with us about the show, and why she’s so grateful to Tyler and OWN for the opportunity, as well as what’s to come in her future!
U.G. Digital Mag: Before anything, I have to thank you. This is bucket list material right here [laughing]. I’ve loved your character since this show started, and have watched since day one. Between this and The Haves and the Have Nots, I watch religiously. I also work for a hospital, and I have always had my iPad or phone with me to watch when the show airs through the app. When I tell you, my wife and I have been waiting for this week’s premiere. Your character is amazing, and I just have to thank you for this awesome opportunity in speaking today.
April Parker-Jones: James, that means so much, and I have to ask you what about Natalie you like so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: For starters, Natalie is a mirror of my wife. Natalie works her tail off to be sure her kids are taken care of, her man is taken care of, and when it comes down to it, the way you marched down the street for Alex when you thought she was messing with Lushion, that was my wife all day. Even down to the friends I have ion Facebook, she will be quick to say if she doesn’t like someone and look for me to delete them.
April Parker-Jones: She loves you.
U.G. Digital Mag: My point exactly. I love that in your character. Natalie is so down to earth.
April Parker-Jones: I’m so glad to know you feel that way. I feel that way about Natalie, and I think that’s what makes her so relatable. Tell your wife I said thank you.
U.G. Digital Mag: I certainly will. Obviously, we’re celebrating this show, but we also celebrate you because this year makes 15 years that you’ve been out her entertaining us, and working regularly. The grind is evident. How is it to know you’ve made this mark in your career and the industry?
April Parker-Jones: When you put it that way, it kinda puts things back into perspective because as artists, we’re on a mission of constant grinding. We forget to celebrate our achievements. Thank you for pointing that out. I’m going to consciously make time to sit back and look at what I’ve done and say “you’ve done alright”. To me, in my everyday life, I’m constantly saying what do I have to do next, or I may feel I need to do this or that. I’ve got to do more, or accomplish more. We have to stop and celebrate those small victories. That being said, I still feel like the best is still yet to come for me in my career. I’m so grateful for where I am now. What I’m most grateful for is my most high creator in God allowed me to see this accomplishment, being on If Loving You is Wrong at this age and stage in my life and career, where I can appreciate it. I’m more mature, and I understand the impact that being on this show has on people, especially living back on the east coast now. I see people in everyday life who may recognize me from the show, and I see the impact it has. I’m so grateful that God waited until this point in my life to give me this blessing. It’s been great. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
U.G. Digital Mag: For obvious reasons, with the show being connected through both Tyler Perry and Oprah, I think those reasons alone would make anybody jump at the opportunity, but what drew you to Natalie?
April Parker-Jones: Well, when I had the chance to audition, my agent and manager sent me the breakdown for the black characters, so those being Kelly, Marcy, and Natalie.
U.G. Digital Mag: They are great.
April Parker-Jones: They’re amazing. Everybody is so perfect for their part. It’s amazing to me how everyone fits perfect. They sent me the breakdown, and asked me who I connected with. Immediately, when I read Natalie, I didn’t even need to read the others. I connected immediately because she is so much like me, and so much like women I grew up around. She’s like so many of the women who are still a part of my life, so I connected with her right away. Naturally, when it comes to giving life to Natalie, and giving Natalie a voice, it ain’t too hard. It ain’t much of a stretch [laughing]. It really comes easy to me in comparison to so many of the characters I’ve played on other shows. It’s been a stretch for those because I’m not a doctor. I’m not a General for the military. I’m not a Pediatrician. So those required more acting. Natalie has been a joy because it has come so easily.
U.G. Digital Mag: You do an amazing job in her character. You’re strong when you need to be, but you still manage to show the softer side when needed. This week, when you came back and said you helped Kelly get a gun, it was cool to see the softer side.
April Parker-Jones: Yes, and I’m so glad that Tyler allows us the ability to show those nuances in our characters. He’s great about allowing us to explore those things, and I do believe it’s necessary. She is a woman, and she has feelings, and is not a superhero, although she wears a cape [laughing], life so many of us women do, but she is human, and very sensitive and insecure in her own way. I’m glad the audience got to see a softer side.
U.G. Digital Mag: Now I would be crazy not to ask, and you can answer this however you want [laughing], but what is the biggest thing we can expect in this season? I’ve been waiting for Eddie to go down for so long [laughing]…
April Parker-Jones: I think we have all been waiting for Eddie to have his day, but I can’t give away too much. I will say that Natalie will continue to explore the softer sides, but you’ll see the old Natalie when it’s necessary. She’s going to be a wonderful sounding board and support to her co-stars, and just stay tuned. Look, you never know what’s going to happen with Tyler Perry in that mind of his, but I will say that the season will keep you glued to your seat, and you will tune in to every episode.
U.G. Digital Mag: This past Tuesday, I was so thrown off by the finale from last season being an hour and a half, so I was confused at midnight when the new episode had not started yet. Nevertheless, it was great when I did see it.
April Parker-Jones: James, I just thank you for supporting If Loving You is Wrong, the OWN Network, and Tyler Perry. I’m so grateful that black people get to have this platform to express themselves and be creative. We’re getting so many more opportunities, and I feel I’m beginning to see the shift for black actors, and people behind the scenes getting more opportunities. It’ll continue to grow as long as we continue to support it.
U.G. Digital Mag: One of the final questions I wanted to ask was about other projects. You’ve done so well. I spoke to people in my family about connecting with you, and my mom knows of you from The Young & The Restless, my wife has watched you on both Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, and so many other projects. What do you see in the future?
April Parker-Jones: I’ve been so blessed to work on a project all summer in Los Angeles, and I don’t yet have clearance to speak the name of the show or network, but I will say we wrapped yesterday for the season. It’s a character extremely different from Natalie’s character. People who have watched me over the years have seen me in this type of role before though. The episodes will not air until next year, but when I have clearance, I will certainly let you know more about it. We’ll have some time, but it’s been great to be blessed with this summer job. I would love to do more film. I really don’t have as much film under my belt, so I would love to transition into more film, in addition to the television work. I’m open; I’m grateful; and like I said before, I feel like the best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me. Im ready.
U.G. Digital Mag: There are mounds in store for you, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. For people who want to connect with you online, how can that happen?
April Parker-Jones: On social media [Instagram, Twitter], they can check me out at @a_parkerjones, and on Facebook it’s April Parker Jones.
We recently had to catch up with writer and musical superstar Roger Ortega, and the conversation was amazing. We get to hear all about his most recent project, The Lottery, and what else he has in store now that the music is pumping out consistently again. Check out the exclusive below!
Thank you so much. You have so much going on. Obviously, your progression is something to be noted. I love what you’re doing. This is especially good because we work to promote and push independent acts, so in that respect, there’s so much to talk about. It would be good to start with what brought you into music. I know you’ve been here…
It’s funny man. Long story short, I was born into a musical family. I didn’t want to do what my dad’s band was doing, but I listened to them practice. I knew this was what I wanted. At 14, I put together a group with my cousin and another guy. We changed members and names, but maintained the R&B and Pop feel. Eventually, we got a record deal.
Almost like a new edition…lol
Right. And New Kids on the Block played a big factor. One morning I saw them on TV, and was like who are these guys. Being a solo artists as a kid, I felt like I’d have more support with a couple other guys on stage. Eventually, some faded away, and I found more guys. We got a deal in Kansas and moved to New York. Universal was buying out everybody. We got locked into this deal where they just wouldn’t do anything with us. We eventually got out of that deal. By age 24, I said I was done. I went on about my life, but would write more for the love of it. Through a random series of events, at 37 I got a deal. I started off as a writer, and eventually they wanted a record. I quit at age 24 because I thought I was too old. How would it be at 37? I reluctantly said yes, and it ended up being number 62 on iTunes. I kept at it, and worked on a second album. The Lottery came out last year, and hit number 8. There’s so many good songs on the album, and you learn from your mistakes. You put all this work into an album, and you are to let it breathe. With the new single, The Worst Hangover, it’s actually a remix to the album’s first single. It’s doing pretty well. Not the same rules as an independent artist. You don’t necessarily have to do something new every year. You can work with what you have.
Now that you’re independent, how does it feel, having been with a major before? I see a lot of artists who don’t do well in the transition. Many artists don’t realize the level of work. How has it been for you?
I hate being told what to do, and am a lot less motivated when I am told what to do. So it’s one of those things where I’m in control. Failure or success comes back to me. My team is amazing, but they’re name is not the brand. If it doesn’t work out, it’s on me. I can sit with a little more pride when things go good.
I think it’s cool. What you have is hot and in so many ways, you break the stereotypes, and break the color lines. What has been your experience with connecting with other artists? I turn 40 this year, so I appreciate the fact that you pay respect to the artists before you of our era. I find it so funny that because of this new edition movie, our kids know all about New Edition now. My son is ten and is so enamored with Cool it Now like it just dropped yesterday…lol.
I think that has driven the direction of my music and where it comes from. Like you, I grew up on all that. It’s infused in my DNA. The Lottery album pays homage to a lot of those artists, and has a 90s appeal. That was one of the biggest things. I definitely wanted to be taken serious with this, but I knew my fanbase was 28+, and people who knew that era. That’s what was so cool.
I also think it’s cool because a big part of me misses that era. I make it a point to look back and connect with artists of that era now with the magazine. I like to be able to show what these artists are doing now, and how they impacted music. The blessing is I get to connect with my favorites, the ones who don’t get the respect. As far as shows go, what have your shows and tours looked like? Are you doing a lot of shows?
Yea, I have been. My last show will be in New Mexico. The last few months, I’ve had shows in New York, Miami, and so on. The shows have been great. One of my favorite shows was a tribute to George Michael.
Awesome. I grew up listening to him in Wham, and so much of his music.
He was one of the first to really cross over to R&B and radio play. I can remember hearing him on Hot 97. He had a lot of respect for R&B and Soul, and vice versa. I respect how he rode that line, and was one of the first major stars to cross over. I released a cover of Father Figure a few months ago along with a video. The video was to tie into the next video. That and The Worst Hangover is like a series. It was a cool concept.
I saw the father figure video, and I heard the single first on reverbnation. What are your plans moving forward and progressing?
What I feel like right now; someone asked me when the third album was coming. I don’t think I’m in a place emotionally to do a third album. I’m just writing right now. When something hits me emotionally, I’ll do a third album. With The Lottery, it was a lot of start and stop. I immediately went to work on the second album, but the owner of my independent label passed away and the label shut down. I lost a lot with that first album. All the stuff I had before was good, but not as good as this album. My dad developed cancer in the process and passed away as I started on the second half of the album. That gave me a lot for the album. I wrote three songs on the plane back from his funeral. One of those is Never Forget, which was a tribute for my dad. I also wrote The Worst Hangover, which is about losing someone and how you feel. I changed it to be more about losing a girl, but I pulled the pain from losing my dad. I also wrote a song called Put It On Me. Through darkness comes light and that’s where that came from. My plan moving forward is to work on singles and get as many people to hear my projects.
What else is to come for people to look out for?
There’s a song I’ll be working on for a project that my fans had been inquiring about. I can’t say much about it yet. I’m working on a song with another guy which will eat up a lot of time. Two guys from my group joined me for the George Michael show. I put up a video of us practicing Careless Whispers, and they agreed to do an album. That’s down the road, but right now, I’m focusing on me. I have to get to the Grammys, one way or another, even if I got to work the door [laughing].
Where can people check you out online?
Everything is at rogerortega.com. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
I look forward to your upcoming projects. You clearly love the music so much that you’re still here. I appreciate having the opportunity to connect with you. I feel like you’re breaking barriers. Thank you.
Thank you. I appreciate telling my story.
I can’t begin to speak on how excited we are for the release of Chanté Moore’s new album, The Rise of the Phoenix. It’s one thing that she’s releasing a new project. Sure, there’s a certain level of anticipation that’s already there, yet, there’s something different about this project. This truly is a rising for Chanté. Her life has taken her in so many different directions. She’s had an amazing career, but like any other artists she’s experience some good and definitely some bad. This album represents her new beginning. She has truly risen to the top again, and the result is a beautiful project that the world can enjoy in it’s entirety. She also has a bonus coming in the form of a Christmas album that all release two weeks after The Rise of the Phoenix. It was an absolute blessing to connect with Chanté to talk about the new projects and what we can all expect. If you’ve heard the new singles ‘Real One” and “Something to Remember”, then you know she ain’t playing no games with this album. So enough talking on our end. Let’s jump right into the exclusive….
U.G. Digital Mag: Ms. Chanté Moore! How are you?
Chanté Moore: I’m great and you?
U.G. Digital Mag: I’m doing great. I have to thank you for doing everything you are to keep good R&B music alive. You are absolutely killing it right now.
Chanté Moore: I’m trying so hard, so thank you [laughing].
U.G. Digital Mag: You make it look effortless. I was at Essence Fest, and you were so beautiful, professional, and I could see this beaming happiness on your face when you spoke about the project. Obviously, at that time, I hadn’t heard any of the songs yet, but I’ll tell you .. with Real One, I have absolutely driven that song into the ground with my wife and she thinks I’m crazy. I love the song, and love the video. With the pre-download, you also get “Something to Remember”, and you get the Intro. What went into putting this together, because it’s almost like a new artist who comes in and kills the game.
Chanté Moore: You know, I just feel renewed. I really do. The Rise of the Phoenix is purposeful. The title is very purposeful. I feel like I have been through a lot of ups and downs, some good stuff, negative and positive, and it all worked together for the good. I’m just trying to give it my best. I feel like it’s time to be authentic, as usual, but what I love is the new producers I work with on this album are people like Lil’ Ronnie. I’m sure you know who he is, with songs from Usher’s “Same Girl” with R. Kelly, and the new song with K. Michelle, and he’s been doing very well. I love that he understands the music. It’s like adding chemistry. It’s like adding one thing with another and it doesn’t cease to just be one. All the elements are still present, but it becomes something new. That’s what I think happened with the music. With the writers, Felly the Voice is amazing; I love singing his words and writing with him. The melodies he comes up with are so beautiful. A new guy, @Sickpen, @beats4thestars is lil’ Ronnie, and we had so much fun making this record. We had so much fun that we did a Christmas album as well. So that’s pretty exciting, and we had so much fun. It has been work, but good work. We had the best time.
U.G. Digital Mag: I was going to ask about the Christmas album, and still will, but I have to say that the producers and writers you’re connecting with stand as a testament to the type of person you are as an artist. These people see how genuine you are, and they want to work with your caliber. It speaks volumes. It’s people like you, and I also credit Faith Evans because she is amazing, but going back to the songs, I always say if they have a good intro, they got me. I interviewed Faith as well, and every single interlude and intro she does to me should be a full song.
Chanté Moore: She is so incredible. I love her so much. She’s so funny and talented. Every time she sings, it’s like dang, I want to do that. Ooh, that’s a nice run. Just the way she soulfully approaches every song, I love her too, so you got my praises on that.
U.G. Digital Mag: But it’s the same thing with you. With “Real One”, for someone like me who can not sing a lick, I can admit that I go to town in the car on that song. My wife and son are so sick of me right now, but I love it [laughing].
Chanté Moore: It’s funny about “Real One”. It seems like a really easy song to sing, but that sucker is hard. When I sing live, and this song is new for me. We just wrote the album, finished it and mastered it. It comes out in two weeks, so these are new to me. Singing them live is a new experience for me. I sang “Real One”, and “Something to Remember” back to back; oh that’s never going to happen again [laughing]. That made me so tired. Then I did “Chante’s Got a Man” after that? I was worn out. It was form, but it wore me out. I was like, OK, enough.
U.G. Digital Mag: Why was it important to bare your soul with this? I feel like you give us your life with this album?
Chanté Moore: Absolutely. That’s been something I have done from the beginning. The songs I sing come from the heart. When I do it for my own learning and growing experience, I also do it for others. So many times, people come up to me on the road, and after the show there are tears for both of us. They say things like “if it wasn’t for your music, I wouldn’t have made it through this breakup”, or “I wouldn’t have made it through losing my mother”, or “if I didn’t know you were alone like that, I wouldn’t have felt like I could deal with it too”. Everyone always makes this thing of who they think you are and that regular stuff doesn’t happen to you, but it happens to everybody. We all get our hearts broken. We’re all get let own sometimes. We let other people down. We’re not exempt and we have that human life experience, so that’s what I endeavor; for people to know they are not alone. I’m not alone either. I put on my music sometimes and sing it to myself.
U.G. Digital Mag: The Christmas album. It’s amazing, but my biggest question is why it’s so close to this album?
Chanté Moore: Stuff kept happening over and over to push it back. We’ve been trying to release this project for like six months. My fans on Instagram and Twitter are like yelling at me like, Chante, really? If you push this back one more time, we are coming after you. It’s been for different reasons, and I don’t know exactly why because I really wanted it to be released February 17, 2017. It’s the 7th album release for me. 2/17 is my birthday. Then it was pushed back. I don’t know what happened, but I do know at the end of making this, and finishing up and adding new songs, we still wanted to keep working. We said let’s do a Christmas album. We had no idea it would happen so quickly. We said let’s just put it out. Radio just plays the radio stuff, and they don’t play a lot of R&B and the other genres. We’ll be in the middle of that, and then next year, we’ll add another, and another the following year. What’s beautiful is it keeps living on. We were excited about making more music, and it made sense to capture the holiday spirit because I love Christmas so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: I like the concept of adding a new song each year so you don’t get the same thing over and over.
Chanté Moore: This CD is so unique that I can’t wait for the world to hear it. I play both all the time, and put them on shuffle. That’s how I know this is music I love and I’m happy about singing it because I’m playing it. Usually, I finish a record and want to take a break from myself. Listening is work, singing it is work, and performing it live is work and making sure people get it, and there’s so many aspects that can be tiring and draining. I find that these two CDS are my favorite listen right now.
U.G. Digital Mag: Any last words or comments that you want to get out, and what can we look forward to in the next couple weeks?
Chanté Moore: I’m trying to do as much press as I can. I’m going on tour. I can’t give you the exact dates, and if I did, I’d be wrong [laughing]. Go to chantemoore.com, where we will put up the calendar. Please come see these LIVE. We’ll be performing the Christmas stuff as well as the new album. I’m having a great time. The band is amazing; I have a new band. The dancers are there when I have room on the stage. I’m giving my all like it’s my last.
VIDEOS: REAL ONE & SOMETHING TO REMEMBER...
Discovery has become quite a popular section here at U.G. Digital Magazine. One of the things we try to do is introduce you to hot new talent who blaze trails in the industry through their craft. This month and issue, we lead with Canadian hip-hop artist Cvss [pronounved Cass] Hamilton. Only a few projects in, he’s already building a strong name for himself through a mixtape and album that he’s released over the past year or so. Now, with a new album, and single in the forefront, he’s ready to take his brand to an even higher level. In our feature, we talk about his new single, “Bang”, with Karl Wolf, his new album to come, and the career he’s striving to build in this industry.
Meet Cvss Hamilton!
U.G. Digital Mag: Your story is one of inspiration for a lot of people who follow. You’ve dealt with the triggers and blows of life in terms of being in trouble, and living the street life. What took you in a different direction?
Cvss Hmilton: I always had music, but the thing that pushed me to get away from the streets was the birth of my daughter.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s what up. That’s real to so many people when they want to have something better for their kids.
Cvss Hmilton: Right. I’ve seen it so many times with friends of mine. They either get shot or are in prison, and then their kids don’t have a father.
U.G. Digital Mag: Now realistically, this is a business that takes time when it comes to cultivating your craft and building a proper presence. Money usually doesn’t roll in immediately. Now having a daughter and obviously needing a steady flow of income, what motivated you to continue as you got started?
Cvss Hamilton: I was always more than an artist. I did a lot in the background, from design to doing my own mixtape covers. Once I established myself, I used my own name to get business. I was generating income through it all.
U.G. Digital Mag: Let’s talk influences. Who were the artists who really inspired you to pursue this?
Cvss Hamilton: Growing up, definitely Pac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Eminem, Royce Da 5’9”, Ludacris, Jeezy, and Jadakiss. All those guys were big influences for me. Even recently, I have to give a shout out to Kevin Gates. He has really influenced me a lot. A lot of his songs, I relate to. If I had to decide to do a feature with someone, that’s who it would be.
U.G. Digital Mag: Who were the people in your ear in real life, who influenced and inspired you to turn the page for a better life?
Cvss Hamilton: I would say people that I bumped into in the streets because for a while I wasn’t really putting out music. Once I started doing music, people would recognize me out in the streets. They would stop me and say “hey, you’re that guy, keep doing it”. Others weren’t always my biggest influence. They were into the streets too, and would say things more like don’t waste your time. I was really doing it for me, so I didn’t pay much attention to people’s negative opinions.
U.G. Digital Mag: You’re dropping “Bang”, your collaboration with Karl Wolf, in just a couple days. Talk to me about that single and the direction you went for?
Cvss Hmilton: So, I was invited to do the Canadian Urban Television Awards this year, and I was still fairly new. I had just dropped the album “Selfish Ways” and it was kinda popping. I was at the rehearsal, and Karl Wolf was doing some a capella work. I walked over and started beat-boxing, and we started talking. Kardinal Offishall was supposed to be with him, but couldn’t make it. He asked if I could freestyle for him when he performed, and while I thought about it, I didn’t really feel I was prepared for it. I did it anyway, and we established a connection. I hit him up with a beat and some ideas, and was hoping it would make for something a little different to help build a presence. I want to touch a different type of audience and show versatility.
U.G. Digital Mag: The collaboration is definitely dope. How does it feel to be getting so much love and respect for your craft and the way you do things musically? You have to be in a good place with that, right?
Cvss Hmilton: It’s a good feeling. I’ve always been humble about it. I try to stay that way. I love progress in anything, be it music or anything else. I love good music. Anything with progress is wonderful. How can it be denied?
U.G. Digital Mag: What can we look for in a full length project for you?
Cvss Hmilton: I was introducing myself with “Selfish Ways”. This time around, I want to make people dance. I’m trying to focus on radio distribution, and things that can play in the club. I want more energy, and want to keep people moving. I want to show I have more style.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s dope. I love to see when artists are truly having a good time. Ultimately, it makes for better music. It’s all about escaping from the everyday madness of life that you may experience. People can appreciate that from you. It’ll be a dope turnout and people will surely see that versatility.
Cvss Hmilton: I can’t wait.
U.G. Digital Mag: Talk about your goals as an artist? How do you contribute something lasting to this industry that helps the next artist coming in?
Cvss Hmilton: That’s pretty much the plan. More artists should be that way. Once I have the power and can help, I want to build a team. It’s not about being the best. I just want to do what I love and be happy doing it. I want to have a good team, and want them to work the same way. Having the power to be that guy that everyone respects, and being humble to let others in is what I’m trying to do.
U.G. Digital Mag: Where can everyone find you online?
Cvss Hmilton: They can find me at www.cvssmusic.com. You can find the social media links, mixtapes and albums there. My videos are there as well.
U.G. Digital Mag: Do you have any final comments?
Cvss Hmilton: I just want to give a shout out to everyone watching my progress. I really appreciate it. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m loving it.
If you’ve been following the last few weeks, you’ve seen the various features we’ve run here at UGD in support of The Haves and the Have Nots. This week, we catch up with Jon Chaffin, who plays one of the show’s most loved and hated characters, Warlock. Without going into heavy detail of his character, Jon Chaffin displays some of the best acting we’ve seen with his character, and it undoubtedly has taken the show to amazing heights. He’s got millions of fans tuning in each week to see what’s going to happen next on the show. The season is currently reaching it’s climax, and things are getting really heated right now. Jon sits down for a few moments to talk with us about the show, what’s to come, and also the many amazing things he has going on in his career outside of HAHN.
U.G. Digital Mag: First off Mr Chaffin, this is a tremendous honor to connect with you because you are one of the best I’ve seen do this. I imagine you hear it a lot, and I know the type of person you are so you don’t feed off it, but I still imagine you get it a lot. Even with what you are doing with The Haves and the Have Nots, it’s inspiring to so many. Not even fronting, I watch the show and am a die hard fan. I have said for so long that I wanted to connect, not just about the show, but also your journey. Many want to do this, and get into entertainment, acting, or more, and they get discouraged. With all you’re doing, you show people they can do it, do what they love, and make a living. They can prosper financially and professionally. I haven’t seen anybody else deliver what you do with HAHN. We regular push this man, in terms of following your passion. I walked away from career to build this publication that offers an alternative, and something that’s culture bending, and just not the norm. We love to show the positivity in people like yourself. Thank you for that. I know it’s a mouth full.
Jon Chaffin: Wow. I appreciate it and am really humbled by it.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s cool, too, because again, people easily get discouraged, and I’ve been there. This initially made no money. I had to maintain family and all else for something I love. Looking at you and so many others, you see first hand that when you put your heart and passion in, it works out.
Jon Chaffin: Yes sir. I appreciate that so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: My goal has been to connect with everybody from the show. It’s funny because I reached out to Crystal Fox, who plays Hanna, and we did that. Then I reached out to Presilah Nunez, who plays Erica. That’s running now. You’re will run here on the site and in the issue. On a side note, you worked with Markice Moore in a films that we’ll discuss later in our conversation, and he’s doing the cover. It’s so cool to see what’s going on with HAHN, and how big it has become. Getting into the show, how did War come about for you?
Jon Chaffin: It was an audition. My agent sent it to me. I did it the old-fashioned way. They liked it and brought me in for the callback. I had to go in to do it in Atlanta because I was in LA at the time. I’m still in LA. But I had to go to Atlanta for Tyler and the producers. I did my thing, and initially, I knew who this guy was. I grew up with people like him, and been around people like him. I was able to find the connection and bring it to life. Through the process, I was able to dive deeper into the psyche and personality. It was all done the old-fashioned way. I gave them my take and they liked it. As they say, the rest is history.
U.G. Digital Mag: Someone like myself, I have watched since day one. I DVR’d because I worked so much. Now I take an iPad to work with me to make sure I catch it. I binge watch at times just out of love for the show. What’s cool is it unites people with families. I watch with my mother, my wife loves it, my son loves it and begs me to DVR it. It’s funny because we watched last night, and I work a night shift gig. We watched, and as it went off, he was saying he wished another episode was coming on. Did you expect this type of success with it, especially reaching all age groups like it does? People either love or hate War.
Jon Chaffin: Yea. I had no idea. Initially it was one episode. Candace had come to him because she had gotten all her belongings taken. It wasn’t written that I would have a long shelf life. When I did it, Tyler really liked it, and he said he would write more for the character. You just never know, which is why you have to focus on the work and not so much the outcome. I didn’t go in with the idea that I would love for it to be a regular character. I just did my things, and that opened up the opportunity for more. I was totally surprised by what this role had become because like I said, it wasn’t written for that. I had no idea it would go this far, or fans would gravitate to it the way they have. It’s been an awesome ride. They either love me, or hate me. They love to hate me, hate to love me. It’s what we hope for as actors, is that the audience gravitate to the character and the work. We want to move them in some fashion, and the fact that I did that means job well done. They love the character and it’s been a blessing.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s cool because a lot of characters in many of Tyler’s shows are that way. Presilah Nunez said the same thing. She was only there for three episodes, and it grew. Crystal Fox was to be there long term obviously, but it’s great to see the smaller roles growing the way they do. I never imagined it would get this big, even though i saw big things. On Facebook, there’s a ton of groups, and I usually do some promotion there. People are like die hard fans. They have groups and everything with thousands of members. They LIVE chat each week, and they go in hard. I know Angela chats live sometimes. She actually did the cover of our first issue. Do you find time, even with how incredibly busy you are, to get on Facebook and chat?
Jon Chaffin: Oh yea. I get on, and try to respond as often as I can. i try not to live my life on social media, though. We’ve become a society that’s glued to our phones. I post and reply, but not all day and everyday. Sometimes, I LIVE tweet if I can catch the show. I am active in responding, and try to thank the fans. Without them, the show would not be what it is. We need the fans to love what we do so we can continue. I’m grateful for social media because it gives us the opportunity to connect directly with the fans. The comments, and gifs, have me cracking up. It’s hilarious, but it goes to show, like you said, how invested people are in these shows and characters. I go back to say it was unexpected that it would become this beloved character. I’m grateful. I try to reach out and thank them, or retweet. I can’t reply to everybody, but I try to like comments and let them know I see it and appreciate it.
U.G. Digital Mag: Keeping it real man, I know you can’t give nothing away, but I’d be crazy not to ask for a tidbit of intel?
Jon Chaffin: [Laughing] You just gotta watch. Let’s just say the journey comes to full circle. Hopefully, the audience will enjoy the next episode. it will definitely put some people on the edge of their seats.
U.G. Digital Mag: I say again that you guys reach all generations. I also work with someone who’s in their seventies, and she asked me last night about the show. It’s cool that you can bring people together this way. It’s amazing what we can do through entertainment.
Jon Chaffin: Yea man. It’s a blessing to affect people that way. That’s the beauty of what we do as artists, whether acting, writing, or doing poetry. Our job is to reflect the times in which we live. When we can reach and connect with people, that’s it. It’s good when people are affected in a positive way.
U.G. Digital Mag: So this is where I start to transition into some of your other work. I love how supportive the entire cast is of each other. No matter what it is, everyone supports. You did King Hedley II and you also did 96 Minutes, which paired you with Evan Ross, David Oyelowo, Markice Moore, and Hosea Chanchez. You did really good with the character, which was also somewhat villainous. In 96 minutes, what was it like bringing the role of JJ to life?
Jon Chaffin: That was an awesome experience to work with Aimee Lagos, who wrote and directed, David Oyelowo who is amazing at what he does, Evan Ross, and Markice Moore. It was really great. I knew people like that character, but it was also a learning experience. This was earlier in my career. It was a good learning curve to be on set with those veterans. I tried to learn as much as I could, and bring honesty and truth to the role. You never know how it will come out or how people will gravitate to it. You hope for good. I’ve played a variety of roles. To me, I don’t get caught up in the role. Each person has a story to tell. We are all humans and capable of the same thing. Each character deserves the same respect. I don’t get caught up in the idea of being type-cast. I make it a point not to play each role the same way because they’re all different.
U.G. Digital Mag: The phrase you said, “I Love what I do”; that’s where we all want to get. That resonated really good in King Hedley II. I haven’t seen it yet because I’m in Ohio, but I’ve seen the promo. I’ve seen your postings on social media, and I see the postings from others. It appears to have done extremely well for you.
Jon Chaffin: Yea. King Hedley II is one of August Wilson’s plays. It’s set in 1985 in his ten-play cycle in Pittsburgh in the Hill district, about King, who is returning home from a 7-year prison stint, and he’s trying to reingratiate himself into society, his wife is pregnant, and he’s trying to start a business to make money to get going in life. I play Mister, his best friend, side kick, and sometimes business partner. It was a great opportunity to get on stage and do this play, and say those words. Michele Shay who is an August Wilson-ian; she originates the role of Louise in Seven Guitars. She and Viola Davis did it on Broadway. She’s done a number of August Wilson’s plays, and she directed this production. Like you saw on Instagram, we had a great turn-out. A lot of my cast members came out, and a lot of celebrities came out. It’s a timely piece. It’s set in ’85, but the challenges they were dealing with are prevalent today in what we deal with in society. To be able to go on stage and do theatre; there’s something in that. There’s an energy you don’t get with a television show or movie. In theatre, the audience is right there and in the moment. They laugh at things you didn’t expect them to laugh at, and then they don’t laugh when you thought they would. It’s like, you have to be totally focused and in a zone with theatre. It’s a great workout, and I always wanted to do something by August Wilson. When the opportunity came, I jumped in with both feet. I plan to do more. I hope to do another play if not this year, definitely next year. We did this out here in LA, which is not known for theatre, although they’ve done some great theatre, and it was great to get the response we got.
U.G. Digital Mag: What’s the biggest lesson in your journey?
Jon Chaffin: Not to expect anything. Roll with the punches. Don’t expect anyone to give you anything, and don’t expect a return on your investment. We want what we want right then, but a career takes time to develop. I’ve learned to be patient. I’ve learned to work hard, and believe in myself. In acting, moreso than any other career or vocation, you use yourself, and need to know who you are as a person. The more you know, and the more comfortable you are, the more you can look at your flaws and embrace the imperfections, and the more you can give to the character and story. That’s what makes a great actor. They’re able to give freely of themselves, and unblock the extra. I’ve just learned to be a professional but not expect anything and work hard.
U.G. Digital Mag: What have you taken away from the level of success black actors are beginning to see? You have people like Gabrielle Union, and you have Sanaa Lathan who was doing Shots Fired which was shockingly canceled… I thought it was so dope … but even outside of that, people like Tyler Perry are doing so amazing, and bringing opportunities to the table. I know when you came into this, the opportunities were fewer, and farther between. There’s been so much growth.
Jon Chaffin: Everything happens in waves. If you really think about it, in the nineties and earlier 2000s, we has a lot of shows, but we also were building the networks up. The CW was there, then they canceled Girlfriends, Fox had Martin and Living Single, NBC had The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. We had a lot of shows and then they died off. But now, especially with social media, people can express what they want to see, and everybody has the ability to voice their opinions as far as what they want. The conversation is being blown open. It’s a great time because there’s so much content, and so many avenues to get it out. It’s not just the major networks anymore. Sign up for cable and you get hundreds of channels. Then the streaming services. Netflix and Hulu. All these avenues, and everyone vies for attention. People are watching television on phones and laptops now. It’s a great time for artists of color to get opportunities, and create their own opportunities. Shots Fired, I thought it was great as well, but you also realize it’s a business. Shows will come and go. Sanaa Lathan will be on something else when you look up because she’s amazing. Its hard to get a show to a second season, third, and fourth. I can’t even go through all the shows that are out. People ask me if I’ve seen Game of Thrones, and I haven’t. I’m like, it’s seven seasons in. Ain’t no point of even jumping in now. I would literally have to spend my whole week or two glued to the television. I just don’t have that time. That goes to show how much is out there. You try to find what you like and ride with them. You miss a week or two and get left behind. The way the shows are done now is changing. They don’t do 23 episodes in a season. Now they do 10 or 13. They air the first 10 in the spring, and then you don’t see it again until the fall. I was just talking with my fiancé about when How to Get Away with Murder is coming back on. I feel like I haven’t seen it in forever. It’s so many other things you’re watching. It’s good and bad. Right now it’s a great time for actors, writers, and producers. There’s such a need for content, and so many more avenues to get it out.
U.G. Digital Mag: You’re right, though. I’m the exact same way in the fact that I work so much that I miss a lot of TV. My wife and I just started streaming, and we’re doing Roku now.
Jon Chaffin: Right. That’s where the industry is going. People were hanging on for sports, but you look at Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, and soon the services will be as much as cable because you’ll have 5 or 6 subscriptions.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. I just binge watched Survivor’s Remorse, and saw how amazing it was. You’re definitely right about the content out there. What are you most thankful for?
Jon Chaffin: Just being able to do what I love. Having the opportunity to pursue my dreams. I’m thankful for life and good health. We take for granted the little things. I‘m grateful I’ve been gifted this talent to entertain, and the opportunity to pursue it, perfect it, and work at it. We spoke earlier about you leaving your job to do what you love. I’m a firm believer of not living your life with what ifs. As you have children, and I don’t but hope to some day, you want to push them to pursue their goals some day. It would be hard if I didn’t do it for myself. I want to lead by example. Go after what you truly desire in your heart because tomorrow is not promised. We’re all going to die at some point, so when you realize that, you come to realize nothing is as serious as we make it. Live a life that it pleasing to yourself that you can enjoy. Try not to hurt anybody in the process.
U.G. Digital Mag: Everyone has watched your journey. We saw that you went to school and put yourself in a place to be noticed. What advice do you offer to those out there who dream of this type of life, or any profession?
Jon Chaffin: I would say learn as much about the path that you are about to take. Understand that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Have a talk with yourself about the reasons for wanting to do it. I get asked a lot about how someone should start, and when you tell them, they have a look like “I actually have to do work?”. What are you doing it for? Do you want to be seen and famous, or is there something you have to get out, or stories you have to tell? That’s why I ask people. If this is something you want to do, you have to believe it is possible. You can’t get discouraged by the naysayers. Fulfill the promise to yourself. Push yourself and strive to go that extra mile. What people don’t understand is it’s not hard. It’s just hard to believe. That’s the hardest part. Once you conquer that part, the rest is about putting in the work and letting the chips fall where they may. You have people who pursue for years and it’s like there’s nothing; then you have people who step off the boat and jump and they blow up. I can’t say it will take ten years, or ten days. Every path is different. I say to stay encouraged. Learn the business and craft. Study it. You’ll have to study it for the rest of your life. You’ll never have it all. We grow, evolve, experience life and change, and you have to incorporate it into your work. You have to believe in yourself. That’s what I believe is the formula. If you need to listen to motivational speakers to keep you motivated, do it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t second guess sometimes, or wonder if something was going to work. I also ask myself if there would be anything else that would make me more happy, and luckily that answer has been no. That’s how I know I’m on the right path, but if there’s something else you can do to make you happy, I say go and do that. This is a tough business and it’s not for the faint at heart.
U.G. Digital Mag: I thank you for so many things, especially the encouragement that I and so many others get. Again, we watched you work from the bottom up. I take it back to the show as well. I love the show and character. I’m counting down til next Tuesday. It’s dope and I love what you guys do. I appreciate your time. It’s cool to connect with people you admire.
Jon Chaffin: I appreciate you man. Thank you so much. The words gave me life today and I needed that.
We’re thrilled to bring you get another great exclusive right here at UGD! This time, we’ve connected with Sir Brodie, who has become one of the more prominent faces on the Starz hit series Survivor’s Remorse. In just five years, Brodie has built a significant name for himself, having made appearances in a number of popular shows. It’s with Survivor’s Remorse that he’s beginning to make his biggest impact, as the world is beginning to see how amazing an actor he truly is. Take a read below as we chat about the show and all else he’s got popping off these days.
Survivor’s Remorse premieres its fourth season tonight!
U.G. Digital Mag: In coming together for Survivor’s Remorse, I’m embarrassed to say I really just caught all three seasons of the show man. It’s really good work. I know you come along in season three, but it’s really good. Talk about your character?
Sir Brodie: My character is one of Julius’ friends. He was the uncle to Cam. Julius was Mike Epps’ character, and I was one of his friends from Boston. I came in during the funeral, as you know his character was killed in an accident at the close of Season two. Pookie is more the level-headed friend. He’s the one that all the rest of the boys trust. When you see him in season three, he’s more concerned about sending off their friend with respect and dignity. Another friend in the scene by the name Cakebread is more the “fuck-up”. He’s the comic relief [laughing]. At the end of the season, you see M-Chuck coming to Pookie to find out who her father was.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. She had been asking for a while. So many viewers have ideas, and of course, you’re seen throughout the new season. You’ve got to give us some intel about the show man [laughing]. What can we expect for the new season?
Sir Brodie: Man, I think you’ll expect a lot more comedy. Tichina is hilarious. The cast is hilarious.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s funny that she [Tichina] hasn’t been in a role like this before. She has such longevity and we’ve seen her in so much, but this is perfect because she’s taken it and run with it.
Sir Brodie: I know. With Survivor’s Remorse, the writing staff actually gives the lead characters a lot of room and opportunity to come in the writer’s room and discuss their characters. They have a lot to do with how it all unfolds. They allowed me this past fall to come into the writer’s room and discuss Pookie’s character.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s amazing because it doesn’t solidify anything in stone necessarily, but it gives the idea that you’ll be there for some time.
Sir Brodie: Man, we’re praying for that [laughing].
U.G. Digital Mag: I know man. I say let’s put it out there. It’s really good, but even outside of the show, you’ve done really good work. I see you’re also a part of an upcoming episode of The Haves and the Have Nots, which is one of my favorite shows. Actually, we just connected with Jon Chaffin this morning, who plays Warlock on the show. Talk a little about your spot there?
Sir Brodie: My role is that of a police officer. We actually shot that, man, it’s probably been a year or more ago. I can barely remember what was going on. I know we were investigating something in the hotel. I don’t even want to give that away [laughing]. Somebody’s been killed.
U.G. Digital Mag: They’re going to kill me man, because I’ve been digging for info. I’ve connected with a few people from the show over the past few weeks.
Sir Brodie: Yea, but I know we’re investigating. Honestly, I never know who it is based on the script I had, so I don’t know. I’m playing a police officer, basically when the cop shows up on the scene. It’s a small role, but a major blessing to do it with Tyler Perry. All of us actors in the game, especially here in Atlanta, are dying to work for Tyler Perry.
U.G. Digital Mag: Man, the actors here in Cleveland want to work with Tyler, so I know it’s a huge blessing [laughing]. I think it’s amazing for you. What I think is that it speaks volumes to you as an actor because you’re getting these parts in prominent productions. Blue Bloods, MacGyver, and more. Sleepy Hollow. I think it’s great, and the opportunities are flooding in for black actors in general. As I watched these three seasons, I started pinpointing who I wanted to connect with, and you were right at the top of the list. I thought it would be great to hear the experiences you’ve had with the show, and how it’s helping your career. I look from the outside obviously, and feel like it’s doing tremendous things for you. The growth is exponential. The show is huge.
Sir Brodie: It’s the biggest booking of my career. The experience of those great actors, and being around them is great. RonReaco is amazing. I couldn’t believe he didn’t get any awards last year. Starz is a subscription channel, so a lot of people don’t get to see it like they can see Empire on network television. But once they see it, they continue to watch. We don’t lose fans. I enjoy the show because it’s real. They keep it on the real and hold no punches. It’s funny and dramatic. You have all the elements.
U.G. Digital Mag: I can tell they give you free reign and allow you to develop the character into something believable. This is stuff that is really happening.
Sir Brodie: Yea, but you’ll like Pookie. He’s the OG from the neighborhood.
U.G. Digital Mag: It was weird when you first came in because I thought from that point, you’d be there the entire season. Of course, you came back eight episodes later for the “Father’s Day” episode. But this is real stuff. When RonReaco came in contact with his dad, people live that everyday. What are some of the other things going on that are coming up?
Sir Brodie: We have an independent movie in Atlanta, The Products of the American Ghetto, and it’s based on a book written by Tierre Ford. It talks about the Atlanta landscape when crack cocaine came on the scene, and the drug war between the Atlanta dealers and Miami dealers. It touches on the Miami police when they implemented the red dogs, which was a task force designed to clean the streets of drugs. They were given free reign in Atlanta.
U.G. Digital Mag: There’s a lot of powerful people in here, like Robin Givens, and Darrin Dewitt Henson.
Sir Brodie: Right, there’s a lot of good names here. They’re actually premiering it here in Atlanta on the 23rd of this month. Next Wednesday. That movie will do well in our community here. I play an OG character in that movie as well. I seem to get them roles, and I channel my father. That’s coming. I just finished shooting an untitled project. It’s an Al Pacino film based on Joe Paterno. That’s all I can really say on it.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s cool man. I saw that project coming, as well as The Products of The American Ghetto, and saw the caliber of people involved. I imagine it will do well.
Sir Brodie: Then we’re just out here grinding, and auditioning. It’s a lot of projects shooting here in Atlanta now, so the actors here have a chance to be involved in a lot more. Before, we would all go to LA, but now you don’t have to leave. if you want to be a working actor, you can do it here in Atlanta.
U.G. Digital Mag: You’re right. Honestly, I’m seeing that in a lot more cities now. You can do what you want there, and it’s amazing how much Atlanta has grown. It’s ironic because I’ve considered relocating there. It’s amazing how many more opportunities are there. A lot of that is because people there are doing so much, including Tyler Perry, to make those opportunities available.
Sir Brodie: Definitely.
U.G. Digital Mag: What things are you looking forward to doing in the future?
Sir Brodie: Eventually, I want to do some of my own projects. When you create your own, you have a lot more creative control. I have that desire. I started acting five years ago, and it’s been a learning process. It’s definitely been a fast learning process. Most people say it takes ten to fifteen years to really make it, so I’m still in my grinding mode, and feeling the business of acting out. Hopefully, I can do a few projects on my own. I have a few ideas. I guess if I can put a wish out there, I want to play in a remake of Shaft and actually be Shaft.
U.G. Digital Mag: I can see that happening, and it would be a good thing. I say put it on the table and it will come.
Sir Brodie: Absolutely.
U.G. Digital Mag: Obviously, many people look to get into this amazing field of acting. What advice do you offer? I ask that because things are moving great for you. It often does take fifteen years or more. Things are really happening for you at a rapid rate, and it’s great. Surely, you’re working hard, but you’re following your dreams. What advice do you offer?
Sir Brodie: It’s the same advice I give for anyone looking to do something with their life. You first have to desire it and have it in your heart, and be willing to put in the effort it takes to see that come to pass, coupled with a lot of prayer. Whatever you want to do, you have to learn it. I had to learn the craft of acting. I took an acting class every week for three years because I wanted to do this. I said it when I started, that some people have natural talent. That’s good, but It takes more than that though. You have to make the commitment to train and educate yourself. Be willing to work for free and understand that. I was in projects for three years and wasn’t getting paid. It was free stuff, but I got that advice from Greg Allen Williams. I was a background performer on Necessary Roughness, and he told me that if I wanted to do it, don’t worry about the pay. Don’t worry about if the project is great or not great. You need to learn every aspect of it so you can recognize a good project, a good director, and a good DP, so you have to do it all. Young directors and filmmakers are the future, and many of them don’t have money to pay you to work with them. You have to establish those relationships. I went to class and started networking. People were calling because they knew I would say yes [laughing]. You have to work hard and network. Whatever role you book is for you. We’re not really competing because what’s for you is for you. You have to be out there though.
U.G. Digital Mag: I love the fact you said work for free. That’s goes for any profession. I take that back to my own personal experiences in Journalism. In the beginning, I was willing to do it for free. My thing was I have a job, and I have money coming in, so I can do this for free, and I wasn’t scared to say it. The experience and knowledge trumps. If that means I need to intern or work for free, I’ll do it. Many times, that’s your only way in. Especially with Journalism, you need two to three years of experience for the entry level stuff. It resonates for sure. I tell people that, and many frown, but it’s essential.
Sir Brodie: If you have a passion for it you’ll make it. I can act all day long. I love to do it. The grind and struggle works at building you and building your character. When the success comes, then you won’t squander it. I enjoy the present moment. Tomorrow is not promised. Enjoy the moment now and hope for tomorrow.
U.G. Digital Mag: I love it. Where can people keep up with you online?
Sir Brodie: All my info is @actorsirbrodie, on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter…
U.G. Digital Mag: I can’t even lie man, I don’t know how you do the Snapchat thing, I can’t keep up with that one..
Sir Brodie: Yea, you do so many things. I film on one, and then have to figure out how to get it to the other one. Its a part of the business now. Production looks at it though. They want to know your social media following.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. Again man, thank you so much for today. It’s surely an honor.
Sir Brodie: Thank you!
For those of you who’ve followed us through the years, you know that I’ve developed a strong liking for great stage plays. I’ll easily travel round the world, which I sort of did, earlier this year. I’m almost ready to take another drive for this amazing story in Tempest, written & directed by budding playwright Kerry Ann Frazier. Let’s be clear that I say budding simply because she’s a new face to many. Her storylines, her professionalism, and the spirit she delivers speaks that of a true and ultimate master. She definitely falls right in line with the best in the world of playwrights, and the story of Tempest will undoubtedly show you that.
We had the amazing opportunity to talk with Kerry Ann about the play, and the August 19 showing in Killeen, TX! Check out the exclusive below!
U.G. Digital Mag: Thank you so, so much for the opportunity. I could easily be considered a stage play buff. I absolutely love a good stage play. I was excited to connect with you. Starting off, talk about how you entered into the arena of stage?
Kerry Ann Frazier: I have been on the stage since I was 5 years old. I was a hyper kid, and my parents didn’t know what to do with me [laughing]. They put me in a church play and I got the bug at 5 years old. I’ve been in theater; church, school and community, since I was that age, and I’ve been a director for a little over 20 years now. I didn’t study theater at USC; I graduated with a degree in Social Work. I was around a lot of theater buffs while I was there, so much that I call it an unofficial major. That’s really how I was introduced to acting. I enjoy the classics, so I studied the greats, and tried to go to as many plays as possible. I really studied the craft of stage acting. It’s been a hobby and now has developed into a business, that being Frazier Drama Company, which is owned by Daryl Frazier.
U.G. Digital Mag: Talk to me about Tempest.
Kerry Ann Frazier: With the story of Tempest, I have to go back to our last production, which was “Losing Mama”. This is a prequel to Losing Mama. “Tempest” is one of the younger grandchildren of the Dupont family. She is a corporate attorney, and is one who has had everything in life come to her except relationships with the opposite sex. It’s a comedy where we explore where things meet with reality, and how we set plans for ourselves. It’s a gospel stage play that shows how sometimes, when God intervenes, it’s just so much better than what we could have imagined. That’s what “Tempest” is. Many characters are from “Losing Mama”, and it introduces our next production.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s amazing. Are there side stories and additional storylines that this play will show?
Kerry Ann Frazier: Definitely. Through my past plays, one of the things I’ve heard a lot from my viewers is they want something from a singles perspective. This play covered so many different things; being single, and then also being married. Sometimes, those who are married look at their friends who are single and have that nostalgic feeling. It’s like one side wants what the other side wants. It’s about relationships from your own perspective. The next play is “Sunday Dinner”, and “Mama’s Family”.
U.G. Digital Mag: Like I said, I love a good play, so I’m sitting trying to figure out how I’m getting to Killeen, Texas (laughing). I have no problem traveling for a good story.
Kerry Ann Frazier: Well come on out. We’ll make sure you’re taken care of.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s funny because at the top of the year, I covered a play and drove from Cleveland to Houston to see it. I would do it in a heartbeat.
Kerry Ann Frazier: What I can say is with Losing Mama, we’ll definitely be selling the DVDs for those who can’t make it. It sold out in different cities. Some of the characters, like Uncle Riley and Aunt Pearlie, they’re also in Tempest, so you get to see a little about their family.
U.G. Digital Mag: Amazing! I love how you have it set up with different families, and storylines. It puts me in mind of the other playwrights who do a lot of the same. What have you learned looking at the power figures, like your Tyler Perrys, and Shelley Garretts?
Kerry Ann Frazier: One thing I get from Tyler Perry, and David E Talbert, is to go out and do it. I am a social worker by profession, and I’ve been a social worker for years, and have always had apprehension of starting my drama company. One of the things I heard from Tyler Perry and Denzel Washington in one of his actor’s workshops is to take the leap. There will never be a right time. If you have a good brand, and story, and operate in the spirit of excellence, it will work out. The success will come.
U.G. Digital Mag: I also heard that same thing from Shelley Garrett, who was responsible for Beauty Shop, and many others. I can relate as well because I had the same apprehension in launching this magazine a few years ago. I have been in healthcare for 16 years, but you have to believe in yourself and take the chance.
Kerry Ann Frazier: Right. I attend one of the largest churches here in Killeen. I remember doing a play called Behind Closed Doors, and it touched on domestic violence. I remember dozens of people coming up to me afterwards looking for help and someone to talk to. It was such a huge impact. People might read a book, or listen to a seminar, or hear a sermon. To have a play dealing with these issues, and people have the visual aspect, it resonates differently. That’s one of the things I learned, and I try hard to be responsible to spread positive messages. Even in negative situations, people can walk away wanting to make a difference.
U.G. Digital Mag: I love your enthusiasm and spirit. I can tell it is so well thought out. I must get there to see it (laughing). How far is Killeen from Dallas?
Kerry Ann Frazier: It’s about two hours, and about 40 minutes from Austin.
U.G. Digital Mag: Hey, it’d be a nice vacation. I have family in Dallas.
Kerry Ann Frazier: Oh, OK. Well please let me know. It would be a honor.
U.G. Digital Mag: I will surely be at the next one.
Kerry Ann Frazier: That wlll be in Waco, Killeen, and Austin.
U.G. Digital Mag: Oh wow, pretty awesome. In terms of this play, will there be a possibility of touring to other places?
Kerry Ann Frazier: We would love to. Many of our actors are active or retired military. The option is open.
U.G. Digital Mag: For people looking to keep up with you and your production company, where can they go?
Kerry Ann Frazier: Direct them to kerryannfrazier.com. We are on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook as well.
U.G. Digital Mag: Thank you again, so much. This was so awesome, and what you have is amazing. I’m a big fan of the arts, and an even bigger fan of the stage.
Kerry Ann Frazier: Thank you so much.
It’s always an amazing honor to talk to one of the heroes of hip-hop, as I often call our legends. Without a doubt, MC Eiht falls within that category. For any of your who were around in the nineties, you know exactly what I meant. Eiht entertained the masses with his tales of struggle, triumph, and glory in Compton. His presence and his magic had so much significance for me, and I’m sure it’s the same for many others. Many people, whether in his own surroundings, or around the world, were inspired in some way or another to pursue music, entertainment, or more.
I can proudly say that I was one of those. Always excited by the industry, It was pretty easy for me to look beyond some of the perceived negative to see that figures like Eiht were absolutely living their dreams through music. I strongly admire the fact that while Eiht has remained mostly low-key through the years, he has managed to maintain his relevance, appearing on various tracks here and there with many of his hip-hop peers. In doing that, he has also maintained his own character, doing what he does best and not variating to match the times so much. He’s always continued to give its the hard-hitting flow that we are accustomed to from him.
That makes his new album all the more better. “Which Way Iz West” has been a long time coming, for anyone who has truly followed Eiht, and more importantly his relation with DJ Premier. The two have worked seamlessly together for such a long time, and it’s always been anticipated that the two would collaborate on a full-length project. That project has finally come to pass with “Which Way Iz West”.
We had an amazing opportunity to connect with the legend himself one day before release to talk about the influence he has had in this industry throughout his career which has span well over two decades. It was amazing to hear his thoughts on the industry, and how he is keeping real hip-hop alive. It was amazing to hear him proudly big up other legends like L.L. Cool J. and Kool Moe Dee! He’s paying homage to the West coast with this album, but more importantly, he’s paying homage to Hip-Hop! Check the exclusive out below!
U.G. Digital Magazine: The album is dropping man, I would love you to talk more and expand upon the process of putting it together.
MC Eiht: Well basically, I’ve just been working the past few years to find the sound I felt was familiar, and paid homage to west coast music. A lot of music today is different to the ear, but we have a lot of core fans who grew up in the nineties and who appreciate it. I just felt with trying to direct this record, I wanted to reach them, or people who appreciated what hip hop stood for at that time. It was my direction to capture that feel good music of yesterday when music had substance to fans and to artists.
U.G. Digital Magazine: You speak a great deal of truth in that perspective. I’m one of those fans. I think back to my high school days, listening to you. You’re relevance is still strong. When you look at your history, it’s well over twenty albums, and we appreciate that. Music has changed drastically in the sense that many artists don’t work the same anymore. No one works as hard to do this anymore or to get noticed.
MC Eiht: I know, because I was reading somewhere, and someone said rap was a young man’s game to where it’s about the money you got, or the broads you’re fuckin’, or being on cocaine and pills. If rap is a young man’s game, it’s just a different lane that we came from. I don’t jump into the game to hate on today’s rap music, or what these cats are doing to entertain. I was just brought up in a time where it meant something to pen a song. It meant something to deliver quality music to your fans. Bullshit didn’t get any kinda play with us back in the day. I know it was payola, but still, my music has substance and it’s more than just braggadocios effect. Not to say people didn’t brag back theneither because I love me some L.L. Cool J, or Kool Moe Dee, you know what I’m saying but..
U.G. Digital Magazine: …but they talked about so much more than that though!
MC Eiht: Exactly. You know, shout out to L.L. Cool J. He had substance: I can’t Live Without My Radio, I’m Bad, 4,3,2,1, we had that. But now, the youth can youtube it, and iTunes it, and whatever, all they want to hear about is the Lamborghini, or the choke chain. But it’s cats from our era who are still around, and they appreciate the substance. I wanted to give back to fans who have been riding with hip-hop from the beginning, and who deserve a decent project.
U.G. Digital Magazine: I appreciate the fact that the people you worked with have been here working just as hard. The Lady of Rage, Xzibit, and more. You’re clearly on your own page, and sticking to your truth. We appreciate that man..
MC Eiht: I can’t get caught up in trying to compete with cats. Been there, done that. My lane is just that. I stay in my lane with my music. I’m not trying to compete because if I’ve been consistent with my clientele all this time, then I’ll remain that way. They don’t expect me to be over 40, talking about how may girls I ran through, or look at my car, rims, and chain. Been there, done that. You have to be grown enough to know what substance is. Reaching out to cats I’ve had respect for, to the point they have been hustling as long as I have, and people forget about when they were on top, and still are, we just wanted to reach out to those we respected.
U.G. Digital Magazine: I feel like this has been written for you and Premier for a long time. What took so long?
MC Eiht: I mean, you know. He’s a busy cat. You can’t force a square peg in a round hole. Timing is everything. I’ve known Premier my whole career. Him doing his thing and touring, me doing mine and touring, him being in New York, and me in Cali, it all was done for a reason and it’s set up to where shit will slide into motion. Our friendship is what brought us to this place, and having respect for what he’s done. We sat down as friends, and he came at me asking what I was doing, and saying music was so messed up. I let him hear what I was working on, and we decided to finally do this project. He felt like I deserved it, and being a pioneer of West coast hip-hop, he felt it was time.
U.G. Digital Magazine: I wholeheartedly agree with that, but also, the reality is you’ve inspired so many people. Looking at the albums, and even more your collaborations, you’ve inspired a lot. Til’ this day, your collaboration on Snoop’s “Blue Carpet Treatment”, “Candy”, is one of the dopest cuts I’ve heard. It’s funny that my son appreciates the whole vibe of that song too, and it shows you’re reaching all groups.
MC Eiht: I mean, that’s what I’ve been able to do, thank God. I’ve been able to get with the times, and you have to be able to adjust as a true artists. That keeps me fresh and able to hang if you wanna say that. I always love competition, so that’s what I look at when someone asks me to get down or be on a song. As an artist, you want to come up with your best work. Whether it’s Snoop with “Candy”, Pete Rock, or “Ma.a.d City” with Kendrick, I try to adapt to what an artist is feeling in me. Obviously, there’s a reason they contacted me. When someone shows me that respect, it’s nothing for me to give my best. That’s out of respect for the artists I work with.
U.G. Digital Magazine: So I did the pre-buy. That gave me a few tracks. It still drops tomorrow, right?
MC Eiht: It officially drops tomorrow. No delays. A lot of people talk about Jay being out tomorrow. Everybody has their own lane.
U.G. Digital Magazine: But speaking to that, dope is dope. It doesn’t matter who you drop with. If people are going to buy, they’re going to buy.
MC Eiht: That’s the way I look at it. We didn’t sleep on anything, and don’t bite out tongue for anybody. We have just as good a product, whether it be Jay-Z, T.I., Snoop, or whoever. Everybody has their own lane, and I advise you to pick and choose. That’s what preference is for. If it’s good and stand up just as strong, then why not…
U.G. Digital Magazine: What else is in the can?
MC Eiht: I’m working on “Which Way iz West II”, I’m back in the studio to work on some Compton’s Most Wanted stuff with Chill, and hopefully from there I’ll get out on tour, meet some of the people like back in the day. I like to get out to the fans, meet and greet, and see the people. Rap is so computerized, but you need to connect with the people. I want to show people my appreciation.
U.G. Digital Magazine: So many appreciate you for that. You have to get out there, communicate, and open up to the buyers. That’s dope.
MC Eiht: Exactly. If you can’t do that, you lose. I thank the people for giving this project a listen.
U.G. Digital Magazine: I’m looking forward man. I love the people you have on here. It’s great to feature you, and look back at your history and influence. I follow music so much, and this is my life, so I appreciate your contributions.
MC Eiht: When you been here as long as I have, you know to stay humble, and stay on the right track with music, and not going out of your lane. I’m just trying to give the people what they want.
U.G. Digital Magazine: Website, social media?
MC Eiht: They can hit me at @eiht0eiht on Instagram and Twitter, and @eihtcompton on Facebook.
Article by: James Johnson