Imagine this. You’re a 17-year-old Nigerian-American high school student from a small suburban town on the other side of the Hudson River. You find yourself singing for Jay-Z in your living room where he tells you, “You have a powerful voice, learn to control it and by 22-23 years old you will be good.” For the now 22-year-old Northwestern graduate, Rotimi Akinosho, that was a reality. Finally entering the age when Hov predicted he’d become big, Rotimi is making headway in achieving that dream.
Cast on the brand new Starz channel original series, “Boss”, which was renewed for a second season before the first episode aired. Rotimi is in the midst of establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. Not only an actor, Rotimi is a singer-songwriter with tracks featuring the likes of Dawn Richard of Dirty Money and Mickey Factz.
The Urban Daily got a chance to talk to the young triple threat about his role on the new hit series, why he didn’t think twice about playing a drug dealer, and his DJ Suss One and DJ Trauma hosted mixtape, While You Wait. Get to know an entertainer on the rise.
TUD: You’re on a brand new show, “Boss“. Is this your first major acting role on television?
RA: It was my first audition after graduating college, actually. My agent sent me down there and I didn’t know the magnitude of the audition.
How does it feel to have your first role to be working with Kelsey Grammer and Gus Van Sant? Mario Van Peebles just directed an episode. How does it feel to be working with these big names on the show?
It’s very humbling. At the same time, I know I’m blessed. Being the new guy, I’m able to learn so much about acting and just how to handle myself as a professional in the business. Already they’ve shown me little tricks to study lines better and how to be a better actor. When you’re around greatness, you kind of want to be that. Who better to follow than those three? It’s just an all around blessing and I’m looking forward to getting into season two.
With a great deal of the black community taking issue with most black actors only getting the parts of drug dealers and pimps, was there any hesitation on your part to take the role of a drug dealer?
No, I looked at the bigger picture. Being apart of possibly an Emmy award winning show weighed heavily. The creator, Farhad Safinia, really wanted to keep me from being the classic thug. He wanted to give my character depth. It doesn’t bother me because you don’t see me doing that. It’s only in episode one where it’s established that my character is a drug dealer, but the writers kept it tasteful. The focus is placed more on my relationship with Hannah Ware’s character. She plays Kelsey Grammer’s daughter, Emma. Our relationship and interaction is more of the story’s focus.
How have the viewers reacted to your character and story line?
They’ve been nothing but supportive. A lot of people have been saying, “I love that show! I would love it even if you weren’t on it, but you add a lot.” I get people telling me how proud they are of me. Everybody is just blown away because Boss came out of nowhere. I’m an R&B artist first. So getting respect for my acting is great. I’ve been getting some comments about my love scenes, so it’s all love being shown. [laughs] I’m just glad to get my name out there and I’m going to keep going.
From the viewer’s perspective, what do you think of the relationship between your character, Darius and Emma?
The relationship between Darius and Emma is very complex. There are many different layers and it goes in phases. She needs him for something and he views her as his escape from what he does on the street. Emma sees Darius has the pharmaceuticals to supply her hospital and you’ll see in future episodes what else she asks him to do for her. Darius is curious about her. It’s complex and maybe a little controversial, but it happens everyday.
From the three episodes that have aired, I kind of don’t know how to take your character. Darius cares for his grandfather, but he’s a drug dealer. Then, he stops Emma from relapsing with cocaine. So I don’t know how to feel about Darius right now.
Well, you know, I start falling for her, man. She starts…I don’t want to ruin it for you. Just know that I start falling for her and things start coming from left field that you’d never expect.
Will your role be expanded for next season?
Yeah, I’ll definitely have a bigger part next season. It was just that when we started filming the first season, they didn’t know what to expect because I was the new guy. The writers didn’t know how much they could write for me. They realized I can hold my own. So going forward, I’m going to have a bigger part in the series.
Will you and Kelsey Grammer’s character get to interact in any scenes in future episodes?
That would be a waste if you guys didn’t get to have an intense face off or something.
How did you know, man?! [laughs] You’re right on the money with that one.We have an intense stare off. He realizes who I am and I realize who he is and it gets interesting. It had to happen. Darius is a black kid messing with the mayor of Chicago’s daughter.
You mentioned earlier that you’re also a singer. Do you write your own material too?
Yeah, I do. The majority of all my music is all me. I’ve been able to work with some pretty good songwriters, but I write most of it myself. I play the piano. My parents had me taking piano and I hated it. I fell off with it, but it’s one of those things you look back on and wish you would have stuck it out.
Man, you could have been getting your John Legend on right now.
I know, man, I beat myself up over it everyday. [laughs]
How would you describe you sound?
With my music, I think you can expect authenticity. I take pride in writing songs where people can relate to the story. It’s real. I don’t like doing surface level music. The best songs are the ones with stories that people can relate to and that’s what I try to put out there. I dropped a mixtape called The Resume earlier this year and my new mixtape, While You Wait, is out now. I’m really excited about it.
How do you find time to work on Boss and record music?
It’s a sacrifice. I always say, “Work hard now so you can play harder later.” I sacrifice a lot of the going out and things a 22 years old would do, in order to work on my craft. I want to focus on my music and my acting and getting better at both.
Are you actively pursuing a record deal or are you taking the independent route?
Right now, I’m taking the independent route. It will take the right situation for me to sign to a label. I’d love to have a big machine behind me. Let’s just say I’d love to have a major label deal, but if not, we’ll be able to handle it independently.
Boss airs every Friday on the Starz Channelat 10 pm. Check out Rotimi’s music here.