Photographer Hosea Johnson
Interview Kyra Greene
How does it feel playing a young Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito’s character)?
Honestly, working on a show like this and playing the young Stan Edgar feels absolutely amazing and it’s something I never saw coming. I’m just happy to be a part of a tremendous team like this one that creates such awesome work. I was already such a huge fan of the franchise and of Giancarlo Esposito and thought that character was one of the most powerful people in the room even while he seemingly had no superpowers at all. Giancarlo is such an incredible actor and to follow in his shadow even just a little is beyond gratifying and a bit mind blowing. It feels like I’ve begin to come full circle from those elementary school productions I did as a child and I’m so thankful to my team and family for always being there to support me in this process.
Boardwalk Empire is one of HBO’s most celebrated shows how does it feel to be a part of that legacy?
Being a part of that legacy is something I’ll hold onto for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t trade the feeling that show gave me for anything else in the world! To play the son of Michael K. Williams is something that I’ll hold near and dear to my heart forever. Stepping onto a show that dealt with the 20s, notorious gangsters, big set design, larger than life costumes and some of the best actors on this planet is something that I don’t take lightly and loved every moment of. It’s also one of the reasons why I still talk about it til this day. It got the recognition it deserved at the time but to me it deserves to be a show that is talked about forever. Especially since losing such a tremendous actor like Michael K. Williams. Watching his process through that show was like taking a MasterClass and acting. He connected with music that helped him build a character that everyone came to love and in between each take grounded himself in what Chalky White would listen to and was motivated by. Obviously it wasn’t 1920s music but it was still music that grounded Chalky and the choices he made.
Did you get to meet the older version of your character?
Well, like I said Giancarlo Esposito is an incredible actor. And quite busy as well. Although I wanted to chat with him and pick his brain about the character I didn’t get to meet him because of scheduling. Instead I deep dived and was provided with everything I needed to make Stan Edgar come alive. I focused on speech patterns, gestures, the way he walked, his pacing and his over all demeanor. I can’t wait to finally meet him and hope I do the young version of him justice.
The Boys season 3 is premiering soon did you ever picture yourself as a superhero? Are you pro Supe?
I always dreamed of one day becoming apart of a superhero show and yes, I’ve definitely imagined myself as a superhero, I mean who doesn’t at some point. Which? I’d have to say Evan Daniels aka Spyke, Storms nephew from X-Men since he’s one of the few heroes that haven’t been tackled yet. Here’s a confession, I also read for another role on The Boys way back when it was in its first season. I won’t say which but I will say he’s very fast haha.
Now am I pro Supe you ask? Could I be Stan Edgar and not be pro Supe? That would be impossible! Like present day Stan Edgar says in season 2 people mis-conceptualize Vought’s true mission. Everyone, Homelander included, believes Vought is a superhero company when in actuality we’re a pharmaceutical company. I can’t help what the Supe’s do while on V. I can only continue to run the business accordingly.
As a native New Yorker would you ever want to star on the great white way and what would your dream role be?
Of course I would love to star on Broadway! It would have to be a play though because I can’t sing a lick haha. I was raised and trained in the theatre and it’s been a dream of mine to go back ever since I was young. The thrill and feeling you get from theatre work is like no other. You’re energized by the audience’s reactions and fueled by their love for live performance.
My dream role would be to perform in anything written by August Wilson. I absolutely love its timelessness and how grounded his writing is in a world I find familiar and relatable. I always loved Phylicia Rashad but watching her Tony award winning portrayal of Aunt Ester in Gem of the Ocean changed my whole life. She was transformed and her performance equally transformed me.
Of all of the legendary actors you’ve had the pleasure of working with who gave you the best advice?
The best advise I’ve probably gotten was to never eat the chili from crafty right before shooting two person close ups. I won’t say who said that but we learned it while working. All jokes aside one of my favorite actors, Barry Shabaka Henley taught me the importance of integrity and only accepting roles that really spoke to you. Joe Morton taught me the power of your voice, Bette Midler taught me to memorize everything on the page, Queen Latifah taught me how to possess a fuller than life stillness, S. Epatha Merkerson taught me to still have fun amongst all the seriousness, and Vivica Fox taught me to give ‘em a variety. While filming The Equalizer Latifah said to me “Do it one way then think, ‘What would Vivica do?’” I of course have learned so much more from so many others and treasure every jewel of knowledge I get to leave each project with.
Can you tell us about bringing arts to children in the city and how it’s going?
Of course. A few years ago I worked with MiniSink which is a program that assists inner city kids in many different areas. Wether it be housing, education, health or counseling services they have been an awesome outlet for New York City for over 200 years. My goal was to bring the arts to their program since so much of NYC had done away with art programs in the education system. It’s important we allow children to have a creative outlet without constraint, judgement, prejudice or criticism and that’s what the arts do. That’s what it did for me.
How did Brooklyn prepare you for your current profession?
Brooklyn made me tough as nails while still being humble and genuine at heart and that’s exactly what you need in this industry to survive. You need to be able to take criticism and rejection, sometimes on a daily bases but at the same time you can’t become so hardened that you loose the passion for what you do. Brooklyn also gifted me a sense of realism. I know what hardship is. I know what success is and failure is as well. I grew up in old school Brooklyn which was way tougher than it is today. I know how to tell the story of a hardened character and can relate to them because of my surroundings and environment growing up. It’s where we originate from and gain knowledge about human behavior. Brooklyn made me a go getter and its influence has helped shape the character’s I’ve been able to develop and the career I take so much pride in.
What inspired your love to help the children of Haiti?
After the devastation the earthquake caused in 2010 I felt the need to help in anyway that I possibly could. I was fortunate enough to be on Boardwalk Empire at the time and it gave me the opportunity to use my voice and connections with others that could make real progress and change in the world. I connected with photographer Marc Baptise and supermodel Selita EBanks in the rebuilding of orphanages and schools that were affected by the earthquake and together we held press and fund raising events and were able to send over supplies and other things which the area desperately needed. It’s so sad many areas of the world are forgotten simply because they’re not seen as a first world nation. Humanitarianism goes way beyond the comfort of our own surroundings. It may start at home with us but it is something that can reach every corner of the world.
Your alma mater, the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan has produced some notable alumni. How did that foundation help you grow personally as well as in your craft?
Going to Professional Performing Arts School was a great foundation for me. It put me in the heart of the theatre district to learn from both seasoned established performers and ones that were closer to me in age. The school is known for producing greats like Alicia Keys, Jessie Eisenberg, Lee Thompson Young, Sarah Hyland, Jeremy Allen White, Colby Minifie (who plays Ashley on The Boys) Jonny Beauchamp, Jason Gotay and honestly the list continues on for ages. Being in school with many of them felt just like any other school. Mean yes we did have dancers leaping through the hall ways and the staircases were filled with the sounds of some of the best vocalists and musical theater majors of our time but to me that school of just 400 students still felt normal. We were all teenagers going through adolescents in the heart of times square, which came with its own set of drama — but they all pushed me to be the best I could be in life and in my craft. Whenever someone was out of school and “on location” it only made me want to work harder so I could be out of class and on location as well. I learned so much from them then and still do til this day!