“I was not even thinking about acting,” says the model turned actor, Keith Powers in response to a question about his initial interest in the craft.
You may have received your formal introduction to Powers in the wildly successful 2015 biopic, Straight Outta Compton, in which he played Dr. Dre’s younger brother Tyree Clayton, or as Ronnie DeVoe in the 2017 miniseries, The New Edition Story. Easily becoming Hollywood’s new ‘IT’ guy, thanks in no small part to an impressive line-up of film and TV roles, in his current show, the Bella Thorne boasting Famous in Love—which comes from I. Marlene King, executive producer/co-showrunner of that other not-so-obscure teen series, Pretty Little Liars—he plays young actor and in-house bad boy, Jordan Wilder.
Eager to hear about the life of a star on the rise, we grabbed five with Keith to learn more about the journey to success.
So first off, how did you get into acting?
I got into acting simply through being signed as a model; it gave me the necessary tools to make that step. I remember, I was not even thinking about acting.I had this agent who would always ask me, “what do you want to do? What’s your end gain?” I’m like’ I really don’t know’, but I always thought TV personality would be interesting. I liked seeing hosts and stuff like that.
She recommended me to an agency for commercial talent and I got signed. The agency then happened to become theatrical, so I signed to the theatrical department and took a step back to think if I’m really going to do this, I have to study. I read a few books, I went from class to class and after I booked my first film, House Party: Tonight’s the Night, I literally fell in love. I caught the bug and it was over.
Let’s talk Famous in Love, what attracted you to the role of Jordan?
What I liked about Jordan was that they had already told us, kind of early on, that he would be dealing with a lot as a character. So I felt like if I’m going to be on the show – that has the potential to be on for years – I want to be a complex character; I want to be able to show my talent and range in a character.
And did you find it easy to relate?
I relate to his desires in the sense that when he wants something and tries to make something happen, something bad always pops up. No matter how good he’s doing, something will happen but he always finds a way to get it done. That makes him so much more of a human and I can relate to that. We all make mistakes, or something will happen, and we have to bounce back from it.
You’ve been privy to some super varied roles, from Straight Outta Compton to The New Edition Story and Famous in Love.
Every role is so different and it’s all about research. I didn’t know much about Tyree. Nobody did; it was a dope character to introduce to the world. That was different than playing Ronnie DeVoe in New Edition because people know who Ronnie DeVoe is. You’re not introducing somebody; you have to amplify that character on screen for people to fall back in love with that person. I had to really ask Dr. Dre what was his brother like. I had to bring the little brother to the screen so that people could feel that and when he passed it really hurt. For New Edition so much went into preparing for that; from dance rehearsals to coaching.
Going into Jordan, I felt so free. The preparation was more fun in the sense that I get to create the character for everyone else. I get to come up with what I want him to be in my head, given the guidelines from the writers.
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So your roles have undoubtedly led you to the Man Crush Monday title. Is that a bit weird?
Haha, I think that when you’re put in a position like that it’s easy to get big headed and really just think about yourself, to be like, ‘I’m hot and I love everything that I do,’ but for me, I’ve tried to appreciate the fact that when women appreciate my acting, it means something. I’ve always believed that women are the tastemakers for everything. They devote their time and emotion into everything they like. So the fact that I can be a Man Crush Monday – and then a woman tells me she really loved my work in something – it’s a big deal of responsibility. With the position I’m in, I want to lead by example.
Who are your acting influences?
I have so many. I would honestly have to say, of course, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx. Then there’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep…I have so many influences. I look up to and identify with the people who made me fall in love.
You’ve mentioned your modelling. How does being in front of the camera compare to walking the runway?
You just have to sell to the audience. A camera is right on you so the audience can always depict when you’re not being truthful. Acting lives in truth, whereas being on the runway, there’s more emotion and fierceness.
Cool. So what’s next for Keith Powers?
I feel like I’m still so much on the come up and I still have so far to go. What’s next? I don’t even know. I want to be doing a bunch of movies. I have a movie coming out called Reality High on Netflix this summer. I’m on a show called Tales; a rap series by Gotti on BET. So I have some little things dropping but there’s so much I want to do. I want to be in different movies and play different characters and at the same time, I want to be on your TV every week with Famous in Love. I just want people to fall in love with my characters and really grow with them.