1. How did you get started in acting.
A.J: Well, I started by doing a whole lot of traveling, taking classes, networking, getting head shots, building up my resume, just working really hard overall. I didn’t have as much money and experience as other people starting off so of course I ran into a lot of struggles, scams, and things I had to learn. I think the biggest thing that helped me though were the people I made connections with. Meeting and collaborating with other industry professionals is an important thing for any actor to do.
2. Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
A.J: Something that really inspires me is black excellence from the past and present. Seeing amazing people like Huey Newton, Tupac Shakur, Malcom X, Angela Davis, Jay-Z, Angela Rye, and many more speak inspires me so much. Just watching how much a lot our people sacrificed so that we could be free, I know that I have to do the same thing for future generations. My mom also inspires me because of how hard she works.
3. What do you hope to achieve during your acting career?
A.J: While a big goal of my mine is to have major roles in feature films and shows. I also want to own something…like my own production company or something, and have an organization that helps actors on the come up find their way.
4. What’s been your favorite project thus far?
A.J: The Chi is hands down my favorite project I’ve worked on so far. I think it’s because of how at home I felt on set. Everybody is like family. I’ve never seen a cast as supportive and close as The Chi’s cast. It’s a great feeling being on set.
5. Besides The CHI what current projects are you working on?
A.J: I recently shot in Tennessee for a show called Murder Chose Me on Investigation Discovery. I also plan on writing and producing my own projects in the future.
6.What does The Chi mean to you, especially considering your from Chicago?
A.J: The Chi is very important because of how real and authentic it is. It shows how everybody in a community can be affected by one turn of events. When people, especially black, in Chicago are murdered, their lives turn into statistics. It’s so common, that when someone is killed, it’s like background noise to everybody. People dehumanize the situation. I feel like the show very accurately portrays some of the people of Chicago, and helps show empathy for who is in front of the gun AND behind it. I can relate to so many of the characters on the show. My family has lost people due to the violence in Chicago, so I deeply appreciate how much The Chi represents our people.
7. Talk to me about the role you will play in FX ATL.
A.J: Well, I don’t want to give the whole episode away, but my character is a mean kid in high school. Kind of similar to the role I play in The Chi, Stick, I believe he’s misguided and cares for things that aren’t that important, but he’s just a product of his environment. It’s a very realistic character.
8. Do you watch yourself on television and if so what does that feel like?
Are you critical of yourself?
A.J: Yes I do. It’s funny actually because I stopped watching TV literally right before I started to be on TV. So when shows like Chicago PD, and The Chi came out I had to start watching TV again. But it’s pretty much normal to me when I see myself on TV. I think it’s weird or crazy for people around me, but not as much for me. I do critique myself sometimes though. I’ll think things like “I should have had a different expression on my face for that” or “I could’ve said that better” when watching myself, but overall it’s really cool.
9.Tell me about your organization Building Bosses. What made you start it?
A.J: Building Bosses is a non-profit organization I started to teach young people how to be entrepreneurs, recognize their own self worth, and also how to serve in their community. I try to help the kids break their shells and realize that they can use their passions to be successful in the future. I wasn’t privileged at all growing up, but I had mentors that stepped up and help me recognize I could make myself great using my talents, so I want to do the same thing for my peers. My biggest goal for Building Bosses is to build up young leaders who came from a similar background as me, and to plant a seed of supporting the youth so they can become young bosses and also help make the community better.
10. Besides acting what other interest do you have or goals you like to achieve?
A.J: I want to keep inspiring the youth to live up to their full potential, and just helping people in general. I’m also very passionate about music. Love listening to and creating music, so I definitely want to do something with music in the future. I also wrote my own book that I’m going to be releasing soon, and as I said before I want to start my own production company. I just want to accomplish things that would seem impossible for a young black man to do. I want to pave the way for more little kids growing up to be who they want to be.
11.After learning so much about you, one last question from one Chicagoan to another. What does the city of Chicago mean to you?
A.J: Chicago means a lot to mean to me, not only because my roots are there or how beautiful and innovative it is, but because of how it makes me feel. As a young black man in this country, there are very few, if any, places that make me feel comfortable or at home when I’m there. But as soon as I step foot in Chicago, I get an overall joyous feeling in my body. I love it.