Fast Break with McKinley Freeman
Posted On Mar 23, 2016
Back by popular demand, VH1’s highly anticipated series, Hit the Floor, starring none other than McKinley Freeman has returned to our Monday night television lineup. Taking on the role as heartthrob basketball star Derek Roman of the Los Angeles Devils, each week viewers are privy to Freeman’s uncanny artistic ability to effortlessly steal the hearts of many. His undeniable talents have solidified a loyal following that encompass a massive fan base which ultimately have catapulted his star power to soaring heights.
Aside from acting, the Chicago native is fully engulfed within all facets of the performing arts including poetry and producing. During our interview, he gave us a glimpse into his most riveting and coveted thoughts by reciting an emotionally charged and heart piercing piece of poetry. Not to mention, he currently has a process registered with the Library of Congress entitled, Spontaneous Humanity Through Words. Now seriously, how cool is that?
The launch pad of his successful career began early on with features on award-winning shows including, FOX’s “Bones,” ABC’s “General Hospital,” and “NBC’s “Days of our Lives.” All of this comes after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and landing a corporate gig with IBM within their worldwide marketing and business development program. However, the obvious question, why would someone abandon the societal norm in order to pursue a dream in the making? The answer is quite clear; McKinley Freeman was destined for greatness from the very beginning.
New You, had a chance to speak with the VH1 star about all things that truly embody, inspire, and influence a person’s artistry, his favorite part about returning to the series, as well as his initial attraction of the script, Hit the Floor. And ladies don’t worry, we definitely asked about those amazing sculpted abs (swoon)!
New You: What originally attracted you to the “Hit The Floor” script and what makes it different from other sports themed shows? McKinley Freeman: There is this idea circulating that I had a choice as an actor for this role, but I did not. I received castings via email and attended auditions just like everyone else. It was interesting because at the time I already booked a recurring role on the show, Devious Maids. Initially, when I arrived for my appointment I auditioned for the role of Terrence, but as I was leaving, a producer from the show came to me and asked if I was able to come back and read for the role of Derek. In my mind [I thought], “I already have a job and what are the chances of me landing this gig anyway?” As it turns out, it was a great reminder for me that sometimes we find ourselves at a point in our lives where we feel overwhelmed. However, when you look around, it is all the positive things that we have created for ourselves. Next time, you become overwhelmed, take a moment to stop and take it all in because it symbolizes that you are headed in the right direction. I say all of that to say I did not stress everything as much because the more I thought about it, the higher the chances were that I would stand in my own way. Once I arrived to the table read I realized it was something that I will never forget because it was similar to the first day of summer camp and the feeling has never stopped. NY: What was your favorite part about returning to the series in your role as Derek Roman? MF: My favorite part about returning was the fact that we’ve been off for so long and our fans were still interested 18 months later! To be quite honest, that is a minor miracle especially in this day and age when there is so much content vying for people’s attention. In hindsight, the fact that both new and previous fans continue to watch the show is amazing. In terms of returning as the character Derek, it is very exciting because once we receive the scripts, our reactions are just like the fans when it comes on television for the first time. It’s great to have the opportunity to witness his [Derek] evolution as a person. As Season 3 began, it was clear that he was on a mission because he knows exactly what he wants and he is not afraid to do what it takes to get there. I think that is something all of us can more or less connect with.
NY: As a poet in your opinion, what is the most difficult part of the writing process?
MF: I think the most difficult part of being a writer is staying true to your own voice and not trying so hard. I honestly believe most writers and creatives would agree with me as well. Actually, I believe that is the biggest challenge in life (laughs). Writing is not separate from that and I say it all the time especially when we begin having conversations about societal standards and things of that nature.
If you seriously look at the larger picture, at no other point in the history of the world has there ever been greater access to a wealth of information. At the same token, I would also argue that at no other point have we been disconnected from the truth. Personally speaking, it behooves us, even in our own small ways, to consistently check and remind ourselves of what our true voice really is by understanding and knowing all of the facts.
No one wants to hear someone else’s thoughts, they want to hear your authentic thoughts. You should always be the one telling your own story and allowing us to know how you feel and not what others believe you should say or feel. At the end of the day, when everyone else is gone you are the only one that is going to be left with your own ideas. I say all of that to say, writing is extremely important and serves as an opportunity for us all.
Also, if you think about it, how many people actually speak about their real problems, do you know what I mean? If you can at least write them [fears, failures, daily thoughts, problems, etc.] down on paper you can become in tune with how you truly feel. We all can agree to disagree but the hardest conversation for anyone to have is the one in the mirror but writing is another route of taking an honest and forthright examination of yourself.
NY: What are a few of your main influences that contribute to your body of work?
MF: It varies because I can write for three sometimes, four days straight and suddenly not write for two years. My body of work always serves as an opportunity for me to tell a present story but in a new, exciting way, but it all begins with me having something to say.
Ultimately, you can only reach an informed opinion by actually spending time with the information. You can’t jump steps because it is definitely a process! My philosophy is that you can only withdraw the amount you deposit, which does not only apply in a banking sense but also in terms of pursuing your dreams. You have to be willing to invest the time and figure things out in order to perfect your craft and truly embrace your creativity.
NY: In terms of your poetry, can you do a little freestyle for us or share a snippet of something you’ve recently been working on?
MF: Of course! Generally, I don’t memorize things because I’ll just write it out and let it be. Most likely it will take me five minutes or so. However, before I begin, [reciting] let me explain the process and concept behind this piece. People will send me a word and I write a poem based on the word. One time, someone sent my name back and it was most likely one of the most difficult things I have ever written (laughs).
Usually, it is easier for me to speak on other people, observe and make comments but when it boils down to me personally, I ask myself, “OK, how can I do this but not have to dig too deep.” Initially I began the poem by trying to creatively include my acting credits and tell a story based on that, but honestly, it just didn’t feel right. I stopped the process to refocus and tried it again differently the next day.
NY: When you’re not filming, how do you continue to hone your craft?
MF: I am grateful to have the opportunity to audition a lot but I truly believe one of the things that continues to help hone my craft is staying busy. When the auditions come along it’s cool but you can only sit around and wait for people for so long before you become self-motivated to start making things happen.
NY: Switching gears, inquiring minds would like to know about your amazing abs. What’s the secret?
MF: It consists of cardio as well as being mindful of my diet. Don’t get me wrong, I still love pizza and ribs! (laughs) It’s important to remember that cardio does not have to be extremely difficult. You do not have to go to the gym and pretend you’re climbing a ladder or something of that intense nature. You can actually just go for a walk after eating dinner. If you think about it, many people, if not most, spend of a lot of time throughout the day sitting behind a desk. As a result, it is important to move around a bit, become active, and not remain idle all day every day.
NY: Are there any new projects you’re working on that you can share with us or speak about?
MF: Absolutely, there is a movie that I actually produced and I’m acting in as well entitled, “Illicit.” It is an erotic thriller alongside Vivica A. Fox, Dean Cane, David Ramsey [Arrow], and Essence Atkins. Everything is coming together extremely well and I believe it is a movie that everyone will be able to enjoy.
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