Five Years Later... How Ain’t Nuthin’New Became A Reality
Allow me to paint the picture... November, 2016. Still somewhat a fledgling in the acting world. Three years in with four plays on my resume, while rehearsing for my fifth; the role of Troy Maxson in Fences. A beast of a role, but I was up to the challenge. At this time I was bartending in Rockland County four days a week while balancing this acting thing. I would eventually leave five months later for something more flexible, but back to the story.
I have a media bio on Backstage and I would regularly get emails requesting that I audition for something. If I would get an email notification during work I would blow it off until the shift was over. I received a notification on my way to work. I saw it was from Backstage and said I’ll view it later. As I got to work I got another notification. This time a direct email from the casting agent from the first email. Here, I am thinking it’s just a follow up on their part and go on into work.
Now there was a recent mandate on my job that I take my required 15 minute break (I don’t smoke and have snacks at my disposal, so it wasn’t something I viewed as a necessity). They made a ridiculous stink about this despite my objections, so I would take it 90 minutes after I arrived, roughly right after I set up the bar and before the dinner crowd rolled in. Since I now had this down time I figured I might as well use it to view the emails. When I checked my phone, the casting agent had left me a voice mail to get back to her ASAP. Whatever the gig was, they were very interested in me being a part of it. Not looking at the emails, I call her to see what was up. She was pleased to finally reach me. She wanted me to be a part of a music video. I’m not sure how much info she actually knew vs. her not wanting to give me much information. She said the artist was Ne-Yo, the shoot was in Philadelphia, and if I could make the 3a Saturday morning call time, I’m in. It’s Thursday afternoon, and I’m supposed to work Friday night until 2a Saturday... so naturally I say yes. The trick now is to get someone to take my shift.
The bar wasn’t really big, for the most part it was a one-person operation except on Friday and Saturday nights. There were three other bartenders on the staff; Michelle, the one that works the days I don’t, and two fill ins, Matt & Janis, who also serve as the second bartender on the busy nights. Matt was already coming in Friday, so I asked Janis. She was unavailable. Michelle was my only hope or I was screwed. She was a new mother and I knew her off days were precious. I emailed her all the information I knew; music video, Ne-Yo, Philly... hoping she would be excited for me and gladly take the shift. While I waited for her reply, the casting agent contacted me. She told me two things... a) that the video was actually for Jadakiss (Ne-Yo and the late Nipsey Hussle are part of the track and are in the video), and b) the shoot has been moved from Philly to north of Times Square, same call time. My worst case scenario was now if Michelle couldn’t work, I could work the shift and get into the city on time. Michelle then gets back to me. She was more excited than I anticipated (even more so when she found out it was a Jadakiss video) and was glad to help... the only problem was her boyfriend didn’t get home until 10p and couldn’t get a sitter on short notice. With my newfound knowledge of the shoot being in Manhattan (which I didn’t divulge), I told her, “If you could arrive by 11p, I’ll open the shift. I’ll still be able to make it to Philly (snicker) in time for the shoot.” She agreed, and the wheels were in motion.
I got home around midnight and was able (tried) to get a couple hours of sleep before I went into the city. Got up around 2a, threw on my suit and headed out. I drove in because I didn’t get the down time I anticipated. The way NJ Transit buses run after midnight I probably would have needed to leave at 1a to make sure I was there by 3a. Naturally, parking at that time of night was not a problem, but the “hurry up and wait” nature of shoots had me concerned about how long it would take (I just knew I would get towed). I get to the shoot at 2:55 and I’m greeted by a PA I knew from a short film I did about a year prior. We get caught up, she leads me to the craft table, tells me they’re in the middle of the club scene and my scene will be shot right after. 90 minutes (and about six granola bars) later we do my car scene (a sick ride, I was scared as fuck just rolling it 50 feet). It’s close to 5a now and adrenaline was having a battle with me being spent from the long day, which gave the director, Clifton Bell, just the look he was looking for when he asked for a dead eye view just left of the camera. He got the shot he wanted, and the night shoot was wrapped. We would reconvene around 11a at a barber shop in Harlem.
This gave me the opportunity to drive back home (I didn’t get towed) get a bite to eat, another mini nap, and hop NJ Transit to Harlem (I damn sure wasn’t driving this time). I get to the barber shop and discover I have two things; a partner in crime named Monday (played by Robert Kabakoff), and lines in the scene (which is only part of the director’s cut of the video). I had decent time to get my lines down as they shot the kid scene outside first, and the barber had a customer in a chair when we showed up. Jadakiss actually dapped me up with a Benjamin, which I made sure got back in his hand as soon as I heard, “CUT!”
The Chinese restaurant scene was a last minute vision by Bell. Didn’t even set it up with the spot. We went inside, improved the whole scene while it was shot outside the window, right down to my scene partner walking out and me looking on with a perfectly timed slow blink. We were wrapped, and 29 hours after I woke up to do part of my Friday shift, my adventure was over.
We didn’t sign any NDAs, but we were told to keep the video under wraps, and they would tell us 24hrs before they dropped it to start promoting it. December 7th, 2015, I’m out doing a side gig where I don’t have the chance to check my phone. When I do get the downtime, I have a combined total of 52 texts, Facebook tags, Facebook inboxes, and voicemails. My godniece sent me the pic of Monday and me saying “I see you in the Jadakiss video!!!” My daughter was mad because I ordered the hit on him. I rode the wave of this moment through the weekend, taking calls from friends and fam congratulating me. Truly one of the highlights of my career.
Props to Dapper Dan. RIP Nipsey Hussle.