“I want to be the Michael Jordan of my sport.”
‘Chocolate City’ star Robert Ri’chard makes the declaration from his home in Los Angeles, pronounced during an hour-long with That Grape Juice‘s David about his role in the new coming-of-age series ‘427.‘
The comedy/drama follows the lives of 20-somethings dealing with the realities of adulthood while at college and is led by the ‘City’ actor and produced by YouTube personality TPindell and Jon Lesane.
Now find out how the project serves as a new springboard in the star’s career.
Where? In a conversation that sees him address an onerous childhood, his rise from troubled teen to the top of TV land and the questions his mixed heritage forces him to confront everyday in Hollywood’s casting arena.
Read all below…
“I was running from trouble,” he begins when we first meet. “I was in some trouble and I ran into an alleyway to escape and then I looked up and around and realised I was in acting agency.”
What happened next marks the beginning of a story that made its way to TV screens around the world when Cousin Skeeter touched down on September 1st 1998.
“I met my agent, got some work (Nickelodeon Sports Theatre With Shaquille O’Neal) and Nick was so impressed they wrote Skeeter for me. We found the beautiful Meagan Good later and we had a great run.”
The show’s success would place Ri’Chard among a group of African-American teens leading U.S. television to global glory, placing him alongside the likes of Brandy (Moesha) and paving the way for the likes of Raven-Symone (That’s So Raven) and Kyla Pratt with whom he starred in ‘One on One.’
Alas, the last decade hasn’t been as kind to African-American thespians hoping to follow in his footsteps. It’s a fact Ri’chard is happy to address when we quizzed him on the matter.
“There were big changes being made at a lot of the networks because of of a number of things, the internet being one of them,” he begins. “That made the people in charge make personal adjustments and support things they believed was safe to attract viewers. Back in the 90s TV was based on what people wanted to see and people love African-American culture which is why there so many shows about us. That changed when the changes I was talking about before happened but now we’re seeing things go back to being what they were. It’s awesome”
They are. For, this year will see the star use his industry muscle to push the series ‘427’ to major networks he hopes will pick up the online series and send him home…to TV.
“A lot of the video on demand platforms are great but ‘427’ is good enough to be on TV,” he adds when we ask him about his plans for the show. “Jon Lesane is a genius and we’ve got something that’s really going to connect with people. It’s great because it’s an independent project that isn’t tied down in the way major projects are.”
We asked him to elaborate.
“I have trouble sometimes because people don’t know where to place me in Hollywood as far as casting goes. I’m black but I’m always asked if I’m “black enough” to play a black character. It isn’t just that. There’s always a question about my age. “Is he too young?” “Is he to old?” I’m not sure where these questions come from but I think some people are worried about making casting mistakes because of the way I look but they won’t. Why? I’ve been blessed with a loyal fan base who are so supportive of everything I do.”
The last point was proved when Ri’chard left the safety of children’s television to take on a starring role in the TV adaption of Anne Rice’s ‘The Feast of All Saints’ back in 2001.
Many other daring roles would follow as the former teen sensation ventured into adulthood. However, unlike a number of his contemporaries, Ri’Chard’s personal life seemed to remain as clean as the aloof characters he’s most recognised for.
The result? A brand which sees him hailed as a positive role model in an arena where good behaviour on or offscreen is a rarity.
“I do care about being a good role model,” he admits. “I can admit it. I give a ****. Art imitates life and so I’m always playing an ordinary guy thrown into an extraordinary situation. I have so much respect for the people who have supported me that I don’t want to do anything that would disappoint them. My biggest thing is creating a great library of work that lasts.”
This year will see the movie ‘Chocolate City’ added to said library.
Yes, after trapper Romeo Miller was booted from the project, Ri’Chard nabbed the role in the movie which is being touted as the Urban alternative to Channing Tatum’s ‘Magic Mike.’ Tatum has endorsed the project.
“Magic Mike is magical but Chocolate City is magic mountain,” he laughs. “It’s great because it’s a clean movie. You can go and see it with your friends and family members without there being a cringe factor. For me, success for City would mean sold out theatres and knowing that people have walked away with a real love for it.”
‘City’ drops onin the coming weeks and places Robert among stars he was linked to before replacing Miller in the movie.
“I do a lot of work with Michael Jai White in Atlanta for Tyler Perry, got into a lot of trouble having sex to Ginuwine’s music and have modelled with Tyson Beckford so it was great to join a cast that was made up of friends.”
Industry murmurs name Robert’s performance as the strongest in the release, and it’s a fact he seems to be aware of as we quiz him on competition during the tail end of our conversation.
“I’ve been able to look after my family through this which is amazing to me but I always want more. I like putting trophies on my shelf and so I do want to eclipse the biggest actors. I’ve learned that there are no days off and that a lot of this is about team work and sportsmanship.”
He pauses and then makes the declaration. “I want to be the Michael Jordan of my sport.”
If his journey so far is anything to go by we’re sure it won’t be long before that dream becomes a reality.