'Undercovers' Boris Kodjoe Talks New Show, Keeping His German Accent Under Wraps

Undercovers is not just your average network TV spy drama it’s a bold splash of color (pun intended) that features two black actors in the lead roles and is a fun, quick witted romp of a series that crosses all genre lines. The premise: two married small business catering owners get back into their ex-spy game jobs. VIBE caught up with one of the Undercovers' stars Boris Kodjoe who plays Steven Bloom, to talk about the show's groundbreaking casting, what it's like shooting the series and how he keeps his German accent all American for each episode.—Ronke Idowu Reeves

VIBE: It’s a huge deal that a mainstream network drama has two black lead characters. It’s never happened before. Do you want to talk a bit about the trailblazing casting of Undercovers?

I think its important to recognize that it’s not the norm [the casting] but that it should be the norm because that’s what the world looks like. It’s diverse and we come in all types shapes, sizes and shades. Traditionally in TV it hasn’t been the case. So, it’s important to be trailblazers but on the other hand l hope we inspire people to regard it as normal so more people don’t consider it taking a chance but just being creative. [Show creators and executive producers] Josh Reims and J.J. [Abrams] have led the way and hopefully the world will open up to it.

Your costar Gugu Mbatha-Raw is British and South African and you’re German yet you’re playing American spies. Do you still have to work at getting rid of your accent?

When I first got here I couldn’t really speak English well at all. My English was so bad somebody asked me, 'What’s up?' And I looked up. But I met some great dialect and voice coaches and they taught me  how to breathe. When you speak a foreign language you sound different because your breathing is up here [puts hands on upper chest]  and when you speak English you speak from down here [puts hand along stomach] so I had to learn how to drop my breathing. It was hard. But three hours a day I would study and do exercises. And if you see my earlier work you can still hear my German accent a little. And when I do long hours on the set and get really tired you can hear it. It’s funny having a Brit and a German playing American spies because when we’re still filming at 12am it all comes out.

What’s it like as an actor to film a drama that has so many genres wrapped into one show? And what’s it like actually filming the show? It looks exciting.

It’s absolutely ridiculous and my head explodes when I think about it because it’s an absolute dream come true. When you talk about serialized TV you’re usually playing one specific beat [of one genre] over and over again. It’s a challenge [doing Undercovers] as well because we have the opportunity to go from action to drama to comedy. There are so many genres mixed in one, that as an actor it’s truly a once in a lifetime situation. 

We get to go on these rides, trips all around the world it’s amazing— to these exotic locales. It’s tough but at the same time it’s such a fantastic opportunity and so much fun, you forget about how tough it is. One minute you’re shooting in a strip club using a three camera set up and the next day you’re fighting two secret agents. I really can’t believe this is happening—it's amazing.

RELATED: 'Undercovers' Co-Creator J.J. Abrams Talks New Spy Series Starring Boris Kodjoe

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‘Candyman’ Receives New Fall Theater Release Date

What was once slated to be released on June 12, Candyman will now appear in theaters on Sept. 25 due to COVID-19 concerns, Deadline reports. The Nia DaCosta-directed thriller had viewers on the edge of their seats when the trailer was released earlier this year, setting up the box office for a smash of a film.

Candyman stars Yayha Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, and more. In 1992, the original film was released and instantly became a mainstay within the canon of horror films.

For the film’s producer Jordan Peele, Candyman’s original director Bernard Rose’s mission for the movie grew into a level of understanding that Peele recently realized. “And his vision, I think, is nothing short of beautiful, albeit complicated,” he said in an interview with Gizmodo. “It’s one that I can look at in hindsight with more experience and education and go, ‘Wow, that is…it’s definitely a mirror.’ All I’ll say—because I don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole—is we’re doing it differently.”

Revisit the trailer above.

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TC Carson Reveals He Was Fired From ‘Living Single’ For Voicing Frustrations

T.C. Carson sat down with Comedy Hype for an extensive interview where he revealed that he was fired from Living Single for speaking out on behalf of the cast, and subsequently “blackballed” from Hollywood.

According to Carson, the cast had “various” issues with the show -- from the way that they were treated, to the script, and others things that occurred during the five-season run.

“There were times when we had issues on the show and we would come to them as a cast but I would be the spokesperson for it,” Carson recalled. “That last season before I left, they called me in and they basically said 'All these problems that we’ve been having they [the cast] listen to you…so if you said something else, then they would do that.’

“I said, ‘Well first of all, we’re dealing with five grown people and they have their own minds and their own ideas about what we’re doing,” Carson continued. “Everything we come to you with is a group decision, but if you think I have that much power then I need to have a different job,’ and I don’t think they liked that.”

At the start of the final season, Carson’s character (Kyle Barker) was shipped off to London, raising his suspicions about potentially getting fired, but he was assured that he wouldn’t be let from the show. After the episode aired, Carson says he got a call from his lawyer telling him that he was fired from the show. “It wasn’t that I got fired, it was the way it was done.”

Carson also mentioned the treatment that the cast endured compared to the cast of Friends, which debuted after Living Single and used the same concept, except with white actors. Both sitcoms were filmed on the same lot at Warner Bros.

After getting fired, Carson went on an audition where he learned from a Black casting director that his former Living Single bosses spread false rumors about him. “He said, ‘I heard you were difficult, that you came to work unprepared, and I said ‘You know what? This interview is over. Thank you so much for your time,’ and I got up and walked out because I’m not going to let a Black man berate me in front of these white people.”

The 61-year-old actor described the experience as “devastating,” but despite troubles behind the scenes, he has fond memories of working with Queen Latifah, Erica Alexander, and the rest of the Living Single cast.

Watch clips of his interview below.


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Nicky Jam Shows The Good, The Bad And The Hustle In 'El Ganado' Bio-Series Trailer

It's been years in the making but Latinx superstar Nicky Jam is finally ready to share his truth with the authorized Netflix bio-series, Nicky Jam: El Ganador.

Sharing the trailer this week, the series will highlight Jam's journey in the music industry as well as the struggles he endured in the streets and more. The project is directed by acclaimed film and music video director Jessy Terrero and produced by Endemol Shine Boomdog, a division of Endemol Shine North America. The series will officially hit Netflix on April 21.

In the trailer, we see Jam in three stages: his youth, his rookie days in the game and the actual artist in the present. The creative take is bound to give fans another perspective of the Grammy-winning artist.

“I’ve been hearing from many of my fans on social media and when I talk with them in person, that they’ve been waiting for the chance to see ‘El Ganador’ in the U.S. on Netflix,” said Nicky Jam. “Now they will get to see it starting April 21 and I hope they enjoy it like so many others have across the world. I’m really proud of what we created.”

“I am excited about bringing this level of story-telling that is related to reggaeton music,” added Terrero. “The genre’s popularity gives our story and others like it the opportunity to reach a much larger audience. This is my mission with Cinema Giants. Nicky’s story is inspirational in so many ways. I am proud to be part of it.”

Jam recently celebrated another feat on the Billboard Latin charts. "Muevelo," his buzzy single with Daddy Yankee, reached No. 1 on both the Latín Airplay and Latin Rhythm Airplay charts. 

Check out the trailer for El Ganador up top and revisit our VIBE VIVA February cover story with Jam here. 

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