Big Sean made his acting debut during the first season of BET’s drama-comedy Twenties. The 33-year-old plays Tristan, a recurring character whom he described as a “hippie, semi fu*k boy” in an Instagram post. He was hand-selected to play Tristan by the show’s creator, Lena Waithe. And while he may not have had to endure the traditional audition process, the rapper is taking his acting career very seriously.
Twenties is a semi-autobiographical series first dreamt up by Waithe when she herself was in her twenties. It follows a trio of young women—a queer black girl, Hattie (Jojo T. Gibbs), and her two straight best friends, Marie (Christina Elmore) and Nia (Gabrielle Graham)—as they “spend most of their days talking ‘ish’ and chasing their dreams,” as described by a press release. All three women work in the entertainment industry in some capacity and are at different stages of their lives and careers.
The series first premiered in March 2020, before returning for a second season in October 2021. The “Bounce Back” rapper’s character was introduced as Nia’s yoga student-turned-love interest whose unconventional habits sometimes make their pursuit of romance tricky. As of the season 2 finale, which aired December 15, Tristan and Nia have reconnected and are seemingly figuring things out.
Days before the finale was set to air, VIBE caught up with Big Sean and learned more about his character on Twenties, how he hopes the show plays out, and his dedication to the craft of acting.
VIBE: What do you think is Tristan’s biggest hiccup with Nia, and how do you think he’ll be able to overcome it?
Big Sean: I think that Tristan’s biggest hiccup with Nia is that he feels like she thinks that she knows better sometimes. He gets a little frustrated with her. I also think he may not always handle it in the best way. That can be turned around, that’s a mirror. You can turn that around and say, well, he knows better, too. He’s known how to communicate with people and respect people, and that there’s no right or wrong, it’s just all opinionated. We’re all just coming from a perspective.
I think at the end, because she was kind of in-between, more leaning towards her other dude, and then all of a sudden it’s one of those things where it’s kind of meant to be. [Tristan and Nia] just keep coming. It just keeps happening, and [he] keeps coming back around and keeps springing back. I think when they kiss and when they really get intimate again with each other, that kind of solidifies that there’s more.
What do you think about your character’s evolution from season 1 to season 2? He has a phone now. Do you see any of yourself in Tristan?
Well, the evolution is funny. Tristan’s a funny guy. I think that I can relate to him in a lot of senses. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t want to have a phone. Sometimes, I want to just be like, off the grid and just doing my own thing, so I can relate to that sense of it, but then, I also am somebody who loves being on the grid too. I love communicating with people, I love being able to get my vision out, I love people hearing me out, and hearing other people out as well. It’s like a double-edged sword, you know what I’m saying? It’s what you make it.
Him getting on the internet, you can tell he’s kind of hamming it up, he’s doing lives and giving us inspirational quotes, which isn’t a front, I don’t think. I think it’s just a part of him expressing [himself]. People grow, people change, people will be anti-something, and then they’ll love it. That’s just the development of a person sometimes. I see the development with him, and I think that his dynamic with Nia is testing a lot of his development as well. It’s frustrating him. He seems like a person where it’s hard to get under his skin. He’ll just ghost you; he won’t care. But it seems like he really does care about her and she really cares about him, we see that in the finale probably more than ever.
What do you think is the biggest lesson that audiences can learn from Tristan or from his and Nia’s relationship?
That communication is key, and to let your pride down sometimes [and] be able to come back and say, “Hey, I overreacted, I could’ve done this better, I’m sorry.” A lot of us ride high on that pride and that ego without even knowing. You really got to understand we’re all just learning, and we’re doing our best. You got to always treat people like they are going through something, or you got to help someone. You can’t just point someone out and say, “You’re messed up,” and just leave it at that.
At least that’s how I feel when I’m dealing with someone I really care about. I think that one of the things [Tristan] is strong about is walking in your purpose, I think that’s something that people can take away. He’s one of those people that truly believes everyone should walk in their purpose. Nia’s kind of like, “Everyone doesn’t get a chance to do that,” and he’s kind of like, “Well, everyone can do it, you just gotta make time for it. You gotta take time for yourself, you gotta really figure it out.”
Now you’re not just Big Sean the rapper or Big Sean the artist, you’re also Big Sean the actor. What are some of the things you did to prepare for this role?
I just took it seriously. I have an acting coach as well who helped me very much. Also, just having fun with it. Anything I want to do moving forward—music, acting—I just want to have fun with it. I was able to do a voiceover for a movie on Netflix (Dog Gone Trouble, 2021). We should be doing another one of those. And hopefully there’s a season 3 of Twenties because there are definitely a lot of loose ends that just need to be tied up.
Whatever I do, though, I just want to have fun with it. Life is too short, too precious. We’ve been losing so many people. It just reminds you how we’re really here today, gone tomorrow, and that nothing is promised. You can’t sit around and just be like, “Oh, I’m gonna do this,” and, “One day I want to do this.” I always tell myself I want to write a book, one of these days I’m going to write a book. I need to write my book now because ain’t no telling what’s going on. The world is changing. There are things musically I still want to explore. I’ve been taking singing lessons. I want to sing and express my voice that way as well, and not just rap. I’m going to do a lot of things. I’ve seen a lot of my peers and friends come and go, and it’s just crazy. I don’t mean come and go career-wise, I mean come and go life wise and that is… Wow.
What are some roles that you are hoping to play in the future, or types of characters?
Man, I also got offered a role but it just didn’t work out timing wise with 50 [Cent]. I really love everything 50 is doing with STARZ and Power Book II: Ghost, and the whole universe. I just respect him as a person, as a businessman, as a visionary, as a rapper. Those are some real good people over there as well. One of my best friends is a director as well who’s been doing amazing things. So, just tying in projects, starting my production company up, and getting my own things under my belt. Whatever I feel like I want to do, whatever is fun, whatever makes sense and whatever is adding to the world.
This interview had been edited for length and clarity.