Queen Sugar follows the life of three siblings set to claim their father’s inheritance in New Orleans. Nova Bordelon (Rutina Wesley), is an activist and journalist, Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe), a single father who wrestles with unemployment and the absentee mother of his child, and Charley Bordelon (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), is a woman forced to move back home with her teenaged son, Micah, following her husband’s infidelity.
While all the characters stuck out in their own way, one that really hit home was Ralph Angel. I got the chance to interview the actor who plays him, Kofi Siriboe, this week.
In this interview, it was the small things Kofi did that resonated. For example, calling me by name at the conclusion of our talk or his gauge on the world and urge to avoid questions about “favorites,” because of his affinity for finding good in everything. In what was a refreshing conversation, I learned that beneath his obvious good looks lies a strong foundation. Kofi is level headed and passionate about the things he produces, and it shows.
After talking with him about Queen Sugar, and life in general, I’m convinced there isn’t a more genuine man in Hollywood right now. At times I found it difficult to believe that, at just 23 years of age, a soul could be so knowledgeable and giving. Check out our conversation below.
I know you were in Miami this past weekend for the American Black Film Festival. How was it?
It was amazing; it was my first time in Miami. I had such a good time. It was really cool to see the reactions from season two. We’re shooting episode 12 right now and so to see what people tell us about episode one, which is kind of far removed from me at this point, it felt good. It felt like it gave me what I needed to end off the season with a bang.
What can you tease for this season for those of us that haven’t seen it yet?
So much transformation. You see all of these characters that you kind of just jumped into the middle of their lives last year with season one. And Ralph Angel, specifically, you met him robbing a liquor store with his son. To just see the steps he’s taken to become a man in the eyes of himself, of his father, based off of how, in the last season finale, this whole time he was compensating for…sort of being this lack of who he knows he should be for himself, and for his kids, and for his family. And to know that his father still believed in him, and still left his legacy for him, you kind of see him transform into that. You see everybody do that. Everybody is kind of dealing with their identity, but of course it’s Queen Sugar so we gotta make it juicy. It’s fun to see everybody come into their own.
So what’s up with Ralph Angel and Darla?
Without saying too much, I think there definitely is a connection with what I just said about transformation and, you know, being a man has a lot to do with your spouse and that’s his baby’s mother. We see them being that family unit for their son and it’s more…just the journey of how they do that. As we all know, from being in love and having relationships, it’s not easy. It’s not easy when you’re dealing with your own shit, and then you gotta deal with someone else’s shit, and come together and be one, and be a unit. I think that’s probably the most exciting and exhilarating. And sometimes in not such a good way, because that’s like,“Damn are they gonna get it together or aren’t they?” You know, it’s a journey.
Yeah, I really like them together!
It’s interesting, there’s so many different opinions on them. Some people love them together and some are afraid of what they create together. I think that’s a very valid representation of what love looks like in our generation today.
Still on Ralph Angel, I took this question from someone on Twitter: what is your favorite characteristic of him and why?
Oh, that’s a great question. I’ll say two things, but they kind of mean the same to me. I love his ambition and vulnerability. He’s so vulnerable and he doesn’t fight that, but he still works past it and through it and I don’t even know if he’s conscious of it. Outside of Ralph Angel is Kofi, knowing what I want to give to the character from my own life. I think that because he’s able to receive so much from his son, from his girl, from his family, from his father, in the past, that he brings to himself in the present.
And another Twitter question: what would you tell a young Kofi as advice?
That’s also a great question. I would tell a young Kofi to know…even more than to know, but to actually discover, and fall in love with discovering, who I am and who I want to be, and have patience with that. You know, it’s so easy to try and define yourself. Because, you know, in this world we’re defined at birth. You know, “you’re black, you’re a male, you’re from LA, you’re this, you’re that,” but at the end of the day that’s kind of relative to me because you didn’t choose that. That’s very divine, and it’s actually additional to your identity, but it’s not all of your identity, you know, you still have choices in the midst of the things you can’t choose. I would just tell that young person to know that, [laughs] which is kinda hard, because how does a young kid just know something like that? But if I was to parent that kid I would just say, “know that you are so much, and that you’re not gonna know all of it at once, and it’s always going to be a journey of always becoming, and changing, and reemerging; it’s just a cycle, but have patience with it, because there is value in patience, because you know there’s ups and downs, but that’s a part of the beauty of it.” I know that there’s always decisions that I would have maybe not have made, and decisions that I would have been a lot more easy going with, rather than stress myself out by over-analyzing things. It’s real, it’s very real.
I know you’ve been working on your own projects. Do you like working in front of the camera or behind the camera more?
That’s such a difficult question! I feel like I get to reach more people, immediately, in front of the camera, so I’m at a phase in my life, obviously, where that is my passion. I also know that I’m a big thinker and I love stories. I would love to be behind the camera, just so I could create more world. You know, in a character you add to a world, but I would just like to create a world and show people what my mind is like, and how I see things a little.
You’re also really good with your fans on Twitter —
Am I? [laughs]
Yeah, you are, you are!
Thank you, I appreciate the validation.
Did you expect to blow up as much as you did?
Honestly, I didn’t. Because I really don’t gauge my success based off of validation. It kinda goes back to what I just told you. It really is an identity thing. I know how much love is in my heart. I know if I do give that love it should be coming back in some shape, way, or form. I did expect to receive that love back, but I guess the mirror of the love in my heart was overwhelming. I didn’t realize I could expand and receive that much in such a short amount of time, so it is kind of amazing and overwhelming. I wouldn’t say it was that unexpected, but at the same time it was. Because you never know in this industry. It was a beautiful surprise, even though at the same time it wasn’t. [laughs] It’s definitely appreciated, and I really share a lot of my truths. For that to be reciprocated is very, very special.
I also think this show has done a great job of enforcing a place in the black community on TV. You know,we don’t see a lot of us on TV.
You’re right! I feel like…just to have a space to exist in our community where we’re not being judgmental, we’re being honest, and actually seeing ourselves, and being able to take it as therapy. I mean, everyone can’t afford therapy, some people don’t even think it’s helpful, but I think the show kind of can act as creative therapy. And for it to be edible, but still actually potent to being progressive towards our community, I think that’s a great message. And it’s packaged in a beautiful way, that’s very easy to receive. Which makes it such great TV, you know? Especially at a time like this.
You’re always working with such amazing women. Do you think they’ve had an effect on you, in your life and work?
Absolutely. It just expands and broadens my perspectives on what a woman is and what a black woman is. You know, it starts with my mom, and then my friends, and now I’m working with these women that I look up to creatively and artistically, or even have crushes on, and you know I get to see what they’re like behind the camera too. I’m always like, “Wow!” It’s even more than I imagined. And I get to take that into my world and share it with the women that I know, and have known for a long period of time, and so it’s just perspective. And you can’t pay for that, it’s really a blessing. And it’s like, I can’t really choose to be on a show that’s going to be all female directors, I can’t choose for Malcolm and Will to hire me to play Jada’s love interest, I can’t choose those things. I can only put out what I put out, and hope that God gives it back to me in whatever shape or form is necessary for my growth. And for him to be talking back to me with these projects is just telling me that I’m aligned, and I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
Definitely! And then I see you lurking around on that Lupita/Rihanna movie. Do you see yourself being a part of it?
That’s because that’s my with my girl, right there [Ava Duvernay]. I love anything she might even be a part of. She’s an inspiration, she’s everything, my fellow Pieces sister. I love her to death. And then, of course, my African sister, Lupita, is amazing. I love women. I love what they represent. I love seeing women uniting and being able to create from their own perspective. And I think it’s so powerful, and it’s such a timely thing. And, as you see, that’s what this day and age is requiring, and I just love it. I think even just supporting it, and sharing it, and making sure people know about it, is important too. Even if I’m not in it.
Yeah, that’s definitely important. I also know you travel a lot from shooting in New Orleans to LA, do you have a preference?
I’m not really a favorite type of guy, I’ve started to realize. People ask me “what’s your favorite color or food?” and I would rather taste it all, and experience it all, and see it all. You know, LA has its pros and cons, and so does New Orleans. I grew up in LA and I love new experiences, and people, and challenges, and things. New Orleans presents so much new perspective, and right now that’s definitely what I love to see. But I just went back home to LA and I was like, “oh, my gosh, this weather, and the hills, and the mountains, are beautiful,” so it’s not even like better or worse, it’s just whatever’s kinda feeding my spirit at the time.
Well, you seem very down to earth. What do you like to do for fun?
Honestly, my life is fun and I’m blessed for that, but I’m a creator in every way, shape and form. I love writing and I love reading, that’s really what I do. I love music, you know. I just love documenting the human experience and sharing it back with people. And I think that, to me, is recreation. That’s why my job is fun to me. There are parts that are technical, and can get hard, but at the end of the day I’m doing what I love. It doesn’t really get better than that.
That sounds amazing. Lastly, I know you don’t like the favorite thing, but our site is called Talk Nerdy With Us so what is one thing that you “nerd out” about?
I think I’m just a nerd in general. Honestly, I’m a bit analytical. I’m always looking into everything. When it comes to music, I’m listening to the production sound, the writing, the metaphors. When it comes to photography, I’m looking at the color, the composition, the passion, everything. I don’t take anything for face value, which, to me, makes me the biggest nerd.
I’ll be talking to a girl and instead of giving her normal game, I’m immediately like, “Tell me about your life, tell me about your goals, tell me about your fears. What are your dreams, what are you inhibitions, how can I help you?” It’s always more, more, more and depth, depth, depth, and, you know, sometimes [laughs] it can be overwhelming for myself. Because sometimes I know I need to just chill and relax. But I feel so deeply about this experience that I have, you know, being a human being. Everything means so much, to which…kinda can be a lot. It makes me a big nerd.
Just because you mentioned music earlier, I think I’m obligated to ask: do you like Frank Ocean?
I love Frank Ocean. He’s playing right now.
Okay, with that being said: “Channel Orange” or “Blonde?”
There you go with the favorites again [laughs]. No, really, I’m in love with “Blonde,” but I do think “Channel Orange” is amazing, too. For me…at the time “Blonde” came out, it was right after I finished season one, going in to shoot Girls Trip, and the message of what he was saying… I really related to it. It’s actually one of my favorites. Frank is my dude, for real, for real.
Same here. I can’t wait to see him live one day, in the near future. Well, that’s everything I have for you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I look forward to watching season two of Queen Sugar and Girls Trip!
Christian, it was a pleasure. I’ll talk to you soon, okay?
Catch Queen Sugar on OWN Wednesdays at 10pm and Girls Trip in theaters July 21st to see Kofi in action!