Born and raised in Washington D.C., actor and producer Demetrius Grosse knew that he wanted to be a performer when he was only ten years old. By spending time at the Summer Musical Theater Workshop (SMTW), he was able to hone his numerous skills, including singing, acting and dancing. At SMTW, he starred in over five plays. He continued studying acting at Gonzago College High School, winning himself the Andrew Carnegie Undergraduate Grant for artistic merit and later graduating from the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University with a degree from their School of Drama. In 2002, Demetrius completed a visiting student program in which he finished two semesters of intensive study at the Howard University College of Fine Arts. He then went on to study and perform both classical and contemporary drama with the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, and then with The Shakespeare Theater in Santa Monica.
On television, Demetrius is best known for his role as Rock in the feature film Straight Outta Compton, Emmett Yawners in the Cinemax television series Banshee, Errol in the FX television series Justified and Baron Samedi in NBC’s Heroes. He will soon be seen in the upcoming shows Game of Silence and Westworld. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Demetrius about his upcoming projects, what he looks for in a role and his love for poetry. Check it out below!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m just a kid for uptown Northwest D.C. who is following his dream, honing his craft and taking care of his family.
I know you got started in the industry young. What were some of the first lessons that you had to learn?
To be persistent and to just have tenacity—to not give up. A lot of what molded me was my environment; it really shaped who I am and prepared me to keep fighting.
As an actor, what do you look for in a role?
I look for something that is going to challenge me. I look for something that is an opportunity to say something about the human condition, things that are positive and insightful. And also ones that make me laugh and think of the irony of life and its situations.
So, which role was your favorite to play?
A comedic role, actually. I did a role in a pilot for HBO called “Unsuccessful Thug” with Mike Epps, which he wrote, and which was going to star Russell Simmons and Stan Nathan, and I just got to be free and funny and use all of my resources and my imagination. That was the first time that I was on a set and I didn’t have to pretend.
Which role was most challenging for you to play?
The most challenging is the role that I’m doing right now. “Game of Silence” is a challenging role. The character Terry is a challenging guy because his psychology is very different from what I’m used to, so it’s been a challenge for me to wrap my head around that.
I want to talk about “Banshee” for a bit because I was devastated when your character was killed off. How did you prepare for that final scene?
I met a guy at a hotel in the South, where we were shooting that, and he was an acting coach, and he was able to teach me some things about how to imbue history in your performance, and Emmet’s final scene in that show was a culmination of everything that he taught me.
Were you satisfied with how the writers killed your character in the show?
I was just happy that I got the chance to do that kind of stuff. Sometimes us actors have to wait for those kinds of roles, so when I got that role, I was actually young enough to be able to pull it off; I did all of my own stunts and body work and such. I was just blessed to be able to say that kind of stuff. You know, the character’s name is Emmett and I was able to speak through Emmett’s tale about police brutality and race relations in a creative and imaginative way that hopefully imbues compassion in people’s hearts and minds. Even when it was time to move on, the way that I was able to move on was so classy.
I also want to talk about your new show coming out called “Westworld,” which I’m really excited about because I love science fiction shows. What can you tell me about your character Deputy Foss?
Do you remember that Old West movie from back in the day with the black Sheriff?
Yeah! “Blazing Saddles”?
Yeah! Ok, so if you could imagine someone’s fantasy to be in an Old West town with an actual black sheriff—a turn of the century kind of period—and to be able to do anything that they want: join forces with this sheriff or be a vigilante for this sheriff. My character, Deputy Foss, is that guy, that Sheriff in the Old West, except it’s more like an amusement park populated by robots. It’s really cool.
Who were you most excited to work with on the show?
James [Marsden], Sir Anthony [Hopkins], Thandie [Newton], Jeffrey [Wright]—I found out that he was from D.C., which was really cool—and the directors! Jonathon Nolan is a heck of a writer, man, and it’s funny because I’ve been using one of his quotes as the spine of this character that I’m playing on “Game of Silence”: “You either die the hero or live long enough to become the villain.” I’ve been using that as the character’s MO, in a way.
If you could play any character on television or in the movies, who would it be and why?
I’d love to do a history piece on Marvin Gaye; that would be amazing.
In addition to acting and performing, I also read that you write poetry. Do you have any plans to publish an anthology of your work?
How did you know that I write poetry?
That’s pretty cool! I thought that was a secret (laughs). Man, I love reading poetry, everybody from classic greats like Baldwin, Kipling, Wordsworth, Giovanni, Langston Hughs, Richard Stanley, Jack Kerouac, just so many people.
Do you have a favorite poet that you tend to gravitate more toward than others?
It’s funny because my favorite poets now are hip-hop artists. Hip-hop artists are probably the best poets in the world—you could probably even make the argument that hip-hop artists are the best poets that the world has ever seen. I also like Shakespeare but the more that you listen to Shakespeare, the more that you start to hear hip-hop.
Besides acting and performing, what are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about life; I try to give 110% every day. I’m passionate about doing my best and being good to people, about loving myself.
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