Boris Kodjoe

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One specific difference between how I grew up and my experience in this film is the whole African-American… Wait, that word is weird to me because I’m African-German. Let’s say Black, the whole Black religious experience, here, is very impressive to me, because when I first arrived I realized that people carry their faith with so much pride. I’d never experienced that. At home, people don’t talk about their faith, or openly acknowledge or praise God at award shows or sports competitions. People don’t talk like that at home. There, it’s almost shameful to do so, which is sad.

Born in Vienna, Austria on March 8, 1973, Boris Kodjoe was one of three children born to Eric and Ursula, the former, a physician from Ghana, the latter, a shrink from Germany.  While still in college, the striking 6’2â€? student was discovered by a talent scout and signed by the Ford Modeling Agency. Boris career skyrocketed after he appeared in ad campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, Yves Saint Laurent and The Gap, as he soon found himself in select company as one of the world’s few male supermodels. Next, he turned to acting, making his big screen debut in Love & Basketball, and following
that up with Brown Sugar.

In 2002, he was recognized by People Magazine who placed him on its 50 Most Beautiful People in the World list. And he was also appreciated by Nicole Ari Parker, his TV co-star on first Soul Food and then Second Time Around. The couple married on May 21st of this year, shortly after the arrival of a bouncing bundle of joy they named Sophie Tei Naaki Lee.

Here, Boris bares his soul about his family and his fears in taking on the lead role in The Gospel, a spiritually-oriented drama about a Prodigal Son who returns home when he finds out about his father’s failing health.

BSN: How does it feel to be a daddy?

BK: Unbelievable. It’s the best thing in the world. I love it. She has shown me chambers in my heart that I didn’t even know existed. She’s just incredible.

BSN: And how’s Nicole?

BK: She’s great. She’s doing very well. Both are very good.

BSN: Would you like to work with her again?

BK:  Oh, I could work with her on anything, making pancakes. To me, she’s the best actress of her generation. There’s nothing that she can’t do. She makes be better. I’d work with her in a second.

BSN: As someone raised in Europe, were you comfortable with this role?

BK: No, it wasn’t comfortable at all, though it turned out to be great.

BSN: Why did you take it then?

BK:  I didn’t take it because it was supposed to be comfortable. I took it because it was a challenge. I was looking to show people I could act. I was looking for something that would take me away from the whole hunk riding off into the sunset thing that people wanted me to play after Brown Sugar. A character that had nothing to do with that one specific stereotypical image that we’ve been force-fed every day.

BSN: You wanted to stretch as an artist.

BK: Yeah, people wanted to see good stories, different stories. They don’t want to see the same crap over and over again. Yet, that’s what studios do. If one thing works, they’ll keep doing it till it runs its course and people aren’t interested anymore. So, hopefully, this will inspire people to think outside of the box and try new things.

BSN: Growing up in Germany, you probably had no exposure to African-American Gospel Music and the Black church.

BK: No, and that was the biggest challenge, besides the fact that it was personally a very emotional film for me to make.

BSN: Why was it so emotional?

BK: My wife was expecting, and I didn’t want to be anywhere but home with her. She really kicked me out the door to do this film. She was the force behind my doing it, because she recognized what an opportunity it was before I did.

BSN: How did you prepare for the role?

BK: I had to do a lot of work, coming from where I’m from. It’s like you going to China and trying to sound authentic doing traditional theater in a specific Chinese accent. The Southern Baptist Church is a specific culture in itself. So, I had to study, talk to people, watch tape and go to performances to see how Gospel artists move compared to secular artists.
They’re completely different. Gospel artists are messengers; they are vessels of a message. There was a whole lot to learn in a short amount of time.

BSN: Did you enjoy the music while making the movie?

BK: Absolutely, I love Gospel. I’m a big fan of all these greats in the movie, Fred Hammond, Donnie McClurkin, who did an incredible job as an actor, Yolanda Adams, Martha Munizzi… They gave me goose bumps while we were shooting. The extras on the set helped it come alive. They felt every take. And they lost their minds. They felt the Holy Ghost. It was all very real and I think that rob [director Rob Hardy] captured that very well.

BSN: Would you say that this role changed your life?

BK: It definitely changed my life, because of the timing, and because of the birth of my daughter, and because of what I went through while shooting it.

BSN: How have you changed?

BK: It’s made me a better actor. It’s given me more confidence and showed me that even though I’m from a different place and of a different language background, I can play marginal characters, meaning not just middle-of-the-road characters, but very specific people. So, yes, I feel better, because that’s made me a better man all around.

BSN: And how has it affected you spiritually?

BK: One specific difference between how I grew up and my experience in this film is the whole African-American… Wait, that word is weird to me because I’m African-German. Let’s say Black, the whole Black religious experience, here, is very impressive to me, because when I first arrived I realized that people carry their faith with so much pride. I’d never experienced that. At home, people don’t talk about their faith, or openly acknowledge or praise God at award shows or sports competitions. People don’t talk like that at home. There, it’s almost shameful to do so, which is sad. Here, it’s part of their lives, their personas. I was very impressed by that, and I love the idea of being proud to give credit when credit is due.

BSN: Does religion now play a big role in your life and in your relationship?

BK: With Nicole, that’s what we practice. We’re very open and outspoken about our faith and our beliefs. We also talk about our doubts, our moments of insecurities. We talk about it all day, how we’re inspired by God. We recognize little miracles every day, and that’s how we’re raising our daughter.

BSN: You seem so in love with Nicole.

BK: Oh, yeah, I’m a fool in love. Definitely. I’m lucky. I’m blessed. I was very single for a very long time. The whole time I was modeling, I had a place in Paris, and a place in New York, and I was really single. Quite single. Yet I wanted to have children, and I knew that was my purpose, but I wasn’t going to settle. I just didn’t know who was going to be my partner. I
knew that once I had grown to be a man that I was going to attract the person that I deserved to be with, or deserved to be with me.

BSN: How did you two meet?

BK: We met at work, at the first table read for Soul Food.

BSN: Was it love at first sight?

BK: I knew immediately that she was going to be in my life forever. I didn’t know in what capacity, but I knew that I had found someone who was going to be close to me for a long time. We became great friends fast.

BSN: What attracted you to her?

BK:  She’s just a beautiful person. She’s very loving, giving, and open-minded. So, I knew that she was the one pretty soon into the relationship.

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