A long time ago, probably 2012, I interviewed Rotimi for Yahoo! He was an up and coming performer ready to make it big as a one named artist a la Cher. He now has had a recurring role on Starz' Power and a role in Divergent. As someone who relates to the extra rejection and hard work that comes with the territory of multiple career paths, the multi-hyphenated occupation holders like Rotimi always hold a special place in my heart.
Watching Boss - the hit Starz original series entering its second season on August 17 - no one would ever believe casting directors selected an unknown recent college graduate, much less one chosen on his first ever acting audition. But for the cinema aficionado Rotimi Akinosho, known just by his first name as an R&B artist, the role of ripped bad boy Darius Morrison was his destiny.
"I'm a movie fan. I love watching movies all day. I like the Rocky collection. I watched that at least 100 times in my life. I have a lot of vision," he explains, possibly one day working behind the camera besides leading roles.
"I play Kelsey Grammer's daughter's boyfriend. We have a unique story between us because we both need something from each other. Her father is the mayor. I can help her. It's a fantasy and a mayor that doesn't exist, but Kelsey does such a great job of keeping authority. The balance of politics and what happens in the streets is very accurate. The producers and director did a great job bringing the realism," Rotimi describes the show.
Rotimi's digital mixtape is called The Resume, and his musical history so far really is an outstanding one. He has performed alongside Estelle, Bobby Valentino, Jennifer Hudson, T.I. and the hip hop super producer duo N.E.R.D. - aka. the men churning out hits for everyone from Britney to Snoop Dogg, who were responsible for "Hollaback Girl." A traditional music student as a child, his new video rotates on MTV Africa and VH1 Soul, while the past year, he recorded with Gucci Mane and Dawn Richards from Diddy Dirty Money. Rotimi has also performed at the 2010 BET Awards pre-party and as a "spotlight artist" for 106 & Park, solidifying his presence among hip hop's young fan base.
"Every beat has a story. It just flows. I wrote a song called 'Tokyo Love.' I heard the flute in a song instrumental. I've never been to Tokyo, but it was the vibe I would feel if I was there. There aren't boundaries. I love singing with emotion," he says.
By chance, he could sing any of his songs to women he fancies, like Jordin Sparks, Zoë Saldana, the newly single Jennifer Lopez…or the girl next door. "I'm a fan of all women," Rotimi says. "I want someone who's very understanding, who has her own ambition, who's driven. Someone I can communicate with who is beautiful, who's funny and a family first type of mentality."
Until Boss, Rotimi's only acting experience was a play around age 5, but he ventured into the recording studio when he was 11 and says he has been singing all his life. He showed his parents music wasn't just on the backburner when at 15, he won a singing contest at the Apollo Theater. "It gave me the confidence to keep doing it," he says.
Before he could start towards a Hollywood career, his parents told him he could only "do whatever you want" after pursuing a college education. At 17, Rotimi began his freshman year at Chicago's prestigious Northwestern University. "It was a great experience to go to another part of the country. In high school, I played basketball. At that time, you have a girlfriend and worry about school, but in college, that's when I really realized you have to sacrifice more," the New Jersey native says. "Northwestern is so demanding. You have to cut out partying and focus on school and music."
Musically, he admires Lauren Hill, Bob Marley and Michael Jackson and loves learning from his new co-star, Kelsey Grammer. Additionally, Rotimi wants to be like Denzel Washington, Will Smith and his favorite living icon, Jamie Foxx, all black actors gracing the silver screen who are seen not in clichéd African-American roles but in colorblind casting: sexy leading men who happen to be black. "It takes a good team to select the right roles so you don't get stuck in a box. The sky's the limit. I know it's not as often, but once you are known as one of the best, you don't allow society or a director to put you in that box."
The proud owner of a downtown Chicago condo, it looks like Rotimi won't be leaving the Second City anytime soon. "I'm a series regular now. Watching myself at the premiere, it was, 'Oh my God. It's me acting.' It hit me. I think with how today's entertainment industry is, it forces you to do everything, because it's oversaturated with artists or people trying to be actors," he says.
"If you're fortunate enough to do more than one thing, all it takes is perseverance. If one thing [singing or acting] takes off, the other one will regardless, because it'll draw attention to you. As long as you are serious about both of them, it is definitely doable."