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Interview: Kofi Siriboe Has Arrived

May 1, 2017
Underground Season 2 - Episode 209

The first time I can recall seeing Kofi Siriboe’s face was when he starred as the menacing Flaco in Justin Tipping’s debut film, “Kicks.” In a narrative about inner city masculinity and the feelings of isolation and loneliness that often plague us during adolescence, Siriboe’s Flaco radiated pain and rage. Amongst an entire cast of fresh-faced newcomers, he had clearly announced himself. Just a few months later, his face would be everywhere.

Last summer, I was sent preview screeners for Ava DuVernay’s then highly-anticipated “Queen Sugar.” With a stoic gaze encapsulating grief and determination, Siriboe embodied author Natalie Baszile’s, Ralph Angel Bordelon. He was transformed into a young father desperate to carve out a future for himself and his young son Blue, amidst the shackles that have choked formerly incarcerated Black men into submission. From the moment OWN began promoting the critically-acclaimed series with images of Siriboe dressed in all- white, seated next to Rutina Wesley and Dawn-Lyen Gardner who play his sisters, Nova and Charley respectively, it was clear that Siriboe had arrived in Hollywood. It’s been a whirlwind year, to say the least.

The second season of “Queen Sugar” is currently filming in New Orleans, Louisiana, but in the midst of a hectic shooting schedule, Kofi Siriboe and I took some time out to chat. For those of us looking from the outside in, it may appear that Siriboe was catapulted into the spotlight out of nowhere, but that’s just not the case. The 23-year old chuckled when I referred to him as Oprah’s darling. He told me, “It didn’t happen all at once. I didn’t meet Oprah and Ava all at once. I met Ava first. A phone call came from Ava, and I got the job. Then I met Oprah at the table read, and we had an instant connection. But she’s Oprah; I feel like she has that with everybody.”

Still, it’s obvious that Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey saw something magnetic in Siriboe. His Ralph Angel is an even more robust and fleshed out character than the one you’ll find in Baszile’s novel. With the Black Lives Matter Movement and our eroding judicial system in the background, Ralph Angel is trying to manage different facets of himself, while raising a little Black boy in the present-day South. When analyzing his character’s struggles Siriboe said, “Ralph Angel in being formerly incarcerated, and him being from New Orleans, him being a father; those are things that don’t actually pertain to me in real life. But wants to be his best self and is dealing with the duality of who he wants to be, and who he feels he has to be, through the eyes of the world and his choices, and through lack of identity. I feel like that’s a universal challenge for any human being.”

For Siriboe the “Queen Sugar” family has become much more than a workplace, and he speaks warmly of his appreciation for Ms. DuVernay and Ms. Winfrey who have nurtured his talent and taken him under their wings while treating him as a peer and respecting his artistry. “Queen Sugar” is set to return for its sophomore season towards to end of next month and there is bound to be a ton of change within the Bordelon family.

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