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Interview with Actor Elijah Boothe

Elijah Boothe has quickly become one of the most sought after and unique young actors in Hollywood. His breakout role came in 2016 in Netflix’s Luke Cage, an adaptation of the Marvel comic book series. In the show, he played “Young Cottonmouth”, the adolescent version of the show’s main villain, played by Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali. Since then, he has filmed two upcoming movies, Wholly Broken and All These Small Moments, but Boothe is not only just a gifted actor. He is also a singer, currently working on his first EP, and is becoming a common face in the fashion industry, recently attended New York Fashion Week and is often photographed modeling fresh new clothing and trends. All of these accomplishments can be seen on Elijah’s Instagram (@elijahboothe) where he not only posts pictures from the set or the fashion houses, but meaningful and inspirational quotes and videos detailing his process, his faith, and his aspirations. Elijah is as passionate about his work as he is about using his platform to voice what he believes in, and it’s precisely qualities like this that prove just what an exciting young voice Elijah Boothe is in our modern entertainment industry. Below is an interview I conducted with Elijah, where we discuss the beginnings of his career, his goals for his future, and navigating life as a young African American artist in the 2017 entertainment landscape.

Elijah Boothe Credit: @elijahboothe

So to get the obvious questions out of the way, when did you become passionate about acting and when did you begin performing?

I was bitten by the acting bug at the age of 11 after auditioning for the Lion King on Broadway, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m just getting started.

 

What are some upcoming projects you have?

Coming up I’ll be starring in a feature film called CITY directed by Kenneth Lott, written by Terry Greco and produced through Ave & Ave Productions. I had a blast working alongside Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris and Moses Massena. I’m super excited for the world to see this film. You can also catch me in another film, All These Small Moments, directed by Melissa B. Miller-Costanzo, produced by Lauren Avinoam and Jed Mellick. The film stars Molly Ringwald, Bryan D’arcy James, Brendan Meyer and the lovely Harley Quinn Smith. Both projects premiere in 2018.

Not only are you an actor, but a singer and a figure in the fashion industry. How did you start with both of those and how do you balance them with your acting career? 

Most people don’t know this but I started out as a singer first before anything else. I grew up in church singing solos and in the choir and lived in a very musical household. My older brother Glen Boothe, aka Knxwledge, is a Grammy Award-winning producer. I was also blessed to have been trained by Grammy Nominee Mary Brown. I’ve sung at the House of Parliament in London, the Apollo Theater, and for Radio Disney. I’m working on my EP as we speak. I started to gain some traction in the fashion industry a few years back when I launched an online magazine with my brother Jordan Boothe called Ambitious Commanders. Our publication was all about being yourself and pushing self-expression through style. As a result, we were featured for our street style looks during fashion week in Vogue, Paper Magazine, Elle, WWD, and Ebony Magazine to name a few. My acting career does come first, so I sort of find the time when I can to be active in those other areas.

Your clothing on Instagram is pretty awesome. What do you enjoy about fashion? 

Thank you! I love the innovation, and opportunity that fashion brings to be diverse and ambitiously unique. I love how, through fashion, I’m able to establish my own identity, and that perspective alone has me hooked. That and I mean come on who doesn’t like to shop.

Perhaps your most recognizable role to date is on Netflix’s Luke Cage, as a young Cottonmouth. First and foremost, how did you get that job? 

It’s so funny because it was honestly just another ordinary audition. I went in and read once with casting, and then I got the call that I was officially booked for the role. Some call it luck but that experience truly showed me that what God has for you, is for you.

Cottonmouth is an extremely complex character. How did you go about portraying the younger version of him, knowing that he ends up the villain of the series? 

When I read the script my objective was to show how his innocence and vulnerability were stolen from him at a young age. The show runner and creator Cheo Hadari Coker, writer Akela Cooper, and director Andy Goddard honestly made it super easy for me to do my job. The road map was already laid out so all I had to do was just follow it. They gave me so much room and creative freedom on set to make Young Cottonmouth my own.

You portray the younger version of Cottonmouth, who is played by Mahershala Ali, who has just won an Oscar for Moonlight. Other cast members on the show include Alfre Woodard, Rosario Dawson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, etc. What’s it like working in the company of these amazing actors, some of whom are legends. 

MIND BLOWING! The one thing I’ll never forget is when I first met everyone at the table read. Alfre, Mahershala, Mike, literally all of these legends came and introduced themselves to me first like I didn’t already know who they were. They showed so much humility and professionalism. It was so inspiring and I will never forget that display of humbleness. LaTanya Richardson Jackson portrays my grandmother on the show, and she took me under her wing like I was her son. She is the sweetest woman you will ever meet. It’s really a beautiful cast.
Elijah Boothe Credit: @elijahboothe

You have a very strong social media presence. How has social media impacted your career or your life?

Social media has really impacted my career because it allows me to connect with my supporters one on one, and for them to see who I really am off the screen. I’m so grateful to be able to motivate and inspire others, so I try to use all of my social media platforms in that capacity.

One of the best parts of following your Instagram is the inspirational videos you post on your story. The messages you share are quite poignant and moving. What inspires you to post them? 

Thank you so much. I think my experiences and my journey inspires me to post them. I’ve been in the industry going on 11 years, and in that time span, I have experienced a lot more failures than I have successes. But over time, I learned that what may look like a failure on the outside, is really just a blessing in disguise. The lesson and the experience IS the blessing, and I like to believe that it’s our purpose to share that blessing with someone else. Ultimately I think that’s how we make society a better place, by uplifting one another and spreading positivity.

Here at Affinity, one of our biggest focuses is highlighting stories involving social issues, particularly those that involve diversity and race. As a young African American actor in the business, how do you feel about the industry you’re coming up in and its relationship to diverse storytelling and diverse casting? 

I’m glad you asked. I think that the industry still has some reflections of the social injustices that are currently going on with racism in America. However, I applaud the major progress that has been made within the Board of Governors for The Academy. In reference to casting, I think there is still more work to be done to truly make the process all inclusive.

What’s your ideal career? Where do you hope to see yourself? 

I want to change lives through my art. I see myself producing, directing, and writing films. I’m like a sponge – if there’s something new that I haven’t learned yet, I’m going to master it and use it to create art. I see myself working alongside the greats in the business like Charles D. King at MACRO Ventures, Forest Whitaker, Taraji P.Henson, Viola Davis, and Denzel Washington. I see myself creating a foundation for aspiring actors to help give them the resources they need to make it in this business. I hope to tour with my music and create pivotal moments within the fashion industry. I see myself writing a book. I want to create a legacy for myself that will live on even when I am no longer here on this earth. That is my definition of success, and that is where I see my future heading.

I’d also like to say, to every aspiring artist out there with a dream. Do not give up. Don’t you dare throw in the towel. Just because it hasn’t happened yesterday or today doesn’t mean that it won’t happen at all. Keep pushing and persevering, and never forget that God can do it for you. Always remember that those days where you feel like giving up are just a sign that your blessing is right around the corner. Nothing worth having will ever come easy. Stay focused and I’ll see you at the top.

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