Malcolm David Kelley isn’t a newcomer to the entertainment industry. Most viewers remember Kelley in the 2002 film, Antwone Fisher. He also had a supporting role in the film You Got Served, as Lil’ Saint. He was also featured in several commercials and other sitcoms including Malcolm in the Middle, Girlfriends, For Your Love, Eve, and the hit series, Lost. But the California native made a comeback to the big screen in 2017. He starred in the crime drama, Detroit, which hit theatres on August 4th. Kelley is also a rapper and made his music debut when he formed MKTO with former Gigantic cast mate, Tony Oller. The group is known for their hit, “Classic.” He is a multitalented individual who is channeling his creativity in several outlets. Bleu Magazine spoke with the 25-year-old actor about his role in the movie, Detroit, acting, music, and much more.
BLEU MAGAZINE: How were you selected for the movie, Detroit?
MALCOLM DAVID KELLEY: I definitely auditioned. Shout out to the casting director, Vicky Thomas. She is definitely responsible for a lot of things regarding me and this movie. She is awesome. I had the pleasure and, luckily, the time to be a part of the film. I’m on the road and working on my music, so I’m glad I could be present for the audition. I read for Vicky Thomas a few times but I think she already had a few people in mind for this film. I just want to thank her for giving me the opportunity to act in the movie. I was really interested because it was based on a true story. It was an eye-opening experience because the entire team prepared me and the cast. I love period pieces…this took place in the 1960’s. The director, Kathryn Bigelow, was big on improving and we all got in a circle and re-acted all of the scenes. She had us in a circle and a police officer came in and start interrogating us. It was crazy. She knew how to put us in that world. It showed me as time went on how much of a genius Kathryn really is.
Let’s talk about your character in the film.
I play a character named Michael, and he hangs out at the Algiers Motel while the city is going through the uprising. He is a cool and smooth guy that doesn’t’t say much. He’s having a good time with his friends while he’s at the hotel. You can see how close he and his friends are in the film. But then he finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. You see that Michael is vulnerable and scared for his life because he doesn’t’t know if he’s going to survive. When people watch the film, they will understand why it’s a powerful scene. They will understand the character, what took place in the 1960’s, and how it relates to what’s going on in the world today. I’m a young black man and I’m dealing with similar issues, so that’s how I connect to the character. In the movie, Michael has a moment to speak out, but he’s going through a lot and things around him can change by the hour. The movie is a great way to inform people of what took place during those times. Prior to the film, I didn’t’t know about the 12th Street Riot. This is American history.
What was it like working with some of your cast members?
It was amazing working with everyone. From Will to Jack, Algee, Jacob; there are so many people. The cast is so big and impactful. Being in the world that we had to play brought us even closer. We had to do some things that we really don’t deal with growing up today. We had to tap into the mindset of the 60’s, and what was going on at the time. There were certain perceptions of the police. Real emotions would show, and each of us had to comfort one another at times. Working with everyone was great because we learned so much onset. Kathryn trusted us and gave the actors freedom, and that is why we had so many great moments making the film. I’m just happy to have been a part of it. We actually had some people from the incident onset with the cast.
How will the movie, Detroit impact people?
We had to bring the situation to light. So many generations and families can watch this film because it is a learning experience. I think this movie will be seen in schools. It should be mandatory for cops to watch this movie. The movie is so powerful and we had the premiere in Detroit. We had some of the family members who lost loved ones from the riot at the premiere. They embraced us because their story was being presented to the world.
Along with acting you’re also involved with music. When did you add music to the mix?
The group, MKTO, came about when I was on the show, Gigantic on TeenNick with Tony Oller. We did the show for one season and Oller and I became best friends. We started putting up songs on YouTube and we started getting great feedback about our music. It was a great feeling to be in front of Columbia Records while they’re listening to your music. They are recognizing your music. It was a great accomplishment because it was always a dream of mine. We were inspired by B.O.B and his song, “Airplanes,” so we were singing and rapping on the records. It was fun and we worked with Taylor Swift and she was a fan of our song, “Classic.” We were touring all over the world and learning another side of entertainment. I can use the knowledge I gained in music to push forward and keep doing great things. It was amazing. Now, I just have to balance music with acting. You’re definitely going to hear more music from me soon.
Are you planning to release a single or EP?
I’m still figuring it out but I would have to say an EP. I’m so diverse when it comes to music. The music I was making when I was younger was considered “pop music” when I was with MKTO. Now I’m crossing over to urban music and that’s more of my lane. I grew up listening to Snoop and Dr. Dre. I just love where music is at right now. It’s a creative way for me to express myself. I can’t wait for both things to coexist in my career. People are more open to versatility, and not making us choose between acting and music. We are trying to break down that barrier just a bit. It’s just a lot that I would like to do within the next five years.
How would you describe your maturity as an actor?
Man, I’m still growing. I took some timeoff, but to come back and do a film such as Detroit, I grew so much from that entire experience. I worked with so many great people. It was a great opportunity. I’m still growing and evolving but I can’t wait to start working on more comedy roles. I want to show more of that side of me but that is what is so great about social media. You get to show yourself, so you never know who is watching you online. I have big things in store; I’m trying to get into writing and producing my own projects as well. But I think I’ve come a long way. I think my evolution is good but I just want to keep on going.
What other projects can we expect from Malcolm in 2017?
Of course, there is the movie, Detroit but I have another movie … The movie is called True to the Game and it features Columbus Short, Draya Michele, and Vivica A. Fox. I have a little cameo; I’m just trying to get my feet wet and utilize these platforms. I’m working on more solo music but you will definitely see a lot more films. I’m definitely trying to get into directing and writing but everything is all about timing.
What would be your words of encouragement for young people who are passionate about the arts?
You can start with some acting classes and utilize social platforms. We have YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s a great way to receive feedback and start building your fan base. Labels, producers, and directors are looking for that fan base and buzz in your hometown. As far as acting, there is LA, New York, and even Atlanta is coming up in the acting world. There is so much content in Atlanta right now. If you start moving to those cities and put yourself out there; you never know who is watching you on social media. It’s powerful because people are really showing their talent online but you need to use it the right way. You need to take your craft seriously. Make sure you give your all to receive an opportunity in the arts. It’s hard work but you have to put the time in. When that time comes around, you want to be ready for the opportunity