True to the Game, the film adaptation of Terri Wood’s best-selling novel of the same title, is set to hit theaters nationwide on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The gritty crime drama, which is directed by Preston A. Whitmore II (director of This Christmas), tells the compelling love story of a notorious, millionaire drug dealer who meets a woman from the rough and dangerous projects of Philadelphia and sweeps her off her feet in a whirlwind romance. The movie boasts a celebrity cast and stars Columbus Short as the drug-dealing Quadir Richards, Vivica A. Fox as Shoog, the late Nelsan Ellis as Tyrik, Draya Michele as Quadir’s former love interest Cherelle, and Hollywood newcomer Erica Peeples as the lead actress playing Gena Hollins.
Rolling out had the opportunity to talk exclusively with Peeples to find more about who she is and how it was being the newbie on a set full of veteran actors, and to also find out what we can expect to see in the movie. See below for the complete interview. Sound off in the comments section too. We want to hear from you. Did you read the book True to the Game? Are you ready for the movie? Are you just as intrigued as we are? What do you think about the casting and Peeples playing the lead role as a newcomer? Sound off!
At what age did you discover your love for acting?
I was 6 years old. I told my mom I wanted to be an actress and then she put me in acting classes at Macomb College. Now I’m out there. I never gave up. It’s always been my passion and my love. I always wanted to do it. Dreams do come true.
You’re a graduate of Juilliard, you’ve starred in several off Broadway plays, had a couple of TV stints, but True to the Game is your first major film and you landed a starring role. How does that make you feel?
It feels amazing. Absolutely wonderful. I feel very blessed. I feel like my hard work and all of my sacrifices over all these years after graduating is finally showing and paying off for me. It feels wonderful. It’s a little surreal at moments, but it absolutely is a wonderful feeling. So, I’m very grateful, very humble.
There are a lot of celebrities in the film — Columbus Short, Vivica A. Fox, Draya Michelle and more. How was it working alongside these seasoned celebrities?
It was great because I learned so much. I’m working with veterans who are true masters of their craft. It also made me step up my craft and perform and show that I can hang with the best of them. But the best part was just learning. I learned the small things that you don’t think about, which are the really big things like camera angles, the size of the camera, what type of facial expressions you’re making, listening to the director and also finding your own life within that. So, it was a wonderful experience.
You also worked alongside Nelsan Ellis in the film, who unfortunately recently died.
Yes. [Nelsan] was a very close friend of mine. Actually, we went to Julliard together. He was a wonderful, wonderful man and full of talent. A true master at his craft.
His death was very unfortunate. He was a divine actor. Now let’s get into the movie for a bit. How hard or easy was it for you to get into character for your role as Gena?
It was a mixture of a lot of things. I read the script; I also read the book by Terri Woods. So, I was able to learn the life and the world of Gena. Then, I always try to focus on the heart of the character, and I just tried to listen and feel what Gena might have felt, how she may have walked. I had to research Philadelphia to see what the girls there talked like and moved. The things that she was up against were the challenge for me because I didn’t grow up in the streets. I didn’t grow up with having to deal with people dying in front of me on a regular basis. But the easy parts of me tapping into her were that she’s a poet, I’m a poet. She believed in love. She’s fighting for her new identity and for a better life for herself, and she’s fighting for her truth. And ironically, my older sister was killed when she was 25 because she dated a drug dealer. I didn’t know her very well; she died when I was only 7 years old. But a lot of her essence came to me during the shooting of this movie in finding Gena.
For those of us who have never read the book, tell us what we can expect to see in the movie.
Well, you can expect a great movie. It’s something for both the men and women. You have the gangster lifestyle, [with] the killing and then you have the beautiful love story between Quadir and Gena. My character is Gena, and Quadir is played by Columbus Short. And that’s the beautiful part of all of it. Within this crazy dramatic world, you have this beautiful love story. So, there’s something for the men and women, and everyone will enjoy it.
Sounds like everyone is in for a special treat. For you, professionally, what’s next?
It’s really in God’s hands, but I’m auditioning right now. I have a screenplay that I am producing called Real Peoples and that will be coming out soon. We’re in negotiations with networks to pick it up. So, you can look out for that. And you know, [my] story is still being written.
Where can our readers find you on social media?
You can find me on IG, SnapChat, Twitter, FaceBook, everything is Erica Peeples.