Netflix’s “Seven Seconds” has been canceled and this writer’s favorite kingpin, villain Vontrell Messiah Odoms, has gotten snuffed out the frame too soon. I may have been a little late to the party but Coley Mustafa Speaks is definitely on my radar. Needless to say, I have been a fan of Regina King since her starring role in “227.” However, when my brother pulled my coat tail about Netflix’s “Seven Seconds” drama series, I was hooked after viewing the first episode. Sadly, Veena Sud’s creation will not see a second season but we will definitely keep an eye out for the growing talents of Coley Mustafa Speaks.
As an African American actor, what challenges do you face and what words of wisdom would you share with other minorities venturing into the world of acting?
When I first started in this industry 10 years ago, the only roles I was considered for were thug, gangbanger and criminal. Ten years later, I still face similar challenges. But, I’ve learned to embrace it and capitalize by bringing a level of humanity and authenticity unique to my experiences. Also, I’ve recently ventured into creating my own content to tell the stories I’m passionate about, the way I see fit. Particularly about young black men. My wisdom to others: Do not wait to be defined by someone else. Define yourself. Learn. Grow. Create.
With a degree in marine and environmental science from Hampton University, how does one transition into acting?
Through my particular journey, I’ve learned there is no “secret sauce,” unfortunately. I transitioned by taking a scientific approach to the industry. Trail, error, and faith. I was dedicated to taking the craft seriously by studying, training, and applying myself to the fullest. I understood that if I grew as a human being, then I would grow as an actor. My experience as a Marine & Environmental Scientist allows me to bring a unique perspective to every character I portray.
What creative methods do you engage to get into character?
When I first get a script, I seek to understand the entire story and its message. Next, I ask what the purpose of my character is and how does he serve the story. Then, I delve into the psyche of my character: who, what, where, why, and how he is…what makes him human. Finally, I identify where in my life I can relate to him and connect to his primal need. From there, I have the tools to create a complete person.
In this microwave society, people think that you arrive at this place of success overnight. Is this overnight stardom or can you enlighten us about your journey in acting?
This was one long night. Honestly, my journey has been a beautiful struggle. I’ve been putting in work for 10 years. I remember working as 14hr days as background, doing low [or] no budgets projects and student films for free … and didn’t even get copy or credit. Doing all of this while trying to survive across the country alone was rough. But my personal philosophy has kept me steadily progressing through the years: Stand Strong in my three dimensions — mind, body, spirit. I call it my SS3D lifestyle. I know if I continued to strengthen all three parts of my being, I could accomplish anything. Today, I’m grateful to experience the fruits of my labor. “Seven Seconds” is a sweet fruit.
Is work with celebrities all fun and games? Do you find your work sometime overshadowed by other names in pop culture? Specifically working with Regina King?
Yes! It’s all fun and games to me because I love the work I do. Especially when I get to play with other amazing artists, such as Regina. I, too, remember watching her on “227,” Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice, etc. I’m never concerned about my work being overshadowed by another because I know what I bring. This art is a collaborative process, so the greater the individuals, the greater the whole. The power and acclaim that comes with such royalty as Regina King, allows us all to bring dynamic performance and elevate, such as in “Seven Seconds.”
The murder of your character was so unexpected Were you devastated like your fans? What is next for you and what can we expect to see as you continue your journey in acting?
Absolutely! When I read the finale script, I was like WTF?! And they used my right-hand-man to do it! I was pissed! But, I quickly understood that Messiah’s death was necessary to serve the story. Honestly, he lasted longer than expected since I was set to appear in only five episodes but got expanded to eight. I was also excited to see the character, Blaze, shine, who is actually a childhood friend from the same neighborhood. Next for me, I’m in development on a project I created inspired by my life growing up the projects of Jersey City, [New Jersey]. Currently, you can catch me in USA’s hit show, “Unsolved” as Kevin Gaines and several national commercials.