Khalil Kain

Khalil Kain

Audiences were first introduced to Khalil Kane in the 1992 classic Juice, where he and Tupac played teenagers caught up in a tragic web of violence. The New York native later portrayed heartthrob Darnell Wilkes on the hit UPN sitcom, Girlfriends. But Kain is pretty much over the typical "nice guy" roles L.A. has offered him. Next up: his new role as Scag in a remake of the classic 1970s Negro Ensemble Company play, The Great MacDaddy. Kain chats with EBONY.com as he explains the importance of Black actors finding dynamic work and the lack of "culture" in young African-American life.

EBONY: Congratulations on your new role in The Great MacDaddy.

Khalil Kain: Thanks so much. I actually love doing live theater. Part of the reason why I moved back to New York is so I can be on stage more often. When talking about the difference from doing a play from a movie or TV show, we’re talking about three separate disciplines. I think theater is the base, the root. If you don’t have that, then you’re not going to be as strong as you could be.

EBONY: Do you find theater a little more challenging?

KK: It depends on the play. Honestly, that’s a part of why I chose to do that, because I needed to be challenged. The things that are required of me as an actor out in L.A., for big film and television, is pretty limited in scope. A lot of the things I was being asked to do were simple. Imagine being asked: “So how did you prepare for the role of Darnell on Girlfriends?” Like, really?

EBONY: But Darnell was a very dynamic character in his own way. Especially toward the end, when Darnell and Maya were breaking up, because it showed a completely different aspect of African-American men that we didn’t see a lot of: vulnerability.

KK: You know and I know Black men are very emotional. The only reason it was wonderful is because we haven’t seen it. If you’re getting fed hamburger every single day and one night you finally get a steak, you’re like, “oh my God, what’s that?” So again, it’s not something that’s all that interesting. I already know Darnell very well. He is a blue-collar, hard working Black man that is taking care of his family. I got that! Let’s go! I’m ready! We are not getting those opportunities to do those things that are extraordinary and interesting. Something like this, like The Great MacDaddy, playing six different manifestations of one character, is interesting.

I just watched ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ on Broadway. Daphne Rubin-Vega, Nicole Ari Parker, Wood Harris ripped it. I love the production, but it’s still Tennessee Williams. It’s still not ours.

EBONY: What is it like playing Scag?

KK: I think it’s interesting that lately I’ve been called upon to play these sorts of dark role characters. My reputation in L.A. and what I’ve being pulled into a lot—well, I guess that place they were trying to put me in—was that “nice guy.” But you’ve got to also deal with what’s going on inside you. So I think me personally, I’m having that battle because there is a lot in me that’s angry and frustrated, and that feels suppressed. So it’s wonderful as an artist to have that opportunity to get that out in your work as opposed to having to deal with it out in the world.

EBONY: I want to touch back on your struggles or hurtles as an African-American male actor. Do you hope that this character you’re playing will actually broaden your opportunities to play something completely different in film and television?

KK: No, I doubt that highly for me. You have to do what’s right for yourself; you’ve got to work on you. This is just my personal view. Be with your own backyard, better yourself, help yourself to grow. I think if you do that effectively, the opportunities will present themselves. I’m not going to bet overnight that all of a sudden there are going to be all these interesting roles for Black folks to play. We have to create them and we have to be ready to do them. I am just enjoying myself while all of this is going on.

EBONY: What’s the biggest misconception about being an actor?

KK: That is such a difficult question. There was this woman I was really interested in, something initially about meeting her. She just struck me, and I was like, “wow, she’s beautiful and really cool, I like this woman." I think it was on our second date, she said, “But you know that you’re an actor. I don’t know if I can believe everything you say because you lie for a living.” And I was like, “wow!” It really struck me; it hurt my feelings. And I told her, “Look sweetheart, it’s actually the complete opposite. What I do for a living is tell the truth.” When I’m most effective in what I do, I’m telling the most truth I can possibly come