Boris Kodjoe is best known for his acting, producing and modeling gigs, but what few may know is his passion for men’s health. It’s an especially pressing issue for Kodjoe when it comes to Black men, who sometimes have hesitancy about heading to the doctor and getting a check up. However, when dealing with prostate cancer, there is no room for hesitancy. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Black men are 75 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the condition. And per info from the Black Men’s Health Initiative, it is the second leading cause of cancer death among Black males. Kodjoe wants to help the men in our community be more open to discussing their health. He’s doing so by partnering with Depend and the Prostate Cancer Foundation in the relaunch of their Stand Strong for Men’s Health initiative, a program that hopes to drive awareness around the link between prostate cancer and incontinence, and help men take action.
The actor sat down with EBONY and discussed the importance of destigmatizing male incontinence, plus what’s new in his world, including the return of Real Husbands of Hollywood.
EBONY: Tell us a little bit about the Stand Strong for Men's Health program.
Boris Kodjoe: Let's start by saying we want to recognize those who are fighting the fight. We want to create a forum, a dialog for those who haven't been able to speak out. You alluded to Black men not having the conversation, which is a huge issue for us. Obviously, there are racial disparities. There's a lack of access to quality health care. And we've been dealing with this as a culture for a long time. And then there is the pride that we feel as Black men; there's the weight that we carry on our shoulders that keeps us from being vulnerable and being open and not wanting to be perceived as weak. It's an issue. It's a problem. And we need to talk about it because prevention starts with having a dialogue. It starts with having routine checkups. It starts with early detection. It starts with removing the stigma. So we want to create this dialogue and Depend is donating up to $350,000 to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, who is supporting such studies like the Smiths Polygenic Risk Test, which is actually a test to detect early stage disease in Black men. We are twice as likely to die from the disease, those numbers are staggering. And we're the only ones who can change that.
It's important we talk about it. Why do you think we aren’t? In your opinion, why is that stigmatization there?
I think that's a conversation that'll take hours because it starts 400 years ago. Because part of the legacy of slavery is the context in which our health was viewed. If there was something wrong with us physically, we were killed; we would die because we were a commodity. So I think that kind of trauma has turned into a generational trauma, all the way up to today. There's a mistrust of health care. There is a sense of fear. And then there is flat out terrible access to health care in our communities. That's a whole lot. And you add that to our sense of fight or flight, our survival mode that we live in every single day, all the pressures and the stresses, the traumas that we're dealing with every single day. We have a lot on our shoulders. But we need to do a better job and take care of ourselves first before we can take care of everybody else.
Let’s talk a little bit about the current projects you’ve got going on. A lot of people recognize you from Real Husbands of Hollywood. It's finally coming back as a limited series. How excited are you to get back in that world, and what's it like for you to see the hit series return?
Real Husbands of Hollywood has always been such a labor of love because it unites me with all my friends. We are all friends in real life, so just to be able to go off in front of the camera and play these hyper real versions of ourselves. It's hysterical every single day. It's just a party, really, to be around these fools like J.B. Smoove, Kevin Hart and Nelly. It's hysterical. It's a lot of fun. So I can't wait for that to come out. It's been a blessing to do all those things. And to be able to do the firefighter show Station 19 and direct movies—I've been truly blessed.
Real Husbands of Hollywood is slightly scripted, but a lot of it is improv. What is that balance like?
There are real scripts. Yes, scripts. The question is, “who's going to stay with the script?” Because when you have J.B. in a scene, you know he's going to stay in the script for about two seconds and he's gone. And you don't know where he's going to go. You just go with him. You just have to go with it. And I take my last eight minutes because we can't reel him back in. And then you've got Kevin, who's cracking up. Kevin is the worst at keeping a straight face. He just breaks character and he just starts cracking up and he can’t console himself. He just keeps laughing. So it's a process, but again, it's hanging out with your best friends and having a great time and getting paid for it. It's crazy.
And that fun trickles down to everybody. You’ve been in this acting game for quite a bit. You're a veteran at it. What is one of the biggest lessons you've learned through this process?
I would say count your blessings. Be accountable for your responsibility. And, enjoy and revel in the friendships and the relationships. That's really the most important part of it is the relationships you forge.