It’s taken 15 years for people to truly see the real Orlando Jones. We thought he was just another funny guy, breaking onto the scene with hilarious 7-Up commercials that made the world know his face and not his name. And writing for comedy variety shows like MADtv helped solidify his class clown claims to fame. Larger parts in films like Drumline, and recently on shows like Sleepy Hollow, have made many connect a name to a face.
But his most recent infamy came from daring to pour a bucket of bullets over his head in support of justice for Mike Brown. Now—as he effectively walks the paths of activism, acting and sarcastic mocking comedy—Orlando Jones strives to make the world finally see the difference between the characters he plays and the man he strives to be.
EBONY: You have an interesting brand. Writer, actor, comedian, activist. When you wake up in the morning, outside of being a father, what’s the first thing that you are?
Orlando Jones: Maybe a child of God probably first, ’cause that’s a huge part of the waking up process. And then the rest is sort of the responsibility of it. But when I first wake up, that’s the thing I’m most grateful for, a chance to try and get it right. Another opportunity. I wake up with the hope of trying to get it right.
EBONY: We often get our spiritual and political knowhow from our parents. Is that where yours comes from?
OJ: Oh, very much so. My father marched in Selma. My father was there in Alabama. That’s where I was born. My birth certificate says “colored.” It does not say I’m African-American or Black. So for me, those are real realities that are not subject to opinion.
I think it’s impossible to be a young Black male from the South, born to an era I was born in, and not have a clear sense of what race really means in the country. They burned a cross on [my] front yard when I was literally going into seventh grade, summer of my sixth grade year. I remember that like it’s yesterday. So that’s been my actual experience. But that doesn’t mean I grew up hating on White people, though. It’s more complex than that.
EBONY: Is it time for more bullet bucket challenges? Ferguson/Mike Brown protests are ongoing. What goes through your mind when you see that?
OJ: At this stage, it’s really… I try to step out of it. ’Cause I imagine the family and friends are going through so much. I mean, we all lost somebody as a principle and as a human being. But it’s a human being we all knew. I mean, I didn’t know Mike Brown… That’s kinda what’s rolling around in my head. And just what the difficulty must be like. I know what it’s like to lose somebody. But those circumstances have got to make it more difficult.
EBONY: You’ve been in the studio working with Talib Kweli lately. What are you working on?
OJ: We been back and forth on a few different things. My Tainted Love graphic novel we’re releasing a soundtrack for. When we dropped the [bullet] bucket challenge, it was interesting to see the people who come and tell you you’re a jackass, and you see #reversethehate become a trending hashtag. We talked about what would that sound like and look like, so we started working on a track called “Reverse the Hate,” and it’ll be out in the next couple of weeks. We’re gonna drop it and give the proceeds to a couple of different organizations focused on just that.
Honestly, the person who it most reminded me of was Heavy. Heavy D was a friend. That was my man. Remember when they dropped “Self Destruction” back in the day? It was kinda out of nowhere. I remember the sound of it was sorta upbeat but the message was super clear. And it just struck me: “Man, if Hev was alive, I know that’s something he would have done.” That’s something he would’ve jumped on immediately. He was always really about that. I feel like he was a genius and I really feel like he was underrepresented in his death. And that led me to Kweli and all that madness.
EBONY: What are you doing on this record? Writing? rapping?
OJ: I dropped a Jordan Davis joint called “Thug Music” right after he was killed. I’d written and I was singing on it. It’s on YouTube. For me, it’s not about, “I’m gonna become an artist.” Sometimes I’m more inspired by stuff that tells a story and less inspired by stuff that’s not a natural extension of what I’m already doing.
Raqiyah Mays is a seasoned writer, TV/radio personality, and advocate. Her debut novel The Man Curse will be released by Simon & Schuster in 2015. Follow her on Twitter @RaqiyahMays.