It’s right that today’s Halloween. It was Angel’s favorite holiday. I knew we’d hit it off the moment we met. There was this skinhead that was harassing her… and she walked right up to him and said, “I’m more of a man than you’ll ever be - and more of a woman than you’ll ever get.”
Who: Keith Powers
Role: Ronnie DeVoe
Ask About Me: Powers is best known as “Theo” in the MTV comedy series Faking It. But true film heads will no doubt recognize the 24-year-old Sacramento native as Dr. Dre’s younger brother in the 2015 NWA blockbuster biopic Straight Outta Compton.
VIBE: So let’s get into Ronnie DeVoe because he’s one of the more interesting characters in that his reputation as a dancer is so profound within the group. Was there any apprehension of coming into this project knowing that I am going to have to dance my ass off?
Keith Powers: Yeah, when doing my research—just finding out that Ronnie was the best dancer—I was kind of in the awe, man. Because I’m not a natural dancer, so I [had] to train and go there ‘cause I never did choreography. So it was a type of thing where this is going to be the first time, as an actor, where I am going to have to become a researcher; where I am going to have to become a true storyteller. Because now I have to get outside of my box in order to become someone else.
Everybody talks about how the casting call for the movie went down. How there were a million actors coming in to compete for the roles of New Edition. Just how competitive did it get?
Yeah, it’s funny cause I tested with Algee and Woody [McClain]. I went against Algee [Smith], who plays Ralph. I didn’t get [the role], which I knew I wouldn’t ‘cause I wasn’t right for Ralph. They let me go and I came back for Ronnie. I remember going up against a lot of guys. Chris [Robinson] and Jesse [Collins] will put you in a scene with the people you are going against and like switch everybody in and out. But even though we were all competing, it was dope to see young black men all cheering each other on still. Like no matter how much we were competing, it was a type of thing that at the same time we all got to work together. It made you feel more solidified because you were going through the trenches for this. It was a scary process, but it made you feel even more solidified once you got in. And that was before boot camp. So that was only 10 to 5 percent of the whole job because we still had to learn our [Boston] accents and we still had to get to the dancing and we still had to start researching.
The dancing…everybody has talked about Brooke Payne and what he put you guys through, the good and the bad. Can you describe having that man in front of you telling you to do that step over again a million times?
The thing about Brooke is he is a very calm man. He is the type of guy that he doesn’t have to watch the rehearsal to see that you messed up. I think that those type of guys scare me the most…or I respect the most. I respect him the most mainly because he doesn’t have to do too much. He is more laid back, more mafia godfather type…”Do it again.” [Laughs.]
It’s funny because [Brooke] might be on the phone looking away doing business and he will say, “Keith, do that again.” He will keep doing it until we get on point. He will be like run it back, run it back. Brooke is like an uncle. He is really somebody to mirror as far as being a leader and you are going to see it in this film played by Wood Harris. Wood just gives this demeanor that is just so cool, calm and collected. That’s Brooke Payne.
I like the fact you guys got the chance to hang out with your doppelgängers in New Edition. What was the experience like being around Ronnie, who has been called the coolest member of the group?
Man, when you hang out with Ronnie, he’s the type of guy where it’s like you instantly feel at home with his spirit. He’s such a relaxed, smooth guy, just like his uncle Brooke Payne. He is so much like him that it makes you happy that he’s helping you. When I was doing the moves, Brooke and Leon would teach me and they were amazing. But sometimes they wouldn’t get to me like Ronnie would teach me. Ronnie would give you these tricks. It would just be little tricks that he would do and I’m like, “Oh, snap…that made it easier for me!”
[Ronnie] is so cool that you can already relate to the moves without even knowing it because he’s telling you in a way that he can level it down for you. And I love that about Ronnie. He’s always smiling. He’s always cheering us on. They say Ronnie was always the core of the group. He is the mediator, and you feel it when he walks into the room.
We have to talk about the BBD era. Here we have the three members of New Edition that people thought would never find that kind of massive success away from the group. Can you talk about how it felt to put that goody-goody New Edition thing to the side and just go full on crazy and wild with Bell Biv DeVoe?
The BBD side was a whole other beast. After you learn all the New Edition moves it’s like, “Now we are going to get into BBD!” And I was like, “Ahhh, this is the hip-hop dancing part.” I was just doing the soul and the steps and “Mr. Telephone Man” and now I got to really sweat. I just remember being scared to get to “Poison.” If you mess up “Poison” you might not be able to work again in this town [laughs].
Ronnie always tells me that when he was young [and in New Edition] that was “shy Ronnie.” He stayed out the way, he was trying to find his way in the group because he was coming from a different [housing] project, which was Cathedral. He said when N.E. Heartbreak came, that’s when his stock rose. I was trying to show that [while playing] this character. I tried to show that in my demeanor. So when it got to BBD it was like, “We are one of the hardest things to branch off from New Edition!” Who would have thought that?
That’s the brilliance of Bell Biv DeVoe. No one saw that coming, right?
I mean, If you look at BBD, a lot of artists today are 100% influenced by [them]. Almost 90 percent of rap, nowadays rappers can’t even get on the radio without a singer on the hook. That’s a branch from BBD.
The legacy of New Edition…what do you hope for the impact of this movie?
One, I need the newer generation to respect the legacy. Especially if you want to learn music, you have to know who New Edition was to a certain extent. I want them to see how professional New Edition was. I want them to see where they messed up business wise so that they can learn from it. So we can have our young African-American artists knowing how to manage their money and to have the right team. And I want them to take away brotherhood from it. I want them to realize it wasn’t New Edition against each other…it was New Edition vs. the corporations.
I always say that we are introducing New Edition to the younger generation so we have a responsibility. ‘Cause if they don’t like it, they won’t go back and look at the real New Edition. I had one comment on Instagram after I posted a clip of New Edition’s “If It Isn’t Love.” And a girl was like, “This reminds me of [Beyonce’s] ‘Love On Top.’” And I said, “Yeah, it was inspired by ‘If It Isn’t Love.’” And she said, “Oh, I didn’t know that, thank you!” I want this to be a history lesson.
Omg its official!!!! So Tyler (young Bobby Brown in the New Edition Story) posted this on his IG. The same guy who produced The New Edition Story (Jesse Collins) is producing this movie as well so Woody and Tyler are most likely to star in it ❣️ Hopefully they’ll include the other members of The New Edition Cast too 😱 SHOOK