By Bill Vaughan
Rolando Boyce is the real deal. For four seasons, the Chicago native has been warming hearts and eliciting smiles as Darnell, the track-suited, earpiece-wearing, old school player on Showtime’s “The Chi.”
The former Army soldier who served during Desert Storm told Tasty Clips he strives to make his characters come from a natural place. At that, he is winning.
As for his stint in the military, Boyce fortunately wasn’t in battle, but says he worked his butt off.
“There were some things I saw that hopefully I don’t have to see again,” he confided. “I was 20 at the time but was smart enough to know when I got back that it was enough and I got out. Don’t know how I got out, but I did.”
Upon returning to Houston, he found himself waiting tables with a fizzling young marriage producing two kids, before deciding to return to Chicago with his family, where a chance encounter moved him to the stage.
“I never met anyone who was acting,” he said. “It was always in the back of my head, but I thought it was Hollywood and out of reach.”
After a suggestion to take some classes and act in some plays, he started picking up the pieces and ran with it. Years of theater roles followed until his Chicago agent suggested he go on an audition during his lunch break for an R. Kelly video. He got the part that launched his face globally.
As Boyce tells it: “I was like this is not for me. I don’t like to sing and dance. To this day, I’ve never been on an audition with so many people and was almost about to leave. I go in the room and do the scene.
“One of the producers saw my theater credits and told me they wanted a strong actor and to come back the next day,” he continued. “There were about 15 people then. When I left, she pulled me aside and told me it would be revealed later that the character was gay and asked ‘am I OK with it.’ I’m like, Yeah, I know who I am.
“Now here’s the interesting thing about it,” he added. “The producer who pulled me to the side. Her name is Shelby Stone. She is now one of the producers on ‘The Chi.’ Isn’t that something?”
That video was “Trapped in the Closet,” the viral sensation that launched numerous chapters, before being pulled due to the singer/songwriter’s conviction on racketeering, sexual exploitation of minors and other charges.
“In the process of doing it, we knew it was something special that had never been done before,” he added. “It was iconic. People all over the world knew those videos. The woman that plays my wife on there — that’s my wife. We got married after that. Maybe years to come, it will be out again but it’s hard to find that sucker now.”
But did he know something was amiss?
“When we shot, the allegations were already out,” Boyce said. “I didn’t really hang with [Kelly]. A lot of times he’d invite folks to play basketball. I kind of just kept it on set. He traveled with an entourage. That’s just not me. “Growing up in Chicago, you heard about it for years,” Boyce added. “So I felt like it could be, but I never put myself in a position where I saw anything.”
He was recognized a lot when it came out because the videos were huge.
“At the time I had a regular job at Marshall Field’s which was a retail store,” he recalled. “I would drive my car, hop on the bus and go downtown. If there were some kids on there, forget about it. I would get on the bus and put my hand over my head. The adults would be cool, but the kids would go berserk.
“I mean, one girl made me write on her shirt. I was like, Girl, your mama’s going to be mad at you!”
He has since worked on “Ray Donovan,” “P-Valley” (the infamous car wash scene) and has upcoming guest spots on OWN’s “All Rise” and HBO’s “South Side,” but news of the renewal of “The Chi,” which closes this season on Sept. 4, has Boyce in high spirits.
“I’m just waiting on the spin-off,” Boyce said cheerfully. “I’m trying to talk it into existence. I didn’t catch no bullets so I should be back. I told [show creator] Lena [Waithe], Look I don’t want no scenes with Duda. That dude’s trouble. Just keep me out of his way.”
CLIPPETTES: The Weeknd After Hours Til Dawn Tour with Doja Cat hits SoFi Stadium on Sept. 2; as Brian McKnight croons at The Novo on Sept. 2; and famed film composer John Williams (“Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) conducts the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl for the first of three consecutive evenings. Also that night, The Cookies, featuring Maxayn Lewis, Bobby Watson, Allen Hinds and Donald Barrett, are at Vibrato Grill Jazz …
Sept. 3 finds Rick Ross at the Saban Theatre; Ozomatli giving a free show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion (RSVP online); and the Flypoet Summer Classic being held at The Ford …
Alicia Keys has a run of shows beginning Sept. 5 at YouTube Theater, and continuing Sept. 6 and 7 at The Greek …
Wynton Marsalis leads the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with special guests The Manhattan Transfer on Sept. 7 at the Hollywood Bowl. The next night, he and the orchestra will join the LA Phil for “All Rise,” which weaves together orchestra, choir and jazz band into a massive jazz symphony …
Leon Bridges and Little Dragon are at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sept. 8; while Prince discovery DaniLeigh performs at The Observatory.
TASTY QUIP: “Tell your friends, grandmother, that one uncle – go ask out that one person, whatever you have to do.” – REGAL CINEMAS press release touting National Cinema Day (Sept. 3) when most participating movie chains are selling $3 tickets to all shows along with reduced concession prices
TC ON TV: Sept. 2 – “Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul” (Peacock): Jordan Peele, Daniel Kaluuya, Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown are among the producers (with the latter two co-starring as a southern megachurch first lady and pastor). “Elvis” (HBO Max): Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks arrives on the smaller screens with a cast including singer/songwriter Yola as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, model Alton Mason as Little Richard, guitarist Gary Clark Jr. as Arthur Crudup, actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. as B.B. King, and artist Shonka Dukureh as Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. “Good Morning America” (ABC): Black Eyed Peas in concert. “Secret Celebrity Renovation” (CBS): Kandi Burruss surprises her Aunt Bertha with a renovation of her Atlanta home, which has served as the hub for family gatherings for decades.
Sept. 3 – “CBS Saturday Morning” (CBS): Chef Gregory Gourdet is featured on The Dish.
Sept. 4 – “Real Housewives of Atlanta” (Bravo): The season finale brings back former series regulars to attend the seemingly sketchy second attempt at launching Shereé Whitfield’s She by Shereé fashion line. “Biography: WWE Legends” (A&E): Inside “WrestleMania 1” and the epic battle between Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. “How It Really Happened” (HLN): A two-part investigation kicking off with “Kobe Bryant: Red Flags” and continuing the next night with “What Went Wrong.”
Sept. 5 – “Out of Office” (Comedy): Leslie Jones, Ken Jeong, Jay Pharoah, Jason Alexander and more to star in new ensemble comedy about the blurring lines between working from home and would-be/should-be private life. “Real Girlfriends in Paris” (Bravo): Follows six young women, including Kacey Margo and Adja Toure, who are all American expats experiencing the “City of Lights.”
Sept. 6 – “Queen Sugar” (OWN): The final season begins. “TMZ Investigates: Who Really Killed Michael Jackson” (Fox): “People assume Dr. Conrad Murray was solely responsible for Michael’s death,” explains executive producer Harvey Levin. “The real story is radically different and shocking.” The two-hour special will feature a never-before-seen interview with Jackson’s ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, who worked for the infamous Dr. Arnold Klein, as well as investigations into the medical professionals across the globe who enabled [Jackson’s] dependencies over the years.
Sept. 7 – “No-Recipe Road Trip with the Try Guys” (Food): “Los Angeles – Tamales and Donuts”
Sept. 8 – “Disney+ Day” is celebrated with the streamer offering a first-time showing of “Thor: Love and Thunder” and the premieres of “Pinocchio” starring Tom Hanks and Cynthia Erivo; the family-themed mystery series “Terra Incognita;” and “Welcome to the Club,” a new short from “The Simpsons.” “Emeril Tailgates” (Roku): Chef Emeril Lagasse visits different football-obsessed cities to help super fans up their partying traditions. “The Good Fight” (Para+): The superb series’ sixth and final season has the law firm tackling the threat of a U.S. civil war.
END QUOTE: “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: ‘I’m going with you, kid. Let’s go.” – MAYA ANGELOU
As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. Bill Vaughan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, via Twitter @tastyclips, or Instagram @tasty_clips.