Q&A with Deric Augustine
Would you say 2019 as far as acting has been a good year for Deric?
2019 has been a fantastic year for me. I was blessed with the opportunity to work on two great projects; NBA 2k20 and Godfather of Harlem. It has also been a great year in general in my growth personally, spiritually, economically and socially. I can’t wait to experience more blessings in 2020.
You have had the opportunity to act in 2 different type of roles but both are super well known correct?
Yes, that is correct. First, I got the opportunity to be the lead character in NBA 2K20. My character name is “Che” and he’s a pronominal college basketball player who is expected to be an early draft pick in the NBA. His opportunity to make it to the NBA is altered when he sits out his last collegiate year for standing up for one of his teammates. I’m also playing “Cassius Clay” in the TV show Godfather of Harlem on Epix. I truly believe Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) is the biggest sports Icon that ever lived. He is not only know for being a phenomenal boxer but he’s also know for being an equal rights activist, philanthropist, a leader in his spiritual faith and an overall great man. Even though these were totally two different characters they share the same passion for their craft, which triggers their journeys.
I know this article is coming from a tech angle but we need to talk briefly about your role on Godfather of Harlem that airs on Epix network: You play Cassius Clay on the show?
Yes, I am playing Cassius Clay on the TV show Godfather of Harlem. The show is an American crime written by Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein. The show focuses around Bumpy Johnson played by Forest Whitaker.
When you heard you landed the part of a Icon after jumping out of the window and letting it settle in How did you begin to prepare for the role?
Vickie Thomas is the casting director for this amazing project. When I first got the audition, I was ecstatic and nervous. I was only nervous because this was a huge character in a great show, with iconic actors, such as Forest Whitaker and Vincent D’Onofrio.
I studied the material and studied all the footage I could find on Muhammad Ali. After the first audition, I got the callback and then I tested for the network. It was a long process but it worked out in my favor. I believe that if you properly prepared for a challenge, success will eventually grant you a passage. This is probably the biggest role I’ve booked so far but I’ve put in hours and hours of studying and training towards my craft. I’ve been acting since I was in middle school. I started off doing plays and then fell in love with the craft when I studied drama in college. After I graduated from college, I moved to NYC, where I continued to study. All those years of hard work are starting to pay off. So this is why I’m able to work at this capacity now.
Did you feel a lot of pressure because there is so much footage of Cassius Clay that it was easy for people to troll if they felt you didn’t do the role justice?
After I got the job, I didn’t allow the pressure of the character to overwhelm me. I knew it was going to be a challenge but I accepted it confidently. I watched so much footage of him leading up to my first workday. For me, I wanted to be as authentic as I could while being as natural as possible. I studied his voice, tone, mannerisms, movements, personality and other traits. I was working out six days a week and I increased my calorie intake to put on a few extra pounds. The day we shot the first scene of episode 4, people were coming up to me in that gym and saying I sound just like him. Some of the older extras that knew him well at that age praised my performance. I felt like I did something right.
Have any of the family members commented on your performance?
No, none of his family members contacted my team or I to give any feedback on my performance.
What was your takeaway from working with Academy Award Winning Actor Forest Whitaker?
I’ve worked with many actors in my career and I would say that Forest is one of the most humble, pleasant and nicest people I’ve worked with given his extraordinary accomplishments. Working with him felt like I was in a master class. When I work with someone of his caliber I always try to learn as much as possible. The cast recently attended an event here in LA and he pulled me aside and aside “Your performance was perfect. I couldn’t imagine anyone else in that role”. That meant so much to me. It gave me an extra boost of confidence
Now let’s get into the tech questions.
Let’s start of with a simple explanation of why they cast an actor for My Career story mode for a basketball game people think it’s pick a team and play can summarize why Che was necessary for NBA 2k20?
My Career mode is similar to a movie inside of a video game. It’s real acting, with real scripts, cameras, actors, producers and a director. The idea of this year’s My Career mode was to bring a big budget movie experience into this video game world so the gamers could feel like they are part of a bigger experience.
Before you were cast as Che on NBA 2k20, were you familiar with the franchise?
Of course I was familiar with the franchise. I’ve been playing NBA 2K for years. When I found out that I was auditioning for this project I was eager to book it.
Was your process for preparation for the character the same as it was for Cassius Clay?
The preparation for Cassius was different from 2K. Cassius was a real iconic sports legend. I could bring a little of my own personality into the role of Che. After I learned the material, I made it my own so I could come off as natural as possible while staying in the context of the story line.
When Che was asked by a reporter “You Chose to sit out “ Che responded “I chose to stand up” was that a political statement addressed to the climate that we are currently experiencing in sports?
In the story, Che’s best friend, Porter, unjustly loses his scholarship and Che stands up for me. Che is the top player at his college so he has the power to bring the situation to light. He knew what the athletic department and the school did was not moral. The decision to risk everything and stand up for what was right came with consequences. But, He eventually is rewarded for his heroic act and makes it to the NBA. I think that in today’s world many of our sports figures are finally standing up for what they believe is right. They are using their platform to shine a light on racial discrimination, political issues, police brutality, unfair labor practices, and other issues and injustices that need to be addressed.
Did you get to record you actual scene with Idris and Rosario in person or did you record all your parts solo?
Idris and Rosario actually came to the 2K studio and we performed our scenes together. Working with those two was so cool. They were easy to get along with and are masters of their craft. I truly believe that we will cross paths again soon.
Did they use ADR with someone else’s voice and you followed or were you the original voice for your character?
I AM CHE. Users are playing the video game with my voice, movements, mannerisms, styles and swag.
I know it’s a video came but Che looks like you : what was the process to make the character resemble your likeness?
This was my first video game role so coming into it I didn’t know what to expect. I had an amazing director, Sheldon Candis, who helped me tap into the role and guided me throughout the process. We had a couple of weeks of prep work where we shot some scenes to familiarize ourselves with the script and movements. This allowed me and the other actors to discover our characters and mold them to perfection. After prep, the real shooting began at 2k’s motion capture studio in San Francisco.
The 2K team are tech geniuses. First, they scanned my face using technology that created an avatar that is a split image of me. Then they motion-captured my entire body using the motion-capture suit that I had to wear that syncs with their cameras. They made the entire magic come together using hundreds of cameras in their studio. It was amazing.
Now that you have had a taste of the video game world are you interested in exploring further through acting / voice-over?
I am definitely interested into working on voice-over projects and I would love to book more motion-capture projects as well. One of my favorite movies is Avatar and I would like to work on a film of that caliber. I already have the experience so I’m sure the universe will make that happen.
Lebron James and his partner Maverick Carter who own Springhill Entertainment produced the story mode: Did you make friends with them so you can act in some of the future projects?
It was a pleasure working with the Spring Hill group. I was impressed by the fact that they are a young talented company with brilliant ideas and a vision for success. I’ve made a great connection and work relationship with those guys. Hopefully we will work together again soon. They are currently working on Space Jam 2 and House Party 2. They have their hands busy so if they think of me for a role I’m sure they will reach out to my team.
What’s next on the Deric Augustine Acting journey?
This has been a great year and I can only pray that God blesses me with an even better 2020. I am currently in the process selling a script that I wrote. It’s a feature film based on a true story about black Egyptians. It will be a blockbuster hit in the future. I’m also in the process of writing two books. So, I’m really busy these days. I want to finish this year off strong. I’m coming back to Godfather of Harlem next year for season 2. I also have another feature film coming out soon called It’s Time where I’m playing a football player.