EXCLUSIVE: Rafael V. DeLeon on ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ reboot for today’s generation

She's Gotta Have It
(Photo via Netflix)

This Thanksgiving, there’s more to look forward to than collard greens and turkey thanks to Spike Lee‘s latest project; She’s Gotta Have It

Rafael V. DeLeon will star alongside DeWanda Wise (“Underground,” “Shots Fired”), Cleo Anthony (“Transparent,” “Extant”) and Anthony Ramos (“Hamilton,” “Will & Grace”) as ‘Manny Garciela,’ best friend of Mars Blackmon (played by Ramos). The show, a revival of the 1986 film that launched Lee’s career, follows ‘Nola Darling’ (Wise) as she navigates life, three relationships and dating in 2017.

The Grio caught up with the multi-talented actor to find out what we can expect when the show hits Netflix on Turkey Day.

“I’ve seen 95 percent of Spike’s films but I had not seen She’s Gotta Have It prior to auditioning” DeLeon says. “I was familiar with the concept of the show and the premise of the movie.”

“As soon as I found out I got the role I went online to try and find the original movie and didn’t have much success at the time. I actually had to find it at a DVD/VHS shop and rented it.”

DeLeon says he was immediately moved by the film.

“I thought it was ahead of it’s time,” he says. “The content that Spike was addressing and the artistic and creative angle that he took was so ahead of it’s time in the 80s.”

The Brooklyn-based actor was intent on nailing the role and took it upon himself to do the legwork required to do so.

“I spent some time hanging out in bike shops, learning the vernacular. I play Mars’ best friend and we also work together so getting familiar with the bike repair space was new to me,” he says. “I have never spent copious amounts of time doing repairs on my bike.”

The series, based on Lee’s beloved, 1986 debut film of the same title is a bit of a reboot on the classic; offering an expanded view of the characters we met three decades ago and bringing them into our current world.

“I think the largest changes to the show from the film are two things. First, social media. How social media has impacted communication and the transfer of news,” he explains.

“The second thing is the renewed desire for social justice. She’s Gotta Have It does not shy away from what people of color have been going full force on. I think this version in 2017 incorporates the revival of the social justice movement for people of color.”

He also noted what a big role Brooklyn plays in the series and how the changes in the community landscape are just as significant as other cultural shifts we’ve seen since the 80’s.

“Filming in Brooklyn was incredible. I live in Brooklyn and walking to the set every morning was pretty cool,” he says. “Brooklyn is like another character on the show.”

While working with Spike Lee was incentive enough for the for the former college basketball player to go for the role, DeLeon explains that his motivation went beyond Lee’s star power.

“As an artist you’re always looking for material that’s challenging. I think there are times that roles you take on are things that have a larger message to them,” he says. “I don’t think any role is big or small when it’s chronicling the human condition. I think there are roles that highlight people and their stories that need to be told.”

Peep the preview, below:

She’s Gotta Have It premieres today on Netflix.