Actor Kwame Patterson shows a softer side in ‘David Makes Man’
The 'Snowfall' actor says playing a more vulnerable character was both a challenge and a catharsis
Kwame Patterson seems like a really nice guy if one can tell those things accurately via the forced familiarity of a Zoom call. He’s got a big smile and an easygoing manner. But if you only know him from his TV roles, you may be surprised that’s the case.
For almost the last two decades, Patterson has played the heavy on the shows you know and love. He started his career in 2002 as the menacing Monk Metcalf on The Wire, following it up with the role as the doomed rap star Reggie “Re-Kon” Mitchell on Ray Donovan and as Neckbone on The Oath. In the fourth season of Snowfall, he played Lurp, Franklin Saint’s bodyguard.
In the second season of the underrated OWN show David Makes Man, Patterson takes on the role of adult David, the character originated by actor Akili McDowell in the first season.
Created by Tarrell Alvin McCraney of Moonlight fame and produced by Michael B. Jordan, David Makes Man is a coming-of-age tale where we get to see what happens when the teenage character actually comes of age. Though some fans were skeptical of the time jump, season 2 gives room to both the adult and child David by showing how much of our past seeps into our future.
From the very first episode, where we see adult David code-switching and moving through the roles he has a son, brother, lover and ambitious executive, we’re already rooting for him. Patterson, a Baltimore native, talks about how he approached playing a character developed by another actor, his roles on classic TV shows, and how playing David affected him in his offscreen life.
(Interview edited for length and clarity.)
theGrio: What inspired you or interested you in this role?
Kwame Patterson: I played a lot of bad guys on TV. So, I think given an opportunity to play a Black man– for one to be able to show his vulnerable side and dealing with the whole thing of mental health. I think it was a welcome challenge. And I mean, just like I knew I was going to be hard but I was up for it and I was excited about it.
TG: What’s harder to play – a villain or someone who is more nuanced in dealing with their own vulnerability and all these different things that this character is dealing with?
Patterson: It’s definitely, for me personally, harder to play the nuanced characters. You know, I grew up in rough neighborhoods. I grew up with a single mom who struggled to put food on the table, that kind of thing. So that part, when you’re around it, you see it all the time. But when it comes to the nuances and vulnerability – a lot of times we’re taught to not cry, you know, keep your emotions in check. You fall and scrape your knee on the ground, it’s still like, stop crying. But, you know, you’re going through pain.
You’re supposed to be able to cry. And as you get older, now we’re stuck where we still can’t express ourselves or we still feel like, oh, ‘I can’t cry, you know, and I can’t be vulnerable’ or I’ll look weak as a man. And that’s not the case. It’s OK to cry. You don’t have to have it all together. You don’t have to be tough all the time. It’s OK to let your guard down and let the walls down. So that’s why I say it’s very difficult playing those kind of characters because I still deal with that now, which being on the show helped a lot. It was therapeutic.
TG: You have been a part of two of the most epic drug shows in TV history. How do you feel about that?
Patterson: Those projects are going to be talked about years and decades from now. I had people in my DM’s when my character left Franklin in Snowfall and they were like, ‘Man, how Monk gonna leave Franklin like that?’ Like they still say the character’s name from The Wire instead of Lurp, the character on Snowfall. Like The Wire, once Snowfall goes off the air and is done 10 years from now, it’s going to be a legacy show. And I think that’s a great place to be in and a great privilege to be a part of.
TG: So for David Makes Man you entered a role that was originated by another actor who played the character as a child. You’re playing this character as an adult. What was your preparation like for that?
Patterson: I think I watched the series probably about eight times. I was a fan of the show before I got on it, so I had already watched it. What I wanted to do is make sure I brought some of the nuances, the feeling Akili McDowell did in the first season, playing younger David to older David. Because older David, of course, as we grow, things change, so I made sure to keep that in the back of my mind. But it was very interesting to me. And Akili was so in sync like there are pictures and photos of us walking down the street and all of our mannerisms and everything are exactly the same.
TG: Can you explain David Makes Man to people who haven’t seen the show yet? I felt like even if you didn’t see all of the past season, the first episode of this season set you up really nicely. How would you explain the show to a prospective new fan?
Patterson: It’s basically about a young man, 15-years-old, just trying to navigate through his different identities, growing up in the hood. Then you follow, in season two, older David, who is now a successful businessman who thinks he’s gotten past a lot of his trauma from his youth but realizes that he hasn’t. And now he’s back to dealing with his 15-year-old self again. I think as adults, we do that, you resort back to those old habits sometimes. And that’s what David is doing.
TG: It sounds like you enjoyed playing this character. What was it about David that you embraced?
Patterson: I enjoyed tapping into these deep emotions, you know, some of the emotions that I didn’t even realize that I had or were very deep down inside. And I think the biggest thing is I grew as an actor. I felt like I was taking a free master class because I had people around me that I could always ask questions.
TG: What should we be prepared for this season as David grows further into the man that he’s going to become?
Patterson: A roller coaster ride, I mean, it’s going to be all over the place, like, one moment he’s good. One moment he’s not. He’s causing chaos that he shouldn’t be causing just to fix it. He feels like he has to be involved in chaos in order for his life to work. And so you’re going to just see David on his rollercoaster ride and hopefully, I don’t know, I won’t spoil anything. Maybe it’ll be a happy ending. Maybe it won’t.
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