Kofi Siriboe is just 23, but he’s already had a life-defining year. The actor/filmmaker made his breakthrough in the OWN TV show Queen Sugar as Ralph Angel Bordelon, the youngest son of a Louisiana cane sugar farming family. Since the show debuted last fall, Siriboe’s profile has become substantially higher . With the release of the hit summer movie Girl’s Trip, where Siriboe played Jada Pinkett Smith’s love interest, Siriboe is coming into his own.
In person, Siriboe shares Ralph Angel’s pretty chocolate complexion, height and smile, although the L.A. native’s voice is noticeably higher. Ex-con Ralph Angel struggles through manhood but Siriboe seems to be managing pretty well thus far. Even his growing fame has been put in its proper perspective.
We caught up with Siriboe on the eve of the release of Girl’s Trip on DVD and Video on Demand. You can buy the DVD HERE.
You’re done shooting Queen Sugar at the moment. What have you been up to?
Girls Trip was a lot. I was filming [Queen Sugar] while it came out, so I did my best to be a part of the wave, but had to stay true to my work. We had some real serious things going on with my character. I’ve been free for the last month and a half, kind of just processing everything that’s been going on this last year.
I’m really just now getting a second to get a breath of fresh air, to kind of look around and see what’s been going on. I can’t lie, it’s a pretty beautiful sight. I have now looked up and I love what I see.
What was the highlight of the last year?
Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is not necessarily filming-related. It has nothing to do with any projects. I went to the Smithsonian Museum for the first time this year. I went to DC on a whim. I didn’t tell the Smithsonian I was coming, I went with my friend and barber on set, Wayne, and we got a tour of the whole place and we were in tears and that just really stood out to me.
I feel like my work has been bringing me closer to my purpose in life. I only do what I do to connect to people and to spread the truth and liberate people from whatever ideas or things they feel that’s constraining them.
That being said, that was really liberating for me to go get that history and see how far we’ve come as a people. I’m working on a plantation every day when I do Queen Sugar, and I didn’t know the history of sugar cane and how it all really came about.
I just felt that much closer to myself and my work and my purpose and I felt like that environment has really helped me stay rooted to through the whole process. Now I’m really understanding how much that meant to me. That was about three or four months ago.
I was going to ask you something much more superficial like how it felt to be treated like a rock star at the Essence Festival this summer.
The rock star thing has been more of a projection. As far as my personal life, I haven’t really got to live the rock star-ness. Yeah, I’ve gotten to travel a lot, been on a lot of planes, in a lot of hotel rooms, meeting a lot of fans, but to me it’s just been part of the connecting. I don’t see it like “Awwww, time to rock out.’ But it definitely feels nice.
You went to Ghana as well, right?
I went to Ghana for the first time in December. I met my grandmother in December. I was there from December to January. Again, from Ghana, I went back to filming in February. Having the financial freedom now, being able to go home and meet my grandmother and go to the Smithsonian and all these little things that you don’t even know you need. Yeah, everything is great and all the other stuff is awesome, but just being able to get closer to home, meaning just closer to my truth, that’s been a big part of my year. That’s been huge for me.
What do you think you tapped into that has made this time so successful for you?
I really just committed myself to the journey and the exploration. Prior to Queen Sugar, you know as a young Black man in America, a young human in America, we’re all trying to survive. No one lives in America for free. After you get to that place of financial freedom – to some extent, I mean, I’m not a billionaire, I’m not Oprah – but you realize ‘Oh there’s more’ and I’ve always felt that. But it’s the journey you have to be married to, because once you get money, once you get fame, once you get success, and then what? That’s been my question.
What do you do when you can do anything? What do you buy when you can buy anything? What do you need when all you have is options? Those things have killed people. Options kill people. Really figuring out my purpose and why and falling in love with the trial and error and the mistakes and all the bad ,has really become all the passion of it all, because that’s the only thing that it ever is.
What was your intention when you first came into the business and how has that intention been realized, or not, so far?
I want to be as transparent as possible to be as used as much as a vessel as possible. I feel like this is truly a God thing. I never got into it for fame or money. I want to use my [platform] as a Black man to spread life and truth on a perspective of us that doesn’t really get told.
It’s a one-dimensional perspective. We’re looked at like this or that or the other. I realize just me being my truth – I’m still exploring it myself – but sharing that process and being true to it and vulnerable with it and sensitive to it and honest with it, that’s Oprah and that’s Ava and that’s anybody who I think who’s successful in a true way at what they do.
It’s just staying in tune with that, rather than getting caught up into the idea of what it is or the concept of it or the perception of it, but really staying in the belly of the core of what I’m here to do.
Do you ever think ‘Why me?’ There are a lot of young actors looking for an opportunity.
I never think about that. Because of the work that I’ve put in for so long. It’s literally just the result of that work. There’s so much work that goes on the dark that people don’t really realize until the response is brought to light. Sometimes it’s very, very scary (laughs) because I don’t want to put myself on Front Street. I’m a very low-key person but I’ve adapted the mindset that it’s not about me. Everything I do isn’t for me. If I’m here, it’s for everybody who isn’t, it’s for everybody who’s going to be here and will be here at some point in the future.
Will you continue to embrace roles going forward and choices that will continue to have people view you in high esteem?
Absolutely. That responsibility is heightened. It’s always been here but it’s become more clear. I like to write and I love to tell stories. I always have. I directed my first film at the end of last year before I went to Ghana. Again it’s to share my perspective. I’m still young and all the life I’ve been living is still very close to me and now I’m just doing my part of just putting it down and outputting it back to the world.
So what’s next for you?
I’m working on my first feature, I’m writing it right now. My short is in post-production, now we’re coloring it and getting sound and all the little technical things, but I feel like it’s the Issa and the Ava. They were great and Selma was great and Awkward Black Girl was great and then they followed up with great projects. I just want to follow that lead and start giving some men some inspiration. As a young Black man, I don’’ really see a lot of young male filmmakers or director or writers getting a spotlight. It’s been extremely female-heavy, which is great, but I just want to add some balance to that.
PHOTOS: PR Photos, Kofi Siriboe Instagram
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