Algee Smith Discusses Shocking New Series “Euphoria” And Upcoming Music Project
Algee Smith has been incredible to watch in projects like “The New Edition Story,” ‘Detroit’ and ‘The Hate U Give’ so we were ecstatic to have an opportunity to speak with him about his latest role as Christopher McKay in the much buzzed about new HBO series “Euphoria.” Check out our Q&A with the gifted actor and musician below:
BOSSIP: There’s been so much buzz about this show, but nobody seems to know exactly what it is. Tell us about your character Chris McKay.
ALGEE SMITH: Christopher McKay… He’s a very interesting character to be honest, he’s the best friend of Nate, who is one of the stars of the show. He’s a freshman in college on the football team, but things aren;’t going the way he wants them to go. He’s in kind of a bind with his dad because they have a kind of weird relationship where they’ve built a relationship on work ethic since he was younger and not so much father/son. Also he’s dealing with a girlfriend he has, Cassie, where he’s trying to figure out how to be vulnerable but hold onto his masculinity at the same time. It’s a lot that he’s dealing with.
BOSSIP: When you saw this project what made you want to do it?
Algee Smith: That bread [laughs], I just… to be honest I went on one initial audition at the casting office for a completely different character and I didn’t hear back for months but then I got a call from Sam [Levinson] and he wanted to sit down and have lunch with me. So I sat down with with him and he started explaining this other character McKay and as soon as he mentioned him I started to connect with the role and we started bouncing ideas back and forth, like ‘we can take McKay here… ‘ It was kind of set in stone. Then when I got the script I was like ‘damn this is crazy, I gotta be part of this.’
BOSSIP: We’ve seen a lot of press about the amount of nudity and drug use in the show and it’s alarming because it’s high school…
Algee Smith: It’s set in High School, I’m the only one in college, everyone else is in their senior year. It just dives into — NOW– it’s pretty much just taking those ideas and taking them to the extreme, and showing what can happen when you do take them to the extreme or showing you the flip side like this is why you shouldn’t do those things. If you don’t have something like this that’s in your face you can’t truly make a decision.
BOSSIP: How difficult was it doing all these sex scenes?
AS: One of the main things I talk about is — I won’t give it away but I have this scene in one episode and it really challenged me as a man to do that scene. It was an uncomfortable scene for me, but I had to learn how to separate myself and just be the actor because someone might be dealing with that type. I had to get over my masculinity issues, as a black man we often have to realize it’s okay to be in this position for a minute. It’s not something that makes you less of a man but some things we just don’t feel comfortable with, like some men don’t feel okay crying.
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BOSSIP: The show is dealing with social media a lot, what do you enjoy about social media?
AS: Honestly, I do enjoy everything because if you know what to do with social media then it’s no problem, some people get on social media and complain but you control your own feed. You control who you follow, you control what you look up. I love the fact that you can tap in with someone on the other side of the world so quick and have a genuine connection, they can like my art and grown from there, but a detrimental thing about it is that it can be a time waster.
BOSSIP: What about DM’s? Are your DM’s active?
AS: They’re active, that doesn’t mean I’m active in them though. You trying to get me in trouble! My DM’s stay poppin. I move differently though. I can’t get caught up in my DM’s.
BOSSIP: So you wouldn’t date someone you met off the gram?
AS: I’m not saying that. To me it has to go further than the gram. If I met you on the gram, could we link up? I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t date anyone off the gram but I like personal connections.
BOSSIP: You’re also a talented musician, Drake is executive producer on the show so what should we expect from the music on “Euphoria?”
AS: All my music on the soundtrack, nah just playin. I sent some music to the producers and they’re excited about it and all that stuff. Hopefully some of it will end up on the show.
BOSSIP: You have an ensemble cast, what was it like working with some of these actors?
AS: Pretty much every relationship I gained on set has been a new relationship. They’re all important for different reasons. Zendaya is amazing, she is a powerhouse of an actor but she is also a super professional, every time she’s on set she makes you want to bring your A game. Also Jacob who plays Nate, he is just a character but he snaps into his role so quick. Everyone who is on set, we make it feel like it’s a family environment so even when we have hard scenes to do, like when me and Sydney were doing sex scenes we had an intimacy coordinator on set that HBO brought in to make sure nothing got out of hand. At times that we were feeling uncomfortable the intimacy coordinator would go to the director like ‘Okay they’re not doing any more that’s it.’ We made each other feel very comfortable no matter what the scene was.
BOSSIP: Was that your first time working with an intimacy coordinator?
AS: Yeah, first time on set period. It was a lot of our first times because everyone was shocked. We appreciated that. We didn’t have to speak up and say… Sometimes for an actor you don’t want to tell a director, like ‘ahhh I don’t want to do it anymore,’ because you just want the best shot but to have someone there watching, it’s their job to look out for you like “my actor has done enough, you got your scene.’
BOSSIP: What does your mom think?
AS: I don’t really know her exact feelings, you’d have to ask her, but I know it’s a lot for her to take in but she supports me of course. I would love to know her feelings about every scene, her true thoughts, but I haven’t asked her.
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BOSSIP: What have you been listening to?
AS: I’m listening to my album alot because we just got done with the mixes. It’s called ATL. We have ATL coming out, we just shot the video for my lead single so that is coming out soon. Other than that, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’ve been studying Jonah Berger, he’s a marketing guy, he wrote this book called “Contagious,” studying why things catch on and other things don’t. I’ve been listening to a lot of Dr. Sebi, like health stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of meditation music. I don’t know if you know what 432 hertz is, so it’s like a certain frequency that music is supposed to be listened to but I guess they dumbed it down, so I listen to music at 432 hz and Nipsey, I listen to a lot of Nip. Trying to do some different stuff too. Oh and Billy Eilish.
BOSSIP: And you meditate? How long have you been meditating?
AS: I started when I was doing press for The Hate U Give, so maybe two years ago, my best friend Donovan and my castmate Amandla put me on to it. You can meditate for 30 seconds and feel a world of difference, really just breathing in and breathing out or thinking about nothing, just focusing on your breath.
BOSSIP: What can people expect from your album?
AS: You can expect a lot of Atlanta vibes, you can expect just to hear Algee.
BOSSIP: So you’re making Atlanta vibes in L.A.?
AS: I’m from Atlanta, I grew up here, so I brought the vibes with me. I think what we’re doing is mixing Atlanta with L.A. Atlanta music is so universal, you can expect some good energy, some high energy but also some love sh**. J. Blaze that’s my producer, Goldie, she’s a writer, my homie Micah, Fresh and Kayo.
BOSSIP: Do you find that you have to remind people that you do music as well?
AS: At times yes, it is kind of difficult for people, in my mind at least, but I’ve been surprised because a lot of people who know me as an actor also know my music. I was in Florida for an event, I think with Tom Joyner and this older guy was like, ‘I love that song “Steph Curry”,’ that made me surprised, when people go study about me they study everything. To answer your second question, when I meet actors who are also musicians, it really depends on the person, there is also that thing of if you do too much acting then people will forget about the music so I think me and my team are doing a good job of balancing everything. You can get lost in the sauce if you are an actor and a musician but I always said from the beginning of my career that I never wanted one to outweigh the other. Right now it’s all music because I’m off set for the most part.
BOSSIP: Do you have a dream role or director you’d like to work with? Anything you want to manifest?
AS: Man It’s a lot. I want to work with Denzel, of course I want to work with Will Smith, I want to work with Ed Norton, I want to work with Leonardo DiCaprio, I want to work with Ryan Coogler, I want to work with Antoine Fuqua, I want to work with Michael Bay, I want to work with Kathryn Bigelow again, I’m missing some people, I know, but I’ll just say I want to work with everyone who will challenge me to push my career to the next level.
BOSSIP: Since you brought up Kathryn Bigelow, when you did ‘Detroit’ I heard a lot of people say they weren’t able to watch it because of the way black people were tortured in the film. I’m hearing that again about “When They See Us” – what would you say to people who have difficulty watching true stories about black trauma?
AS: It’s truth, so get over it. That’s what we lived and that’ what actually happened. After you watch it, you can figure out the way you move afterward, if you want to have a part in seeing that this stuff is still going on and speaking on it or if you are going to watch it and feel some way about it. It’s truth so when people say, ‘ohhh I can’t watch,’ then you’re not ready to live in the reality of what is going on.
“Euphoria” airs Sunday June 16th at 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.