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The Harder They Fall's Edi Gathegi Shares His Views On Using Art As Activism

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Photography by Diana Ragland

There are many characteristics that actors must have to be successful in this industry. Actors that are confident, charismatic, and highly imaginative can go far especially when paired with hard work and dedication. This actor has all of these characteristics and so much more. He has constantly proven that he is not only versatile, but also very much in tune with his purpose. He’s starred in several television shows and movies such as The Blacklist, Startup, Netflix’s The Harder They Fall and will be a series regular on Season 3 of For All Mankind on Apple TV. We were overjoyed to have this brilliant actor for the cover of this special issue of So FN Dope Magazine. Check out our interview with Edi Gathegi

SFND MAG: First and foremost, thank you my brother for finding time in your busy schedule to interview with us. We definitely appreciate this opportunity! How have you been? 2021 is finally almost over and it has been quite a ride for many of us, how did 2021 treat you?

EDI GATHEGI: The year was a win for a lot of people because the world got back to breathing to a certain extent. I was able to travel again, spend time with loved ones. Looking back on this year, I’d say win.

SFND MAG: Ever since your role in Twilight, it seemed from that point, we could not turn on TV without seeing you playing a significant role in a TV show or movie. From which of your television shows or films do you feel was your biggest breakout role?

EDI GATHEGI: Technically, House was my biggest win because it was my first network television show, which by nature exposes you to millions of viewers. It put me on the map as a new face in Hollywood. However, the role that I believe allowed people to understand me as an artist is StartUp, on Netflix, which came 9 years later.

SFND MAG: Throughout your career, you have played many roles that have been So FN Dope. [ No pun intended] (a)What role have you most identified with as a person? (b)What has been your favorite role and why? (c) Lastly what role do most people, supporters, fans most identify you as? For instance, for us, when we see you, you are automatically Ronald Dacey from Startup. [ LAUGHS ]

EDI GATHEGI: Firstly, thank you for the compliment, and to answer your question, that’s the trick of acting – you bring a little bit of yourself to every role you play. But to answer a) b) & c) is StartUp. Ronnie is so complex. He’s a flushed out human being, and when writers do that, it’s easy for a lot of people to see themselves in those types of characters no matter how far away they actually are. We notice qualities and a humanity that resonates with us and inspires us to be better versions of ourselves. Ronnie is a stone cold G.

SFND MAG: Lately, whenever we speak with actors, we can’t help but think what effect Covid 19 Pandemic has had on you all’s careers and your mental states over the past couple years. We noticed that you have starred in some really powerful films, most recently Princess Of The Row, a film about a homeless military veteran’s battle with PTSD and Caged, another film that dives into the character's mental state due to confinement. What does it mean for you to be a part of these types of films, and these types of conversation pieces? How important is it for you to bring awareness to mental health especially for black men?

EDI GATHEGI: Critically important. Art does not have to serve any agenda other than to tell the truth and entertain, but I like to believe it has the power to change hearts and minds in addition to bringing awareness. I’m interested in art as activism. Art that can change the world in some small way. These are the types of projects that turn me on the most. And with regards to mental illness, so many people suffer from it and it’s still taboo. Black men have enough to deal with, and lessening the taboo on something that should be understood better and discuss better ways for the community to receive support are conversations I’m happy-- get ignited when people view the art.

Photography by Diana Ragland

SFND MAG: Let’s talk about The Harder They Fall. Bravo! Bravo! The movie was definitely So FN Dope! Black Cowboys… I call them the ghosts of history. We know they were there, but we rarely get to see them. Black Cowboys in the 19th Century American West were omitted from many of the well-known tales of the Wild Wild West, why do you think that is?

EDI GATHEGI: It’s as clear as the air we breathe. It’s simply the history of white supremacy. Owen Wister wrote the first western novel in 1902 called “The Virginian” and he was a white author writing for a white audience. Hollywood screenwriters picked up where he left off and wrote screenplays about white cowboys. They would turn well-known black figures into white Hollywood action heroes, and that was the beginning of the erasure of the 1 in three black cowboys that were actually there. It was a design to delete us and it worked. The Harder They Fall says: Enough. We were there. And we were dope, and keep the door open because there’s more of us coming. And it’s about damn time.

SFND MAG: Normally with a huge name like Jay-Z behind a film, the name will garner more attention than those in the film, but honestly, this is not the case with this movie. The buzz about this film has been about the cast and the cast alone. How does that feel knowing you all’s performances live up to the hype?

EDI GATHEGI: It’s wild. The cast is wild. And I’m in that shit. So it’s wild. I’m also glad folks are really responding to our interpretation of the fictionalized version of real life figures.

SFND MAG: They are most definitely responding in a major way. So, as you just mentioned, the movie itself is fictional, however it is based on real characters. For us, the way the characters were depicted in the movie made us want to dig deeper about their history. It made us want to know more about the Black Cowboys. What type of digging did you have to do to prepare yourself for this type of role and was it easy for you to settle into your character as Bill Pickett?

EDI GATHEGI: Like for every role, you do your homework. Sometimes it’s extensive and sometimes it’s an easy skin you wear. This was a skin, that I felt, the best way to honor real life Bill Pickett was to learn as much about him as I could and weave his essence into this sharp shooting superhero. The homework was extensive because the mission was great. To honor our history and to help birth this classic into the lexicon of film.

SFND MAG: Talk to us about the cast of The Harder They Fall. How was it being on set with that much Black Star Power? What is it like? Was there any competitiveness there among actors?

EDI GATHEGI: The mission kept me focused on the bigger picture. And Bill Pickett’s heart is pure. He’s the watcher. He has everyone’s back and puts the group above himself. I was there to bring truth to Bill's mission which became my own.

SFND MAG: If you were to give yourself a Cowboy name to fit in with the likes of a Cherokee Bill, a Stagecoach Mary, or a Rufus Buck what would it be and why?

EDI GATHEGI: Bill’s cowboy name is the Dusky Demon. Mine would be Black Prince. That’s what my second mama called me growing up – shout out to Mama Nita.

SFND MAG: So, during our research we found out that you were also quite an athlete back in college. Hypothetically speaking, in a perfect world, if your knee injury never happened and you could accomplish fame and wealth with either basketball and acting, but could only choose one, which one would you choose?

EDI GATHEGI: I’m going to cheat here and say basketball. Because I never lived that life, it would be curious to achieve that knowing at my core I’m a storyteller and could use that fame to get into acting when the basketball career was over. That’s the cheat. Both.

SFND MAG: Ok, since we are on this subject, let’s have a little fun. Which do you prefer, being on screen or on stage?

EDI GATHEGI: I dig both stage and screen, but I’m more at home on stage. That’s my roots.

SFND MAG: Protagonist or Antagonist?

EDI GATHEGI: Antagonists are more fun, but protagonists inspire.

SFND MAG: New York Pizza or Cali pizza?

EDI GATHEGI: I didn’t know Cali pizza was a thing and I spent most of my life in Cali. I prefer Italian pizza. You know what. I just love pizza in general. Give me a NY Joe’s pizza slice I’ll fold that up and kill it, give me Blondie’s or La Val’s (Berkeley) and it’ll make me nostalgic. Give me a wood-fired La Antica Pizzaria Di Michele (Italian pizza in LA) and you transport me to Italy. I just love pizza.

SFND MAG: So what is next for you Edi. What can we expect from you in 2022? Anything new you can tell us about?

EDI GATHEGI: I’ll be joining the 3rd season of critically reviewed Apple + TV show FOR ALL MANKIND playing a role I’ve never played before. Should be fun. It’s a good show that only gets better each season. I always tell the showrunners of FAM that when all 7 season are available in a box set they’ll have a masterpiece in their hands.

SFND MAG: Thank you again Edi for interviewing with us man! We sincerely appreciate your time. Keep doing your thing. We wish you much continued success!

EDI GATHEGI: With pleasure. Thank you kindly.

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