Michael Epps performs brilliantly on The Chi, which airs Sundays on Showtime. Who’s the kid beyond the character?
As season three of The Chi aired on Showtime several weeks ago, viewers collectively noticed a change of direction. With two key name-stays exiting stage left – Barton Fitzpatrick (assumedly dead) and Jason Mitchell (definitely dead) – there was space exposed in the show’s story to expand to the project’s remaining identities. The Chi’s Jake settles in place easily as an intriguing path to follow which presents as a testament to Michael Epps and the background that allows him to lock in for a role he was not initially selected for.
Rhyme Junkie got a chance to quickly chat with the teenage up-and-comer to discuss the show, his music and his passions outside of entertainment.
Joye of Rhyme Junkie: For most Rhyme Junkie readers who don’t know your background as thoroughly as others, where are you from originally?
Michael Epps: I’m originally from Chicago.
Rhyme Junkie: How did growing up in Chicago shape your want and desire to be in entertainment?
Michael Epps: It was really the environment. It wasn’t really a good environment to be in. So it was like I wanted to do something to get out of where I was at. The environment I grew up and lived in it wasn’t a place you would want a child to stay or grow up living at all. So it kind of shaped me and pushed me to do something great so I could get myself out of the place I was in.
Rhyme Junkie: Were you able to get any formal training? A lot of artists are able to relate so much to a character profile that their natural aura shines through and they don’t need it – at least not yet.
Michael Epps: I kind of had to fall in love with it. But it wasn’t something off rip that I wanted to do. I had to fall in love. As far as classes, it’s just raw emotions and just me. No classes.
Rhyme Junkie: Do you see similarities between yourself and Jake who you portray on the show?
Michael Epps: I feel like there is one big one: Loyalty. I think we both care deeply for the people we love and care about.
Rhyme Junkie: I think one of the biggest questions is how did you land such a mainstay role like the one you have in The Chi? Often it takes actors a while to land screen time like this.
Michael Epps: At first I did an audition for Coogi. I went in for that and didn’t get the callback. Then they sent the script for Jake. They were doing the casting for the show and they thought I would be good for the Jake role. So I studied the role and auditioned for it. It was a while that we waited but we got the callback. When I did this one it was a lot of people in the room and I was really nervous, but I nailed it. Then we got another call saying I got the role. And I was happy because it’s my first big role and it came quick.
Rhyme Junkie: How is it being able to work with your peers, and kids you get to grow up with on set?
Michael Epps: It’s really good. It’s fun. I love learning from them. Being around bigger actors from bigger things really pushes me and motivates me to be better. It’s real fun. It’s real dope getting to work with kids my age and grow up with them and learn from them. It’s like I really grew up with them. Within a short time of filming, we got to know each other a lot and have connected really well.
Rhyme Junkie: How do you feel about the new direction of the show? When season 3 premiered, a lot of fans recognized an obvious change in the plot and in which characters were highlighted. Do you think the change is for the betterment of the show?
Michael Epps: Absolutely. I feel like they’re really taking a better direction. This season is throwing a lot of situations that go on around the world that don’t get a lot of spotlight. It doesn’t get a lot of time on TV. A lot of things that people don’t really talk about. This season we really speak on that and we really bring things to people’s attention that’s going on. People need to hear about this more. I think the show doing that is good because maybe we’ll get to see more of that on TV. Maybe there’s someone in that situation and can get out of it. Maybe it can help somebody.
Rhyme Junkie: We can kind of switch gears here from your role on The Chi. With all the success of the show, what made you divert your attention to building a name in music?
Michael Epps: It was just something we wanted to try. It wasn’t something we planned on taking seriously. We just wanted to see how it went and decided we wanted to keep on doing it.
Rhyme Junkie: Is “Drip” the style to expect from you or are you still searching for a particular sound to present the public with?
Michael Epps: I’m still searching. My sound is something that I‘m still playing with. I’ll also keep that style in play. My main sound I’m not sure. Maybe more versatile.
Rhyme Junkie: Are you looking to release other singles soon?
Michael Epps: Yeah, of course. I plan on releasing some music, but this crazy coronavirus pandemic –
Rhyme Junkie: Oh, I can understand that. We’ve all been affected one way or another by this pandemic. How did your co-stars respond when they heard your music for the first time?
Michael Epps: They were really supportive. They liked it. They were happy I was dipping my toes in other things and adding things to my resume.
Rhyme Junkie: If there was one person you could work with, artist, writer or producer who is that name that you would like to collaborate with?
Michael Epps: Lil’ Baby. One that’s my favorite rapper. I like what he talks about in his raps. Everything he’s been through. Everything he talks about is real. He talks about stuff he’s going through. What he wants. Just real.
Rhyme Junkie: Have you been able to work with anyone behind the scenes yet?
Michael Epps: Nah, not yet. This coronavirus started and ruined everything. But, I can definitely see myself working with some other artists after this is all over.
Rhyme Junkie: So what about the visual for “Drip”?
Michael Epps: Soon as we went to shoot the visual, the coronavirus hit, so it was like “man!”
Rhyme Junkie: Are there any other acting projects that you’re participating in or we should look forward to?
Michael Epps: There aren’t any projects I’m currently working on, but there are some things that I’m interested in. 50 Cent is doing a Power spinoff and I think I would be great on that.
Rhyme Junkie: Do you want to branch outside of a character that’s similar to Jake from The Chi? There are a lot of actors that are type-cast, but they have the desire to maybe play a superhero or some sort of legendary name. How about yourself?
Michael Epps: I really just want to be in a movie that’s action. With a bunch of explosives and me jumping off of buildings or something like that. Like Fast & Furious or Transformers. Movies with a lot of action.
Rhyme Junkie: I know with acting, you have a few fantasy roles that you would love to fill. But, what are your goals in music? What would the peak of your music career look like?
Michael Epps: I would probably say… I make an album that does so good, like I could take some days or months off.
Rhyme Junkie: So a song or an album that can take you through seasons? An Anthem?
Michael Epps: Yes, definitely an anthem.
Rhyme Junkie: You spoke about building your brand, so outside of music and acting are there other avenues like fashion or anything such as that you’re looking to get into?
Michael Epps: My mom and I have a clothing line coming soon. As of right now, those are the only three things, but I can see myself getting in other things and other ways of making money. Yeah, definitely.