a sit down w/ netflix's anthony alabi
Many people think you jumped right into acting, but you actually had a solid career in the NFL. Tell us a little bit about your journey from professional football player to now a series lead on Netflix’s Family Reunion.
I always wanted to be an actor since I was a kid. My father used to take us to the movie theater on Sundays and we spent all day there. I always wanted to be what I saw on the screen, and he explained to me that that is what an actor is. Once I heard that, I lit up and never wanted to do anything else. But, I grew up in Texas, and when you’re 6’6” 360 pounds you play football. So I decided to make football work for me. I got my college education paid for at TCU and then earned my Masters degree while playing in the NFL. Once I had enough credited seasons to earn retirement, I ran to California. I started at the bottom. I wanted to learn everything I could and respect this art form. I didn’t want to assume that just because I was a professional in one thing that I would be a pro at acting. So I trained and just tried to let go of ego while being the hardest working person in the room. The first thing I auditioned for I got and it paid me like $300 for three days of work. On the same day, I got a call from my agents (who didn’t know I was retiring) saying I was being offered a deal from another NFL team. It was the hardest decision I’ve had to make. In the end, I bet on myself and turned down the NFL deal. I told my agents I was leaving football and they were supportive, but I could hear the almost laughing tone in their voice like “what are you doing?!” I’ve been very, very fortunate that it’s all working out.
You’ve been a recurring guest star in Raven's Home as well as given guest star roles in Modern Family, The Mick, Maron, NCIS, Longmire and more. How have these roles prepared you for the incredible role you have now?
It’s funny that you asked me this question. As I came up, I looked at every role as a prep for something bigger. I tried to learn something every time I got to be on a show. Sometimes that was holding my own with big name actors and sometimes it was teaching myself to keep the energy and focus up after being on my feet and acting for hours. It was all in preparation for something bigger that I wanted. And I don’t think that’s changed. I’m constantly looking for ways to grow and do more.
You act alongside Tia Mowry, and it’s no secret that a big part of her life is being an amazing mother to her children of two. How do you and Tia use your personal family lives to create this coming of age family dynamic you display on the show?
Haha! Almost every morning Tia and I come to set with stories about our babies. We give each other advice and compare notes. I think it was something we really bonded over in the beginning. That dynamic really helped us relate to the kids as Moz & Cocoa. We kind of developed this non-verbal language in relating to our on-screen kids and how to approach each one and give them the individual attention they need.
Family Reunion has just been renewed for Season 2! What can we expect from you project-wise moving forward?
A lot. Haha! I never settle, so I’m always looking to jump into bigger projects and new things. Right now, I’m filming a recurring spot on Shameless and starting to get into producing and developing shows. That is something I’m really excited about. At the end of the day one thing is for sure, this is just the beginning.