NEW YORK (AP) — Even though Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey were both involved in the creation of “Queen Sugar,” Kofi Siriboe didn’t really know how big the OWN Network show was going to be when he auditioned a year ago.
“I had high expectations, but at the same time I didn’t want to like, think too deeply into what it would be. I was just really open to letting it happen, so I’m just riding a wave,” says the 22-year-old.
The wave is showing no sign of cresting. Siriboe has drawn rave reviews for his portrayal of Ralph Angel, the formerly incarcerated young father struggling to do right on the family drama, produced by DuVernay and aired on OWN. “Queen Sugar” has also made Siriboe, with striking model-like looks, a fawned-over sex symbol, a status that makes the actor laugh.
“I love when the women are like, ‘God is so good, girl, God did its thing,'” he says, chuckling. “It could be one thing, it could be all that ego, and validation, or it could just be, ‘I love that you see God when you see me.'”
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Before “Queen Sugar,” which airs its season finale on Wednesday, Siriboe was best known for smaller parts, including a stint on the TV show “Awkward.”
“Prior to this, I had 10,000 followers … and now it’s nearly 100,000 people watching my every move,” he said. “They’re watching, they actually care, there’s a resonance there. That to me is what’s like, mind-blowing. You couldn’t prepare for something like that.”
But Siriboe has been preparing for this moment since he was 5 years old. The Los Angeles native, who is of Ghanaian descent, recalls starring in his first commercial at age 5. It wasn’t too long ago that he was waiting for callbacks after auditions in New York City — and getting lots of rejections. Siriboe said the worst part of that time was “just the lack of validation.
“You start questioning yourself. Like, that doubt is real, and we’re so marginalized as a community already. To be a black artist in the entertainment industry is already such a hassle,” he said. “(But) for me it was just me knowing that this was my truth.”
“Queen Sugar” is heading to hiatus (it’s been renewed for a second season), but Siriboe will be busy. He’s playing Jada Pinkett Smith’s love interest in the film “Girls Trip,” due out next year, and has written, produced and starred in his own movie, “Jump,” about suicide awareness. Shot in the Bronx, Siriboe hopes to release it sometime soon to the public, not necessarily in theaters.
“I like to think of myself as an independent actor, I don’t really work for any system,” he says. “I want to put out my projects, I want to share it with the people and I want to give it to them direct. I don’t need all these channels and all these filters just to do what I want to do, which is just share and bring awareness to things and just have conversations.”