Today we want to share an interview with Kezii Curtis, an actor in the film Charm City Kings. Charm City Kings is a coming-of-age story about Mouse (Jahi Winston), a 14-year-old from Baltimore, who becomes involved with an infamous Baltimore dirt-bike group, the Midnight Clique. The movie won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and offers a gritty look into the crossroads young Black men find themselves at in communities that are difficult to navigate. Kezii Curtis stars as Mouses’s friend Sweartagaud, a typical 13-year-old who just wants hang out with his friends and crack some much-needed jokes. We had the chance to ask Kezii some questions about the movie (out now on HBO Max).
What originally drew you to Charm City Kings?
Everything. The story, the script, the incredible talent attached (Caleeb, Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith) were just the icing on the cake!
How did you get interested in acting? Do you remember the pivotal moment that influenced your career decision?
My older brother (Mekai Curtis) was on a TV show when my family first moved to Los Angeles. One day we were visiting him on set and I got a chance to see how it all worked. I said to my parents, “I can do that.” They believed in me and here we are!
Did you have a favorite moment on set?
There were so many, but if I had to choose… it would be in-between takes when we would make up our own raps and jokes. Some of the stuff we came up with was really good! “Barz” is what we would all yell when someone said something really catchy. (I’m still thinking of coming out with a mixtape. LOL) Seriously, there was never a dull moment when we were all together and that just made the time so fun.
How would you describe your character, Sweartagawd? In what ways do you relate and differ to your character?
I would describe Sweartagawd as the calm in the storm and the voice of reason between his polar opposite friends, Mouse and Lamont. Sweartagawd is the glue that unites the trio. He is the lighthearted logical one of the three and the comedic relief. He is a lot like me in that we both like to crack jokes, goof off, and just have a good time with friends.
Who are your role models?
Some of my role models are Denzel Washington, Michael B. Jordan, my older brother Mekai Curtis, and the person who discovered waffles.
What does the movie mean to you?
Charm City Kings is very meaningful to me. Aside from it being my biggest role to date, it allowed me to portray a role that was equally challenging and fun. It also has such a powerful story line with a thought provoking ending that leaves the audience emotional and most importantly thinking. I feel it was a great way to “start” my film career. More importantly, this was a story that needed to be told. Far too often, the behavior and interests of Black boys are criminalized. In other neighborhoods, they have found a way to incorporate the interests of their young people by building arenas for bike racing or skate parks for skaters. I hope Charm City Kings continues to highlight the disadvantages of people from inner cities so that change can happen. I know my castmates and I are getting a lot of slack for our lack of Baltimore accents, but I hope the people of Baltimore are proud of the job we have done to bring needed change to their city.
What are a few things that you hope audiences will take away from Charm City Kings?
I hope audiences take away the story of hope and second chances. I hope the audience can see past the fast bikes and understand the message that is in the movie. Often times young Black men come from circumstances that leave them at a crossroad in life, where either decision they make is crucial to their future. I hope it highlights why bike culture is so popular as it has become an outlet for people who ride to feel free. I hope young men like myself see how important decisions are and I hope older men see how important male role models are for young people.
Outside of acting, what else are you passionate about–hobbies, charities, etc.?
In addition to acting I enjoy producing music, playing the piano and bass guitar, and recently the harmonica. I also have been thinking about doing stand-up comedy because everyone tells me I am funny. (I have to get some material before I give it that my all.) Also, I have been writing, producing, editing, and directing a parody series with my siblings on YouTube. I also really enjoy drawing.
What’s next for you?
There is so much I would like to accomplish in the near future. I would love to film another movie. I would even love to get the chance to star in a more serious role. Last year, I was cast in a pilot that did not get picked up, but I loved the vibe of the multi-cam series. I honestly cannot wait for a new series regular role.