Named after an Eddie Murphy character, actor Akeem Mair shares his story on his journey into the acting world. LA-based Mair has been in many award-winning Indie films and takes on smaller roles in music videos and commercials. The versatile actor works in drama, action, and romance roles and dreams of working alongside his inspiration, Denzel Washington. After gaining attention from an appearance on the Ellen Show, Mair was reinvigorated to one day be nominated for an Oscar and threw himself back into the industry. For now, he celebrates an upcoming project he worked on with his father, and hopes to be a motivation to younger generations seeking to achieve their own dreams.
Cliche: What have been some of your favorite accomplishments as an actor?
Akeem Mair: My most favorite accomplishment had to be when I was on the Ellen Show. The thing about it is I didn’t book it!! It was all by chance! I remember my cell blowing up in David Rountree’s Phase 2 On Camera/On Set class. Texts were popping up like, “you were on The Ellen Show??? Call me ASAP!” The segment is called “Speak The Lyrics.” A show where one of Ellen’s writers walks up to a complete stranger and begins speaking to them in song lyrics.
I literally had no idea I was even being filmed to be on The Ellen Show. I remember walking into a Barnes and Noble in Burbank. I noticed a bunch of film crew standing outside speaking to one another. So I asked them, “What are you guys filming?” But None of them had any information about what was going on which I thought was weird. I walked inside and still to this day I don’t understand why I hadn’t noticed the cameras before. I looked around at some books and then I decided to leave. But 2pac’s “ All Eyes On Me” record stopped me.. That’s when Lauren quietly walks up to me. She started talking and almost threw me completely off.
But in the back of my mind I was hearing Coach Mike telling me to not disagree with anything she says. Just be in the moment, so I hit her with some funny humor right back at her. Next thing I know after she walks away, I get swarmed by those same crew members who claimed they didn’t know anything and now they were asking me to sign a bunch of papers. I guess they finally answered my question.
Then it airs on TV and Ellen Degeneres calling it, “The best episode she’s ever seen!” She put it on her instagram page and boom!!! It generates over 5 million views in one day! Then by the grace of God it lands in my future agent’s feed, Sarah Angeli from Commercial Talent Agency. The Timing was crazy because I had just submitted my headshots and resume to her last week.
So as I walked into her office for my agent meeting, guess what she was watching?? My episode cued up on her computer screen. She was like, “I just saw this yesterday and here you are!” So we talked and then she played it again and we both laughed at it. I’ll never forget that moment in my life.
Your resume shows a variety of roles and accomplishments, what is your favorite genre to work in?
Action, Drama or Romance. Definitely drama because that’s where most of my chances of winning the Oscar will come from and it’s the hardest to perform. I especially love drama roles because they challenge me and bring out the best in me. But I also love playing the hero like Batman or James Bond, with all of the fighting and shooting guns and winning the love interest’s heart at the end. It’s funny to me because my main thing in movies is I want the lead to fall in love and win the main girl at the end. I hate it when he doesn’t because I feel like he failed after going through so much for her. Sometimes I stopped the movie before the big fall and he loses it all just to savor the good times haha. For me, characters are like a living and breathing being and I aim to relate that to my own life as if I’m actually that person. Each role is real to me so when he feels pain I personally feel it. I love roles that bring that out of me.
Who has inspired you in your acting career?
Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy. You’ll understand why Eddie Murphy is such a big inspiration to me in the next question but for this question, Denzel Washington. I just love the way he approaches his craft. I mean his confidence, swag, fearlessness, and mental toughness literally screams through the screen. He just has you in awe with a feeling like it’s impossible to act that good. He’s just on a whole different level and I have to get there someday. His role in Training Day as detective Alonzo Harris was just out of this world. He definitely deserves the Oscar he won in 2002. You felt everything about his character from selfishness, greed, carelessness, betrayal, ruthlessness, liar, etc. And yet with all of that going on, you still fell in love with his character. Usually you’re turned off by the bad guys and want to see them lose. But I found myself rooting for him and hoping the best for him. It’s kind of why the last scene was so good, the scene that single handedly earned him the Oscar. When you get the audience to love you no matter what side you are on, you truly won! And that’s the biggest inspiration I can take from Denzel.
You are named after Eddie Murphy’s role in “Coming to America”, do you find inspiration from him as you have developed your own acting career?
Eddie Murphy inspires me everyday to pursue my passions to become a legendary actor like him. Being named after his character it seems my parents knew I was destined to be in the entertainment business. My mom, Queen, told me how she and my dad, James, went out on a Sunday evening to see the hit movie “Coming to America” when it came out in theaters on June 26, 1988. She was about 6 months pregnant with me and my parents were still unsure of what my name would be. After seeing the movie, my mother fell in love with Eddie Murphy’s character Akeem. She talked it over with my dad and they were both in agreement. She loved how he was this African Prince who’s extremely rich but he didn’t walk around like that. He wanted to find a wife who loved and respected him for who he was and not because of his title or his money. He was humble enough to work at a low paying job and always had something wise to say to people at the right times. He stood up for what he believed in and was completely generous at heart to everybody. When you watch that movie you find yourself saying, “ I want to be like that guy.” I would watch that movie over and over again for inspiration, learning as much as I could to develop into that kind of person. I am so grateful and honored to be named after Prince Akeem.
Who do you hope to work with on a project next?
I really hope to work with Denzel Washington or Eddie Murphy next! Haha I know it’s a stretch but I want to be able to work with those two legends while there’s still time. It kinda reminds me of that rookie season of Kobe Bryant where he went up against Micheal Jordan when he was still on the bulls. That moment was epic! It’s just crazy to me how God had set them up and now looking back you’re amazed by those two legends going head to head. I want to experience something like that, the same epic moment feeling with Denzel or Eddie. To be on set and be able to pick their brains about acting and how they each prepare for their roles. Their tone of voice or gestures…I want to learn what it takes to be an Oscar winning actor from Denzel and how to play so many multiple characters with different personalities from Eddie. Ultimately, the Oscar and to one day be a legend in this game are the only goals I have my mind set on. It sucks that it took me 5 years to get back into my craft but now that I have a new supreme hunger, I’m gonna let go of the past and do whatever it takes to make that happen.
What impacts do you hope to have during your career?
I hope to inspire the kids throughout my entire career through my movies or commercials. I want my impact to be monumental. I want to be a role model to everyone and I want my movies to motivate, to boost confidence, to build faith, to inspire kids or adults to go after their dreams, to lift people out of dark places in their lives, to strengthen the courage of young people to not let this world push them around, to bring positive energy into a world that is so negative, to change the way people feel about themselves negatively. I want my impact to be global and international. Not just in the U.S but the entire world! When people are trying to find an example of someone who went through adversity and persevere, one of the actors they can think of is Akeem Mair!
What upcoming projects are you most excited for?
I can’t really tell who it’s from because of the NDA contract I signed but it’s exciting because my dad is a part of it. Kind of like that Kobe-Jordan moment I was speaking about earlier, it has that same epic feeling. It was definitely a surprise to me and my father because the project made me call him right there on the spot. I haven’t spoken to my father in a minute so you can almost feel the tension of calling him and hearing his voice. I love this project a lot because it helped me reconnect with my father and it’s something I’ll never forget. Sometimes in life you need something to push you to do some of the important things in life you keep putting off because you expect it to take care of itself. It’s great we got to talk while we still have that opportunity. Whoever is reading this if you’ve got something you’ve been putting off, I suggest you go do it. Nobody knows when their last day on Earth is, I can say it’s a great feeling when you do it.
Images by Michael Bezjian, Todd Tyler, Greg Doherty