As season 3 of VH1’s Hit the Floor preps for its debut this May, we chatted with the man behind the character of Terrence Wall, the one and only Robert Christopher Riley, to get the inside scoop on his acting journey, some of his favorite things, and even some words of wisdom.
Cliché: How did your acting journey begin?
Robert Riley: It started when I was an undergrad at Lehigh University. I wasn’t necessarily going to be an actor—I went to school to be an accountant and I played football. During my senior year, the theater department was putting on a production of Raisin in the Sun and I just so happened to be in Intro to Acting that semester because I thought it would be a fun, easy A. To be 100% honest with you, they asked me to audition for the play because they needed more black actors, since the school was predominantly white. I said “no” a bunch of times because it wasn’t what I did, but I inevitably said yes because I felt an obligation to the minority community. I did it for that reason at first, but then I grew to really enjoy it.
Since you never expected to be an actor, what would you have been doing instead?
I probably would have inevitably just gone into business and been the ‘cool guy’ in the office that did all kinds of crazy shit outside the office—that guy that always had something random to do like, “Hey guys, come see me do stand-up.” But I teach, so I would probably be a teacher. I’m a pretty sensitive person, which lends itself to being a pretty caring person, so that, coupled with a little intelligence and determination, makes for a really awesome teacher. I’ve had great teachers, coaches, and mentors that are responsible for where I am today, so I would be doing more of that stuff than I am today, and I probably wouldn’t be taking my shirt off for money.
So you were born and raised in Brooklyn, but your parents are from Trinidad (mother) and Barbados (father). If you had to pick one of these three places to live, which would you choose?
Oh man, my favorite place to live? Well, I’ve spent the most time in Brooklyn, so I would probably go with Brooklyn. However, there is a large part of me that thinks that I could find a very nice quiet place to live in Trinidad and just kind of live out the rest of my days, whenever that time comes.
Do you have a celebrity crush?
This really is a tough one because most of the time I forget people’s names and I don’t want to say anyone random. However, when I was a kid, I was in love with Mariah Carey. I used to say if she was to walk into the back of the church when I was getting married, the wedding was off! But then that stopped right around Glitter. After Glitter, it was a wrap; I was done.
What is the greatest lesson in life you’ve learned thus far?
That you can’t do this by yourself. No matter who you think you are, you didn’t do it by yourself, so there’s no point in even saying it. Ever. When you’re about to say you did it by yourself, just stop for a second and think of someone who helped you at some point, even if someone just held the door open for you that day.
As an added treat, for those of you who didn’t know, Riley also does his fair share of dabbling in photography and we got an exclusive sneak peak at the site, The Fresh Perspective, before the official launch! Riley is letting his fans in on the action with previews on Instagram @thefreshperspectiv. Be sure to check it out!
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Rob Riley Interview: Photographed by Ryle Watson