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Playing Ronnie DeVoe: Keith Powers hopes The New Edition Story is just the beginning — Andscape

actor keith powers grew up with the music of new edition playing in his house, as his parents were huge fans. Now the budding actor’s art is to mimic life as he takes on the role of Ronnie Devoe in the stakes miniseries chronicling the legendary R&B group responsible for such hits as “Candy Girl,” “Mr. switchboard operator”, “calm down now” and “can you stand the rain?”

“my favorite song from the new edition was ‘can you stand the rain?’ because my dad loved it,” powers told the undefeated. He “used it as a teaching lesson when he was going through some acting stuff in Los Angeles. he was like, ‘dude, you have to understand that you have to go through the rain to get to the sunlight.’ you know the song, ‘can you stand the rain?’; listen to those words. It says you can survive in the rain, so the lyrics made me love the song even more.”

Reading: Who played ronnie in new edition movie

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The story of the new edition, a six-hour biopic, begins its three-night run on Tuesday at bet. The biographical miniseries chronicles the group’s rollercoaster ride on and off the stage from humble beginnings in Boston to superstardom, solo singles success, breakup and reunion with Bobby Brown, and more.

powers has only seen video clips of the film and is excited to finally see the final cut of the film.

Actor Keith Powers and singer Ronnie Devoe of New Edition attend BET

Actor Keith Powers and singer Ronnie Devoe of New Edition attend BET’s Atlanta screening of “The New Edition Story” at AMC Parkway Pointe on January 5, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.

for griffin/getty images for bet

“It basically covers them from the ‘sweet girl’ when they were 12, 11 and 10 years old to the [special] anniversary of the [silver] bet in 2005,” the 24-year-old powers said. “I’m so excited about it. I think it’s really going to be big for African-American movies and television. but also good for a new edition because they deserve something like that and the culture of boy bands. we’re missing boy bands, especially black boy bands. so this is going to be huge.

“It’s going to open a lot of African-American doors for the actors in the film and also new editions for tours. it’s also going to educate young people about legends…my goal and my co-stars’ goal is for me to get an emmy. I really think he can get an Emmy.”

powers is best known for acting in the role of dr. dre’s little brother tyree live from compton. The Sacramento, California native has also had roles on MTV’s Faking It and Yahoo’s Sin City Saints. he hopes that the story of the new edition will be his big break in hollywood.

“I want to make movies that inspire people,” he said. “I want them to come up to me and say, ‘That part where you played…’ I’m so happy because I can be that person who helps them escape from reality. people have bills and stuff, but they can go to the movies for two hours and watch their favorite movie or actor and get away from their problems.

“I want to be great at acting and also help people in the community get away from television. I love people. i want to do things in my community, my old high school, the city of sacramento. yes, that’s my dream so far. I know I’m going to add more as I go.”

powers talked to the undefeated about his high school football career, learned the group’s dance moves, mastered the swagger and devoe accent, and made a difference in his hometown.

How familiar were you with the music on the new edition before landing the role of Ronnie Devoe?

I knew what my parents played for me. I grew up loving ‘can you take the rain’ for my dad. but just like with straight outta compton i learned about easy e and all of them dr. dr musica so i already knew ‘sweet girl’ and ‘calm down now’, ‘can you take the rain’, ‘if it ain’t love’, ‘poison’ of course.

but there were other songs i learned from, like ralph tresvant’s “sensitivity” or bobby’s “my prerogative” or johnny gill’s “my, my, my”. so I’ve learned a lot.”

did you meet ronnie devoe?

yes. I met the whole [group]. They were in our training camp. they met us. we had to do a training camp for a month. we had to dance with the group. we had to play to keep up. We learned from its original choreographer, Brooke Payne. it was stressful.

ronnie is great. ronnie helped me with the moves and taught me the moves in a way that i could learn. I know how to dance, but I don’t know choreography. If you played any sport, you can learn choreography, because it’s all about counting and footwork.

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How good a soccer player were you? playing football at sheldon high school in sacramento probably helped you with your dance for the movie.

It was good, but not great. It wasn’t that it couldn’t be great. it was because I didn’t make an effort to go exercise or run. I played wide receiver my junior year and safety my senior year.

was coordinated. helped me learn the dance moves and the counts. it was natural it was crazy. by the time I had to do some of the moves, my feet already knew what to do. once they taught me like twice, I was like, ‘how do my feet know where to go?’ that’s from soccer, doing stairs, going up and down and going back.

Were you nervous about the dance in the movie?

I was so nervous. that was the first time i thought, ‘man, i could quit’. I was picked a week after training camp started, so I had to learn moves twice as fast. I had to go to training camp from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. just to play catch up. the rest of my cast members would be there from 2 p.m. at 10pm so I also had to dance with the little kids who play the younger version of the new edition.

New Edition Mini series, Los Angeles, California, May 12, 2016.(Photo by Bennett Raglin)

New Edition Mini series, Los Angeles, California, May 12, 2016.(Photo by Bennett Raglin)

bet courtesy

I was trying to learn the medley, which was all his hits in a 10-minute routine. I remember at first taking my hat, throwing it away and walking out. I thought, ‘man, this might be the first thing I legitimately quit.’ I didn’t want to be a part of something and not do my part like I was supposed to.

one of the [directors] came out, told me to take a deep breath and said, “you’ve only been here three days.” you’ve learned everything faster than the rest of the cast because you had to. you have to relax and you have to trust it’. so I said, ‘let’s go,’ and started learning it.

When you were around devoe, did you pay much attention to his speech and gestures?

I had to understand how smooth it was. It has a natural softness. It is difficult to explain. and when he danced he had a rebound that everyone recognizes. I had to get the bounce off her and her Boston accent. but it’s a mix, it’s like a boston accent, not traditional, mixed with a southern influence as well.

That wasn’t as hard as going back to dancing. I thought the accent would be more difficult, but it really wasn’t. I would also call him in the morning before we were shooting and ask him, ‘Ronnie, what slang words did you use on the days that I could include in this dialogue?’ He would just say a few things to me.

what kind of relationship did you have with devoe?

Now he’s like a big brother. the guy is older, but he looks young like he never got old. and when you talk to him, he is very approachable. you feel that he could be your brother. It’s like an older brother, younger brother relationship…

Singer Ronnie DeVoe (L) and actor Keith Powers attend the

Singer Ronnie DeVoe (L) and actor Keith Powers attend the “Shots Fired” and “The New Edition Story” screenings at the AMC Empire 25 theater on September 24, 2016 in New York City.

ray tamarra/filmmagic

Did you have to learn how to lip sync songs?

not. We re-recorded all the songs. I can sing. but ronnie devoe was not the most important singer of his. I can sing enough to do ‘poison’. we had to re-record ‘poison’. we also had to re-record the background stuff.

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so you did the bbd raps too?

yes. rap was easy. once they sent me to rap, I said: ‘let’s get through this’.

what was bobby brown like?

Now it’s great and super relaxed. he was definitely nervous. my dad is a huge fan of bobby brown. he is an icon. you hear all the crazy stories about bobby. but when you meet him now, he is calmer because he is older. he has his own kitchen company. however, he will say some funny things out of the blue that will surprise you.

Do people recognize you more after your role in straight outta compton?

yes. I walk randomly and people really know who I am of all ages. You’ll know me straight from Compton or from the MTV show I did or from Sin City Saints, Fear the Walking Dead. Every time I go to the mall, they either recognize me or tweet me saying, “man, I was too scared to tell you what’s wrong with you.” It’s crazy how many people tweet or attack you on instagram.”

what was the challenge at straight outta compton?

wasn’t as challenging as the new edition because it was introducing people to tyree. people didn’t know about tyree or that dr. dre had a little brother. I was able to bring it to life in my own way. straight out of compton, i had more responsibility with dr. dre than fans. yes i did dr. dre happy, no matter how the movie goes, I was going to be happy.

What is it like to be a black actor today and do you feel like you are blossoming at a good time?

It is the perfect and excellent moment. after the #oscarssowhite and people were complaining about it, we were angry and frustrated. It wasn’t about putting more black people in your movies. it was about getting more opportunities. you’ve got some Caucasian actors who are going to get an Oscar-worthy movie every year. even if they don’t win, they know they’ll get another oscar movie.

We just want to have the same opportunity. we were frustrated at a good time because movies like straight outta compton, the people versus o.j. [simpson], which was diverse, but had incredible black actors, and dope, which was a good movie for the culture. blackish, atlanta, empire, power. these shows are breaking records and we are showing people what we can do. the moonlight just came out and people are excited about it. a new edition comes out and people are excited about it. I am in this industry and in this job at a perfect time because there are many opportunities for us…

Before, there weren’t a lot of black filmmakers and directors, but now there’s more of that. you have blacks on a smaller scale taking their films to film festivals. people are buying black movies from film festivals like, drug and birth of a nation.

You recently visited the boys & girls club in sacramento. How important is the sacrament to you?

People here don’t think about being in the industry or acting. sport is different we have many athletes from sacramento. but when they think about the entertainment industry, they think that it is very far away. I want to be that person who really changes that when they see me.

for example, you can see me directly in compton, but you can see me at the oak park market [in sacramento]. You can see me outside in a sack alone. when people see me here, they always say: ‘what are you doing here? where is your security? First of all, this is where I’m from. nothing has changed for me. I want people to say, “He can make it to Hollywood and still be down to earth.” we know him personally and we feel that he is part of us. I want to be like that for children. I want when they see me they say: ‘I can do that'”.

What will viewers get from the new edition of the film?

You can see how great the new edition was. for children who do not know music, they will be educated. they will get a great story about the brotherhood. the main thing people will get from this movie is all the drama they faced with each other offstage and would still go onstage and perform together.

they’ll come in and they’ll argue and fight, and the soul train lady will say, “hey, they’ll be in in five minutes.” and return to the stage with her problems. You will see professionalism. and that is something that this generation lacks: great professionalism. bands back then were dealing with a lot of things, especially money that was owed to them. but they would still go on stage and kill him with raw talent. none of the b.s. you’ll get a lot of respect from this movie.

what’s next for you?

famous lovers, which is a dramatic television series. Her Entourage Meets Gossip Girl opens April 18. And I have a sitcom called Reality High which is the new age comedy, raunchy American Pie would like, Road Trip, which is premiering on Netflix in the summer.

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