As Kofi Siriboe returns in ‘Queen Sugar,’ he’s still remembered as Malik from ‘Girls Trip’
One of the Sexiest Men Alive wants more people to talk about mental health
Kofi Siriboe began displaying his star power first as a model and then by appearing in Ice Cube’s The Longshots (2008), a film about the first girl to play Pop Warner football. He also appeared in 2011’s Disney ensemble Prom, as well as Straight Outta Compton (2015) and MTV’s Awkward. Siriboe’s looks and charm have solidified his bae status — fans affectionately call him “Siri-BAE” or “KoFine.”
His breakout role though, was portraying Jada Pinkett Smith’s love interest in the 2017 hit Girls Trip. Hearts throbbed and jaws dropped over his scene-stealing performance as Malik. People named Siriboe, who is of Ghanaian descent, one of its Sexiest Men Alive.
In the 2016 debut season of Queen Sugar, Siriboe gained even more notoriety with his portrayal of Ralph Angel Bordelon, a formerly incarcerated single father struggling to move forward as a sugar cane farm owner in fictional St. Josephine Parish, Louisiana. The Undefeated chatted with the Los Angeles native about the award-winning series, now in its third season, his Ghanaian roots, and how he’s using his platform to get more people to talk about mental health in the black community.
What’s the most challenging aspect of bringing Ralph Angel to life?
Honestly, it’s how real Ralph Angel’s character is. It’s such a relatable experience Ralph Angel has in the world of Queen Sugar to the experience I have in the world of living in America. I use Ralph Angel’s character as a source of therapy. You grow from challenges, and Ralph Angel has helped me grow in many ways by helping to acknowledge certain things, not only in my very own life but also in the world in general.
What’s a common misconception about Ralph Angel?
I really don’t know, because I try not to dive into the psychology of people’s perception about who Ralph Angel is. I hear a little of everything — that he is annoying, fine or he’s ambitious. I agree with it all, because at the end of the day, he’s a human being. As an actor, tapping into the truth of his character can be uncomfortable because people truly believe these characters are real.
What will you always be the champion of?
What song best describes your work ethic?
“Young N—-,” from Nipsey Hussle, featuring Puff Daddy (2018).
If you could be any athlete, dead or alive, who would you be?
What are you looking forward to achieving in 2018?
I’m launching a platform called Via Kofi. It’s a space for young black people to ask questions and provide answers from filmmakers, designers, photographers and creative directors. I now have the resources, and there are many others doing the same work. It’s a great time. We all join together and use our perspectives to bridge the pieces together. Also, I can’t tell you too much about another new project I’m working on, but you will hear about it very soon.
When did you realize you were famous?
When I was sitting directly across from Oprah Winfrey.
Have you ever been starstruck?
I was starstruck by Oprah.
Is there a Twitter feed or Snap or Instagram thread you’re currently obsessed with?
I’m not obsessed with social media.
Where did you draw inspiration from for the directorial debut of your film Jump?
My friends and I have these conversations in private, but I wanted to take an artistic approach and produce something we were able to watch collectively and reference universally. There’s much more to discuss, and since we are now talking about mental health I want to begin coming into the communities and having events for people to really share their experiences. It’ll serve as an opportunity for all of us to heal together, because it’s a much deeper conversation … about mental health and what it means to our community.
— KOFI (@kofisiriboe) November 20, 2017
What’s the most important lesson you learned while creating the film?
People react strongly and negatively to the concept of mental health. It’s a big stigma, a taboo no one wants to dive into. Personally, when I hear of mental health issues, it literally means something to work through in order to achieve your emotional well-being. I know this because I was one of those people who had a few things to work through.
Many things in life happen to us that we don’t get to choose … particularly, being a black man and the fearful possibility of getting killed in the street by a cop. We should have spaces to work through the weight that comes with being who we are in this world. By learning we have a place within ourselves of harmony and balance does not mean s— isn’t going to happen. It means you’re able to process, deal and heal from it all to create structure for yourself where you can be a functioning human being.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.