( ENSPIRE Feature ) Actor Akeem Mair Pursues A Career In Acting With Films Like “It’s On You” And More
ENSPIRE Contributor: Michelle Bolden
Akeem Mair is an up-and-coming actor with Commercial Talent Agency and Minc Talent. Originally from Pasadena, California, Mair is the oldest of four children born to entrepreneurs and public service professionals. He discovered his love of acting in elementary school, where he participated in various school plays. The idea of taking on different roles and the reactions he received from his audience excited him. It was a form of escape in which he could express himself while entertaining others, though it wasn’t necessarily his first career choice. As a child, prospects such as banking and mathematics interested him as well. Because Mair and his parents valued education, he attended college to pursue some of these goals before venturing out into the acting world.
Since then, Mair has been featured in School Dance (2014) and The Player (2015). He’s also made television appearances, featured in shows such as New Girl, Glee, and Key and Peele.
Upcoming projects for the actor include the drama film It’s On You, which is soon to release. The film follows the lives of African Americans raised in South Los Angeles, anatomizing their outlook on life, the mentality that impedes their culture, and the circumstances that suppress their progression.
ENSPIRE had the opportunity to speak to Akeem Mair about what inspired him to get into acting and how he continues to stay motivated in such a tumultuous industry.
Can you speak about your background a little? When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
I’m gonna be honest with you; I’ve never wanted to be a professional actor. My dream was to be a financial banker at one of the giant banks like Bank of America or Chase. Why? I blame Micheal Douglas. One fateful night, I watched this movie called “The Game” with my family, and I was hooked! I wanted the 2000 BMW 740i, the custom expensive suits, the excitement of the stock exchange office, and the personal maid that lives at my house and takes care of my personal needs. Plus, math has always been my favorite subject, and I was that kind of kid who carried a calculator like people carry smartphones, so the job seemed like it was my destiny. But one day, that all changed while I was working at Ralph’s grocery store in Pasadena on Lake and Walnut. A loyal customer of the store ended up changing my life forever.
At the time, I was a cashier when I saw a customer I knew quite well coming into my line with her head towards her shopping basket. I knew something was bothering her, so I wanted to cheer her up with my positive energy. So I said with excitement, “Hi, it’s so good to see you again; I hope you found everything you were looking for?” She said softly, “Yes, thank you!” I said, “Usually, I see you happy, but whatever you’re going through, I know God will guide you through it! He’ll never give you more than you can handle!” After we finished, I said, “Have a blessed day; I hope to see you again!!” She just froze for a few seconds and then looked up at me for the first time, and I could see her eyes filled with tears. She said, “Are you an actor?” I said, “No, why do you ask?” She said, “Because you have this big positive energy. You move people by it. You lifted my spirits after I just lost my home in a foreclosure.”
Her words stunned me. Throughout my whole shift, her words repeatedly kept playing in my head. After my shift, I went home and wondered, what would it be like to be a successful actor? I thought about how I’ll be able to help my family and how I can infect the whole world with my positive energy! That night I searched ‘How to become an Actor,’ which led me to Central Casting. The next day, I signed up in Burbank for their free introduction and Extras Management across the street, and here I am today! I have finally found my true love!
What is the most rewarding aspect of this profession?
The most rewarding aspect of my profession is being able to inspire people around you just by doing what you love every day. Sometimes you don’t notice the people around you, who are watching you shine in front of the lens. I remember a few years back when I hit rock bottom, and I gave up on acting completely. One of my friends noticed I wasn’t putting out any new work and asked me why I was absent from the entertainment scene. I told him, “Because it’s been tough, and I’m not getting any closer. So many doors have closed in front of my face, and I recently lost my truck.” He said, “That’s why you quit?? Let me be honest with you, bro; I was so inspired by you and what you’ve been able to accomplish. I said to myself, ‘If Akeem can do it, then I can do it!”‘ You can’t just quit, bro, because you will let me down!”
He really opened my eyes that day. This whole time, I thought I was by myself in my pursuit of making it as an actor that I didn’t realize he was following me and watching everything I was doing. Then, one day, I cut the lights off, and I was staring into the darkness pondering on what I wanted to do and all of the people who were counting on me to stick with it. This time I attack my dreams like I’m carrying the weight of everyone’s inspirations on my back. When you hear people tell you how inspired they are by what you do every day, it is the most rewarding feeling, and money can’t buy that!
Of all the roles you have played in the past, which is your favorite and why?
Of all the roles I’ve played in the past, my favorite had to be the very first role I’ve ever booked! It was the role of Will from the short student remake scene of “Good Will Hunting” from the Los Angeles Film School. The role gave me one of my most treasured experiences and lessons. On the day of the shoot, the professor of the film class was the director, and he asked me to take off my shirt and lay next to the lead actress Alexandra Gurskaya who played Skylar, Will’s love interest. Now I’m going over my lines in my head as we get to set. Finally, the professor yells, “Action!!!” So I placed my right hand over her arm and delivered my lines, “Yeah, but how do you know?” The professor yells “STOP!!!!!!!!!!”
He tells Alexandra in a pleasant tone, “You’re doing a fine job, sweetheart, keep doing what you’re doing! But you” as he gestured to me, “come here!” He points at the monitor and says, “Now study yourself, is your character supposed to be nervous or confident?” I said, “Confident!” He then says, “Then why are you messing up my scene by being nervous?” He said, “You worried about all of these people looking at you? Forget about all these people in this room; I don’t care about them. Your job is to entertain us and deliver an excellent performance because that’s what you do. You can’t let us ruin this moment for you! And don’t ruin this moment for yourself either!” I’ve never looked at anything in my life that way. So I began to embrace that mantra, “I can’t let anyone ruin my moment and opportunity for me. Everyone expects me to perform, and that’s what I’ll do!”
Who are some actors that you look to for inspiration?
Tupac Shakur, Denzel Washington, and Eddie Murphy are my biggest influences and inspiration. I first have to start off with Eddie Murphy because he is the reason why I got my name! His character, Akeem, from the 1988 film “Coming to America,” was a huge success, and when my parents went that Sunday night in June to see his performance, they were so captivated that they decided his name was perfect for me. I’m older now, and as I watch the film, I can see why my parents picked that name, and it’s so funny how his personality resembles my own. I find myself having his friendly demeanor and sense of humor, his power of authority yet remains humble, his kindness, and how he puts the people around him first.
Denzel Washington is my next inspiration. I love the way Denzel approaches the game. With his confidence, swag, fearlessness, and the mental toughness he brings to each of his roles, you feel his presence jumping off the screen. The Oscar performance he delivered by playing the role of Alonzo Harris in “Training Day” was really something to see. You just felt everything about that character. His selfishness, greed, carelessness, ruthlessness, and the way he backstabs Jack were too good. I would love to ask him how he prepares for his roles and how he stays in character throughout the entire film.
What does the typical day look like for you?
I usually wake up around 7:30 am and start my day off going over the daily goals I’ve written down in my notebook/journal the night before. It keeps me aware of all of my Audition due dates and if any of them are due today. It also keeps me aware if I’m improving and progressing in my career each day. 5 days out the week, I work from 10 am to 6 pm. If not, I’m working some days, shooting commercials or feature films. The times I shoot throughout the day definitely depend on the project. At 6 pm, I hit the gym. It’s essential to exercise and keep my body in top shape. My body is my selling card, so the gym is a must. Two days out of the week, I have acting classes from 7 pm to 10 pm. If I’m not in classes, I practice my craft at night, like around 10 pm. I always go to bed late because I want to use up as much time in my day to get better and plan my next moves. Don’t get me wrong, some days I relax more than others, but I at least try to get the most important goals done first before any leisure activities.
When you’re not working on projects, how do you like to spend your time?
When I’m not working on any projects, I do my best to spend time with friends and family. You can’t always be constantly working on your career without giving your loved ones nothing in return. Something I’m learning to do better at. It’s good to be ambitious and strive to be as successful as you possibly can. But there’s nothing worse for me to make at the top of the mountain, and I have nobody to share my success with. I’ve seen countless successful people who are more miserable than they’ve ever been. After spending time with friends and family, I am constantly researching the industry, practicing different techniques to hone my skills, and looking over my career to find holes in my game. You have to work even if you haven’t booked any projects constantly; there’s never a moment I’m taking off a whole day and doing nothing. I’m busy looking over my past auditions I didn’t book to find answers to what went wrong, building relationships and connections to key people in the industry, and learning different tools and strategies to stay ahead of the competition.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2021?
I actually don’t plan for the year like that! I always keep my head down and focus only on what I need to do today. You start planning for the year, and you’ll unconsciously not treat each day like it’s gold; at least that happens to me. I love just to let the year unfold itself unto me and keep it a complete mystery. So what are your plans then? Every day, I’m going to make sure I’m aware of all of my auditions and when they are due. Each day, I plan to prepare for each audition that comes my way. Every day, I’m gonna make sure to be aware of which classes I still need to take and which ones I’ve already completed. Each day, I’m going to write in my journal my daily goals so that I can constantly complete them. Each day, I’ll do my best to maintain my relationships and make new ones. Every day, I’ll make an effort to go to the gym and work on different parts of my body. If I do all these things every day for 12 months straight, I’ll end up with a fantastic year!
Do you have any upcoming projects?
Yes, I’m definitely excited about a few projects that I have coming up. The first project is a feature film called “It’s On You,” that I finished wrapping up and is now being edited. My role is a hot-headed gangster named Dame who’s constantly seeking to prove himself in his crew through violence and is very protective of his crew. Tupac gave me the inspiration for my character when I saw him in the movie “Juice.” The director Jonathan Latona and producer, Verrin Cofield, gave me the freedom to play the role how I thought he should be. Even the clothes I chose for Dame to wear I tried to match his character. I had fun being him. The second project that’s in the works is the feature film “Black Caesar Pirate King.” I was blessed by the producer Susan Bell for reaching out to me for the opportunity to play Karim! He’s a pirate who serves the legendary Black Caesar. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal any more details, but I am looking forward to another fun project.
Akeem’s positivity and openness to whatever life throws at him is the kind of attitude we should all strive to emulate to make the world a better place. His dedication and passion for his craft are admirable, and though we may not find our passion easily like Akeem, we can learn from him how he balances his career, friends, and family to have a fulfilling life.