By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Marlon Yates Jr. is too handsome to play Dr. Dre. That’s what the model turned actor was told when he initially turned up for an audition for the N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton.”
“I originally went for the Dre role, but was told I might be a little too handsome for role.”
As luck would have it, Yates, who was on the verge of giving up acting, got a call from the studio just weeks later offering him the part of The D.O.C. who often wrote for and toured with the group.
“I had no idea who he was,” Yates says, “but I did my research and saw that he is this hip-hop legend. It was like reading a book and seeing the layers unfold as I had no idea The D.O.C. had a huge influence on N.W.A.”
After a test read with the lead cast; Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube) and Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), Yates says he received a congratulatory text from the film’s director F. Gary Gray (“The Italian Job,” “Set It Off”) that he had the part. A major break for the actor who says he was at a huge crossroads with his acting career.
“Hollywood was something I fell into. Football was my main priority and when it didn't work out, I didn't know what to do with my life,” says the 26 year-old South Central Los Angeles native. “I was going to give myself till I was 31 to get my first movie or TV show before giving up on this Hollywood thing, so when I booked it, it was definitely a blessing.”
The film, which releases in theaters Friday follows the meteoric rise of the group N.W.A. who in the mid-1980s revolutionized hip hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.
“These are young inner city kids who went against the grain and accomplished something. They made their dreams come true and it shows that you can make if, if you take a chance,” says Yates, who runs an after school program for kids in the inner city community through his newly founded organization BCAA.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, who made his feature directorial debut with the 1995 comedy classic “Friday,” which starred Ice Cube, Gray, Yates says, was the perfect director.
“He allows the actors to be artists and allowed us to improvise certain scenes, and if it worked we would keep it. He was so focused and is very passionate about his craft.”
“Straight Outta Compton” releases in U.S. theaters Aug.14, 2015
Research was key for Yates, and to perfect his part, he checked out music videos to see how The D.O.C.’s mannerisms were and paid particular attention to how he walked and talked.
“I also learned he was an alcoholic and always had a drink in his hand, but he was one of the brains of the business and really understood the business.”
The research obviously paid off for Yates as The D.O.C who popped by the set a few times offered several words of encouragement.
“Due to certain legal rights, they couldn't release some of his music, but he was there and talked about some of the scenes that he saw.”
“Straight Outta Compton” marks his foray into feature film, but Yates has had commercial success modeling for brands such as Nike, McDonalds, Timberland and Skechers and although his good looks barred him from playing the lead role, he cites being part of the film as a “huge blessing.”
“I got to work with guys I grew up listening to and I had the opportunity to work with a great cast and it was the best time of my life.”
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