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Boris Kodjoe: A Man of Conviction

For some women, it’s his Colgate smile. For others, it’s the clean-shaven crown. Whatever the particulars, Boris Kodjoe has “it,” and we can’t get enough. Having made his acting debut on the Showtime series “Soul Food,” the German-bred former supermodel is now able to do Hollywood on his own terms—slow and steady. Yes, he’s a golden Adonis, but he’s also a devoted husband to actress Nicole Ari Parker and father of their two children, and he refuses to allow the star trappings of Tinseltown define him or his career. Whether he’s starring on Broadway alongside greats such as Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose and James Earl Jones in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” serving up tough love as a no-nonsense FBI agent opposite Bruce Willis in the upcoming suspense thriller “The Surrogates” or playing a struggling filmmaker in the indie “All About Us,” Kodjoe’s passion and respect for his craft serve as his barometer for success. ESSENCE.com sat down with Kodjoe to talk about the power of Black independent film, sleeping on the couch, and one female fan’s incredibly indecent proposal.

ESSENCE.COM: Congrats on your most recent role in “All About Us,” a romantic drama about a filmmaking couple who are in search of their next big project after reaching a dead end in Hollywood. What was most appealing to you about the role?
I was attracted to the script. I rarely get offered those kinds of roles because I’m often boxed up in a label. I met with the director, Christine Swanson, and discussed her vision for the film and that was it for me. Instantly, I trusted her and really admired her and her husband’s drive for getting this film done. The film is inspired by their own struggles in Hollywood as a couple. They found their own distribution and just made it happen. They live in North Carolina and are waiting for their fourth child to be born and they did it on their own terms with no regrets. So many people think you have to be in Los Angeles to be involved in the film industry and that’s not the case.

ESSENCE.COM: As part of a Hollywood couple, have you and Nicole ever felt like you’ve hit a brick wall? How does this film mirror your family life?
I definitely relate to this film closely—not because Nicole and I are part of Hollywood, but because the industry doesn’t offer much creativity based on the fear of executives who are afraid to lose their jobs for taking a risk. As a result, it doesn’t leave a lot of space for creative thinking. My wife and I had to choose life; we had to choose our kids and each other first. Everything else is secondary to what your family gives you. And let me tell you that love makes you feel invincible and that’s where your everyday joy and daily blessings come from. Once you make that choice, everything else will come because you exude an energy of peace and comfort, so that’s the energy that will come back to you. A lot of my friends are scared and postpone having kids for fear that they are going to miss out on some golden career opportunities. But [if you’re] running after fame, life’s true trophies elude you and you experience an aura of unrest because you’re waking up every morning running to auditions, calling your publicists, meeting with agents. Whether it’s a movie or trying to keep up with the Joneses, [it] will make you forget to live your life.

ESSENCE.COM: Do you and Nicole ever work on projects together?
My wife is involved in everything I do; she’s my sounding board on every project. I listen to her half the time. Then I’ll realize what she advised me to do was the better decision. You know how we men do! [Laughs]

ESSENCE.COM: Nicole told ESSENCE.com about your no-kissing rule, which is more of a joke between you two. What’s your side of the story?
[Laughs] Well, I don’t know if it’s a joke, because if I cross the line, I might come home and have to sleep on the couch. Obviously, Nicole shoots with leading men, as I do with leading ladies, and we both have a job to do. Naturally, we don’t want any project to suffer and we don’t really get jealous because we know how technical one kiss can get. It’s so not intimate because it’s very orchestrated and you have so many folks shouting and telling you how to hold your head, open your mouth and so forth.

ESSENCE.COM: After your romantic relationship blossomed on “Soul Food,” did they really need to direct you two?
[Laughs] Well, no we didn’t have that problem on the set. It was very natural to us.

ESSENCE.COM: That’s so true. Sounds like working on indie films offer liberties that big-budget films don’t. Industry insiders predict that the new Black cinema is straight-to-DVD films. Do you agree?
I love independent films because it’s very refreshing when actors choose to expand their creative horizons and take risks. More than ever we’ve been offered the platform to do our own projects, thanks to all the film festivals. The film industry is sort of at a crossroads. There isn’t enough content or money, especially when you think about how much it costs to go to the movies. An entire family can rent a movie and watch it for a few bucks, but going to a [movie] theater can easily cost upwards of $100. So it’s definitely a good atmosphere for the straight-to-DVD film market.

ESSENCE.COM: I understand you and your brother launched a clothing line.
My younger brother and I have a custom-made clothing company called Ziami, which we launched in Germany in 2003. Now, we’re pre-launching it in the States with the company Grey Goose.

ESSENCE.COM: What is your next big project?
A film with Bruce Willis called “The Surrogates,” which is about a community of humans who age gracefully and live without ever knowing any pain or negative emotions. I play Agent Stone, the head of the FBI who’s tough and happens to be Bruce’s good friend and boss. It was definitely different from anything I’d ever done and I’m a keen observer of talent so I’d just sit there, watch and learn from the entire crew, which was made up of Oscar winners from makeup artists to directors.

ESSENCE.COM: What’s the one thing folk would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m goofy—a fool and a prankster. I laugh all day and have no problem acting like a 5-year-old when I’m with my kids because I don’t take myself seriously. I’m living a dream and I am blessed beyond belief. For me, there’s nothing but joy and I let it show as much as I can.

ESSENCE.COM: What’s the craziest thing a woman has ever done to get your attention?
Once, I found a young woman in my hotel room. Honestly, I thought I had walked into the wrong hotel room until she started calling my name. I slowly backed out and kept it moving. Another time a woman almost ran me over with her car—she was so excited when she saw me crossing the street, I guess she lost her focus on the road. But the craziest to date is: I had a woman stage a meeting with me. It was done so thoroughly that she even had her lawyer there and presented me with a 70-page operating agreement about why I should father her child. And she was serious because it was actually a six-digit contract. That had to be the most shocking.

ESSENCE.COM: [Laughs] Omigoodness! That’s insane. So exactly how difficult is it to be a married sex symbol?
I’ll always say it’s a positive thing. I’m flattered by it but I also have to draw the line. It’s one thing when someone approaches you with good intentions or asks for a hug—that’s harmless.

ESSENCE.COM: Heard any crazy rumors about yourself lately?
Well, recently I’ve been sleeping with Gabrielle Union. It’s hilarious because she’s very good friends with my wife and I. I saw her at the BET Awards and we laughed about the time that Wendy Williams asked me if I was sleeping with her and I joked with Wendy and said, “Yes, twice a day—and my wife cooks for us!”

ESSENCE.COM: What do you hope your legacy will be?
That I was an amazing husband and father. I hope they will say I had integrity, that I was responsible, loved my family unconditionally, and inspired people to always make things better.