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Interview with ‘Straight Outta Compton’ actor Marlon Yates

In the early 90s, N.W.A. was considered the most revolutionary artists of their time. N.W.A emerged from the streets of Compton, California captivating the world with tales of police brutality, gang violence, racism and more. The rebellious group brought a new genre and sound to the Hip Hop culture, called “Gangster Rap.” Meanwhile, changing the rap game forever and setting the bar for up, and coming artist for years to come.

Last year, Universal Pictures officially announced that the N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton, would be released in theaters August 14, 2015. We are thrilled to say, the highly anticipated film of the summer is set to release in a few days. Directed by Set It Off’s F. Gary Gray, the epic film revolves around the rise and fall of the controversial group. Starring O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giametti and new heart-throb actor Marlon Yates Jr. who plays the role of The D.O.C.

Rebel Lifestyle had the pleasure of speaking with the Los Angeles native, Marlon Yates. Yates discusses how he joined the cast, preparation for the biopic film, what it was like working with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, the revolution of N.W.A , police brutality in America today, and more.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: You’re starring in the highly anticipated N.W.A. biopic film Straight Out Of Compton, which is expected to be released on August 14th. Tell us how you landed the role of The D.O.C?

MARLON: I actually went out for the role of Dr. Dre and the director was like, “You might be a little too handsome for Dr. Dre”. But they called me two months later to try out for the role of The D.O.C. I did a chemistry read with some of the cast and a three minute monologue. Neil Brown Jr. who plays DJ Yella was like, “I think you might have got that part”. I got a text message from the director maybe a week later saying, “Congratulations, but we’re still waiting for the studio to okay you”. I panicked and got real nervous and anxious. I’m like, did I get the part or did I not get the part? They were messing with my emotions. I’m thinking, “Can I celebrate, can I post about having this part”? Finally I got a call from the studio and that was that.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: Were members of NWA, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre involved in creating the film? What was it like connecting and working with them?

MARLON: Oh my God! Working with them guys every day… Dre was there damn near every morning at 6am before we would get there. Just to see a guy that’s made it in life and doing really well for himself still be prompt and on time trying to make things happen was inspiration for people like myself. We would sit off in the corner and have personal conversations like he was my buddy. We had these 16-passenger vans that would carry us from set to set and Ice Cube hopped in with us one day and sat right next to me and told me how they wanted the cast to come from different walks of life, because that’s how NWA were. He just kept telling me the whole NWA story from when he was growing up and how it was like. Me sitting there listening to this guy tell me these things… he probably didn’t know it but I was in awe. I don’t ask people for pictures, but I wanted to… I wanted to record it.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: I’m sure you’re too young to have grown up on NWA music how does it feel to play a role of someone from your area?

MARLON: I mean I’ve always heard of NWA. I knew Dre, Cube, and Eazy were apart of it. But I didn’t know MC Ren or DJ Yella were in the group. I didn’t even know The D.O.C. was a part of NWA to be honest. The whole situation of me being from L.A. was like a walk in the park for me. Just being from L.A.? Okay, that’s cool. That’s easy.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: So how long have you been acting? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?

MARLON: Nah, I played football from eight years old to 19. I just knew I would be in the NFL at some point. But when football didn’t work out for me I started modeling. Modeling turned into commercials and then I started studying theater in college. I was like, I’m gonna do this. Straight Outta Compton was my third audition to be honest. The fact that I got it was like, whoa!!! I can’t believe it.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: How did you go about preparing for your role?

MARLON: When I found out I’d gotten the part, I went to Pandora and put it on NWA radio. I would ride around the city listening and studying the music to see what they were talking about. I started watching all their music videos on the internet. Also, I’m a huge work-out fanatic. So the director told me not to work out anymore. “We don’t want any muscles; we don’t want to see how cut you are, none of that”. I didn’t work out for 3 months. I gained weight. As soon as they said, “that’s a wrap”, I ran to the gym.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: F. Gary Gray is the director of this film. What was it like working with him?

MARLON: I just want to say thank you F. Gary Gray for giving me my first opportunity. He was artist friendly and he allowed the actor to come with their own perspective on the scenes. We’d sit and talk; we all had to come to him with a motivation before every scene. He would pull each of us aside and say so um, what’s your motivation for this scene? It was cool; Gray is very into his work. He loves it and it makes us love what we do as well. It was a great first film experience for me.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: Are they going to have a soundtrack for this movie? If so, will Dre’ be producing it?

MARLON: Oh yeah, definitely. He’s producing on it, but he has a lot of other people producing on it as well.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: Back then NWA were considered rebels, they rapped about things that most rappers wouldn’t rap about which was considerably the truth.  With that being said, what impact do you foresee this movie having on the current state of the world with the riots in Baltimore, Ferguson, and the outrage of police brutality?

MARLON: Honestly, I think it’s perfect timing for this movie considering what’s going on in the world now.  It’s crazy, because we shot an LA riot scene and Gray came to us and was like this is super serious, no jokey joke, no play-play, none of that.  Like this is a real situation, this is serious, so don’t coast through this scene, because it was a non speaking scene.  It was all built on emotions.  Like look at all these people out here still burning buildings down, throwing rocks, the police looking at y’all crazy. That’s why I hope this movie will be bigger than Fast and Furious.  It’s a great period piece, a great film for this time and what’s going on in the world today.  I think it will open a lot of eyes to what’s going on.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: What advice do you have for someone who desires to follow in your footsteps in becoming an actor?

MARLON:   If I have to give any advice I would say make a choice and go for it. If you want to do it, take classes, be nice to people, shake hands, rub shoulders, you just never know who you’re talking to. Just be a great person. I take pride in being a good person, and I feel like me being a good person and not just an actor plays a bigger part than being an actor.

REBEL LIFESTYLE:  Not everybody drinks that humble juice.

MARLON: It’s crazy that you said that.  I was just telling my boy, Jason (Eazy E’s character) that people who act a certain way didn’t have a solid foundation growing up. Because if you have a solid foundation in the way you were raised you’d be as humble as you could be.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: How do you describe yourself as a Rebel in the entertainment industry and throughout life in general?

MARLON: I had an agent at one point and she would tell me, “you’ll never make it in this industry Marlon”, but she was kind of coo-coo.  And I was like whatever, but I stuck with her though and just went against the grain.  I’m a rebel with that.  She’d tell me one thing and I’d go do the opposite if I didn’t feel it was right. If it’s not the route I’m trying to take then I’m going to take this route, because I know what’s right for me.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: Outside of working on this movie what can we expect from you next?  Are you working on any other projects?

MARLON: I shot a movie with Keisha Knight-Pulliam.  It comes out June 23.  It was a straight to TV movie. I’m just waiting for the next call.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: Are you on social media?

MARLON: Yes I am.  Everything is marlonyatesjr.

REBEL LIFESTYLE: Are you excited?

MARLON: I’m super excited.  I’m like anxious, nervous, and excited. My first interview when I signed on with my PR folks I was a nervous wreck. She was like don’t worry it’s gonna get easier and easier and I’m like hopefully, because that was tough.

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