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Interview: Women want a piece of Boris Kodjoe @BorisKodjoe

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Ten years ago he was hailed as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World and now Austrian-born model-turned-actor Boris Kodjoe has a glittering roster of cinema credits. If he’s not bashing flesh-loving zombies alongside Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez in the Resident Evil franchise, he is most likely caressing a fine-looking lady in a romcom…

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You’ve done a few comedies, which some actors find harder to do than action, but it seems like it comes relatively easy to you. Does it?
Yeah, it does. I think I’m a goofball at heart, but sometimes in Hollywood you can be pigeonholed very quickly. I sort of drew the card of leading man in a way, which is great, but I like to do different things like comedies which I find a lot of fun. I also do a series called ‘Real Husbands of Hollywood’ with Kevin Hart and Nick Cannon, where we spoof reality shows. So, this was a great departure for me from some of the heavy stuff that I usually do.

So then what was it about your character Graham in Baggage Claim that made you agree to do the film?
It was a combination of things as well as the fact that I wanted to work with Paula Patton and the director [David E. Talbert], who I have been friends with for years. When you look at the film, you can see that it’s a really talented cast. As an actor, I think you make choices based on the script, director and the people who you want to work alongside.

How does it feel to be the source of worship in the minds of millions of women?
That’s hilarious! [Laughs] It’s flattering but I don’t see myself like that. I am just me and take these compliments in my stride. At home, I’m a dad, who reads goodnight stories and plays soccer with my son. I take my daughter to ballet classes. Everything that comes after is a boost to the old confidence.

Well, there are quite a few fan sites devoted to you. There’s a Boris Kodjoe mouse pad and pillow. Did you know this stuff exists?
I had absolutely no idea. I think my kids would probably love those things. In fact, they don’t know about my career. I try to keep them away from it. They never watch my movies, and they had no idea that me and their mum [actress Nicole Ari Parker] are actors until a couple of months ago when their friends in school started talking about me killing zombies in Resident Evil. As you can imagine, my son came home quite confused. He literally didn’t know how to take it.

You’ve come a long way from being that shy and guarded teenager who found it impossible to fit in and talk to girls. But now things are very different. Has there ever been a moment where you felt overwhelmed by the gargantuan responsibility of being a female magnet?
I’m aware of how blessed I am with these opportunities that I have. I don’t ever for one second forget where I come from. I grew up in Germany and my father is from Ghana, so those things are embedded in my soul. On the other hand, I tend not to take this too seriously. I prioritise – my wife and kids are number one and everything else after that falls into place. I believe with structure you get true joy and happiness from the source that matters which is your family, and therefore, you don’t depend on material things. You only get into trouble when your happiness depends on the next movie, big job, or award because you keep running and running until you forget to live and be happy. I think I have done a great job prioritising and knowing where my real joy and happiness comes from.

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In a lot of romantic films, you can predict what’s going to happen, like: ‘He or she is going to end up with the person who we expected, then…cue Mariah Carey – We Belong Together —they live happily ever after.” But this film is somewhat different.
Yeah. It’s different because you have a whole lot of guys in there that could win the prize; I think that makes it interesting. You have Djimon Hounsou – who is a demi god, Trey Songz, Derek Luke and Taye Diggs who is just hysterical. It’s interesting to see the different relationships that Montana [Paula Patton] has and how in the end she finds her true love.

I can see moviegoers collapsing into laughter as well as tears watching this film. Were you conscious of the fact that this is a story that crosses barriers? Or was it just the character that was in your mind originally?
I wanted to work with these guys and when I read the script, I knew that this was a classic American romantic comedy with no colour subtext. It just happens to be filled with actors of colour, but other than that it’s a movie that anybody could identify with.

You star alongside Paula Patton’s real-life husband Robin Thicke in ‘Real Husbands of Hollywood.’ Were you concerned at all about the kind of chemistry that has to exist between both of your characters in Baggage Claim?
No. Robin and I are great friends. I had met Paula on numerous of occasions, and she is a beautiful, talented and funny Boris Kodjoewoman. We said to each other, ‘Look we are going to have fun and make this look real.’ There were never any awkward or weird moments where we stopped. It was very easy and David E. Talbert provided a platform for us to do that. There were also a lot of laughter and jokes on the set – it was pretty much a walk in the park.

You seem a little more experienced at sweeping the ladies off their feet better than the other guys. Do you want to explain why that is?
Yeah. I studied that in college. I have a degree in sweeping ladies off their feet [laughs].

It’s interesting to hear you say that because many of the characters that you’ve played you always tend to carry a certain kind of physical demeanour.
It’s quite tough to hide when you’re 6 ft 4 and 220 pounds. [laughs] I am confident and comfortable with who I am. I think that shows because when you have a healthy self-image, you tend to be relaxed in your own skin. I think that the energy that you exude when you have that will connect with people. I have never tried to hide who I am or how I feel. I am very open and transparent.

Why did you take the role?
I wanted to work with these guys and when I read the script, I knew it was a classic American romantic comedy, with no colour subtext. It just happens to be filled with actors of colour, but it’s a movie anybody could identify with.

kodjoe_familyIn 2005 you married Nicole Ari Parker, your onscreen love interest in TV series Soul Food. Do you believe in love at first sight?
I believe in like at first sight – that’s what happened. We were drawn to each other immediately and friends for two years before we started dating. That was a great foundation – knowing and liking each other. Love comes in different shapes and forms, and when you’re in love it can change. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun. The key is give each other the chance to weather storms and grow through them.

What lies do you tell yourself regularly?
I am an eternal optimist. I believe my own lies as long as they are positive and empowering. I believe you manifest your destiny, so words are very strong and powerful. I always watch what I say.

What will people will take away from the film?
I hope they laugh, cry, have a good time, jump in bed with loves ones and make babies [laughs].

Follow him on Twitter @BorisKodjoe

Baggage Claim is in cinemas from October 11