‘Moonlight’ star and UT alumnus Trevante Rhodes discusses new film

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Alumnus Trevante Rhodes, star of “Moonlight,” spoke with The Daily Texan about preparing for the role.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dewey Nicks

Moonlight,” starring former track star and UT alumnus Trevante Rhodes, will be released this Friday. The film tells the story of a man’s life as he comes to terms with his own sexuality. The Daily Texan spoke with Rhodes about his preparation for this role and his acting career.

The Daily Texan: How did you prepare for the role?

Trevante Rhodes: I literally walked around and fortified myself and walked around Los Angeles with this disdain toward everyone I came into contact with. I felt like I had this secret to hide from everyone and if I were to connect to anyone, they would be able to see through me to this little flamboyant kid. So it was really just about that and developing this self-hate.

DT: How did you get into acting, and why did you choose to be an actor?

TR: My last semester in school, I went jogging on campus and this lady flagged me down. She said, “You look like this guy that’s in my head that I’m “casting in this film.” At the same time, I was in [an introductory theater class] to complete my degree requirements, so I talked to my professor about it and he was like, “Dude, this is someone who is prominent in the industry and you should probably follow through.” 

I got the audition the next day, and I was terrible at it and I didn’t get the job at all. But being an actor, whenever you suck at something, you want to get great at it. And for whatever reason, I thought I could be relatively decent at it, so as soon as I graduated I moved to L.A.

DT: What are you hoping to accomplish with acting?

TR: Working on “Moonlight,” I learned I really like the power of cinema. I learned that you have the opportunity to shine light on certain ways of living or show people that they’re not alone because so many people in this world feel like nobody can relate, when in actuality, we are all the same so we all have the same emotions. Being a part of something so specific makes it universal and allows people to know, “Oh yeah, I’m not alone. I’m not crazy for thinking that.” My goal is to utilize this platform that I’ve been gifted to continue to show people that and hopefully use it for good and hopefully help people. 

DT: What advice would you give to UT students or other young actors trying to find a start?

TR: Love yourself. Everybody tends to think you have to be what is hot right now, when in all actuality, you need to just live your truest life and just maximize yourself. I’m me, I’m going to try to be me and thankfully the film is resonating with people. The work is acting so if you’re acting in your real life, there’s no resolve.

DT: In your opinion, what makes “Moonlight” so unique?

TR: It’s something so specific that it becomes universal. After our first screening, this 60-year-old straight, white man walks up to Barry Jenkins, our director, and he’s just shaking and crying and he hugs Barry and he was like, “That was my story. I’m a straight white man so the context is different but that was my story. I was bullied and all of those things.” This 60-year-old white man [found] his inner 7-year-old black kid. And it’s such a beautiful thing that unifies us as people in a time that we really need that. It’s such a timely thing that I got to be a part of.

DT: What’s next?

TR: I just signed on to do this big film with Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Peña. And that should be in a month, so I’m in the process of putting on weight and started growing the beard out.