It is always fantastic to watch a young actor break out. In the case of Andra Fuller, he not only provided a raw, captivating performance in the 2012 series THE L.A. COMPLEX, he kept up his hot-streak by landing a co-starring role on Adult Swim’s BLACK JESUS, while simultaneously starring in his webseries “RoomieLoverFriends”. Andra also just made a recent guest appearance in the USA Network series RUSH and has been cast in a recurring role in the BET series THE GAME.
Andra is one of those actors where his presence just grabs your attention every second he is on screen. Whether it is portraying a conflicted rap artist with a secret or young man willing to do what it takes to stand by his friends, Andra infuses his characters with complexity and soul. You just feel what he feels, and it is mesmerizing. It is this unique ability to create real characters and make viewers care intensely about them that truly makes his work stand out. It also guarantees that he has a long career ahead.
In a recent exclusive interview, Andra candidly talked about the journey of his character Fish on the Adult Swim series BLACK JESUS and talked briefly about his upcoming role on THE GAME.
What do you love the most about working on BLACK JESUS?
ANDRA: It is the first comedy I have worked on. So it is refreshing to be on a sitcom full of comedians, first and foremost, and to be engulfed in those comedic scenes. It is super hilarious to be working with actors that I get to work with and it is refreshing to be part of a comedy. To this point in my career, it was more heavy dramas. And I’m a goofy, crazy, funny guy in person — so it is refreshing to be on a comedy. That is the best part about it: to hang out with those guys and act the fool all the time.
Do you all get to play around a lot working on the show?
ANDRA: Yes. Unfortunately, for my character Fish, ironically enough, he is like the one serious guy that is always taking things out of proportion and taking things too seriously. So I don’t get to laugh at other people’s jokes when the cameras are on me. But, in my head, I am dying laughing all the time.
Who is the biggest crack-up? Who makes you always laugh?
ANDRA: I would have to say it is a tie between Corey Holcomb and John Witherspoon. The character that John plays is very similar to many other characters that John has played, and that is not even an insult because John has mastered this character. So much so, to the point where you will read the lines on paper and then John will perform that scene, the lines will be funny but as he performs, ]as he puts his little tweaks and body movements and his voice inflections in it, it is ridiculously hilarious. For John, it is just body language and the way he delivers the lines. And for Corey, it is because he says the most outlandishly, ridiculous things that you could ever think a human being is possible of saying. Most of it will never see the light of day because it is that vulgar. But Corey says some things that, literally, he will say it and everybody else kind of stops and looks at each other with, “What did you just say?!” It is ridiculously hilarious to hear some of the stuff he says.
Sounds like it is a barrel of laughs on set. It must be hard to focus at that point.
ANDRA: (Laughs) That’s what I’m saying! It is hard to keep a straight face with Corey throwing in these ad-libs and some of the things off the top of his head. I’ll be like, “How did you even think of that?!”
As far as your character, Fish, he is kind of the straight guy in the midst of all of it. What would you say you most admire about him?
ANDRA: I admire Fish because he is the only guy amongst the crew who has the balls to stand up to Jesus. Like when Jesus says, “Oh yeah, I talked to Pops and Pops told me it was going to be like this, so I knew that was going to happen.” Fish is the only one who calls “bullshit.” He always tells Jesus exactly how he feels and he will call Jesus out on some of the nonsense that he tries to sell them on. I admire Fish for having his own mindset and to be able to stand up to Jesus and say, “No. I don’t think that is how it came about. I don’t think that is how it should go. I don’t think we should do that.” The other people, they are more willing to say, “Okay. Jesus said do it and I’m going to do it.” But Fish, not really so much.
Fish is known as the moral compass of the group. Does he really act as the moral compass or is he more the voice of reason?
ANDRA: To be honest, it is both. Earlier in the episodes, he was more the voice of reason. If he didn’t understand why, he would be bold enough to question it. You kind of saw a glimpse of it in the last episode, and you will definitely see it a hundred percent in these last episodes. The moral compass aspect is about to take over and you will see an evolution of Fish. You will see that preaching that Jesus has been doing throughout this season has definitely not fallen on deaf ears. Fish was listening. Fish was taking note.
If you had a chance to talk to Fish, what kind of advice would you give him? What would you want to tell him and share with him?
ANDRA: If I had the chance to talk to Fish, I think I would tell Fish to: “Have a Coke and a smile, bro. Relax.” Fish is intense all the time. That has to be exhausting to be that intense all the time. I would tell him to go to a movie and go get a girl: “Go find a nice, young lady that can help you relax more” and “Smile. Go to the beach. Go get some shorts and get in the water. Cool off.”
Is there something about this character that we have not quite seen yet that is going to be explored further?
ANDRA: Yeah. You will see especially in these last episodes. You do see glimpses of it earlier in the season, but Fish is a natural leader. That is kind of why he and Jesus clash a bit. Because you can’t just tell Fish to do something. He wants to know why: why do you think this is the best approach to the situation? So you will definitely see that all the preaching and stuff that Jesus has been doing has not fallen upon deaf ears. Fish has been listening and you will see his leadership abilities take over.
Is there something you want viewers to keep an eye out for as this season concludes?
ANDRA: If I were to point out one thing, it is just to take note of the evolution of Fish. The Fish you will see is a completely different guy than what you saw in the earlier episodes. Like, if you noticed, when Jesus says, “We have to pray about it. Come on God, let’s bring it on in,” and Fish would always be the one saying, “I don’t want to pray” or rolling his eyes or giving Jesus crap about always praying about situations opposed to just handling it himself. You will see a completely different guy. Fish has taken heed as to what Jesus has been preaching and he will kind of reflect that.
What do you think ties Fish to this group? He seems like a loner and is more self-determined. Like he would normally do his own thing. What compels him to be a part of their group?
ANDRA: I think more so because those guys are relatable. Fish and Boonie have known each other their whole lives, essentially. So those guys grew up as childhood friends. People like Fish don’t change very much and they don’t change very often. So Fish is not going to be the guy who goes off and finds new friends and befriends new people. He doesn’t trust people. So when you are that kind of character, you stick with what you know — and what he knows is the small pool of people that he calls his friends and considers his friends: Jason, Boonie, Jesus, and Maggie, of course, and Tray. That’s the kind of guy that Fish is. He is not going to go anywhere. It is hell trying to get him to change, let alone embrace new people. That’s not really going to be him.
Do you think he has a strong bond of love for these people that he hangs out with?
ANDRA: Absolutely. Oh yeah. The guys that he hangs with, that’s his family. One thing about family — when you consider people “family” — you argue, you fuss, you fight with your family, but at the end of the day, you still love them. They are family. And that is exactly how Fish is. Fish will fuss and pull away and ridicule those guys, but they are family. He loves them, dearly.
Do you think that is why this show got so popular, so quickly? That viewers latched onto that familial feeling that these people just really cared about each other?
ANDRA: Yeah, absolutely. The show was underestimated by a lot of people because they saw the title. Then they saw the first trailer that was put out. And they saw the premise of the show is Jesus in the ‘hood. People underestimate the level of heart that the show has. But it really does have a lot of heart. It tugs away inside in a way that everybody can relate to because we have all either been a part of or wanted to be a part of a small group of friends who have each other’s back and go on the journey of life together and try to figure it out together opposed to just being on your own. No one wants to be a loner. It’s just that one of the guys in the crew just happens to be Jesus Christ. A lot of people can relate to it because the show does have a lot of heart. We also entertain the various relationships between the people in the crew opposed to them out with their singular storylines. It is about them together.
The show is interesting in that it appears to poke fun at religion, but at the same time it feels very sympathetic. Like it is trying to show that these are really good principles and messages to share. Do you think the show can be viewed as a teaching tool or is it just more of a comedy satire?
ANDRA: It is a comedic satire. We do not want people to take the show too seriously. At the end of the day, we want you to watch the show and laugh your ass off. That’s our goal. But I don’t think the show pokes fun at religion at all. More so than anything, it gives you a different aspect to consider. If you think about it, is it that far-fetched to believe that Jesus was living in modern day Compton? That he would speak slang? That he would speak the language of the people? Is it that far-fetched to believe that in 2014 Compton that Jesus would drink 40 oz. of beer as opposed to drinking wine? I don’t think it is that far-fetched to believe. They are both adult beverages. One just happens to be more prevalent in 2014 in Compton. People in Compton aren’t drinking red wine; they drink beer. I don’t think we are poking fun at religion. If anything, people who don’t relate to going to church as much or reading the Bible, they can relate to this and actually get something out of it. Because, at the end of the day, when you strip down all the bells-and-whistles of the show, it is just Jesus Christ in Compton, preaching the gospel about love for all mankind and the things that Jesus preached about in the Bible. Like vanity. Like the shoes with Jason. Jason had the new Jordans and he got them messed up in the shit heist, and he begged Jesus on numerous occasions to fix his shoes — “Can God fix my shoes?” — and Jesus told him, “God don’t like vanity. He don’t want you to have a $300 pair of shoes.” So there maybe somebody out there watching the show that gets a message out of seeing BLACK JESUS put it in those terms opposed to reading it in the Bible and seeing that vanity is one of the deadly seven sins. Who knows. But I think it is definitely possible.
As you have probably finished up on BLACK JESUS for the season, what else are you working on right now?
ANDRA: Next week I am going back to Atlanta. I have been working on BET’s THE GAME. Kelsey Grammar co-created that show when it was on the UPN, and now it is on BET. So I am in the middle of shooting a few episodes of that. I have a fun storyline. Then I was on USA Network’s RUSH not too long ago with Tom [Ellis] and Larenz [Tate]. I did a nice little guest spot on that. That was fun, as well. Then I am finishing up Season 3 of my webseries “RoomieLoverFriends.” It’s a pretty popular show on YouTube. I stay busy. It’s awesome. I’ve been waiting to be this busy for a long time.
For THE GAME, are the episodes you are working on for the next season?
ANDRA: Yeah, my character is introduced on the second episode. I’m playing the owner of the football team’s son. So I have a nice little fun storyline. He is a Harvard-educated, witty character. So I get to get my little jabs in with Jason Pitts (Coby Bell) and have fun with my character as well, showing the business aspect of helping out with the team and helping keep his father on the straight-and-narrow.
To see what Fish has on his mind and the impact of his natural leadership abilities, sure to tune in for the Season 1 finale of BLACK JESUS on Thursday, October 9th at 11:00 p.m. on Adult Swim. Then look for Season 8 of THE GAME to air in 2015 on BET.