Each year, there are a group of projects that premiere with new and exciting premises but only a few succeed in sustaining an audience. Fortunately, one of those succeeding projects for 2017 is Blue Collar Hustle. For those who don’t know, Blue Collar Hustle is a web series that tells the story of four young black men in Stone Mtn. GA – looking to change their fortunes and find their calling through art, music, and a bit of imagination; all the while juggling the everyday responsibilities of families, job security, and above all else—the reality of existing as black men in modern day society.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alonge Hawes, the creator, writer, executive producer, and star of Blue Collar Hustle. Hawes plays Ajani Garvey, a 20-something African American businessman with a small family of his own. Check out my interview with Hawes where he discusses Blue Collar Hustle, the show’s recent win at the Minnesota Film Festival, what’s next for him, and more below.
1-Growing up, when did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in the acting world?
For me, the acting and the writing go hand in hand. When I was 12, my parents brought me one of those kid friendly camcorders that only shot in black and white. I’d write a story and get me and my siblings and friends to act it out and we’d film all these little short vignettes. Ever since that time, I always thought about what part I’d play in rewriting what it means to be black in mainstream media representation. So my enthusiasm for acting is born of that simple concept, to tell the stories that haven’t been told.
2-Who is your favorite actor?
My favorite actor is Donald Glover. Not simply because he’s an actor, but because he is an auteur. He is the most talented creative in the industry and studying him is akin to learning from a master.
3-How did you come up with the concept for Blue Collar Hustle?
Many things—first off, my friend Quentin Williams put out an album earlier last year titled A Souldier Story. I was so impressed by that album that I wanted to help him in any way I could. So his album acts as the soundtrack to the series and every episode title is a direct reference to a song on the album. Secondly, I wanted to construct a story that spoke to the black experience and not the black experience that the mainstream media wants to continually perpetrate. I wanted to show us as intelligent, upwardly mobile, and very much aware of our status within this country. I’m tired of seeing every black male as a drug dealer down on his luck or every black woman as a hyper-sexualized ratchet with no sense of dignity. I want to tell the REAL story—OUR story.
4-Are there any similarities between you and your character?
I would say my character is 70% based off of myself, my ideologies, and my experiences. As a first time actor, I felt like mining from my past to create this character was the best way to make Ajani more realistic and relatable.
5-What was your favorite scene to film from season one?
My favorite scene was the final scene of season 1. Because it was the culmination of all the hard work that myself and the cast and crew had put in to this enormous undertaking. As me, Quentin Williams(Quan), Roberto Cruz (Jose), and Howard Woodburn (Anthony) sat on that couch and filmed that scene it was a moment that was both surreal and satisfying.
6-If you had a chance to cast any current actor/actress to be in Blue Collar Hustle, who would it be?
I would cast Wesley Snipes. I think he’s a brilliant dramatic actor who doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. I’d create a role specifically for him.
7-Blue Collar Hustle just won an award at the Minnesota Web Fest. How did that feel?
It was an incredible feeling. We were nominated for two awards and to even be nominated amongst other creatives and peers was honestly honor enough. So when the name Blue Collar Hustle was called for Best Representation of Communities of Color it was an extremely gratifying experience. We, as creatives, don’t get into the business of storytelling to win awards. We do it because these are the stories that we feel have to be told, and if our communities, the ones that we represent, embrace us then we’ve done our job. The award is simply the cherry on top.
8-Is there a season two of Blue Collar Hustle and if so, what can fans expect?
We are working on getting season two off the ground. Stay tuned!
9-What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into acting and/or create their own projects?
I would say that you have to be prepared to hear the word NO more so than you will a yes. You have to 100% believe in both yourself and what you are attempting to accomplish. You have to be resourceful. You have to be determined to the point of obsession. You have to live it, eat it, and breathe it. Because at the end of the day, nobody is going to work harder to realize YOUR vision more than you yourself will.
10-What is NEXT for Alonge Hawes?
I am going to prove that I am an auteur that can effectively speak to the African American experience. I am going to join in league with those who are rewriting the black American story. That’s what’s next.
Photo Credit: Alonge Hawes