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Exclusive: Actor Rome Flynn On Fatherhood & Why He’s Only Willing To Give Love One More Chance

"It's so hard to find someone that matches my energy. What I'm seeking is bigger. It's big picture."

#xoMan

If you're caught up on season five of How to Get Away with Murder, then you are familiar with Rome Flynn. He's the latest addition to Shondaland, a handsome addition, if we might add.

Starring as Gabriel Maddox, Flynn is currently a series regular on the ABC drama. In addition to #HTGAWM, he stars in The Haves and Have Nots and most recently appeared in A Madea Family Funeral. Flynn may be an attractive actor with an athletic build, but there's more to the Chicago native than his appearance.

With this #XOMan feature, we delve deep with Flynn to learn more about who he is outside of his career, fatherhood, his views on marriage, and why he's only willing to give love one more chance.

xoMan: How did you become a part of the ‘HTGAWM’ family, and what has that overall experience been like for you?

Rome Flynn: Originally, when I got the audition, I was in Atlanta. I was filming The Haves and Have Nots and my schedule was just crazy, and so when my team sent me the audition, I told them that I couldn't do it. I wasn't going to be able to find time to audition, because I was at work for 10-12 hours sometimes. I said no. But then after reading the audition and obviously being a fan of the show myself I knew I had to figure out how I could send a tape in.

"It's been a great experience so far. It's been a hell of a ride."

I'm very happy and excited about the ups and downs and whatever happens going forward, because I just feel like I'm very blessed and humbled to be able to work with the people that I'm working with. I'm a part of a platform that's incredible to be on.

Your character Gabriel is seeking truth, but we know the truth is not what’s best for him. Do you believe there are things in life you’re better off not knowing the answers to? 

Personally, in life, I think yes. I believe that to be the case. I don't think we should know everything. But, in regard to Gabriel, I think he's just trying to figure out what happened to his father, and it has a lot to do with figuring out who he is.

I really try to keep [Gabriel] honest. Doing a show like this, you can get away from that. You can get away from the fact that he's Black. You can do a role like this and it become white-washed to a sense, because there's a stigma with people who are intelligent. Because you can't be smart and Black. That's the thing I try to be conscious of. I try to put a little bit of myself, because I want somebody to see the show and be like well, I actually like him. Maybe I can be a lawyer too.

In today’s society. There’s a lot of hidden truths. Do you find it difficult to trust people?

Professionally, I have to trust my directors. I have to trust my editors. It's hard trusting people personally. I always try and approach the mindset of having good intuition about people. I tend to have a good sense about who a person is, even before you have a deep conversation with them, because there's tales and signs that we don't pay attention to on a daily basis.

I try to meet people and be open to whatever that person is and understanding of who they are. So, I don't have trust issues in that sense. But, yeah I definitely do feel like I protect the world that I live in though, as far as letting people in.

What are some telling factors for you when discerning a woman’s character that you’re interested in? 

It's interesting because I feel like sometimes it changes for me. In my reality, it sometimes becomes hard to decipher intention a lot for women. If I'm talking to a woman, it depends on what I'm looking for. If I'm just looking to "hang out" with somebody, it's really not that difficult, because I feel like I always hold the cards.

At this point, I don't know what the dating life is like, because I'm so focused and driven on what I'm doing.

"It's so hard to find someone that matches my energy. What I'm seeking is bigger. It's big picture."

It's hard for me to connect with women, because, I don't buy into stuff online. I really do love my fans, and I think there's a lot of women out there who shower me with compliments, but I'll never buy into it. Because, once you buy into it, your values get skewed. That's not reality. They don't know you. They idolize certain aspects of you.

What important qualities do you view in a woman? Does being a father impact your views on women?

I think ambition is something that I didn't know I wanted in a woman, until I saw it wasn't there. I just want someone to match my energy. I don't want a woman that I need to take care of. I want to take care of you, but I don't want to feel like I need to. That's the difference. A lot of women are OK with being taken care of. I want a woman who understands and values herself. A lot of women my age don't understand themselves.

Having a daughter has certainly made me analyze my relationships differently. I think that if I'm talking to a woman, I understand what I want from the jump. I never try to go into it seeking a situation where I lead anyone on. I'm always upfront, and my thing is that comes from holding all the cards.

What’s your sign? 

Sagittarius.

So…do you always have to be in control? 

I have to be in control, because I'm protecting a lot of things. I'm protecting my career. I'm protecting my daughter. My family. Not in a sense that I want to control you. In the industry, a lot of things are out of my control. The things that I can control, I'm very meticulous about.

What’s one of the first things you notice about a woman when she enters a room?

Presence. There are millions of women in the world. You see a lot of women. You see beautiful women, and the beautiful aspect starts to look the same.

"The first thing I notice is a woman's presence."

What does an ideal date look like for you? 

I'm a homebody. Honestly. I'm away sometimes a lot. I like to be at home. I'd rather watch a movie or something or have a glass of wine.

Some women want to be seen. I don't do public initially. I have to protect that. I don't want to be the guy that's out and seen with different women.

It’s funny because that goes against what most women want. And if you want a woman to treat you regular, how does that work? Because, you’re essentially asking me to bend the rules because of who you are? 

Exactly. That's why you see a lot of celebrities with people that are successful in their field and dating people in their field or in the same realm as what they do. It's just easier to skip a lot of steps. It's easier to be understood. There are a lot of people lonely at the top, because it's this idea that nobody understands what they're going through, and people just want to have someone that sees them.

To a certain degree, you want to feel protected and it's really hard to trust people especially when you have stuff to do. I feel a little anxiety. It's not a bad thing, but it's like people went from wanting to take pictures with me to wanting to take pictures of me. You become not real to people.

If a woman is amazing and genuine, she’s not going to want to break through all those barriers. At some point, you have to have a good sense of judgement, no?

I mean for sure. There's a balance that you need to have. Would it be a lot easier if I worked somewhere else and didn't have the success I had? Probably. Probably find love right away, but this takes sacrifice. It takes sacrifices to be great, and I feel like love is a part of that.

I've been in love twice with a woman, and I just said recently that I think I can go for one more. If it doesn't work this time, I'm actually cool off of it.

Is marriage important to you? 

I don't know. Marriage is important to me, in the sense if I ever did get married – that's it. I would never get divorced. I have a lot of respect for marriage. It's just such a tall order to me. That would be a love that I haven't experienced.

The energy you put out there is what you receive. If you already putting it out there that it’s [marriage] not going to come, then it isn’t. 

I'm open to it. That's the difference to me. I'm open to it. I never saw a healthy marriage growing up, so I don't know what that looks like. How am I supposed to know? I'm not saying it won't happen. I'm just saying I would be surprised if it happened. I've thought about it for sure.

"There's other things that are in front of me right now, but if someone came in and changed my course of thought, I'm all for it."

What can we expect from you in the future?

I've given it to God already. I want to keep breaking barriers. One of the most prolific things that I learned from working with Viola Davis and Tyler Perry is that creative control is important. A lot of people don't realize how much creative control Viola Davis has and obviously Tyler Perry has all the creative control. That's something I'm searching for, because I feel like film, TV, arts in general reflects the world around you.

A lot of people base their knowledge on stuff that they see. It's one thing to say we want more Black people in major roles, but I want more Black people in roles that aren't stereotypes. I want the film to just be amazing because this person is perfect for it. I feel like there's room for it. Those are things I would love at some point to be a part of. Those are things I'm interested in, because representation is important.

For more of Rome Flynn, follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Featured image by Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

Originally published April 8, 2019.

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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