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xoMan: Keith Powers On His Growth As An Actor & What Qualifies As His 'Perfect Find'
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xoMan: Keith Powers On His Growth As An Actor & What Qualifies As His 'Perfect Find'

With a smile that could light up the darkest room, soulful eyes that possess depth you can get lost within, and a charm that’s utterly irresistible, Keith Powers had me captivated way before his greeting on our Zoom call in late June. Upon introduction, Keith flashed his mega-watt grin and said my name in a deep honeyed tone that almost made me forget how to speak.


It’s a spell he casts without even trying and one that he shares with his character Eric in his latest film, Netflix’s The Perfect Find. The 30-year-old California native plays opposite Gabrielle Union as her younger love interest in the movie. Based on the novel by Tia Williams, the film is a romantic comedy helmed by Numa Perrier and follows the love story between a 40-year-old recently-single Jenna Jones (Gabrielle Union) who finds her spark one night unexpectedly in the form of a much younger man (Keith Powers).

Eric and Jenna share a kiss in a moment of meet-cute passion, but she soon learns that he is the son of her rival Darcy (Gina Torres), who also happens to be her new boss. Being on the verge of a career comeback while being faced with an unexpected romance with a guy 15 years her junior lays the groundwork for a potential mess but also a potentially perfect find.

During our conversation, I found the budding Hollywood heartthrob to be both an open book and a breath of fresh air with a shyness and humility you might not expect. It's a powerful alchemy that is perhaps the secret to the actor's sauce. It could also be why the many TikToks occupying my For You page from ladies ready to risk it all with clips of Keith in The Perfect Find edited fittingly to R&B sounds and captions of "my man my man my man" that further punctuate the infatuation.

Candidly with xoNecole, Keith discusses his growth as an actor, prioritizing his mental health, leaning into love, and what makes a woman his perfect find.

*Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Courtesy of Netflix

xoNecole: Hi, Keith, I'm so sorry that there might be a soundtrack of Mexico in the background.

Keith Powers: Nah, that's cool. You're in Mexico?

xoNecole: Yes.

Keith Powers: That's cool. Dope, dope, dope. I'm jealous.

xoNecole: I'm jealous of you! You're out here starring in films and whatnot. How are you doing?

Keith Powers: I'm doing really good. You know, just trying to remain present during this whole process. I've had times in the past where I've had all these expectations for stuff. And then it makes you feel like, Meh, what was that? But I have to know to remain present and just appreciate everything about having a project drop and just take it all in.

That's why it's important to really love to do this (laughs). Because you know, you just want to find a place to become content in the best way when you still [reaching] your potential.

xoNecole: That was powerful. Do you feel like you're living your potential right now? Or do you feel like there are parts of you that don't feel like you're quite there yet?

Keith Powers: I think I am. To a certain extent, I do feel like I do have some days where I'm just like I feel like there's something out there missing that I love, that would just complete life. But I think that just comes from not remaining present, and I think when you're not present, you always try to find things, or you chase things, and then you'll never become content. So I'm just trying to take in the stuff that's already around me that I love.

But [I] always feel like there's something else out there. I don't know what it is, but I'm always like, Man, am I living my full potential? I just have that question. I think we all have that question, though. We all like, "What's our purpose?" You really start asking yourself that. I see it in movies all the time, and it's easy to look at that question and be like, "That question is so cliche." But it's a real question. "What is my purpose?"

xoNecole: I feel that. You mentioned that you do your best to remain present. What are some things that you do to remember to be mindful and aware of the present and even grateful for what's happening now?

Keith Powers: I think the best thing to do is to put down your phone and just really take in stuff around you, like literally being present. Right? And I see me now versus me when I used to visit back home. I think I really lived in the present in my early twenties but sometimes in a real naive way. But that was okay because I was still present. And now, like, I'm around my family, I'm always thinking about ways to like to try to help my family when I'm around them so I could come off like very in my head sometimes because you just look at your family and you're like, "Damn! I love you all so much. I wish I could do more for you."

And I think when I'm around my family now, I just put my phone down and just take them in and really talk to them and just love on them in that moment. And it really helps you get your mind off of stuff that is really not in the present, and it feels really good when you look back on it like I really had a great time [with] my family because [I'm] really just taking them in. So I would say, like putting down the phone. That's the start, and then life will happen.

Courtesy of Netflix

xoNecole: Thank you for that. I have to say that when I was watching 'The Perfect Find,' I found it to be more of a complex version of the more run-of-the-mill rom-coms that I'm used to. Even your role as Eric just felt a lot more layered in a sense than I'm used to seeing you portray in your love interest roles that you take. I was wondering, how did you go about approaching the character work for this role? 

xoNecole: It was really powerful, though, especially that scene in the fast-forward that you guys had where she revealed her big reveal. I just remember thinking, 'Oh, wow! He's done some work here.' Your reaction felt very palpable. It felt like something that could happen in real life. 

Keith Powers: Yeah, I've been trying.

Courtesy of Netflix

xoNecole: And in 'The Perfect Find,' you kind of step to Gabrielle's character real strong-like (laughs), and I was wondering if that was more of a Keith approach to things or an Eric approach to things? I feel like I'm getting a bit of the answer based off of your last answer though...

Keith Powers: (Laughs) Nah, that was Eric. I ain't never came off that strong. I don't know if I ever came off that strong. Even when I'm not all the way sober. I feel like when I'm not sober, I'm really confident [or] I'm way more confident than when I am sober, but I ain't never came off that strong. Numa really wanted it to be this thing where they meet, and they get lost in each other at this party.

And I feel like some people have had those moments where you just kind of have that, you just meet someone in a party, and it feels like the party is not there no more. You just really wanted it to feel like these two people getting lost in each other because you need Jenna (Gabrielle's character) to still remember him after. But yeah, that was Eric. That's not me. I'm weirdly shy sometimes, and I don't have the most confidence. And sometimes I think when I act, when I get to play characters is when I really get to dive into my confidence. It's crazy because I feel like I have to do it.

"I'm weirdly shy sometimes, and I don't have the most confidence. And sometimes I think when I act, when I get to play characters is when I really get to dive into my confidence."

And I was just watching that scene too, like people just posting it and just seeing me like locked into Gabby's character, and I was just thinking like, Bro, what the hell? I'm so not like that in real life. Well, I am, I am. But I have to be really comfortable with you, and for him to do that just [after] meeting her is crazy (laughs).

xoNecole: (Laughs) That's good to know! It speaks to your acting, yet again. So that's good to know. And do you happen to have a favorite rom-com of all time?

Keith Powers: Favorite rom-com of all time? Yeah, I say, Coming to America is. I think we look at Coming to America either [as] a comedy or just a romance, but it's literally a romantic comedy. Coming to America is so good that I feel like it's multiple genres in one. But that is a romantic comedy to me. I felt like I liked his love, you know, Eddie [Murphy]'s love and that love story. And it was really funny. But Coming to America is my number one. I think I could watch that movie so many times. That movie never gets old to me.

And then another one, I would say, is No Strings Attached with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. I really love that one.

xoNecole: I know Gabrielle voiced hand-picking you to play the role [of Eric] because of how you treat or treated Ryan Destiny. How does it feel to be vouched for in that way as an actor? And did that influence your decision at all to take the role?

Keith Powers: I think all the stars aligned, too, right? Because I think Numa told me that I was always in the pitch deck [for the film]. And I believed her. And she sent it to me. I was in that pitch deck, the first pitch that they made, I was always her choice. She just sees him in me. And then, Tommy, I met Tommy Oliver, one of our producers at James Lopez's party, and I was introduced to him through a lady [that] worked on PR for [The New Edition Story], and me and him connected a couple of times. And the third time I talked to him, he sent this role to me. And then I had already met Gabby. And I guess all the stars aligned.

And hearing Gabby say that was cool, you know? It's crazy how it also just shows, like us as people, our character, and even our brands of course, but our character really as actors to really help us in this world, I guess? I'm not saying I got the best character in the world, but I just think like she [saw] something in me from that [his relationship with Ryan Destiny], right? I think, as an actor, sometimes you always auditioning, even when you're not.

You know, just hearing her say that was cool, you know, it makes me feel like, I just got a big deal of responsibility when I'm in a relationship, or I'm with someone to just really set an example, you know. Because love is like I feel like what we all want. But you know, it's tough. It's hard (laughs). And I didn't have the best examples of love growing up. I've seen a lot of stuff, and I think it gave me a lot of trauma in it.

Then I started realizing and becoming self-aware and [learned] I'm not as romantic and as affectionate as I thought, but I think just seeing her recognize that [respect for that relationship] was really cool to me. I thought that was really dope and also put a lot of pressure on me. I mean, it was already pressure on me before because I was just like, "Oh, y'all sent me an offer, like I never got a offer. I gotta show up. This is crazy." It's flattering, though, I really appreciate that.

Courtesy of Netflix

xoNecole: Why is it so important to you that you are uplifting to Black women, both in your work and in the way you lead your life?

Keith Powers: I think growing up, naturally, my mom has always put Black women on a pedestal, like forever. She always would tell us when we were young, "I want to see y'all with Black women." But we didn't really understand, me and my little brother, we were just like, "Okay, Mom. Yeah..." You know, we dated outside our race, of course, but she always would instill that, right? And my mom would always go out her way to make sure that she would show love to Black women, especially dark-skinned Black women, and my mom is a light-skinned woman.

She would just always express her love for a Black woman's beauty, even when I was young, and it was just the default to me, and as I got older, and you know, dating Black women and my little sister getting older, and having talks with her, and hearing about what Black women go through, and then seeing it online... Of course, I know as people, you know, we're an oppressed group of people, but we're extraordinary.

I think now, knowing these Black women's stories and hearing what they go through, I'm like, "Damn, I gotta set an example." I don't think that us as people should look at celebrities, especially celebrity Black men as like what we do is like the staple [or] the standard. Just because you see this actor or this athlete not dating Black women, it [doesn't] mean that's all Black men, you know what I'm saying. We shouldn't generalize that.

But we should have examples of Black love. That's one thing I love about Gab (Union) and (Dwyane) Wade. They're Black love. Their love is just super unapologetic and loud in the most beautiful way. My parents weren't really like that. They would be sometimes, but not all the time, right? [The way] they love (Gabrielle and Dwyane) makes you feel uncomfortable in the best way, you're like, "Damn, that PDA, that's a lot." But that's beautiful, like I want that, you know what I'm saying? (Laughs) I haven't been the most romantic, but I do like to love on my woman. Seeing that is just really inspiring.

"That's one thing I love about Gab and Wade. They're Black love. Their love is just super unapologetic and loud in the most beautiful way. I haven't been the most romantic, but I do like to love on my woman. Seeing that is just really inspiring."

I just really think it's just important for us to just uplift our women. I mean, my mom is Black. My sister's Black, both my sisters, my family, I got so many Black women in my family. And when I do express my love for Black women, just seeing their reaction to it, and just seeing how they'll just send me messages, my aunties and stuff, and just telling me like how much that means to them, it really touched me. I'm just like, damn. When I am around people who might feel different [about Black women,] it really turns me off and makes me not even want to talk to them or even want to argue or debate (laughs).

But I think it is a big deal of [responsibility]. And some guys, I'm rambling now, but some guys might feel like, you know, "You could date outside your race," and I'm like, do whatever you want. I just feel like we should never disrespect our women, regardless, and we should uplift them.

xoNecole: That's beautiful. Gabrielle included, you've worked with quite a few industry titans in your career. Who has been the most influential to your process, and where do you see yourself in your career journey?

Keith Powers: I think Straight Outta Compton and New Edition were the two biggest influences. I mean, working on New Edition and working with, you know, my cast and everyone involved just really made me be like, "Damn, bruh, I really just want to keep being an actor and dive into these roles and these different stories and see it be on the screen." You know? Whether it's at home or big screen like, I just wanna watch it after we work on it and just see the end product and keep watching it whenever I'm bored. And hear other people talk about watching it.

And Straight Outta Compton on the big stage, I'll never forget that time. I had a small part in that, but like being at that premiere and stuff, I was like, "Man, this is crazy. This is the real deal." And then, being around all these legends, I'm from the West Coast, so being around all these rappers and stuff and producers, Dre, Ice Cube, and everybody, it was just inspiring. I remember just being on TV shows before that, they weren't Black TV shows. And I remember getting love from people and Black people showing me love.

I used to be on a show called Faking It, and I used to get a lot on MTV, a lot of love from people, but it wasn't a lot of like Black people showing me love. And I remember just feeling like something was missing. I was like, "Damn, I want my people to show me love." And then I got Straight Outta Compton, and then I got New Edition, and to see our people show love. I was like, "Damn, that's just the love." Especially when you Black, [that's the love] that you just can't explain. It just inspires you to want to do more, and that's what Straight Outta Compton and New Edition did for me.

xoNecole: That's so dope. I love a full circle moment. 

Keith Powers: It's crazy. I remember watching the BET performance New Edition did that we did in the movie. I remember watching it in the front room with my family [as a kid]. I think I was in the fourth or fifth grade, and I just remember my dad just going crazy over it. (Laughs) So I always was a New Edition fan because of my parents. And [the fact that] we redo that whole thing in the film, it was just crazy to me.

When you said "full circle moment," that's what I thought of.

xoNecole: Have you had your "Mama, I made it" moment in your career yet, would you say?

Keith Powers: I don't know, I don't think I have. But I feel like other people will say, "Yes, you have. What? You trippin." (Laughs) I don't feel like I've had it just yet. I feel like The Perfect Find is one of those moments. It's definitely [one of] those moments like, "Okay, I'm here." And I'm still waiting for that one that's like, "I made it." But The Perfect Find, I'm very happy with [that moment]. It gives me that "I've arrived" moment.

I just feel like it's still something missing. But I try not to minimize these moments because these are great moments man, and I know there's a lot of actors out there that just would love to be in this position that [are] still, you know, trying to get in the game and stuff, so I don't take it for granted at all. And it's a lot of great actors who we don't even get to see on-screen. You know what I'm saying? I've been in so many different acting classes where [there are] some dope actors in those classes, and the industry is just a whole different game, so I don't take it for granted.

I would say, not quite yet, but almost. I just have big expectations for myself. And I just try to, what they say, 'Shoot for the stars, land on the moon.' (Laughs)

Courtesy of Netflix

xoNecole: I listened to a podcast [interview] of yours recently. And you're talking about the need to kind of protect yourself mentally from kind of internalizing others' expectations or feeling the pressure to feel 'challenged' as an actor. What inspired you to get more in touch with your mental and self-preservation in that way?

Keith Powers: I think in 2018, I went through a deep depression, and I didn't know what I was going through. So once I realized that I was going through something, I did a lot of research, and I realized that I was just putting a lot of pressure on myself. I was in a public relationship [with Ryan Destiny], and I just got off New Edition. And I felt like I had lost the movie because of my TV show. And I felt like I was racing against the clock, and it was fans kind of just asking me, what am I doing next? And I just [saw] people like talking smack, and you know, I was letting comments get to me, and I was letting this idea that I had to be successful by a certain time get to me. It was just crazy. I couldn't... I found out I was depressed because I went to therapy.

When I was depressed, I couldn't wake up in the morning, like I wanted to stay in bed, and I got really skinny. I didn't realize how skinny I had gotten 'till I went to the BET Awards, and I remember I took a picture with Ryan, and I remember seeing some comments and people like, "Yo, what's wrong with Keith?" I didn't realize, I was just like, "What are you talking about?" Like, what are they talking about? And then I looked at older pictures, and I was like, "Whoa," and I really stepped on the scale, and I was like, "Whoa, hold on," and that's when I was like, "Hold on, what's going on?" And then I did a bunch of research. I read books, went to therapy, and it made me realize, like, I was just like, "Yeah, nah, I can't go through that no more."

"In 2018, I went through a deep depression, and I didn't know what I was going through. I realized that I was just putting a lot of pressure on myself. I was in a public relationship, and I just got off New Edition. And I felt like I had lost the movie because of my TV show. And I felt like I was racing against the clock, and it was fans kind of just asking me, what am I doing next?"

I gotta have tunnel vision, right? I can't go through trying to play "keep up" with my peers. I get inspired sometimes, but then sometimes that inspiration turns into pressure on myself. I'm such [a fan] of my peers, you'll see them do something great, right? And now you put that pressure on yourself. "I gotta do something on that level..." And then now you'll never be content because you just chasing your whole career. I just told myself I can't do that, so I always just try to come back to being present.

Whether I got a journal, whether I gotta meditate, whether I gotta read or just do something or lean into the love. Lately, I've just really focused on leaning into the love around you, the people around you, the people who want to work with you, the people who believe in you, your family, lean into all those people, lean into your tribe, your community. So that's why I'm really into that now, because [that's] one of the biggest fears, just chasing your whole life. [And you] never actually get to live because you [were] just chasing.

So I'm really big on just making sure you remain present and take care of yourself mentally.

@keithpowers

This little life of mine. • vol. 4

xoNecole: I love that. I always love how vocal you are about mental health and keeping your mental health in check. You mentioned leaning on your tribe, leaning on community, and it made me think about how much I love your recurring series of your TikTok, "This little life of mine" and the different volumes, and I was wondering, what's the recipe for a good life to Keith Powers?

Keith Powers: Man, I do a lot with my friends. We just go [to] so many places and have so much fun. I think just self-love, really leaning into self-love rather than doing stuff to impress people or feeling like you want them to like you or doing it for them, really do it for yourself. I mean, I think I'm still figuring it out, right? You know, I lost my uncle in 2021, and that was huge to me.

What I wish I could get back was just like hitting him up. You know what I'm saying, just really talking to him more, loving on him more. So now I just focus on that. It's like love on everything around you. My siblings, my parents, everything like the craft, acting, and just appreciating everything and also showing love, you know, giving love to other people. I'm really trying to work on that more, like really hitting them up and letting them know that I really appreciate what [work] they did, whether [it's] different actors or musicians, and expressing that love to them because I know when people do that for me, it touches me.

I had one of my homies call me. We not super cool, we peers. We've known each other, we both from Northern California. And I think I posted my trailer [on set] around that time, and he had hit me. He was like, "Keith, bro, what's up?" and I wasn't... (Laughs) I don't like talking on the phone, really, so I was like, "What up? What are you about to say?" And he was just like, "I just want to tell you now, really, I'm really happy for you, man, that's all. I ain't want nothing. I'm just happy for you. And I appreciate you, man, and I'm rooting for you." I just remember after getting off the phone, I was like, "Damn! That felt really good." (Laughs) I had to text him like, "Bro. Thank you."

It's the simple things, the simple expressions of love, I think is really the key and just appreciating, [having] gratitude. It's crazy, like, really, just appreciate where you're at. I know it sounds cliche, and there's a lot of people out there that go through a lot. But, I think really just being grateful, present, and just loving on your loved ones, that's all you can do, right? Everything else is out of your control for real, like this acting and stuff.

I could work as hard as I want to work as an actor and be in the films I think [are] the best films, but once the curtains close and I'm back home, what does that look like? You know what I'm saying? People watch [the project], and they go back to their regular lives. That can't just be everything for you.

I'm still figuring it out. I still go through my stuff (laughs).

xoNecole: It's a work in progress. Well, we're a work in practice. And what qualifies as a perfect find for you in love and relationships?

Keith Powers: I think just authenticity. I think just somebody being real. Somebody just loving everything about you without putting these... You know, lately, there's been a lot of like those conversations on podcasts about what a man needs to bring to the table, what a woman needs to bring to the table, gender roles, bills splitting and all this, all this stuff. I'm just like man, whatever works for y'all is the perfect find, bro. Like, love shouldn't look a certain way.

We get so caught up in what we think something should look like, we ain't never gonna enjoy people, man. We all got something. We all got pros and cons. There's not one person that got all [the boxes]. They don't check all the boxes. I know they say that a lot on Love Island. "She check all my boxes. She's 100% my type on paper." Yo! (Laughs)

You'll know when y'all really there. Everything is just clicking. The chemistry, the vibe. And then, you find stuff you don't like, and then you find a way to, like, express what you don't like, but if you know they can't change that, I think you also find a way to love it, right? Because you also understand you may have stuff that they don't like. So I just think the perfect find is just whatever works for y'all. And I love people like that, where it's like, "Now, this is what we do. Y'all do what y'all do, but this is what we do, and it's working for us." You know what I'm saying. I really respect relationships like that because, oh my God, you'll go crazy trying to go by this, whatever you think [love] should look like. I don't know how people do that.

I'll be telling people I ain't the handiest man, right? If you date me, I could fix something. It's gonna take me some time though, [but] I'm gonna do it for my woman, though. You give me the instructions, if it's something you gotta build from Ikea, I'm a figure this out. It ain't gonna be the best, but I'm gonna figure it out, right? (Laughs) But then, I'm a make up for it in other parts, right? You know what I'm saying like, and if she got stuff that I think she lack in, it's cool, like we gon' figure it out together. It's a team effort, you know what I'm saying, we both put in a hunnit. I just think that's what a relationship should be.

Those things aren't deal-breakers for me. Little stuff like that. Deal-breakers for me is personality stuff, like really about you. What is your character? How are you as a human? When you come around my family, do they want to be around you? How are you as a person? All the other stuff we could figure out together.

So I think the perfect find is whatever works for y'all.

The Perfect Find is streaming on Netflix.

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Featured image by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Netflix

 

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