Robert Christopher Riley is hot off the screen just as much as he is on.
Scroll through his Instagram and photos of his chocolate abs and well-groomed beard may have you salivating at work. Amongst his 121,000 followers are women commenting, "Jesus why is he so perfect?" and "He's my #MCM (man crush Monday) every week." One would assume that all of this praise and celebrity would go to Riley's head. However, having known him for several years, prior to the premiere of Hit The Floor, he remains just as humble and gracious as ever.
The star of VH1's nearly too hot for TV scripted series Hit The Floor plays Terrence Wall, a pro-ball player and professional thirst trap--and just our luck, most of his scenes require him to be shirtless. The series follows the lives of “The Devil Girls," a fictional professional dance team for pro basketball team Los Angeles Devils, as they navigate the cut throat world of sports and entertainment. After two successful seasons, the series went on an impromptu hiatus and won't return until 2016, however, the break hasn't fazed Riley who is beyond busy running two companies focused on production and photography.
Before stepping onto the Hollywood scene, the classically trained thespian received his Masters in Fine Arts from Ohio University and spent time on Broadway as an understudy for Terrence Howard in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, which also starred Phylicia Rashad and James Earl Jones. When Riley made his transition into television, his first role was on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Having already lived a full and exciting life in his 20s, Riley has a wealth of wisdom to share with xoNecole readers about having personal and professional success in your 30s. If you ladies are wondering if Riley is single, yes, he is. Feel free to slide into his DMs, but you have to come correct.
"You need a certain level of intelligence that's closely akin to mine just so neither of us feels inferior to each other," he says. "We need to have relatively the same amount of book and street smarts. At this point in my life she needs to be capable of raising a family. And I'm not talking about her cooking and cleaning for me when I get home, I can do those things."
Whoa! Mind blown--an educated man with two degrees who's an entrepreneur that also cooks and cleans...yes please! What else is Riley looking for in a relationship? Keep reading on…
RR: My mother led more by example. We never sat down and had the “birds and the bees" conversation. She was a very strong and independent woman; she did everything for herself because it was no one else to do it for her. She left my father when I was maybe two-years-old because he was abusive and not a good man by my standards of what a man is supposed to be. Looking at my mother as an example of what a woman is capable of unfortunately has created some very high expectations for the women I've dated.
If I think you're beautiful, that's step one. You've got to be willing to do what it takes to raise a family and for me it's about playing whatever role is necessary. Sometimes the father is the comforting one and sometimes the mother has to be stern. There are some households where the women is the breadwinner and whoever is involved in that relationship can't make the other person feel like shit because they make less.
I'm single right now, but I'm also not interested in just dating for the sake of it. As my great aunt would say, "Everybody needs a little comfort,' but don't mistake comfort for your life partner."
At this point in my life if I'm going to associate with someone, there's going to be some major questions within the first couple dates that if they aren't answered properly we either have to figure it out or it isn't going to work.
xoNecole: What's your advice for women who are ready for a relationship but keep meeting guys who say they're too busy on their “hustle" and their “grind" to date.
RR: Appreciate their honesty! Whether you're a man or a woman, if you're not ready for a relationship, don't do it! A lot of people confuse what they want with what they need. You may want a boyfriend and someone to share your world with, but that may not be what you need right now. What you need is someone who's supportive, who's happy with you doing what's best for you, which sometimes means letting you go. It's sad, but they might be doing you a favor.
I would love to be in a relationship right now, but if the person wasn't exactly what I needed, it would be like a sandbag weighing me down. You don't want to unnecessarily concern yourself with someone that won't add value to your life. There are other ways to surround yourself with people who will give you the same support you think you need from a romantic relationship. Surround yourself with genuine people that you know will always have your back and that doesn't necessarily have to be your boyfriend or girlfriend. That mindset definitely takes some getting used to, and it might mean some lonely nights, but I'll take that as opposed to getting attached to the wrong person. You have to think big picture whenever you get sad and lonely but there are few people that I know who get married at a young age that are still together because you don't know who you are; some people do, God Bless them. But most people don't.
[Tweet "You need time to figure yourself out before you can add someone else to the equation."]
xoNecole: So many actors have the assumption that once they secure a leading role on a TV show, they're financially set. Can you give some insight on the importance of saving your money as well as continuing to hustle during your show's hiatus?
RR: You've got to figure out something to do that doesn't involve you waiting for someone else. For me it's my production company, Hollywood Massive, and my photography company, Fresh Perspectives. Hit The Floor has been great. Season two aired in 2014. We had a marathon in January but the new season isn't premiering until 2016.
For the fans that still love the show and are waiting for it to come back, God bless you. We're hoping that you'll still be there. Undoubtedly we'll have to get a whole new crop of new fans, run some more marathons of seasons one and two and hopefully get people re-interested and re-acclimated to the show. You can't count your chickens before they hatch.
xoNecole: So once an actor books a show they shouldn't buy a house and a Lamborghini?
RR: Nope! And it takes a while to figure that out. Because chances are, if you're like the majority of us, you've spent so long trying to get your big break that once it happens, you just want to celebrate. A lot of people don't understand why these rappers and athletes are throwing money in peoples faces, making it rain in clubs and buying so much expensive stuff; it's because they've spent their entire lives not doing it and now they're like, 'it's my turn!' Oftentimes, that's what gets you into some financial trouble. It's so much easier said than done to realize that things aren't financially solid once you get on a TV show. Now if you've been on a series for several seasons then it gets picked up in syndication and you get one of those checks, that's a different story. But that person may also have a family and other responsibilities and still need other sources of income.
For younger actors who haven't gotten to that particular point in their career that they've been dreaming about, realize that it's a very long road, don't be too quick to celebrate. Being successful is one thing but it's being a “celebrity" that'll get you in trouble. I always put “celebrity" in air quotes when I'm talking about myself. I'll be the first to tell you, I'm a regular person, I just have an interesting job that people like. The best thing you can do as an up and coming actor, whenever you decide that you've made it, is take sixty-seconds to realize you don't own the network. They could stop running the show whenever they want they can also not hire you back. No one is bigger than any series; understand that this is a business and you have to be prepared for the ups and the downs. You have to realize who you are and what you've been sent here to do and hopefully it's a little bit bigger than just entertaining people.
RR: Hollywood Massive is a production company and a movement. I'm first generation American. My mom is from Trinidad and my father was from Barbados. Not to long ago, I was trying to figure out what made me the happiest and also what made me different and it turned out to be the same thing, the fact that I'm Caribbean! It was Soca, it was Carnival, curry chicken, ginger beer and all these different things that I loved growing up. Between public school and college I felt like the love of my culture was thrown on the back burner. It's not that I was pretending, but I felt like I was hiding a part of myself. So now I'm sharing it with people. I know so many people that aren't Caribbean that love the culture and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible-- appreciation without appropriation.
My company produces carnivals, we will cover cultural events and I use my platform as a “celebrity" to bring this movement to an audience that hasn't previously had this experience. I'm striving to be a bridge and stretch my arms as wide as I can and bring a lot of different people together while simultaneously making people proud of me. If there's one young person in Trinidad or Barbados that thinks they can make something of themselves as a result of me, I'm all for that. I also represent Flatbush, and I want to give kids in Brooklyn some one to look up to.
xoNecole: What are some things you know for sure about resilience and perseverance that you would share would someone that's in the midst of a challenging time?
RR: Stay off of social media. It can make you feel like you're not worth anything, like you're not making enough of the right moves. As a photographer, I know a photo is literally a moment in someone's life, you don't know what it took to get there. The person posing in front of the expensive car may be behind on their payments. You don't if the person showing off their nice house can really afford it, it might be going into foreclosure. Don't worry about what someone else is doing; focus on the competition against yourself. If someone tells you your dream is too big, chances are they couldn't do it themselves.
Believe in yourself and make sure your team is strong, take inventory and cut dead weight whenever necessary.
At the end of the day you should be able to look yourself in the mirror and be proud of what you've done. Make sure you're not doing it just for you because when you're gone what's left? Are you just working towards getting a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame? Work towards building a school or mentor some kids, give some type of reciprocation to the world. You don't have to be rich to do something charitable, you just have to understand your power as a human being then go do something impactful.