With an all-star roster that includes music legends like Curtis Mayfield and Chaka Khan, as well as Academy Award winners Common and Jennifer Hudson, it seems fitting that a film about a musical prodigy from Chicago’s South Side would hit the television landscape.
“Beats,” which recently premiered on Netflix, has been widely described as “the ultimate ode to Chicago.” The film, shot on location in the city, stars Anthony Anderson (“Blackish”) and acting newcomer and The Chicago High School for the Arts alum, Khalil Everage.
The Chicago Defender spoke with Everage about his role in the Netflix original and how he hopes the film resonates with citizens in Chicago.
CD: “Beats” is your feature film debut—tell us—how does that feel? You must be excited!
KE: It feels great, it was a long journey to finally get to where I am today. I had to walk down a long road of “no’s” and it’s very exciting to finally get a “yes”. It’s lit!
CD: The film tackles street violence, which unfortunately, is a reality for many black youth in Chicago; have you ever been personally or directly affected by it? If so, did you draw from that for your character, August Monroe?
KE: Yes I did. I’ve had many friends shot and/or killed in my short life. I definitely had to rip off a couple of band-aids that I have placed on the spots of these traumas to fully commit to the role and portray my character authentically.
CD: Through Chicago natives like Deon Cole and Lil Rel Howery and Academy Award-winning hip-hop artist Common, Chicago is continuing to make its mark in the entertainment world. How does it feel to be part of this particular club?
KE: I wouldn’t say I’m in that club yet, but it is an honor to be recognized or even thought to be in the same stature as the names you listed. It is my goal to one day make an impact in the entertainment world so I can be up there with the greats and make my city proud.
CD: Speaking of Common, did he or any other rap artists from Chicago like Chance the Rapper, Twista, or your co-star in the film, Dreezy, serve as inspiration as you prepared for this role?
KE: I play a producer in the movie so I had inspiration from a lot of the old and new generations of producers and DJs.
CD: You star alongside Anthony Anderson, whose character is your mentor in the film. While filming or during breaks on set, did he do any mentoring off screen?
KE: Yes. He’s a very smart and kind person. He would often talk to me about education and how important it is to the black community. Also, just through talking and watching him, I became better.
CD: What do you want the audience, particularly youth, to take away from “Beats”? What message do you hope it sends?
KE: I want people to see what the outcomes of gun violence are and the toll it can take on people. I had to watch many mothers, brothers and sisters sob at my friends’ funerals and just to think a week later, they were back in school. This is something many kids in Chicago go through and I want people in Chicago to understand that this is not normal and it needs to be fixed!
LaShawn Williams is a lifelong Chicagoan and arts and entertainment enthusiast with a special love for stand-up comedy, music, theater and dance. Follow her on Twitter: @MsWilliamsWorld.