Bringing Diverse Representation to “Seven Seconds”– Corey Champagne Interview

Seven Seconds, the new Netflix (netflix.com/sevenseconds) series from creator and producer Veena Sud, (The Killing) has become a very talked about series, and it should be Corey Champagne plays tortured teen Kaduece Porter and Brenton’s best friend. Corey Champagne’s beautiful portrayal of Kadeuce honors Brenton Butler and who he was through his thoughtful and on point performance. It is his first significant role and what a fantastic way to start.

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Seven Seconds is about the never-ending consequences of a horrible incident in which Pete Jablonski (Beau Knapp), a white cop, accidentally runs over a black teenager named Brenton Butler on a bicycle. In sheer panic, Jablonski covers up the evidence with the help of his fellow officers. Throughout the remainder of the series, the audience follows along as an ever-increasing number of people are affected by the aftermath of the crime. Brenton’s death almost seems to have a ripple effect on how each character responds and how it affects their lives. Watching Latrice, Brenton’s mother, grieve and hunt down the answers to seek justice (played beautifully by Regina King), is devastating. However, Seven Seconds also reveals the ultimate crime — the indifference of a legal system that is supposed to protect and serve.

Corey Champagne is an integral part of the series. As Brenton’s best friend (since childhood), there is a solid bond.  However, Brenton’s father, Isaiah, (played by Russell Hornsby) did not support the friendship due to Kaduece’s gang affiliation. Regardless, the two boys stayed close, and Kaduece is the link to who Brenton was: His passion for art, a love of seagulls (as they represented freedom), and most importantly; their friendship. FB_IMG_1519909277837

Seven Seconds touches on a powerful point. One of the most hurtful realizations as a parent is the acknowledgment that sometimes you do not know your child as well as you think — due to work, stress, or the most unfortunate circumstance — you are so driven to “mold” your child, that he/she cannot be who they are. So many parents fall into this. Many aspects of this philosophy applied to Brenton’s father, Isaiah. He’s overworked, stays embedded in his faith, disciplines by the book, and is very strict. It’s heartbreaking to watch Brenton’s dad grieve his son’s death and come to the conclusion that he did not take the time to really get to know his son. Ironically, Isaiah learns more about his own son from Kaduece after a very rough start between the two.

ppeth1fi4elx9qd6ivckGemma Mag. was thrilled to speak with Corey Champagne about Seven Seconds and his character. It was wonderful to speak openly about race relations and how change must happen. He delivers an amazing performance and a rich, multi-dimensional character. Corey explained that he’s good at memorization and it shows. Champagne is only 26 and quite gifted.  Watching him play Kaduece makes you hesitate. His strong screen presence and thought-provoking emotions he brings to the role honor Brenton’s life while not embracing the stereotype.

Corey Champagne was born and raised in Atlanta, Ga, where his desire to fulfill a career in Entertainment took shape. Although naturally gifted, Corey credits his formal acting training to the renowned Alliance Theatre starting at age six. Corey attended Florida A&M University where he worked with the schools budding Music and Entertainment Industry Studies program before eventually transferring to Georgia State University majoring in Film.


GM: How did you get started in acting? Did you always know?

CC: I did always know from a little boy that I was amazed at seeing children on television, especially the Power Rangers, I wanted to be Zack (the BlackRanger), go figure. I was blessed to have a robust dedicated support system with my family; especially my mom. However, my oldest brother was the first to noticed I had a gift to remember lines. They all believed in my talent from a young age.  I started at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta from age six, where I learned that acting was so much more than just playing dress up, but it was a craft, an art form. My family never had to make me go to class, I gladly woke upon Saturdays and got ready. It was my passion because I never got tired of going. Then I attended the #1 duel-magnet performing arts high school in the State of Georgia – North Springs Charter School of Arts & Science. There, I was able to sharpen all of my talents – acting, singing, writing and my love for speaking. Hopefully, I’m well prepared for this industry – going to reach back.

GM: What was the audition like?  Kaduece is an important role (with a lot of dialogue). 

CC: My agent at the time sent me over the audition from Tucker Meyerson Casting on a Wednesday, and the next day Thursday, my friend Donivan (and reading partner) came over to tape my audition. Then I sent it off on the same day. The following day, Friday, I got the call that I booked the role. It was so crazy because the next thing you know I’m in New York and on Monday I’m in my trailer getting ready to film. The first person I meet in hair & Makeup is Regina King – Wow!! I said to myself, “This is Crazy”! The rest is history!

GM: Did Veena Sud let you have a big part in developing Kaduece, as there are many layers to him? He certainly had a hard childhood.

CC: Veena was amazing. I had the opportunity to develop Kadeuce on my own based on the script.  After I wrapped my first episode [episode 3], she called to give me more insight into where Kadeuce’s storyline would be going and was so supportive throughout filming. She blessed me with an excellent three-dimensional character and I’m forever grateful to her. She’s such a fantastic visionary and now friend. I hope to work with her again. I will never forget the lessons she taught me.

GM: What was some of your research for the role?

CC: I had the opportunity to speak with a lot of drug dealers and observed them. I learned how society wants to categorize them so quickly (as bad people), but in some cases, we need to see humanity as well.  In their minds, the drug dealers are doing what they have to in making ends meet. It’s so important for others to realize that Kadeuce Porter and others cannot just be labeled as a “black drug dealer.”

GM: How was it working with Regina King?

Amazing! Also, an incredible learning experience. We did not have a lot of scenes together. However, she was incredibly supportive and maternal. There were moments when I just sat and observed her work and her creative process, which is phenomenal.

GM: Do you feel these shows that are taking heavy material (and there have many poignant ones) are making a difference in cultural attitudes? 

CC: Well, it’s interesting because I was speaking to someone about this topic recently since so many shows are taking on challenging material. It’s s hard to give a definitive yes or no. I think it’s great that we are embracing these topics but it’s a slow process, and I do feel that progress is happening. Overall, I feel that more we bring these type of shows to the forefront, the more impact it will have on audiences. For example, there is a scene where Kaduece talks about how he likes to keep his room clean and talks about his books (lined up perfectly). This is of great significance in terms of going against the stereotype of “a black boy always on the street.”


GM: What do you feel the nature of the relationship was between Kaduece and Brenton?

CC:  The exact nature of their relationship was never fully revealed and left open to interpretation. Romantic or not, it was more about an intense bond between the two and how they understood each other. Kaduece knew selling drugs was not for Brenton. He even admitted that “Brenton was not cut out for it.” For Kaduece, it was merely a way to make ends meet. He had his own aspirations. For many teens without a support system, it becomes a way to survive. Again, as Kadeuce stated, he felt he was a burden to everyone, except Brenton. This only strengthened the connection.

You have such a strong mindset. I follow you on IG (of course to see what’s happening), but I Love “The No Negativity Zone!” How do you stay so positive?

I try to keep God first and accept that the universe is on my side. That no matter what it looks like I have to trust my journey. I also call my mom a lot to talk and pray with her which helps. She is immensely supportive.


Gemma Magazine would like to thank Corey Champagne for this interview. He is articulate, kind and very open. It’s excellent Seven Seconds takes on race relations, police corruption, the indifference of the legal system, and most importantly — the morality of the human race.

We all have choices to make in terms of doing the right thing on a daily basis. Some are more severe than others. However, all have consequences. Ironically, critical decisions can happen as fast as 7 seconds but can have a lifetime effect. With Seven Seconds, a story is told based on the reality of our society today. “When is Enough, Enough?”How many lives need to be taken before action becomes proactive. Black Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. I encourage everyone to watch this tragically beautiful series. The response to the show and Corey’s portrayal has been overwhelmingly positive with audiences. Netflix released this show and this story in over 193 countries around the world.

To follow Corey on Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/corey.champagne

https://twitter.com/Corey_Champagne

https://www.instagram.com/coreychampagne/?hl=en

 

 

 

 

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