Discovery: Tequan Richmond

Published September 16, 2013

ABOVE: TEQUAN RICHMOND IN BLUE CAPRICE. PHOTO COURTESY OF IFC FILMS.

Tequan Richmond never wanted to be an actor. “Honestly, it was a passion of my mom’s,” the 20-year-old tells us. “She didn’t move me out here so I could [act], but it just happened.” And it happened quickly. Richmond’s first real acting job was on the hospital drama ER in 2002. “That’s when I realized I didn’t know how to take directions,” the actor laughs. “I only had two lines and [the director] asked me to take it a different way—my mom was like, ‘Why do you keep saying it the way he told you not to?'”

Richmond has worked steadily ever since, most notably as a young Ray Charles in the Oscar-nominated Ray, as Drew, Chris Rock’s fictional younger brother on the TV series Everybody Hates Chris, and, currently, on the long-running soap opera General Hospital. His ambitions, however, lie elsewhere. “It’s hard to say it and be ‘politically correct,’ but I would just like to do more art films that Sundance would appreciate.”

On Friday, Tequan’s first Sundance-stamped film Blue Caprice came out in New York. Sparse, dark, and incredibly alarming, Blue Caprice follows Lee Boyd Malvo, an abandoned teen from Antigua, as he befriends an older American, John Allen Muhammad, and the two go on the killing spree known as the “Beltway sniper attacks.” Tequan’s performance as Lee is restrained and subtle: a highly suggestible, vulnerable young adult with a slow-simmering anger at life’s injustices.

AGE: 20. I turn 21 next month.

HOMETOWN: Burlington, North Carolina.

EARLY AMBITIONS: I thought I was going to the NBA, but god knows I’m not tall enough. I don’t know what I was thinking. [laughs] I definitely didn’t think I was going to stop growing at 5′ 7.5″.

TEMPTING FATE: I was obsessed with the film The Temptations (1998). I watched the movie so much that I learned the song “Just My Imagination.” When I was in North Carolina, I used to sing that song all through the house, and my grandma told my mom. My mom was in L.A. trying to make it happen, trying to get me out here, and her agent was like, “He can sing ‘Just My Imagination’? That’s an old song!” So she put me on speakerphone with her agent and her agent heard me sing. That’s how I got my first agent, The Temptations.

THE CHILD ACTOR EXPERIENCE: Did I have the typical experience? [laughs] I think so—I think everybody has to. No social life. You work most of the time. You’re tired a lot. You don’t have that many friends. I never got to go to prom. I never went to regular school. I ate lunch by myself. [laughs] All that kind of stuff—I feel like that’s what everybody had to go through.

I started home school around sixth grade, but I’d only done a couple of national commercials. I remember I had this Spalding commercial with Paul Pierce from the Celtics and I used to go to school, and people made fun of it. It wasn’t even cool to be an actor, you got made fun of. After that, my teachers weren’t so keen of having to pack up my homework for days because I was going to be on the set. So my mom just eventually and I did school on set with Tyler James Williams on Everybody Hates Chris every day for five years. We all did it together.

FINDING THE RIGHT ROLE: Most of the time I turn down [the roles offered to me], because it just doesn’t fit. I’m really picky about what I like to take—that’s why I went such a long time from Everybody Hates Chris. I really liked this script and honestly, we didn’t start off this film with a lot of money, so it was definitely one that my manager suggested we turn down. We all agreed to turn it down, and [then] I read the script and gave it a second thought. Alexandre [Moors] agreed that I could carry the role. He trusted me. And then we went from there.

THE BIG BREAK: [Blue Caprice] put a whole whirlspin on everything I was working on. I was so grateful for that, because it was almost a project that I turned down. People appreciate it, and it feels good. My mangers are telling me that people are calling the phones left and right. So that’s a good thing.

THE BELTWAY SNIPERS: I didn’t really know much. I knew that they existed, and I thought it was a son and a father. When I got to New York, Alexandre gave me interviews, transcripts, books. I read a book called The Making of Lee Boyd Malvo by Carmeta Albarus and Jonathan H. Mack—that’s when I really got into the role.

For me, personally, I’m the character; there is no other character. It has to be more about the story. If I try to make it an ode to him and do him justice, I might throw off what I’m actually trying to do. In New York, I lived alone in the Lower East Side. I walked the streets at night. I read my script on the streets at night—I’m a nocturnal, so I was up through three, four, five o’ clock in the morning and all those elements kind of helped me get into the somberness of the character and that kind of attitude.

DESTRUCTIVE RELATIONSHIPS: Do I think that John loved Lee? It was something that probably wasn’t intentional. I wouldn’t say love, but definitely a bond between them grew that was very strong. 

DREAM ROLE: This movie called Blue Caprice… [laughs] No, Fruitvale Station, my boy Michael B. Jordan, that guy killed his role. He’s a friend of mine and he was there at Sundance with me, he supported me. He’s a little bit older than me—all the seniors in the game have been really supportive of everything.

WORLD TRAVELER: Last year, I filmed a movie with Warner Brothers and they sent us out to South Africa for a couple of months. Did I have culture shock? No culture shock. I adjusted well, actually. Going through different places, I stopped through Dubai and stayed there overnight. There I had an ultra-culture shock. [laughs] I was pretty okay in Africa. [laughs]

BLUE CAPRICE IS CURRENTLY PLAYING IN SELECTED THEATERS IN NEW YORK CITY.