Interviews

Published on June 24th, 2019 | by Jerry Doby

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Roshon Fegan Talks Playing Bobby DeBarge in the TV One Biopic: The Bobby DeBarge Story

TV One continues its tradition of highlighting inspirational music figures with the premiere of the original film, THE BOBBY DEBARGE STORYwhich will air on Saturday, June 29 at 8 P.M. ET/7C, followed by an encore presentation at 10 P.M. ET/9C. Debuting during Black Music Month, the film’s stars include Roshon Fegan (Shake It Up, Greenleaf) in the lead role as Bobby DeBarge, Tyra Ferrell (Boyz InThe Hood, White Men Can’t Jump) as Etterlene DeBarge, Blue Kimble(Media) as Tommy DeBarge and Adrian Marcel as James DeBarge. Big Boi (Outkast) portrays legendary music mogul Berry Gordy, while Lloyd appears as Switch member Gregory Williams.

In his first role as a leading man, Fegan brilliantly transforms into the falsetto master and takes audiences inside the tumultuous life of the former lead singer of the late 70’s R&B/Funk Band Switch.

“The most dynamic and powerful acting role I’ve ever portrayed,” shared Fegan. “It was an honor to tell this musical legend’s life story.”

The Bobby DeBarge Story explores the life of the former lead singer of the ’70s R&B funk band Switch who was also the eldest sibling of the world-famous pop group DeBarge. Despite his success in music, the iconic falsetto found his life in peril as he struggled with fame and fortune while coping with the memories of his dysfunctional childhood.

The Hype Magazine caught up with the biopics’ Roshon Fegan to discuss his leading role debut as the singular talent that was Bobby DeBarge and what it meant to play such a revered music icon.

Talk to us about your role in The Bobby DeBarge Story!

It’s a fantastic role to portray and be a part of; this is my first type of character that I’ve ever played with this much depth and this much story. It’s dope that it’s a biopic, so I have something to reference, and knowing that this is real stories makes it even better and more profound. But man, it’s a good time. I played Bobby like you said he’s the oldest DeBarge. He’s the guy. He’s the guy that put all this stuff together that didn’t get his story told. That’s exciting.

Audiences know Bobby’s group Switch, and his musically gifted family, DeBarge. They don’t know necessarily about Bobby DeBarge’s contribution to creating the sound that changed the musical landscape for decades to come.

Right.

Discuss your preparation for this role; have you ever played this type of character before?

No, no, I’ve never played a character this complex. I have a great role in OWN’s Greenleaf, in which I play Isiah Hambrick, he’s a young pop star, singer, that went through things in his childhood. He’s a bad boy a little bit, but this is on a whole new scale. This story is more profound than that, and it’s real, it’s real stuff that happened. So no, I haven’t played anything this dope; this is a true blessing and experience. Because I got to open up and show more of my acting abilities through this role, so it was crazy.

You’re the lead character, so you’re leading an all-star cast. We got Big Boi, Lloyd, Adrian Marcel, Tyra Ferrell. All heavy hitters in their own right, this is all on your shoulders right here to make it or break it. How did you prepare for this role? Your role on Greenleaf gave you some foundation to start with, then of course maybe your own life story had something to do with it as well. A little touch of this, a little bit of that, somebody that you knew. But how did you prepare to get into this, did you have to stay in character for the entire duration, even when you were off-camera?

It’s interesting; I’m born and raised in the game. My pops, legendary actor from just when black TV and the black films started popping off with Robert Townsend and Keenen Ivory Wayans and all them, Roy Fegan has been in the game. So he put me in this game when I was a baby, and all of this stuff has always felt second nature to me; just having to snap in and out of character, in and out of seriousness, but still having fun on set. All that stuff, because when you’re a child actor, when you’re born in this, you still have to find time to be a kid. So I was raised and trained in a sense to be able to take care of my business, and then in between takes, goof off and have my little fun, and then jump right back in.

And that’s always stuck with me into where I am now at 27, I still know how to be me, and deliver what I need to provide as an artist and as an actor. But still retain who I am, when that camera stops. So for this, it was more like, I did a lot of research, and I did tap into who he was, and how he rolled, and what he stood for. When it came to getting on set and starting to shoot, I just knew what things I wanted to hit, and how I wanted to deliver stuff. So I didn’t have to put myself to the character through the shoot, so when it was time to do certain scenes and hit certain marks of who Bobby DeBarge was, and how he rolled, I had to turn it off a little bit and get into character. But it wasn’t like the whole duration of the shoot though, that’s just the way I was raised, I know how to do both.

You’re blessed, literally in the blood.

In the blood, yes, sir. In the blood.

What drew you to this project, and how did the opportunity come about?

I’ve been auditioning in LA since I was, like I said, a youngster, and all of these casting directors, including Leah Daniels, who is the person that cast this. I’ve been knowing her since I was really young, and I’ve been going in on stuff for her forever. I’ve got this very interesting look, I’m mixed up, I’m Filipino, and I’m black, but I’ve got white going on. Since the roles usually either say black or Spanish or Asian and sometimes it says mixed, my look, it can go either way most of the time. So I end up going on a lot of auditions for things that don’t really fit, especially since I’ve got the light skin going on. Sometimes it throws people off; they don’t know what the hell I am.
So when it came to this role popping up, I’m looking at the breakdown, and it says the DeBarges, the DeBarge film, right away I already knew that this was a role that I can knock out and lockdown. I was like, “This is the light-skinned role of a lifetime; this is my chance.” When I went in, I already knew off the top; if I ever was unsure about all the other roles, this one, there’s no question that I could pull this off. That’s basically how it came about; I got the audition, I went in there, chopped it up with Leah, and did my audition. And it all worked out.

What does it mean for you to play a role in a biopic like this?

Oh, man. It’s incredible, it’s an incredible feeling, and it’s a real honor and blessing. Because I’m very in love and passionate about music, and so has been my family for a long time. Because of my dad, I was born into this music game, I’m a musician myself, and a songwriter and an artist. I produce, I write, I mix-master all my music, I’m very in depth with my music, and always have been. So when this opportunity came along, and I ended up getting it, I literally got to tap into understanding how he felt about his music. I was like, “I feel the same way.”

So to be able to show the world what he did for not just his family, but for the music business in general, and I get to be the guy to explain and show his story, show what was going on back then; I’m just honored. It’s just amazing because they changed music, they did change music. DeBarge, Switch, the relatives, that was a whole new way of R&B in general with that amazing falsetto, that falsetto that nobody could do or replicate, or duplicate. It’s just something, and people have never heard it before, and it opened people’s minds to be like, “We can sing like this now, we can try this, we can try that.” It was just an honor like I said. It’s so dope that this story gets told starting from the top with Bobby because it’s essential people know the timeline, how this all happened.

Right. With all your experience, you as a producer, mixer, engineer, and creator yourself, I’ve got to tag you know as a subject matter expert, right? Why do you think Bobby DeBarge’s music transcends generations and is still popular with younger artists?

I think the main reason, I would say is the content and the context of what he’s talking about, great songs never die, but real stories never die either. And the songs that Switch created are songs that can’t even be written to this day, people don’t know how to hit the subject matter in such a way that Bobby has, and Switch did at the time. Like “There’ll Never Be” is a song that’s been written a million times, but that song, in general, was written in such a way, from such a perspective, in such a passionate place, word choice, from song structure, from the chorus. All of that stuff that went into their music, and again, falsetto and tonality, and things that people can’t pull off today, and they don’t know how. That’s the type of stuff that lasts forever.

Great music never dies, and they just put the right formula together and made beautiful music and beautiful songs. I think that’s why it transcends, for sure.

I can’t even front; you mentioned, “There’ll Never Be,” and my brain just went there. I got the chills. I was like, “Damn, that was an iconic song.” That was one that everybody tried to sing that nonsense, how many people wore their voice box out trying to hit those notes.

They can’t do it.

You got to be on set with a great team, and Russ Parr on the radio became the director for this piece. Man, how unique was that?

That’s the most beautiful thing that could have happened. I should say, Russ knew how to put these pieces together, and keep everybody feeling good through this tragic story. But he knows how to keep the energy right; he’s got a great vision, and Russ grew up with the DeBarges, so he had actual information and actual knowledge about what they were like, and what they acted like and sounded like, and all that stuff. So Russ Parr is an OG, he’s been in the game. My pops knows Russ, and he told me, “You’re in good hands with Russ, this is going to be good.” So when I got on set with him, and I felt how his vibe was, it was like, I knew he knew what to do with that camera. I was like, “All right, we’re going to be great; this is great.”

The chemistry between you, the fellow cast members, and the director were on, pardon the pun, was on par with just about the most exceptional experience you could have.

Exactly, on par. On par, for sure. That’s a good one.

You’ve had your hand in music, dancing, acting, do you have a preference?

I think my preference is probably doing them all together, like something like this. Putting them in a movie where I get to perform, dance, sing, record music, act, all of it. This is like I said, a dream come true to be able to do everything you love to do in one project. Everybody can’t, I’m not trying to front on anybody, but everybody is not capable of doing all the things at once, and then actually enjoying them all at the same time. Sometimes it’s a struggle for people to do certain things, and work out some ideas. But I genuinely love performing as a dancer and as a singer, and recording music, and acting at the same time. So this for me is like a playhouse, this is it.

So, this project wasn’t work; this was like living a fantasy.

Exactly. This wasn’t work for me at all, this is such a deep story, I’ve got a lot of passion built up from just being in the game, and just going through things. This was like a real release to be able to show the world in a sense, like, “Look, let me show you all that I’m capable of, and let me tell this man’s story right.”

Are there any highlights from the film that you can share without spoiling it?

Highlights. Oh, man, let me see. I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that Adrian Marcel and I have a specific scene in this film that I think is going to be one of the most impacting scenes in the whole movie. Adrian and I kicked it on and off set and had a lot of good times going out, chilling out, running around Atlanta, doing the thing. And when we built that chemistry, and it was time to shoot, we had a dynamic scene that came out amazing, I think it came out more than we thought it would be. Without even really rehearsing, something organically just happened. You’ve got to look out for that, you’ve got to look out for that scene on Adrian and me.

Is there anything in particular that you want audiences to take away from the film?

I think one of the most important things I want people to take from it is that things get crazy, things get tough, when you love something, you’re passionate about something, it’s essential to keep your head on and keep the focus on what you’re there to do. Because things could spin out of control at any second if you don’t keep your eyes on the prize. One of the other things that I think people should always take from it is that family is everything, and no matter what Bobby went through, and how messed up it was, he did what he was set out to do, and that was put his family on at the end of the day. By any means necessary, he made that happen for him, his brothers, and his sister, even though they grew up with a rocky relationship and stuff was crazy.

The family’s everything, and that’s something, loyalty, and most people can’t say they would ever do at his level. He was on top, and he didn’t even care, he said, “I’ve still got to put my family on, because that’s what I’m here to do.” And I think that’s a beautiful story that should be passed on to everyone.

How would you describe your style of music as an artist?

Man, my music is on the way. I haven’t dropped a new joint yet, but me and my partner, we go by the name EVO. We put together this dope futuristic sound; it’s like futuristic trap almost if Chris Brown met Travis Scott, I don’t even know. It’s a really dope sound we’ve created, and his name is Skill Tech, he’s a world-renowned DJ, been around the world, working with a lot of artists. He decided to make that switch over to being an artist, and I joined forces with him to create this movement, it’s Elevated Visionaries Only, short is EVO. That’s coming out, and our first single’s coming out probably a couple of weeks before the movie drops. We’re going to drop some free merch and some things like that, just things to get the ball rolling, get people knowing about it.

By chance, were you a DeBarge fan before you took this role?

Absolutely. Yeah, huge DeBarge fan. And also, my folks, as I said, were very musically inclined, and they love music. So we’ve been playing the DeBarges since I was a baby, also I’ve been compared to the DeBarges, because being born and raised in LA, and being light skinned, they were always saying, “You look like a DeBarge.” So ever since I was young, they’ve been calling me a DeBarge.

Any other projects that are dear to your heart coming up?

I’ve got some things in the works. I’ve got some great stuff in the works. None I can talk about yet, but after this film comes out with the music, and the momentum of Bobby DeBarge, it’s going to be a great year. I’m very excited to drop all my music, put everything out there on the table, and let my fans gravitate to the new Roshon. I’ve got an old childhood past from being on the Disney Channel and things like that, but the new Roshon that they need to meet, and a little more 27-year-old Roshon. It’s exciting stuff.

Yeah well, this ain’t Disney and the grown-up Roshon is a force to be reckoned with on the screen and on the mic!



About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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