The premiere of the Netflix series (www.netfix.com) “She’s Gotta Have It” aired November 23, 2017. From the clever trailers, I knew it was going to be funny, poignant, and an awakening of sorts. The show centers around Nola Darling (played magically by DeWanda Wise) and her life as an artist in Brooklyn. Nola is also navigating being an independent woman on her terms and juggling three lovers. Cleo Anthony plays Greer Childs, a photographer and one of Nola’s three lovers, who appears to love himself a lot. The series is directed by legendary Spike Lee (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spike_Lee) and executive produced by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. It has recently been renewed for Season 2.
For a bit of backstory, Spike Lee marked the feature-length debut of “She’s Gotta Have It” in 1986. Lee followed it up with a run of landmark movies including “Do the Right Thing.” Here we are, present day 2017, and Spike Lee’s career has come full circle with the Netflix premiere of his new TV series “She’s Gotta Have It.” The show revisits the original story in 2017, and it’s as timely as ever. Lee expands upon the original story’s themes in a contemporary context. Therefore, Anthony and his character (Greer Childs) are dealing with issues like racism, sexism, sexual harassment, beauty standards, homelessness, and much more. The timing could not be more fitting and interesting.
Cleo Anthony is quite the mesmerizing presence. However, there is so much more to Cleo besides a gorgeous man. Cleo Anthony is driven, talented, funny, kind, and the consummate professional. Personally, l adore the series and especially love watching Cleo’s character, Greer Childs, embrace being so incredibly self-centered with absolutely no shame. So who is Cleo Anthony?
Cleo is from Portsmouth, Virginia where he played football, basketball, and track & field during his high school years. Cleo Anthony grew up with all women in the household, so he knows how to respect a woman’s opinion. Cleo considers himself a late bloomer but has stuck to his inner vision for his career goals. He always knew he was destined for loftier life plans and is continually challenging himself. Between rehearsing, traveling, and filming, Cleo had a minute to talk about “She’s Gotta Have It,” his character Greer Childs, and life. He could not have been more gracious.
Hi Cleo! Thank you for joining us at Occhi. It’s such an honor to interview you. How did you know that wanted to get into acting? Is it something that you always wanted to try?
I knew I wanted to act from the first time I saw “Bad Boys” with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Nothing in the world could be more fun and be fulfilling than doing what they did in that movie for the rest of your life. The spark probably also had something to do with Téa Leoni. Leoni was telling Martin’s character how irresistible Will was, took charge, and throwing bad guys every which way. I had a big crush on Téa Leoni then, so…the choice was made.
Is the story right about how you made an appearance in “Bad Boys II?” Did I hear that after walking into your Miami modeling agency, one of the agents cast you on the spot?) Also, I read that being in Bad Boys II was a goal that you had set for yourself?
Not so much “cast” as “hired.” I told my mom after watching the first one that I was certain I’d be in part two. But who knew 12 years would pass before the sequel. I was walking down Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami and thought I’d pop into my modeling agency to use the restroom. An agent on a call (not my agent, mind you) said, “…hold on. Hey, Cleo, you wanna be in Bad Boys 2?” And there I am in the background of the hotel lobby scene. The Law of Attraction, twelve years in the making.
Before “Bad Boys II,” I read that you were homeless when a talent scout “discovered” you in Miami. At this point, the agency offered you a modeling contract. I’m assuming that was a nice financial relief. How did you like the modeling world?
It was a SLIGHT relief. I was a horrible model!! Haha!! I didn’t book often, and anything I did was mediocre, at best. I still had to get a job to pay the bills, but those were some of the most exciting and fun and stressful and scary and rewarding days of my life. Good times!
How was your first time on set? You also starred in the film “Divergent” and the television series “Transparent.” Did you feel nervous or knew you were in your “element”?
When I moved to LA, I made a living doing background work for a while so to continually be on set but without the pressure to perform was of great benefit. It was like being paid to watch how the sausage gets made. You get to watch the interactions, observe the protocols, learn the jargon, and even see how bad some of your favorite actors are! Haha!! But once the novelty and shine wear off and you understand the mechanics, then you observe just where and how you fit into the mix, and you can begin to cultivate yourself into the ideal type to fill your desired role.
I enjoy watching you on your Netflix show “She’s Gotta Have It” directed by Spike Lee. Your character is quite self- absorbed (with lovely interactions with DeWanda Wise). However, you also get the feeling that something is churning underneath. How would you describe Greer Childs?
Greer is a man-child. He’s in no way childish, but he hasn’t evolved emotionally to where he could be. I think Nola reveals this to him and maybe makes him question himself for the first time in his very charmed life. Greer is not used to being told “no.” We don’t delve into it so much this season, but I think all the signs are there that Greer has an impending awakening in store. I also think that he’s fascinated by Nola because she is such a different woman than the others he has been with and she’s on a completely different level. Nola is definitely not waiting for Greer’s call.
What is it like working with Spike Lee? I would imagine inspiring, exciting, and quite the learning experience.
Working with Spike is the complete acting school I’ve ever attended. You get to see how it’s done from a master, and so, you put the pressure on yourself to rise above anything you’ve done before in hopes not wholly to embarrass yourself in the presence of his genius! But in all honesty, I spent more time shadowing the man and getting into his head and understanding the why, or the theory, more than the technical aspects of filmmaking. I mean you can watch anyone move a camera or direct a scene but how many chances do you get to, first hand, observe and study the MIND of a LEGEND??
You seem to have such a healthy mental mindset. I saw a clip where you said that quality came from your mom. Can you expand? How do you stay so confident and inspired, especially in such a tough industry?
It’s just in me. A drive, I guess, not to go back to where I’ve been. However, when you’re doing what you love, it never works. Just levels and you want nothing more than to get to the next one. So all you want in life is to figure that out. You deal with rejection and insult and obstacles with a different perspective. It’s just, “Well, that didn’t work. Gotta figure out what does.” You just keep going. It’s not working. More of compulsion or an obsession. I don’t know. You just keep going.
Lastly, what is it like working with DeWanda Wise? The independence of her character is fascinating.
Easily in my top five favorite humans to have ever walked this planet. There could not have been a better actress, or person, to headline this “movement” than DeWanda Wise. She’s iconic, and I mean that. I’m so happy to be a part of her finally getting her due. #TeamDewanda
I cannot thank Cleo enough for taking some time to chat with Occhi. He has such an exciting path ahead. I can’t wait for season two.
To follow Cleo Anthony and “She’s Gotta Have It”:
Featured Credit Image: Jay Bartlett.
Lizzy Collazos is a LA based writer who covers fashion, style and emerging artists. She is constantly sourcing and inspired by designers, artists and entertainers making their mark in an innovative way. “I see fashion and art as a beautiful form of self-expression and a way to tell a story.” "I love becoming immersed in a project and seeing it through fruition."She knows the LA scene well and currently contributed to The LA Fashion Magazine as well as LA-Story.com. Follow Lizzy Collazos on these social platforms.