Hit the Floor’s McKinley Freeman Talks Budding Relationships, Character Growth and Love of Poetry — Exclusive!
Season 2 of VH1’s hit scripted basketball-centric show, Hit the Floor, is back, and you know what that means: more of star McKinley Freeman’s sexy character, Derek Roman. Derek and his lady love, Ahsha (Taylour Paige) are doing some pretty steamy things this season, all seemingly underwraps. But how long will it stay secret? And how will Derek handle the pressure of now working with his love interest’s ex-boyfriend?
When Wetpaint Entertainment caught up with McKinley, he gave us a little scoop on what we can expect from his relationship with Ahsha, his complicated backstory, and his personal passion for poetry! A jock with a creative side? Be still our hearts!
Wetpaint Entertainment: What tidbits can you tell us about Ahsha and Derek’s current relationship?
McKinley Freeman: I think there’s definitely a lot going on with Ahsha and Derek this season — not necessarily with them being together, but just in terms of how they interact with each other. I think it’s just like life, the more you get to know someone at some level, the more interesting and complicating things can be, and the more people actually connect, the connection that Ahsha and Derek have is a unique one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its obvious challenges with Ahsha having a boyfriend or those kinds of things. I think the way it was written, it was provided with a lot of opportunities and those will unfold as the season rolls out.
Season 2 opened up you you and Ahsha in a pretty compromising sex scene. How do you guys handle those steamy scenes?
It’s interesting. Taylour and I get along really well off-camera, you know? We can sit around cracking jokes, and then when cameras roll, we’re making out. There’s nothing romantic with two people making out in a room full of forty people … but we make it work. And Taylour and I we have a good time. It’s always just laughing, and it’s all good times. The friendship we have it cool, but when the cameras roll, you can tell that we have a chemistry, which is amazing.
And can we expect to see a lot more of those steamy scenes this season?
You’re just going to have to watch! I feel like you’re trying to get me fired right now (laughs). But I appreciate the fans watching and there are going to be plenty of interesting things to watch from lots of perspectives from multiple characters so it’s going to be pretty cool.
OK, lets talk about Derek’s character evolution, can you tell us if we’ll see more of his character’s backstory?
Great question. You know, one of the things that I recognized was that Season 1 gave a view of how some of these people operate in this world, but I think what Season 2 does is provide context as to why people do what they do at some level. And I think for several characters, you start to get more and more information and you start to think “oh, I get it,” you know good and bad.
This season we’re going to be seeing Ahsha’s ex, German, on board as an assistant coach. Without getting you fired, can you dish about some interesting interactions between Derek and German?
Absolutely. Imagine if you had a boyfriend working in the same building as you work in? You know, it’s nerve wracking, you know. They didn’t do that by accident, I definitely think they’ve upped the stakes in their relationship on how complicated things can be and I think it’s inevitable at some point there’s going to be difficult conversations. It’s just crazy. I can’t. There’s so much I want to tell you, but not so much I can tell you! But I would just say the way it’s interwoven and the world that Hit the Floor and the team… hats off the writers. They did a really good job.
Let’s go a little left so you won’t get fired. Have you had experience playing basketball in the past?
Yeah I have. I played basketball in college, so it’s funny for me how life works sometimes because here I am doing all these drills in basketball growing up. Didn’t think it’d be for acting, but that’s how things work out, you know. But for me, it was like riding a bike. On the court is where I breathe.
So what changed your mind from pursuing basketball to acting?
Well, in basketball at some point, you keep going and the next level is NBA or some high level league over seas. I had a couple chances to play overseas but I couldn’t do it. And the NBA, and the lottery and my phone never rang, so I either assumed that my phone was disconnected or they never wanted me, so I (laughs) said I could kind of focus on some other things. The acting, kind of happened, actually. I have an M.B.A. in Marketing, so I was in corporate America and then all of sudden, got the opportunity to do some stuff with All My Children and then it opened the door. And I thought ‘oh this is cool. I wonder where it can take me if I can commit myself to being good at it.” And I kind of rolled with it with the same dedication and work ethics that it would take for an athlete or journalist. Apply those same skills to any aspect of your life that you want to move forward with, you know.
How did you land the role of Derek? Because we definitely can see you as a Terrence!
You know what, I auditioned for the role of Terrence, originally (which is played by Robert C. Riley), but then a few months passed by and I was like ‘alright, I guess that’s is not happening’ and then I got a call back that said, “we want you to came back for this call for Terrence,” and I was like, “cool.” At this point, I had already booked this role for Devious Maids, so I was like “great, two jobs.” So I went in, did everything, and as I was walking to my car, one of the producers ran out and said if I could come back, because they want me to audition for a different role, so I said cool. They gave me the pages for Derek and went in there and did it really quick, spent about five minutes and then they said they wanted me to come back and read with Taylour Paige. At this time, I’m just being cool and going with the flow, and I ended up booking the job.
What’s your workout regimen like?
I do a lot of cardio. I also box 3-4 times a week. That keeps me mobile and my mind fresh. Boxing is great is because you don’t get a lot of time to react. You can either watch the clock or get hit with a pad. For me, it’s more mental than physical, but boxing, cardio, cross training, and the fact that I don’t sleep that much leaves more hours to do more things.
Cool! Last time when we spoke with Robert C. Riley, he told us that the two of you were into spoken word and poetry. Can you tell us more about that?
Me personally, I’m not a big spoken word person, but I write poetry so that people can read work and share their own experience. But I wrote a book of poems last summer based on ten random words, from ten random people outside of Twitter. I tweeted out “the first ten people that tweet me a word, I’ll write a poem for that word” and within 3 or 4 minutes I had over 500 words. So I took the first twenty and made a volume one and volume two, and self-published the volume one last year. And for me, this was something I used to do to inspire myself and flex that creative muscle. But this time around, I felt it was an opportunity to connect with people via social media and do something positive for somebody else. For me, it wasn’t about how many books were sold, it was about helping with one person. Like if I go through this whole process, I pay to self-publish, I put it out there, I do all the stuff, and if one person says “this helped me,” then the process was worth it. And I’ve heard that numerous times, so I think that’s a blessing.
So when can we expect you second volume of poetry? And do you have any other projects in the works?
The volume two is done, it’s just a matter of figuring out if I want to sell it or give it away for free. If I sell it, it’ll just be for 99 cents, or something like that. I might just give it away for free, but I’ll have to do that this summer at some point. Then I helped a buddy produced a movie called The Best Thanksgiving Ever that’s suppose to come out this fall, which is cool. But other than that, we have a few different TV show ideas, a few different movie ideas … it’s just a hustle. It’s about trying to make progress. We’ll see what happens.
And finally, tell us why should fans continue to watching Season 2?
I think that — in the words of people who have watched the show — it’s a guilty pleasure, but I think once you peel back that layer of wrapping, you realize the acting is really good, the writing is phenomenal, and you get to peek into a world that they haven’t seen in a way they haven’t seen before. All that being said, there’s a ridiculous collection of dancers that I have to admit are the best team of ladies together dancing for a specific purpose on the planet and I think when you add those things, it’s pretty compelling to watch. I believe if you watch one episode, it’ll have enough questions to make you come back to it often.
How are you feeling about Season 2 of Hit the Floor? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!