Interview: The Cast of TV One’s ‘Bad Dad Rehab’ Talk Fatherhood, Finding Their Characters & Social Responsibility
My father was not perfect. A Nigerian immigrant born in the late ‘40s, he had his work cut out for him raising two little girls on the South Side of Chicago during the ‘90s. Naturally we butted heads quite often. Some days our arguments stemmed from our cultural differences, other days it was simply normal tensions that brew between daughters and their fathers. Despite all this, there are memories that I have of him that will remain with me until the day I take my last breath. From school science projects and “Harry Potter”, to my love and obsession for films, my father was pivotal in molding me into the woman that I am now. When I laid him to rest on a bitterly cold day the year I turned twenty-three, I knew that despite everything, he’d done the best that he could. Unfortunately, there are millions of people, especially in the Black community that cannot say the same about their fathers.
TV One’s original film “Bad Dad Rehab” follows four fathers whose parenting skills leave a lot to be desired. On their journey to do better, the men find themselves enrolled in a focus group that supports men as they strive to become better fathers and overall human beings. Ahead of its July 3rd premiere, I had the opportunity to chat with film star and producer Malik Yoba. I also spoke with the majority of the gentlemen in the cast, Robert Ri’chard, Rob Riley and Rick Gonzalez. Wesley Jonathan also stars in the film. We chatted about finding their way into their characters, the pain of broken families, and the fear of fathering.
Aramide Tinubu: Hello gentleman, it’s fantastic to be chatting with you all today about your upcoming film with TV One, “Bad Dad Rehab”. Mr. Yoba, I know you were really inspired to be a part of this film because you started a foundation when your daughter was born to make sure that fathers knew their rights. What inspired you to create that foundation to give fathers, and specifically fathers of color a voice?
Malik Yoba: I think a lot of it just comes from my own relationship with my father. My father was very present, very domineering; he was a very strict presence so he always pointed out how lot of my friends didn’t have their fathers around. He was a determined cat, so I come to it naturally in terms of wanting to help people and that sort of thing. Becoming a father myself and realizing the lack of resources inspired me. I knew that it was a problem and I’m a self-starter and entrepreneur, so I always looked at opportunities in both the non-profit and for profit space to create products and services for men. Reading this film, it was so close to a piece that I’d written. Literally, Rick [Gonzalez]’s character in my film was this Latino guy who has a kid against his wishes and he’s a barber.
AT: Oh wow, that’s exactly who Rick’s character Pierre is.
MY: Yeah, it was that close, it was just one of those things. I was grateful that I woke up to a text message from my manager saying you have an offer to star in this film. It was just one of those things that you know you have to do, and I’m just glad that everyone else felt the same way. It’s been such a good thing, not just producing the film, but also working with TV One to market the film as well. It’s been very important to me to be involved in how the message is conveyed to the consumer. It just made sense all the way around.
AT: Wonderful! Mr. Gonzalez, I’d love to chat more about your character Pierre. Where did you draw your inspiration to play him from, and where do you think his fear of becoming a father comes from?
Rick Gonzalez: My daughter is about to turn three-years-old and for me, the experience of being a dad is very spiritual and arriving at this character was very spiritual. I really wanted to understand why Pierre would turn his back on the responsibility of raising his child. I had to understand how that made me feel personally, and then I had to do the homework on understanding why Pierre would do that. I really had to put my feet in his shoes in order to feel that, and to see where that would lead me. Pierre’s emotional scenes were shot in the final two days of filming so that helped as well, because I was able to go on this journey with him the entire time until I arrived at the climax.
AT: That must have been extremely emotional for you.
RG: Yes, each father in this film had to recognize their truth. I think recognizing their truth and owning it is where their healing began. So that’s how I got into what Pierre was thinking. At the premiere at American Black Film Festival, we all talked about why we cared about these characters, and I said that this was ordained for me. For me to be a dad now, and to take on Pierre I think it was the perfect thing. Each character in this film recognizes the mechanisms that are inside of them that makes them turn away from enjoying the act of being a dad. We really felt that our writer Kiki [2015 TV One Screenplay Competition winner Keronda “Kiki” McKnight] had a good hold on the commentary and the truth of what these dads were going through. I think that this film really spoke to all of us.
AT: Fantastic! Mr. Ri’chard I know that you play Tristan, can you talk about who he is?
Robert Ri’chard: Yes, I play Tristan. He’s the classic deadbeat dad. He has five kids, four baby mamas, three cell phones, and two hundred sneakers. The film sort of opens on Tristan and you can see that in society how a lot of men glorify self-preservation and selfishness. Over time with Tristan, we discover where that comes from. That’s the beauty about “Bad Dad Rehab.” So many guys have the nicest car or the best sneakers or the most fly haircut, but you don’t see them being responsible with their seed. We get to examine that. It’s like, how are you glorifying yourself and not taking care of the most precious thing in your life?
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Image: Bad Dad Rehab/TV One