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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Deric Augustine channels Cassius Clay in ‘Godfather of Harlem’

“Godfather of Harlem” takes an historic flip in Sunday’s episode — as Cassius Clay begins his journey to change into Muhammad Ali.

Clay has crushed Sonny Liston for the heavyweight crown and is has been courted by Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch), on suspension from the Nation of Islam and in search of a option to get again into the nice graces of chief Elijah Muhammad (Clifton Davis). He’s hoping that introducing Clay, a current convert to Islam, to Muhammad will do the trick.

Actor Deric Augustine, 31, has portrayed Clay over the previous two seasons of the collection, starring Forest Whitaker as ’60s-era Harlem gangster Elwood “Bumpy” Johnson, Vincent D’Onofrio as Vincent “The Chin” Gigante and Giancarlo Esposito as Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Augustine (“Saints & Sinners,” “Cloak & Dagger”) spoke to The Post about his on-screen alter-ego and about Sunday’s episode (9 p.m. on Epix).

Nigel Thatch, left, as Malcolm X and Deric Augustine as Cassius Clay in “Godfather of Harlem” on Epix.
Myles Aronowitz/Epix

Is there quite a bit of strain to painting a world-famous icon?

I used to be very involved with [Clay’s] mannerisms, his voice, his speech patterns; he had quite a bit of charisma, and to have that on my shoulders was actually hectic. You can put your personal spin on it, however you’re taking part in a real-life character and wish it to be real looking — and never come off such as you’re attempting to placed on a present. As quickly as I bought the function I began watching movies of him, interviews … I learn quite a few articles and I contacted my speech coach in New York and we labored on his speech, his dialect, how he delivered his phrases — and that’s how I conquered his voice.

Deric Augustine gained 15 kilos to play the function of Cassius Clay in “Godfather of Harlem.”
Myles Aronowitz/Epix

I didn’t know that Malcolm X had renamed Clay as Cassius X earlier than it was modified by Elijah Muhammad.

I knew [Clay] had a big, brotherly relationship with Malcolm X, who wasn’t supposed to try this. We brush on that in Sunday’s episode, and I feel it’s very insightful and informative for viewers. I like how this present touches so many different bases … not nearly Bumpy, however about how he has these relationships with public figures. A black man in the ’60s and ’70s was not going to be well-known for graduating on the prime of his class or because the world’s best neurosurgeon, so when Clay grew to become the heavyweight champ he was extra of a public determine and will actually leverage his relationships to do what he needed to do.

Did you do something particular to arrange for enjoying Cassius Clay?

Once I realized that I booked the function, I skilled for 2 months, gained 15 kilos — I used to be intaking 6,000 energy a day — and was tanning twice every week, since [Clay] was a shade darker than me and I needed to look the half. My hair is of course curly, so I picked it out, washed it, picked it out … and so they blow-dried it in hair and make-up, which is just about all I wanted. When you achieve weight it makes you look older.

Is this your first time taking part in an historic determine?

It is to this diploma. I did a film years in the past known as “Surviving Compton” and I performed DJ Yella from NWA. That’s why I used to be so nervous, as a younger actor, after I discovered I used to be working with Forest Whitaker and Vincent D’Onofrio … it forces you to convey your “A” recreation and be sure you arrive on the set ready, and that’s what I did. Working with Vincent was like being in a grasp class. There’s a scene in Season 1 when Chin’s individuals kidnap [Clay] and tie him up in a chair. I wasn’t combating it, nevertheless it was the primary scene I did [on the series]. Vincent mentioned to me, “When I’m telling [Clay] that the FBI is going to get a tape and that he’ll never be a Muslim, picture me telling you that I’m going to take your acting career away.” That bought me immediately into the scene.

Cassius Clay earlier than he modified his title to Muhammad Ali.
Getty Images

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