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[Interview] ‘Hit The Floor’ Star McKinley Freeman

*Photo: James Lee Wall

The wait is finally over!

After more than a year off the air, VH1’s hit basketball-centric drama Hit The Floor, starring heartthrob actor McKinley Freeman, made its highly-anticipated return, Monday night.

Hit The Floor centers on the fictional NBA team, Los Angeles Devils, its dance team and scandalous situations that go down on and off the court.

Freeman plays bad boy basketball player Derek Roman, who finds himself in a love triangle when his love interest, Ahsha Hayes (Taylour Paige), gets back with her longtime boyfriend German Vega (Johnathan McDaniel) as season two ended. Known for his ability to go after what he wants, Derek has declared his plans to get her back and #TeamDerek is here for it.

Before making his debut on the small screen in ABC’s All My Children, Freeman received a bachelor’s degree in Finance, MBA in Marketing and Management Information Systems and worked for IBM in their marketing and business development program. The Champaign, IL native has since appeared on Bones, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives and film End of Watch and has new projects on the horizon.

Gearing up for the sexy season ahead, JET chats with the actor about the Hit The Floor comeback, his character on the show and what success means to him.

JET: So many people are excited about the new season of Hit The Floor. What can viewers expect this season?

McKinley Freeman: They can expect power, drama, sex and a lot of unexpected moments. The way the show is written and the way the season unfolds is that everyone has something that they’re fighting for. It’s very much about power. They screened the first two episodes [for the cast] last Saturday, and I genuinely believe that when people see the first episode, they’ll forget how long the show has been off air.

JET: Yeah, about that—why did the show take so long to come back?

McKinley Freeman: Can I tell you how many times I’ve asked that question myself? (laughs) I honestly think it had nothing to do with the cast, production or even VH1. I think there were some things they were juggling around and in the end, a lot of things ended up getting moved around. We recognize that the show has been off the air for a long time and that our fans have waited awhile, but we promise the third season will deliver and it will definitely be worth the wait.

JET: What do you enjoy most about your character?

McKinley Freeman: What I enjoy most about Derek is that he’s not afraid to go after what he wants, even if it makes other people uncomfortable. And I think the idea of someone deciding what they want, whether it’s professionally or personally, and going through all kinds of things to get it is really interesting. He’s relatable even though it feels like he shouldn’t be – someone who’s living this million dollar lifestyle has the exact same issues as everyone else. I think that’s really a credit to the writers of the show. Hit The Floor is the first opportunity someone gave me to create something out of nothing. I had a blank canvas to just come up with stuff. Everything you see comes from the time I spent just trying to figure it out.

Lowkey, I’m a nerd. I buy t-shirts with weird slogans on them—I’m just a dude like everyone else. I still have my same homeboys back at home in Champaign, IL. I love the opportunity that was given to me and I don’t take it for granted. And I’m very grateful for the support from the fans because their support is the most important thing.

Photo: Instagram  'Asha' & 'Derek'

Photo: Instagram
‘Ahsha’ & ‘Derek’

JET: You and Taylour Paige have great chemistry on the show. Do we see Derek continue to fight for his relationship with Ahsha this season?

McKinley Freeman: Derek and Ahsha’s connection is pretty undeniable, but the challenge at the moment is that she’s with someone. It’s not that we haven’t seen that before but the fact that he’s a murderer complicates things, so we’re just going to have to wait and see. At some point, there has to be an opportunity for them to say ‘hello’ and I think that will probably happen.

JET: Speaking of relationships, are you currently dating and if so, what are you looking for?

McKinley Freeman: I am currently dating, and it’s interesting because I’m not so much fixed on moments of time. I think at this moment, honesty, clarity and the space to be human [is important] and from there, you just try to figure it out. I don’t concern myself with a lot of things, but the main thing for me is honesty because time is so important and you don’t want to take the time wondering if someone is being honest or not. Right now, everything is cool so we’ll see what happens.

Episode Two Sneak Peek!

JET: You made a post on Instagram about not looking at what others are doing and staying focused on your purpose. How do you define success?

McKinley Freeman: It’s just that. My definition of success is my definition of success. That requires work to get there and it sounds simpler than it is. The first thing I did was realize success is a grade. But if they’re not successes that are important to me, then they aren’t really successes. If success is based on someone else’s expectation, that’s fine, but it doesn’t really do me as well as it would if I were truly about the things that make me passionate. We live in a time were people, whether by circumstance or by choice, are put in situations where they are pursuing their passion because it’s the one thing they can control. And I think there’s something really cool about that.

JET: Aside from acting, you’re also a published poet. Have you always been into writing poetry, and how did you get started?

McKinley Freeman: I published two e-books—@McKinleyFreeman Volume I and Volume II, which were inspired by people on social media who I never met in my entire life. I asked people on Twitter to send me one word and I just chose the first twenty words that were sent to me and wrote 20 original poems. I published them and gave those twenty people copies of the book and it was fun. It was just something that poetically and creatively, I would do from time to time and I thought it was cool to do it with people on social media. As far as writing as a whole, I wasn’t really writing screenplays or poetry, and when I really figured out what I wanted to do, I felt like there was something on the inside that was trying to get out. And the only way I could get it out was by typing it. And creatively, that opened up other outlets. I started writing screenplays and TV pilots and it came out of a desire to have my voice heard.

JET: Do you plan on writing another book?

McKinley Freeman: I do and I want to give away copies of the books that I have. So if people post a picture on Instagram of them hosting a Hit The Floor party and tag me in it [along with their friends], I’ll work with my publicist to get as many people as I can free, signed copies of the book.

JET: Sweet! So what’s next for you?

McKinley Freeman: I just produced a movie called Illicit. It’s an erotic thriller and there’s a married couple who explore the idea that if they both have extramarital affairs, can you still have everything without losing it all? I play a photographer who starts to get in the ear of the woman in the marriage. The cast is great—Vivica A. Fox, Tank, David Ramsey, Essence Atkins and Corey Grant directed it. If people like Derek Roman, they’ll appreciate my character Lance [in Illicit]. I’m really excited about this movie. It’s one of those projects that I’m going to look back on and be very proud of.

Get caught up with the season 3 premiere below and catch Hit The Floor Monday’s on VH1 at 10/9c.