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Arts & Entertainment

Trevante Rhodes Welcomed the Chance to Bring His Career Full Circle

The Netflix thriller Mea Culpa, which begins streaming this week, reunites the Little Elm native with prolific director Tyler Perry.
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Trevante Rhodes stars alongside Kelly Rowland in Tyler Perry’s Mea Culpa. Courtesy of Netflix

Trevante Rhodes has always been selective about his acting roles, and deliberate about where he expends his creative energy. But with Mea Culpa, he said yes before he even read the script, and had just two weeks to prepare before the cameras rolled.

After all, the legal thriller was an opportunity for the Little Elm native to reunite with multihyphenate mogul Tyler Perry, who gave Rhodes his big break almost a decade ago and whose trajectory represents a blueprint for which Rhodes hopes to channel his own multifaceted artistic aspirations.

After moving to Los Angeles following a standout track career at the University of Texas, Rhodes eventually landed a recurring role on the OWN soap opera If Loving You Was Right. The following year, he catapulted to fame with a starring turn in the Oscar-winning drama Moonlight.

“[Perry] gave me the opportunity, and a bit of financial stability with that role,” Rhodes said. “After I ventured out and developed some cache and developed some credibility, having the opportunity to come back and tap back in with Tyler was always a goal. It felt really good to jump back in the creative space with him.”

In Mea Culpa, which begins streaming on Netflix this week, Rhodes plays Zyair, a Chicago artist who is accused of murdering his girlfriend. He hires a high-powered defense lawyer (Kelly Rowland) to help clear his name. As questions linger about Zyair’s guilt or innocence, attorney and client are drawn together in unexpected ways.

Rhodes, 34, lives in Chicago and took up painting about five or six years ago, amassing several pieces in his collection. He has an affinity for the acrylic pour medium, just like Zyair. But the deeper he developed the character, he noticed other similarities, too.

“Even when Tyler wrote this, he saw my energy and essence and who I am as a man,” he said. “I’m 95 percent this person. For me, it was a cool opportunity to live in a skin that I’m very familiar with, but play it in a different way.”

In the last several years, Rhodes has played prominent roles in diverse films such as The Predator, Bird Box, and The United States vs. Billie Holiday. He also starred in the title role in Mike, the Hulu miniseries about boxer Mike Tyson for which he was also an executive producer.

That last credit is a significant hint toward the path Rhodes is charting. He still prefers not to have an agent or a publicist, and negotiates all of his own deals while continuing to build his career on both sides of the camera.

“I regard Tyler in such a high light because I am walking on a similar path,” Rhodes said. “The goal is to be some modicum of what Tyler has amassed in my own creative energy. It’s more about the function of what he does, and the sovereignty in that — taking that energy and understanding and wisdom and utilizing it. I’ve been on that journey for a long time. It’s been difficult, but we’re coming to that point.”

Author

Todd Jorgenson

Todd Jorgenson

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