An actor on the rise, Dexter Darden has been strategically selective in the roles he pursues, visualising the bigger picture with his artistic contributions. Perhaps best known so far for his roles in films like Joyful Noise, Cadillac Records, and the Maze Runner franchise, twenty-six-year-old Dexter Darden is now focusing on creating performances in deep cinematic narratives that are so timely in our world today. Candid spoke with this passionate young man about his highly-anticipated films, the actors that he is eager to work with, and the living icons he hopes to soon portray on film.
You classify yourself as an actor, singer, and dancer. Are you able to balance your time to elevate each of those, or have you had to focus on some over others?
Mostly recently, I have had to focus a little bit more on acting, just because it has taken up so much of my time. I still like to do all three, very much so, and I still make time to dance at least once a week. And I am always creating and writing music, so I still try to balance, but acting has been my main focus, because it has been occupying so much of my time.
You continue to play the character ‘Frypan’ in the Maze Runner films, with the third instalment arriving in cinemas early next year. Why do you think these films continue to intrigue moviegoers to want to see more of the story?
It’s a story that has never really been told before on-screen. It is the perfect combination of a lot of movies that people love. With the young adult population, we have had so many franchises that people can follow-up with. What makes Maze Runner different is that it’s not based around a love story, the main protagonist is a young guy, and it’s a story about brotherhood and survival and I think that’s something that everybody needs and can relate to right now.
Following Maze Runner’s release, you will also be starring in the film Burden, which is based on true events about a KKK member who leaves the Klan in search of a better life and is taken in by a black congregation. Why are stories like these needed in today’s times, in your opinion? Do you see that this film may come off controversial to areas across America?
Yeah, I think that’s why it needs to be told, because it comes off a little bit controversial to certain parties and certain parts of America. I think in our time right now, we’re going back to a place where we are separated more than we were before. With our President who’s in office, with people in our country supporting him and not supporting him. I think a story like this that is driven by love through hate just needs to be told and I think it’s very important to our time and our generation.
You have now worked with A-List actors like Queen Latifah, Adrien Brody, and Forest Whitaker. Who is one actor or actress you are itching to work with next?
There’s about seventy. I am itching to work with Viola Davis, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Meryl Streep, and Sandra Bullock. I really want to work with Sandra Bullock. I think that she’s just so captivating in telling stories and does a great job. She’s very picky about the roles that she chooses.
What’s the greatest piece of advice someone has ever given you?
Oh man, it’s hard to just classify it all into just one category. One thing that I constantly think of and the first thing that popped into my mind is [that] Paul Newman was my mentor. He always told me something that stuck with me my entire life and that’s “Auditioning is the job and booking the job is the reward”.
If you were able to star in your dream biopic, what real-life figure would you want to portray?
There’s two. One is Magic Johnson. I really want to play Magic Johnson. I love basketball, I love his story, I love what he went through, in that time. I really want to play Stevie Wonder. I think Stevie’s story needs to be told, sooner than later. I think we need to play icons while they’re living. We need to appreciate them while they’re here.
As a young fashionable guy, how would you describe your sense of style?
Oooh! I have a very different sense of style. I am a sneaker-head, so I love sneakers, but I also love dress shoes. So, I would say ‘casual chic’.
What advice do you have for other artists trying to make it in the business?
Don’t stop. I know you hear it all the time, but don’t stop. Through your struggle, you can hit so many roadblocks. Every hurdle can be jumped by some capacity and whenever you reach that fork in the road to choose one thing, go straight.
Photographs of Dexter Darden by Ted Sun, styling by A Gentleman’s Journi , grooming by Loui Ferry, retouching by Alexander Silkin.
Read Jeff Conway’s interview with Matt Rife here.
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