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CelebMix Exclusive: Rotimi Paul Talks ‘The First Purge’

Horror fans are currently counting down the days until the 4th of July when The First Purge hits theaters. The Blumhouse production is number four in The Purge series. If you’re unfamiliar with the films, it’s important to know that the premise of each film follows a night where all crime is legal.

That idea sets off each film with a different perspective on those who are fighting for their lives and those who are fighting to take lives. The trailer for The First Purge dives into the notion that one night where no laws exist can lead to a  crime-free existence.

We recently had the chance to chat with Rotimi Paul about The First Purge and more.

I’d like to start off by asking about The First Purge hitting theaters on July 4th. Going into the project, had you seen the previous Purge films?
No. I hadn’t seen them but was very familiar with the premise. Knowing that our film was a prequel helped my decision to wait until I finished shooting to watch all of them, which I did. The fact that The First Purge is a prequel is what I leaned into because I saw our film as an opportunity to do something different–to add a new element to the franchise. I also didn’t want my character to be influenced by anything that already existed; first, because it wouldn’t make sense chronologically and second, because as an actor, I saw my character development as a process that I wanted, selfishly, all to myself.

As a viewer, it almost seems as if they show how circumstance and wealth can prepare you for more. However, they almost also stand as a warning that it doesn’t always mean wealth is equal to happiness or stability. Is that something you ever channeled on set?
I 100% agree, wealth doesn’t equal happiness. But what about the bulk of the population that isn’t wealthy? If we flipped your question and spoke to lack of wealth and marginalization, what could that equate for a person, or group of people when an opportunity to potentially better their circumstance is presented? I think that theme and potential there is something that James DeMonaco does a great job of exploring in this script. Not having…that’s something I channeled every day that I was on set.

We know we can’t ask much, spoilers and all, but what can you tell us about your character?
I think Skeletor is a guy that sees the potential and opportunity that is presented in the form of Purge Night.

Viewers have also seen you on Blue Bloods and Sleepy Hollow and films like Dutch Kills. You don’t stick to one genre, but what has been your favorite so far?
I’m not sure that I can call on a favorite. I relish in the challenge of creating interesting characters wherever they may be.

Along the same lines, which genre or role has challenged you the most?
Anything that delves into the fantastical provides an inherent challenge because even though the circumstances of your character are otherworldly, you, as the actor, still have to be grounded enough in your performance to be both believable and capable of drawing the audience in. You also have to be reliant on your imagination to paint most of the color on the canvas.

You say that perspective ‘fundamentally separates one character from another’, but that obviously applies both at work and in life. What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned from understanding someone else’s perspective?
In these times I think it is so important that people listen to each other for the purpose of understanding instead of from a position of readying a counterpoint. The greatest lesson I’ve learned from understanding someone else’s perspective is that two people can truly disagree on something and both individuals can be ‘right’ about it.

Your bio also says that you like to run and read in your spare time. Have you ever competed in a marathon?
Yes, I have! I ran the NYC Marathon. It was something that I decided to do after running the half marathon and feeling like I wanted to continue to challenge myself. Running is a mental escape more than physical exercise for me, so the marathon represented me saying to myself ‘you can do anything you put your mind to.’

Reading is an easy way to get lost for a few hours, to unplug and open your mind. What is one book you can read over and over again? What is one that you found left an impact on you?
The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) were books that I could not put down. They were fascinating to me and presented a character in Lisbeth Salander that I had never seen the likes of before. Those stories hooked me, and I could see myself going back to them over and over again. As for impact, I’ll give you two that left a profound impact on me, both of which are autobiographies. The Measure Of A Man by Sidney Poitier and Nigger by Dick Gregory.

Circling back around to The First Purge, what are you most excited for fans to see in the film? 

I’m excited fans to see how Purge Night started. I’m excited for them to see what Gerard did with the telling of this story. I’m excited for them to be introduced to Skeletor.

Rotimi left us feeling inspired and motivated to dig a little deeper into ourselves. ‘You can do anything you put your mind too’ is the reminder we didn’t know we needed. We can’t wait to see him as Skeletor in The First Purge.

Written by Ashley

Writer, coffee drinker, mother.