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Interview: Octavius J. Johnson

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Octavius J. Johnson is definitely someone you can label as one of Hollywood’s young rising stars. The multi-talented actor is also an accomplished singer and rapper. All of these talents are put to use in his current role as Marvin Gaye Washington on the hit Showtime series Ray Donovan. Octavius has made appearances on television series such as the CBS drama Intelligence and in films such as Make It Happen, Coldwater and the upcoming film 59 Seconds.

Octavius sat down with the Pop Culture Principle to talk about how has character has changed from season one, what it’s like working with Jon Voight and Liev Schreiber and how playing a rapper has inspired him to incorporate rap into his music.

Pop Culture Principle – What can you tell us about the character you portray Marvin Gaye Washington?

Octavius J. Johnson – Marvin is one of the smoothest kids from Compton you could ever meet. He’s really talented, mischievous and suave. He’s a great extension of the cast and very charismatic. Marvin is curious about everything and I love playing him. It’s been a blast to work with Live and Jon on the show and even doing table reads with the cast has been amazing.

Pop Culture Principle – Looking at your character from season one compared to season two so far, what do you think is Marvin’s biggest change?

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Octavius J. Johnson – He’s a rap sensation now and that is definitely a big change. As far as his character, he’s kind of gotten ahead of himself. It’s interesting because now that he’s famous, you see him with all these groupies, but every time he talks to Bridget, he realizes the groupies aren’t real, but what he has with Bridget is real. His level of maturity has definitely changed and I really enjoy playing that as an actor. The writers could have gone another way with Marvin not caring and leaving Bridget alone, but she definitely means something to him.

Pop Culture Principle – Your character seems to start out as a background character, but quickly becomes a fan favorite. What do you think people love so much about Marvin?

Octavius J. Johnson – I’m a guest star and an extension of the show. It’s fun just to be a part of the show in any way I can. Marvin does have a pretty important story on the show in being with Ray Donovan’s daughter. You learn about his parents both being killed and he now lives down the street from Ray Donovan; he became more than just a background character.

Pop Culture Principle – How much input do you have with the direction of your character?

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Octavius J. Johnson – For me, that goes back to your previous question about the idea of just being a background character. I’m not as involved as Liev because he’s been there since day one, he’s giving ideas about how he feels about the character and he’s also number one on the call sheet. So, he has a lot of input about the show. Me, I come in and go to the table reads, then go to the set and perform. There have been times when I’ve been given the opportunity to improvise. The directors and writers have been pretty open with that sometimes, because it isn’t comedy; they really like you sticking to the scripts. I’m one of the actors who really love to improvise because it brings things to life more for me. So, I’ve been given freedom to improvise at times, but most of the times everything is in the scripts.

Pop Culture Principle – What’s it like working with such amazing talent as Liev Schrieber and Jon Voight and have you had time to sit down and talk with them about the business?

Octavius J. Johnson - Yes I have actually. I sat down with Jon Voight last season at lunch. We were filming the party episode and during a break, got to sit down with him and know him. He told me that this is the best education you can get just working and having the experience. The first day I met Pooch Hall, he hit me with some knowledge about switching the game from BET to Showtime. He gave me some insight and background on that experience which was helpful. Everyone I talk to from Eddie Marsan to Brooke Smith, I learn so much. I had a scene with Live where he threw me against the wall and he helped me understand how he was going to do it and how I could help him do the scene safely.

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Pop Culture Principle – What do you have in common with Marvin and how are you different from him?

Octavius J. Johnson – I am like Marvin artistically because I sing, but I’m not a rapper although I can rap. It’s funny because from playing this character, I really started to love rapping. So, I’m looking at writing some lyrics and recording some songs. Drake sings and raps, so I may do that as well. I’m not like Marvin because I don’t smoke, drink and try my best not to curse.

Pop Culture Principle – Marvin has had a relationship with Ray’s daughter and it obviously has caused some problems. Do you think he truly does have feelings for Bridgette or does the fact that it upsets Ray also play into the mix?

Octavius J. Johnson - No, I think it’s real. There is really a connection there and he’s not worried about upsetting Ray, he just wants to do what he wants which is having a relationship with Bridget.

Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with the rest of season two?

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Octavius J. Johnson – Well, for Marvin there will be more music, fast cars and parties. One of the upcoming episodes I’m in is probably one of my favorites and can’t wait for everyone to see it. People will be really surprised as to what goes down on the show as a whole the rest of the season.

Pop Culture Principle – You are also into music as well. How did you get involved with music?

Octavius J. Johnson – Well, I was born and raised around gospel music. I picked it up and just kept it. It’s funny, now I am more of a singer than a musician. I still play, but I’d rather sing and have great musicians and dancers to support me.

Pop Culture Principle – Who are the artists that inspire your work?

Octavius J. Johnson – Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross are some of my favorite artists. When I first started singing, I use to imitate John Legend’s voice. Miguel, Music Soulchild and Maxwell are some other influences. I’m a soul guy but I love all kinds of music. If a song makes you happy and makes you feel good, that attracts me musically.

Pop Culture Principle – What is your process when it comes to writing songs?

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Octavius J. Johnson – It’s different every time. Sometimes I’ll think of something and just start singing it. I’ll write down the melody and record it so I can come back to it later and finish it. I’m actually working on getting some reels from producers so I can write to them. Having a track that is finished helps me as well because I can feel the track and write to it.

Pop Culture Principle – Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Octavius J. Johnson – I am working on some big things. There is a lot in the works, but I don’t want to say anything just yet. I want to make sure things are in writing, so definitely stay tuned for some exciting things!

We would like to thank Octavius for taking the time to talk with us. If you would like to keep up to date on his latest projects, take a look at the links below. Don't forget that Ray Donovan airs every Sunday on Showtime at 9 PM ET/PT.

LINKS

Octavius J. Johnson Official Twitter

Octavius J. Johnson Official Facebook page

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