Echo Kellum – Mr. Terrific
Words and interview by: Krystal Luster
Actor and comedian Echo Kellum is a lover of life and the people who openly embrace it. The father of two has caused quite the buzz since his appearance in The CWs ‘Arrow’ where he plays DC comics character Curtis Holt aka Mr. Terrific. Not into the comic book/superpower scene? No problem, just turn your attention towards Mr. Kellum’s other projects such as the upcoming Netflix film ‘Girlfriend’s Day’; a film about a man hoping to once again make his claim to fame as a well-known greeting card writer; or Echo’s Hip Hop album with plans to be released in the near future as well. So whatever tickles your fancy, Echo Kellum can give you something to enjoy that connects you to a supernatural world or the everyday reality we’re all apart of!
Your name (Echo) is rather unique, is there any special/deep meaning behind it?
It was just something my dad liked. He was very big into mythology and the name originated, if I’m not mistaken, from a water nymph in mythology.
How did your pursuit in comedy transition into a career in the television/film industry?
I’ve known I wanted a career in this industry since I was seven and I think it’s something that I’ve naturally worked towards. I never had another plan — my plan was to act — and now that I’ve been more involved in training and the comedy scene, my plan has expanded to writing, directing and producing. The training definitely helped me get to the place I am now; you can have as much talent as you want, but if you don’t have the skill set to go with it, you don’t go too far in this industry. One thing about me is that I continuously learn and develop upon the things I learn in order to become a better actor and better person in general.
How does Chicago life differ from the Los Angeles lifestyle?
Chicago is a very blue collar city, but they also have a lot of, I like to say, mid-western values. It’s a mix of the big city with a little taste of mid-western values where people are generally nice, caring and you say “hi” when you walk down the street. Chicago is also a city where you know you have to bust your ass if you want anything. You have to get out there and work for whatever you’re trying to achieve. I think that’s the type of place that teaches you how to handle any city in world, to be driven and treat people nice. That is what I love the most about Chicago.
If you never left Chicago to pursue your career of choice, do you think the same opportunities would have been presented to you?
I had some opportunities presented to me in Chicago. I did two commercials here and there, but I eventually ventured out to Los Angeles. I, and like others before me realized that if you want a career in the entertainment industry, you need to go to Los Angeles or New York.
Tell us about your upcoming Hip Hop album. What influences are you using to create it? Are there any features?
As of right now, no. It’s just a labor of love. My influences that I listen to are Drake, Childish Gambino and Kid Cudi. I’m trying to incorporate some electronica elements as well with influences such as Aphex Twin, Freestylers, Caspa & Rusko, and others similar to them.
What would you say is the overall message in your music?
I generally like positive music. In a way the album will honor my brother who passed away ten years ago, but every song won’t be a tribute to him. I just figured I’d make an album to commemorate his legacy.
On The CWs ‘Arrow’, you play the character Curtis Holt. Tell us about him and the role he plays in ‘Arrow’.
He is a tech genius who has now become a full-fledged member of Team Arrow. He has a way to go before he realizes his true superhero roots. But he’s just a committed, fun, loving individual who adds a lot of light moments to the show. He is driven by his love for his family, and his dedication to make the city a better place.
Any chance Curtis Holt becomes “Mr. Terrific” in the near future?
Well, he is Mr. Terrific now but he will become a better version of Mr. Terrific in the second half of the season.
How closely does ‘Arrow’ follow the DC comic series?
Arrow is different than the comic series but is true to the canon. It definitely borrows from the comics, but it has some different beats, and I think they show that in the story they tell.
What is it like playing an openly gay character on a popular television show?
It’s a very awesome time in film and media because we’re having more representation out there. I’m very thankful that I get to be a part of that process and that I get to represent the LGBT community and represent it in a way that isn’t stereotypical — that’s really important for me, to just play a character who happens to be gay and isn’t a gay character who happens to be a superhero. I don’t think people live their lives through their sexuality and I think it’s important to show we’re all individuals and different, and I think Curtis really shows that.
Did you find it difficult going from not being in the spotlight to being recognized?
You have to take the good with the bad. I recently realized that I’m losing more of my anonymity, but I’m just thankful that there are people who are committed, active fans of the show and that they have accepted me into their world with open arms. People coming up and saying they’re fans of yours is never a bad thing
Tell us about the upcoming film “Girlfriend’s Day” and the character you play.
It is an upcoming comedy-drama directed and co-produced by Michael Stephenson. I play “Madsen”; a friend of Bob Odenkirk’s (also co-wrote and produced) character (Ray) who is attempting to relive the glory days as a greeting card writer.
What are some upcoming projects you’re a part of?
In addition to my upcoming album and the movie ‘Girlfriend’s Day’, look out for my movie ‘Village People’ (I’m not sure when that’s going to be released yet) as well!
How do you spend your day when you aren’t working?
I generally like to write, play video games, dabble a little bit into politics and world events and hang out with my kids.
Who/what are some of your biggest influences?
In terms of my career, Will Smith and Jim Carrey. They were everything to me growing up and I would always mimic Jim Carrey’s characters from ‘In Living Color’, and reenact all of Will Smith’s scenes in ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’. Outside of my career influencers, my biggest influences for life are my two children.
Tell us the corniest joke of all time.
The corniest joke of all time? I have to dig into my “dad joke’s” brain! How about a corny pick-up line? “I may not be Fred Flintstone, but I can sure make your bed rock”.
What is your favorite video game of all time and why?
Oh my god, Metal Gear Solid on PlayStation! The story was just so immersive and the game-play was phenomenal! The character of Solid Snake — all that was going on with him and his twin — was so amazing. I loved every second of it and that game always has a special place in my heart. As far as more recently released games, The Witcher 3 is phenomenal!
Can you be contacted through social media? If so, on what sites can you be reached?
Yeah! You can find me on Twitter at @EchoK, on Instagram at @echokells, and on Facebook as “Echo Kellum”.
Photos By Lesley Bryce