The closing scenes of last Tuesday night’s Being Mary Jane threw us all for a loop. After shooing away her ex, Mary Jane returned home and seemed to be in for the night. Suddenly she was getting dressed and heading back out to see a man we were introduced to only as “Cutty Buddy,” her friend with benefits who had more to give.
Well, her “friend” has an actual name. It’s Brandon in the TV series, and in real life he goes by Thomas Q. Jones. The now-retired NFL player has taken his talents from the football field to the small and big screens. (That explains that body, right?)
The Root caught up with the athlete-turned-actor to find out about his transition to Hollywood (difficult), if we’ll see more of him on Being Mary Jane (maybe) and where we can see him next (Straight Outta Compton, in theaters Aug. 14).
The Root: I shared with my friends that I was interviewing you. All the women responded, “Cutty Buddy!” and the guys were like, “Hold up? The football player?!” Why and how did you make the decision to go from being an athlete to an actor?
Thomas Q. Jones: When I [left] football, I was in this dead space. My whole life had been football since I was 5 or 6 years old. I didn’t have anything that I loved to do anymore, and it was a tough time for me. I’ve never been a drinker, but I was up at 8, 9 a.m. drinking Corona. I found acting as a way to detox from football. Football and acting are a lot alike. There’s a lot of raw emotion you release on Sunday as a football player. I put all of that into whatever character I’m playing.
TR: I was live-tweeting Being Mary Jane the other night when you appeared. That scene almost broke the Internet, and “Cutty Buddy” began trending. What has the response been like since the show?
TQJ: It’s been really cool. It’s always good to get a positive response. It’s a great show, one of the best on TV. Great cast, great writing. Gabrielle Union is amazing as Mary Jane. The audience is rooting for her to win, and maybe my character will be a part of that.
TR: So … does that mean you’ll be back for future episodes?
TQJ: I taped scenes, but you never know. I’ll tell everybody that’s looking for “Cutty Buddy” to come back, to stay tuned to BET.
TR: Often athletes and musicians who transition into acting get flak from the actors who have been doing it for years. Do you ever worry about not being accepted by your new peers?
TQJ: No. No one is just one thing. You’re whatever you think you are. People like to compartmentalize other people. I don’t worry about what other people think. I’m not living for them. When I’m 75 years old, I want to say that I chased my dream. I didn’t let other people’s opinions dictate what I have in my book of my life.
TR: Speaking of dreams, what's your dream role?
TQJ: I haven’t gotten that far yet. I’m just happy to be working and going on auditions. I’m really in love with the process, the craft. I started from the bottom, and now I’m working. I’m just happy to have the opportunity.
TR: I recently interviewed a guy who’s currently starring in a reality-TV show. He was quite critical about the portrayal of black men on TV. What do you think of black men’s image?
TQJ: He’s right. When you see a black guy on TV, he’s always a thug or always portrayed as someone that’s in trouble. It spreads the message to everyone else that that’s who we are. People often don’t try to understand black men as a whole. We’re creative, strong and influential. There are a lot of black men doing really well, taking care of their families, taking care of their wives, being successful, doing the right thing, promoting the right thing. There needs to be an evolution in our portrayal. We have to come together, pool our resources and tell our own stories. People won’t respect us unless we make them.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter.