Malcolm Barrett Talks ‘Timeless’ & Racial Realness on New Show – BlackSportsOnline
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Malcolm Barrett Talks ‘Timeless’ & Racial Realness on New Show

NBC’s Timeless is a sci-fi inspired, era-skipping drama that follows three unlikely teammates in their quest to regain the country’s most powerful secret weapon, a time traveling portal.

Rufus, portrayed by Malcolm Barrett, is the critical member of the trio who not only offers his scientific and physics expertise but to serve as a reminder that the African-American experience since first landing in the Americas as slaves hasn’t been one of peaceful relocation.

BSO had the opportunity so speak candidly with Barrett about his place in Rufus, where he draws inspiration from and how he manages to maintain African-American historical integrity as he hops between eras.

BSO: Once Timeless broadcasts you will be elevated to the authority on “all things black.” Are you ready?

MB: I will have to know EVERYTHING that black people know. I speak for all of black people and speaking for all black people, we’re tired of speaking for all black people.

BSO: Was it a difficult road to landing this role?

MB: I was up for something else when this role came across the table and I had to, in a sense, give up the other role to get this one. So I said, “To tell with it.” If someone else got this role and I didn’t go out for it, I would want to kill that person.

BSO: It’s ok, we’re family here. I understand. What was it about this role that a made you say I’m all the way in?

MB: Once I thought about it [this character], it’s exactly all that thing I want to be. It’s an intelligent character. He’s socially inept, he’s smart, he’s aware. It’s sci-fi, it’s time travel, it’s everything I’ve wanted out of a career. I had to jump at this opportunity. Fortunately I was able to get it.

BSO: There are so many layers to this character. Have you experienced any challenges, acting-wise, since you’ve jumped into the role?

MB: This character goes through a bunch of different things. He’s a highly intelligent individual that’s socially inept and forced to be a hero when he doesn’t want to be. The challenges were dealing with the racial aspects which, in a way, were challenging but in a way I fully embraced it.

I was happy to deal with all these things and be an individual that travels through time. I grew up on all these time travel shows like Sliders and Back to the Future, and Dr. Who and Quantam Leap and all of that. I’m a theater trained kid and there’s a sort of ambiguity to your race. Sometimes when you have to play these characters you’re like ‘If I was black in this time period, this dialogue would be different.’ So you kinda have to deal with this in a way that I don’t think non-white students are completley aware of when they are doing Romeo and Juliet or other plays.

You end up with this kinda weird ambivalence that isn’t necessarily true and so I think that’s why a lot folks don’t deal with minorities in time travel. You can do it like plays where you can be color blind in that respect but when you’re dealing with TV and movies, it’s millions and millions of viewers who know what’s going on that don’t have that suspension of disbelief. So because of that I think unfortunately writers are afraid to write characters that are miniorities. What I love about my character is that I’m a minority that has to go back in time and deal with those real ramifications. As a story teller, we deal with that as much as we deal with him as a person and as an individual having to be a hero even though he doesn’t want to be one.

Flip the page for part 2 with Malcolm Barrett

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