Professional football player-turned-actor Isaac Keys doesn’t believe in letting anything stand between him and achieving his goals. Saint Louis, MO native, realizes that he’s innately equipped with the tools necessary to bypass all barriers. These characteristics are talent, optimism, perseverance, a killer work ethic, and a healthy heap of faith.
For instance, take his entry into the NFL. One of a small handful of Historical Black College & University graduates to make it to the pros was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Minnesota Vikings in 2001 as a Linebacker. Injuries and numbers disputes lead him to a short stint with the Vikings. After an impressive year overseas in Scotland with the Scottish Claymores in the NFL Europe, Isaac found himself landing with the Green Bay Packers and, eventually, on the Arizona Cardinals roster in 2004. After a six-year career in the NFL and one season with the CFL, Isaac Keys realized his need for other options. Keys mentioned that it was a tough time but also an opportunity for actual growth as a person.
Keys had taken an acting class in high school and remembered how comfortable he felt playing various characters. After some deep soul searching and taking more acting classes, Isaac realized he found a comparable passion in acting. However, he knew then that he would still need all his innate tools and all he had learned during his football career to now knock down the doors in Hollywood. Keys has starred in numerous national commercials from Ford to Navy Federal Credit Union, TV shows such as TNT’s “Major Crimes,” FOX studio’s “Gang Related, NBC’s “Constantine,” reoccurring on EPIX’s “Get Shorty,” and Sony Crackle’s “The Oath.” Feature films “Abduction,” “Beyond the Lights,” and “Jurassic World,” to name a few.
Although becoming a working actor in Hollywood, Isaac said, “you never forget your first love.” He currently serves on the board and coaches with the football training organization B2G, coaching Linebackers and Defensive Lineman. He also mentors high school students with a non-profit organization called Goals for Life, helping students set goals to unlock a promising future. Isaac sums up his journey thus far by stating that “dreams do come true if you put forth the effort to make them your reality.”
I know you grew up in Saint Louis, MO. What was your upbringing like?
St. Louis was good to me. It helped cultivate the person that I am. I’m blessed to have a great support group back in St. Louis. I have a lot of close friends and family — mainly two great parents and an older sister. My parents instilled in me what I believe is a great work ethic that I have carried with me throughout my life. My older sister has always been a rock for me and always has kept me on the right path. Playing sports starting at the early age of five with baseball and then football at seven helped a lot. Participating in any other sports, whether it was playing in the neighborhood or organized, kept me disciplined. My father allowed me to play all sports, and I think that’s what helped me develop a competitive edge growing up in St. Louis.
How did you make the transition from football to acting?
What started the transition from football to acting as I was out of a job. I was playing football in the NFL, and I didn’t know what the hell I was getting ready to do with my life. A friend of mine who worked as a publicist for me at the end of my football career asked me to host a show called “Off-Season.” On this show, I would host a segment on elite travel. During my segment, I felt very natural in front of the camera. The director and producer were delighted and surprised at how well I did being front for the first time in such a prominent role. I noticed that, and from there, when I met some established working actors while working a campaign for Essence, I began to explore and ask questions about acting. This lit a new fire underneath me. I then was selected for a reality show called “The Ultimate Merger” on TV, where I was one of 11 bachelors pursuing a bachelorette. At the time, it was the first minority-driven and African American bachelorette show. I had a great time shooting it, being a part of it, and it honestly led me to want to be in front of the camera and create more and more acting opportunities.
How did you find the process of auditioning? How do you get comfortable with it?
I initially hated the audition process. It’s just that a process one that deals with nerves, anxiety, self-sabotaging, judgment, and any other miscellaneous mishaps all the while you’re trying to remember some lines in your head and be present in a made-up scene. Being an actor I made that sound really dramatic LOL. The word process is key because it really is just that. I learned to change my way of thinking and to tell myself I love auditioning. It tricks me into finding excitement in the journey. Over time I became more comfortable in the audition process. I became more aware, experienced, and confident. You start to learn how to navigate all those emotions and feelings into your audition or filter out what’s needed.
What skills did you take from your football career to acting?
The skills that I took from my football career were a strong worth ethic, resiliency, having a thick skin, the art of rejection which is always a process, and the will to win and compete to be my best self.
Can you please tell us a bit about your character, Diamond on “Power Book IV: Force?
Diamond is a man who walks in a room and has a strong presence, a presence without even saying one word. He is also a man who has morals and values almost like honor amongst thieves. The life that he has chosen is one that morals and values can pit and expire on him quickly. That being said, he battles between having to make the right decision or the decision to extend his life and the others he cares for around him. He has done a lot of work learning and educating himself to be a better person but the world he lives in doesn’t seem to always welcome that.
It looks like a great cast! Are you having fun as well?
This cast is amazing and each and every day has been exciting and fun to show up and literally play with everyone involved. This cast really brings these characters to life. Each person is learning and unpacking all the levels of the characters as we go and it makes for a bunch of great moments which I believe will be an amazing Show. Our captain, Joseph Sikora, has set the bar high and we all want to make him and the Power family proud.
Do you have dreams to direct one day as well?
I definitely believe directing is in my future. I like to take advantage of the time I have on set to learn from all these amazing directors and production crew.
What actors would you like to work within the near future?
I would love to work with Samuel Jackson, John David Washington, Jason Bateman, Christian Bale, Will Smith, Kerry Washington, Issa Rae, Regina King, Regina Hall just to name a few. Lol
What do you do when you have time off?
When I have time off I love being around friends, traveling, having good food and drinks, spending time with family, working out, even having just my time. I really just love to live, love, and laugh, and whatever encompasses those things sounds like a great time to me.
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