To tie in with his appearance on Ringgo’s latest breakfast show episode, we wanted to dive deep into the mind of Dominique Purdy aka the Koreatown Oddity. With a number of displays already under his belt, he’s no stranger to Boiler Room’s stream and chat room. Most people, however, aren’t aware of his other love – making feature length films. Driving While Black is a part-comedy, part-drama – which recently won the best comedy prize at this year’s San Francisco Black Film Festival – about what it means to be a young black male. Not only did Dominique write it, he also played a role in the movie – a multi-faceted dude, no doubt.
We caught up with him on July 23rd (the day after his birthday), which he celebrated with some gin and juice with watermelon (how good does that sound?!) at the Commissary in Koreatown.
Sofie Fatouretchi: Let’s start with the most obvious question first – a lot of people know you first and foremost as a musician. How did you get into acting?
Dominique Purdy: I never went to acting school. I used to take a class called play production, and you could just wile out in there. I used to clown on teachers and stuff like that. People would know me from that. Like, ‘oh, this is Dominique, he’s wiling out’. We used to dress up in outfits – this was in a time before things like Instagram and YouTube were popping – we used to do VHS videos. I would chop them up at my crib with two VCRs. People always knew that was the shit right there. It was like, ‘oh shit, I gotta come to the crib and see the video’.
“One summer, the homie and I made a kung fu movie. It was all random editing, disappearing like ninjas, running around the neighborhood trying to get the power sword from the master.”
That’s the OG version of ‘hey, lemme show you some shit on my phone’.
I know, exactly. You know what we used to do, too? One summer, the homie and I made a kung fu movie. It was all random editing, disappearing like ninjas, running around the neighborhood trying to get the power sword from the master – a funny ass storyline. I would rent the VHS to people in school, too. People were hyped – like ‘yo, lemme see that kung fu movie!’ One time my science teacher let us show it in class, too. I’d come into school as a white man sometimes. I had a little fake nose, it was crazy. If you’d ask people at school at the time about it me, they’d be like… wow, this fool. People would trip out, like, who’s this white dude with the black hands? It looked weird, obviously; not real. I’ve always been on something else that was stupid and funny. My mum is mad jokes.
Yeah. I would just do random shit. The only reason I ever got the part in Paul’s [Paul Sapiano, director] first movie [The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down, 2006] is because he let me do what I wanted. He was like, did you read the script? And I hadn’t really. So he’d just break it down – this is what the scene is about, and we’re just going to talk some shit. And I’d be like, okay, cool. He’d be like, aight, and we’d go on set. It felt really natural. Every scene, when you watch that movie – I made that up right there on the spot.
I didn’t even really know Paul like that at the time. It was his first movie, and mine too. So to trust somebody you don’t really know like that is special. We just connected.
How did you meet Paul?
Somebody sent me the script, and told me I should go to this audition. And I was like, aight man… actually, you know what’s funny? I’m at the homies house right now where, on the day of the audition, I remember I woke up on his floor. We had been drinking at his spot in Hollywood. I woke up and it was already close to the time I was supposed to be at the audition, and I was telling him – ‘man, I don’t even wanna go to this shit, but I’m not doing anything else right now… I’ll go I guess’.
When I got there, Paul asked if I’d read the script, and I said no, so he said alright man, ‘fuck it, let’s just try some shit’. He liked what I did because he hit me up saying – let’s do this together. And I was like, OK, cool. Just like that.
“I feel like it was almost Paul’s destiny to help me make this… Every single aspect of the movie, he really let me do my thing.”
That’s cool. How did you get from that role to Driving While Black?
It was a natural progression. I only had a small part in the first movie I was in. Yet, people would always remember that, and quote things I’d have said – stuff that was entirely unscripted. It’s some cult shit, that first joint. Then, we went on to do Hollywood Sex Wars . He gave me a bigger part in that. The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down was kind of an instructional movie, right? The second one had more of a storyline. It was all about wanting the Hollywood baes, you know, with the fake tits. And we were playing these hipster, geeky dudes. I was basically playing a pre-Dope nerdy black kid. When you see that movie and me with that crazy ass haircut in it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Hollywood Sex Wars was really raunchy. It was a completely different type of movie to The Boys & Girls Guide…. So, obviously I made up the shit I was saying as per usual, but this time Paul would let me make up whole scenes. He’d ask me, ‘what do you think about this scene, what should we add to make it better?’ So now, I’m adding to scenes, scripting what other characters were saying too. This is why Driving While Black feels like a natural progression. I hadn’t done any other movies except for the ones I did with Paul. And it’s not because I didn’t get sent other stuff, but I just thought everything else was garbage.
I feel like it was almost Paul’s destiny to help me make this. If you think about each level – the first movie; I get to make up what I’m saying. The second movie; I get to make up what I’m saying and some scenes for other people. The third movie; I’m in the editing room, I’m in the casting, I’m choosing the music. Every single aspect of the movie, he really let me do my thing. I don’t need credits for any of that, I just wanted it to look dope. Obviously writing and getting to star in it is what I get, but there’s no music supervisor credit or anything like that.
I feel like people will know though. Like, aw, this is some shit Dominique listens to.
It doesn’t even matter to me, as long as people know what the track is. That’s what’s important to me. People need to know about Tuamie. We know Tuamie, that’s old news to us, but to a mass audience, that’s new.
How long did it take you guys to put the whole thing together?
The script was done in 2013. After that, you gotta get somebody to give you money so you can make that shit. Thankfully we knew this dude Patrick, who had seen the first movie and liked what Paul and I did, liked the script for Driving While Black. He put us on to some people that were able to help out.
We started shooting in summer 2014 – so this was literally last year, because my birthday was yesterday – on my birthday last year I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard. A lot of it was completely improvised, all my interactions with the Black Zorro, Michael Jackson, Iron Man, all the impersonators – except for my homie selling me the CDs at the end. ‘Cause we’re on Hollywood, you know? We don’t have permits for that shit. It had to be all one take.
Filming finished in 2014 but up until June 16th of this year, we were editing or doing something. Whether it was a colour change or a track change, we kept on fine tuning it. And they’ve never worked like this before, me in the editing room with the editor and the director — and they don’t really know I got this experience and background like that, chopping VHS, making videos for friends. So when I’m in there I’m like, ‘NO! This shit needs to be cut like that’. I go in. I’m known to go Kanye on everybody. I say that a lot now. I’ll go Kanye on fools. You bout to wile out, you bout to go on your Nike corporation rant.
“There are some parts that didn’t make it in the movie. When the riots happened, we went to the Ralph’s in Koreatown – which was crazy during the riots, there was oatmeal and cereal all on the floor.”
[laughing] For sure. What was your favourite scene to film?
That’s a good question. You know what I really like? The riot scene [laughs]. I was actually seeing this shit in the backseat, so to be looking at it on the screen is crazy. Like damn, Terry with the jheri curl. I was tripping looking at that scene, I feel like I did a good job at making what I saw in my head a reality.
That’s awesome, being able to bring a memory to life like that.
Yeah, it was. The homie’s son playing me and shit. There are some parts that didn’t make it in the movie. When the riots happened, we went to the Ralph’s in Koreatown – which was crazy during the riots, there was oatmeal and cereal all on the floor. Terry, he had some new hi-tops on, and he didn’t want them to get fucked up, so before he went in he put a plastic bag around each foot. And I just remember looking at his feet on the dashboard, tying these bags around them, and hopping out of the car like, ‘aight! Here we go!’. We shot that, but we didn’t get to use it.
Damn that sounds like it would’ve been funny. At least we get to hear this anecdote now!
You know what I also really liked shooting? The dabbing day was fun, too.
Oh yeah I saw that somewhere; Dominique Purdy does all his own stunts. Smokes all his own dabs.
Yeah. The dude in that scene – that’s really his shop, he’s really the owner, we were in the back room, and he really had some high grade ass wax. What he says in the scene is what he was really telling us that day, and we made him say it again on camera. The cameras were rolling the entire time, even when they had to readjust for a different angle. It got to the point where I think people caught contact in the room – it’s a small room, we were a big crew.
Taz [Arnold] wanted to blaze that day, too, but he couldn’t because it was Ramadan, and it wasn’t nighttime yet. But I was like man, it’s all good — you look faded anyway! [laughs] When you see me walking out — that was all me, too. I don’t even think that was edited at all. That was just all real.
What was the most challenging aspect of the movie for you?
We had a lot of locations. Probably the most locations for an independent, especially for the budget we had. Also, the biggest cast for this type of movie too.
I’ve not seen many movies that can compare to this – big budget or not – and that moves around telling so many stories. It feels really rich, in scenery and in characters.
That’s my shit right there. That’s what I love! I want you to be able to watch it a second, third, time and realise new things about it each time. Like — ‘oh, damn, that fool had a weird shirt on’. Or ‘oh, look at that lady’s hair!’ The way I pick people – it’s not really about who’s the best actor. It’s about who can do this part the best. You may never do another movie ever again in your life, but you killed that part. Like Caine, from Menace II Society — you see him winning Oscars now? No. But he fucking killed Menace II Society.
And the banana eating homie in Belly.
Yeah, he killed those parts! I didn’t really answer your question though. The biggest difficulty is in getting everybody to understand the same thing, but we overcame it. What’s cool with Paul is he’s open to doing other shit. We might not agree about everything, but he’s always down to do some other shit, and we’ll find a middle ground. He’s like my older British uncle. He’s mad cool. He’s old school — there’s not a lot of characters like him.
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