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Cover Story- PAUSE Meets: Michael Rainey Jr.

PAUSE MEETS:

Michael Rainey Jr.

Discusses life as an actor, Power Book II: Ghost, & a future in music.

Photographer: Nicholas Johnson // @wonderworkr
Stylist: Gloria Johnson // @styledbyglo_2
Producer: Johnson Gold // @johnson_gold
Interview: Marcus Mitropoulos // @marcusmitropoulos
Talent: Michael Rainey Jr. // @michaelraineyjr

“Step into any room with presence, and act like you know you’re the one.”

Michael Rainey Jr. has worn a multitude of hats over his acting career spanning over a decade, but his most integral cap remains the intertwined flat-brim from New York. Making his mark on an MTV-acclaimed Italian film as a pre-teen, Rainey Jr. has devoted his life to embodying the characters he plays on-screen. The proud New Yorker has operated at every level, from running point as Terron Forte in Amateur (2018) to causing havoc on the streets as Tariq St.Patrick in Power (2014) and Power Book II: Ghost (2020). Although the actor is yet to be decorated with the awards that fans believe he deserves, the 23-year-old is adding to his trophy collection through other mediums like clothing collaborations and music production.

Looking at every aspect of his life, PAUSE sat down with Michael Rainey Jr. to discuss everything from his early acting career and how his experience on Power shaped him as a man, to the work he does on his personal fleet of cars and what he orders from Angelo when he stops by the bodega.

Check out the full interview below. 

Top/Bottoms – Earthling VIP, Glasses – THIERRY LASRY, Sneakers – Rick Owens

To kick things off, how did you get your start in acting at such a young age?

I really got scouted. I was in New York, I was eight at the time and a lady named Gina from Generations walked up to my mom and said, “your son has a great face for acting or modelling, does he do any or anything?” They just ended up having a conversation and the following week we went for a meeting with the whole company and sh*t, and then they got me my first auditions for commercials like Price Choppers. I did a photoshoot for Target and then worked on Sesame Street (1969) and had a small role on Law and Order (1990). That’s what kicked everything off. Then I did a music video for an Italian singer which went super crazy on MTV in Italy. An Italian director who was there somehow reached out to my mom and told her that he wanted me to be a part of his Italian film. From there, everything started rolling. 

Very recently, you announced that the show (Power Book II: Ghost) was premiering its last season. What was your initial reaction when you got the news?

I was definitely surprised, being that we were a top-performing show on the network. It was kind of unexpected but you know, the network had to cut costs, and all the stuff like that. At the end of the day, it’s a business, and these things happen in business, so we just keep pushing forward. 

How has the show shaped you both as an actor on screen and as a human off of it?

I basically grew up on the show. I started my first day, meeting everyone and I was introduced to the whole cast at just 12 years old. I’ll be 24 this year, so I literally grew up with everyone and I just learned so much. Being around all of these great people everyday and just soaking up all of the knowledge that they were able to share. Honestly, it definitely helped me grow into the man that I am now and without being on that show, I’m not sure what my growing process would have been like. 

You’ve been on Power since you were young. How was your responsibility shifted on the show?

My first few years on the show, I was a minor. So I had “X” amount of hours I could be on set for, and then I had to do three hours of mandatory school work after all of my filming days, which meant I had to stay on set for three hours after filming was done to do school work. The workload just changed completely when my character became more of a story on the show. Towards season four or five, that’s when it really started kicking up and I would do full weeks… every day I’m on set. Once I turned 18, they were able to keep me on set for longer and longer. So, the workload definitely changed, the responsibility changed, and I’m learning a lot more lines than usual. It was a great time and definitely a turning point that I didn’t expect. 

Did you have a favourite subject back then?

My favourite thing was just to finish and get out. Math and numbers I’m pretty good at, so math was fun. But other than that, I was ready to just knock everything out and get up out of there. 

You’re often seen on screen playing darker, more powerful characters but you’ve joked around previously about looking younger than you really are. How do you shift your acting methods to appear more intimidating on screen?

That’s a good question. It’s something specific that I really do. I see the material, I see the script and I really just know what I should be drawing within myself to portray the character the best way I can. 

Talk to me about being with 50 Cent and Method Man so often. What have they taught you as OG’s of the game?

Being around 50 is always just insane because I’ve looked up to him since I was seven, or eight years old. I used to get in trouble for having his music on my iPod Nano, for wearing durags like him, all of that stuff. So, being able to be in the same spaces as him and honestly having him as another father figure in my life has been a blessing. From going from looking up to him as a role model to being able to call him and ask for any type of advice; we’ll be on the phone for hours. 

Being on set with Method Man, it’s crazy, because it’s also a full-circle moment for me, because we’re both two men from Staten Island and I used to play football with his son in the sixth grade. He and my father grew up in the same neighbourhood so it’s super cool to share the screen with somebody from the same place as me.

The Instagram stuff with 50… was that just banter?

I mean, it was banter, but it wasn’t… because I definitely missed a call from 50 around that time. I was doing a self-audition tape around the time and I told him I was going to call him back but I forgot to because I was just on the self-tape for so long. But yeah, he was like this is what happens when you don’t answer your phone. 

Full Look – AMIRI, Watch – Jacob & Co.

 Tank Top – entire studios, Pants – Giorgio Armani, Shoes – Fear of God, Necklace – Polite Worldwide, Watch – Jacob & Co.

I know you’re currently situated in New York. Have you picked up on any fashion trends since being there?

I see a lot of fashion trends, but I don’t really follow any of them. There are a few things that a lot of people catch up on but I don’t really see myself following many trends; I feel like I just do my own thing. I get influenced by a lot of areas, whether it’s trendy, underground, or a super independent brand. Whatever I like, I like, and I put it on no matter who makes it or who wears it. I just be throwing stuff on.

Are you team Timbs or team Air Force One’s?

I’m not going to lie, I’m team Air Force One’s. I love me a pair of fresh Air Force One’s, like my dad always kept me in a fresh pair, but like he called them “Uptowns.” Whenever he’d take me to get a new pair of them I’d be super hyped. I love Timberland, too but like you can’t go wrong with a nice pair of Air Force One’s.

I know it’s been made into a meme on social media now, but what’s your go-to bodega order?

My go-to bodega order depends on how I’m feeling, but for the most part I go bacon, egg, and cheese with salt, pepper, and ketchup… super simple. But if I’m not feeling a bacon, egg, and cheese, I might go chopped cheese, with everything on it, or I might go Sausalito turkey and cheese with mayo, salt, pepper, vinegar. There’s a few different ways I could go anytime I’m at the bodega, but every time it’s going to hit. If Angelo is making my sandwich I’m good, that’s my guy.

Is there a bev and sides?

No, you can’t forget the bev. Most of the time I get me a Martinelli’s apple juice, but if I’m feeling healthy I’ll get a water, but for the most part, it’s apple juice. If I get the turkey sandwich, I’m going to get a bag of chips.

Being in the UK, everyone is religiously into one chip flavour. What’s yours?

Man, honestly I like plain potato chips and also the spicy ones. I don’t know what they’re called, but they’re just spicy. 

You recently attended New York Fashion Week in February. How was your experience with the Tommy Hilfiger show?

That was crazy. Honestly, that was the first show I’ve ever been to and they set the bar really high, so I don’t know how I’m going to enjoy another fashion show! It was in Grand Central, damn near the whole of New York was there and it was just a crazy vibe the way they set it up. Everything was just tough, like they put it together so perfectly. They had the Mercedes Benz venue so that was tough, and I’m a big car guy so I saw all the stuff and was like, “yeah they did it big with this one.”

What’s in your fleet right now?

I have a Porsche 911 Turbo S. I have my M5 Competition, and I have an R8. I also got an E30 1992 BMW with a Toyota 1JZ engine and a Golf R. 

Oh, so you’re properly into tuning cars. How did you get into that?

It’s crazy, ever since I was small the only thing I wanted for presents were little toy cars like Lamborghini and Ferrari. Ever since I was five or six, I would see cars and knew every car I saw growing up. I loved playing car racing games with my cousin, like Need for Speed. I just love them, the sound, the emotion that they bring to you, there’s nothing better than that. 

Do you work on them yourself?

I do as much as I can, like up to my capacity. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I could forge my own internals or mount my own turbo kit, but for the most part, I can do the small things like replace my steering wheel. But for the bigger stuff, I ask my big bros. 

When you’re driving in your cars, what’s bumping through the speakers?

It’s a lot of different stuff right now. My guy right now is Wolf Face Joey, that’s someone I make music with a lot. I produce a lot of his music, we actually dropped a tape last year all produced by me. I listen to a lot of dancehall, I listen to everything really. Digga D, I listen to him a lot, that’s my guy. We’re super close, but for the most part, it’s dancehall or my artists. 

It’s no secret you’re a hooper both on and off the court, so what shoes are you playing in these days?

The last time I remember playing basketball I was in a pair of Air Jordan Fragment 3’s. I’m not going to say that they were the best for hooping because they’re a little bit heavy, but that’s what I enjoy playing in for some reason. 

I feel like a Jordan 3 is a rogue choice. 

Definitely. I’m not going to lie, the most comfortable basketball sneaker I’ve ever tried on over the last few years was the LaMelo (Ball) sneaker that he came out with not too long ago. That was a comfortable pair, shout out to LaMelo Ball.

I was snooping around your X account and saw that you did a collaboration with Makeshift on a Michael Rainey Jr. plush doll. How did that come about?

They reached out to me and they obviously had campaigns with other people that they had worked with prior and I was like “this is fire, this is interesting.” Like, why wouldn’t I want to create a little plush of myself and let everyone have a little piece of me? So, it was kind of a no-brainer. After they reached out to me, I was like, “let’s do it, let’s go crazy.”

What are your dream collaborations? And do you have any in the pipeline?

I have some good collaborations coming up that I can’t speak on yet, but there are definitely some brands I’d love to partner up with. BMW would be pretty fire. Rolex too, I’m a big watch guy. But as far as clothes, that’s tough. 

What got you into watches?

What really got me into watches was 50 Cent honestly. He’s always got some crazy stuff on his wrist, but the one watch that I’ve always seen him with is this chandelier Audemars Piguet and it looks crazy. It’s fully baguette. Obviously, when I was younger I wasn’t paying attention to watches, but I liked chains and stuff. As I grew up, I realized I liked watches, I’d rather step out wearing a watch with no chains, than no watch and a chain. 

Are you icing out your watches? Or keeping them as original as possible?

I don’t have any iced-out watches right now and I don’t plan on buying any to be honest. I like factory. I have one watch with diamonds in it, but they’re Rolex diamonds and they’re all factory. I haven’t done any aftermarket watches, I don’t want to mess up the watch. 

What advice would you have given young actors that you wish you could have gotten when you started?

Be as confident as possible. I definitely battled with that growing up, confidence. Obviously, I have confidence and charisma, but at the same time, I would get in my head sometimes. That’s the one thing that kept me back from a lot of things that I could have achieved earlier in life. But at the end of the day, it’s a blessing that I didn’t achieve stuff yet, it just wasn’t my time. 

Step in any room with presence, and act like you know you’re the one. And be resilient, because you’re not going to succeed in every single thing that you do. You’re going to fail, but resilience is what’s going to make you succeed in the future, so that’s the key. 

Finally, Ghost is coming to a halt, so what’s next for Michael Rainey Jr.?

A lot more music. We’ve started writing our own material, so that’s going to be super dope. Some movies in the future. We’re auditioning, we’re reading, rewriting… we’ve got a whole lot of stuff. It’s going to be lit, it’s going to be lit this year. 

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