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Lil Meech Says BMF Is the “Black Sopranos ”

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50 Cent’s Power franchise continues to keep a stranglehold on television, but his greatest marriage of the medium and culture is arguably BMF, the crime drama chronicling the rise of Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory and his Black Mafia Family crime organization. Between the late ‘80s and the early aughts, Flenory’s Detroit-born syndicate spread across at least 12 states in a wide-ranging, unprecedented drug- and money-trafficking operation. The legend of Big Meech loomed large, documented in the moment by rappers like Young Jeezy and T.I. and later mythologized by the likes of Rick Ross and Pusha T. It was a rise-to-power saga worthy of a prestige-TV series—which is exactly what 50 turned it into, executive-producing BMF as one of his last acts in his creative partnership with Starz.

The series chronicles the rise of the Flenory family from their early Detroit days, with Flenory’s son Demetrius, a.k.a. Lil Meech, portraying his own father. Although Meech had never acted before, 50 handpicked him to anchor the series and took him under his wing, becoming a sort of father figure while the elder Flenory continues to serve out a 20-year drug trafficking sentence.

In its well-received third season, which began airing last week, BMF is continuing to gain traction—as one of the few Black-led crime stories out there, and also just as an engrossing family drama in its own right. Some might say it’s picking up where the recently concluded Snowfall left off, but Lil Meech has bigger targets, describing BMF as “the Black Sopranos.” With a new season that should take us into the years Demetrius Flenory truly became “Big Meech” as we know him today—and guest appearances from the likes of Lil Baby, 2 Chainz and Ne-Yo upcoming—this could be the year BMF and Demetrius both truly break out.

GQ caught up with Lil Meech to talk about the new season, his relationship with 50 and his father, his Euphoria guest spot, and how seriously he really wants to take this acting thing.

GQ: What’s one thing you remember about being around your father as a young kid?

LIL MEECH: He had a music label at the time called BMF Entertainment. Young Jeezy and T.I. were a couple of the artists who were part of it. Young Jeezy was the biggest artist signed to BMF at the time. And my dad used to always take me to his video shoots. I had two baby BMF chains and you could see me and my pops in the music videos with him and his artists. That was the first time I was really coming outside. He used to always take me in his Ferraris and Lamborghinis and let me sit on his lap while he'd drive with the top down. He was a great dad, a fun dad, always in my life.

Damn, that’s fire. But outside of the glitz and the glam, what was he like as a dad?

We used to watch Teen Titans on Saturday mornings. During the week, when I came home from school, my dad used to have cartoons in the room on the TV already. We used to sip our hot chocolate and have a good time. He loved superhero movies. That's where I got my love for superhero films.

What made you want to keep the name Lil Meech?

I always wanted to be my own person. I love and respect my father and look up to him. Nobody else can do what he did. He made history. So it was time I made my mark in a new way with the name after my father. I still take everything he built and use it as a foundation in a positive manner on my journey.

When did you decide to seriously pursue acting? I know you made a couple of songs in the past…

I never wanted to rap. I loved listening to music and watching my homies make music, but I never wanted to rap. I had just finished football. I didn't want to keep doing that. So I tried rapping. And when I tried it, I didn't like it. I didn't like thinking about what I had to say. I didn't like being in the studio all night.

Was there any pressure from your father to figure out what you should be doing?

Pops was like, "Bro, what are you going to do? You're going to rap, you gotta do something. Shit, you got to try something." I just never knew what I was going to do until I met 50 Cent. 50 put me in acting classes and he helped me find myself. When I started acting, I didn't like it at first, but I started loving it and I got comfortable. That's when I knew it was my calling.

When I watch TV or YouTube videos these days, it’s hard for me to just enjoy them normally, since that’s my day job. Does that happen to you while you are watching movies and TV shows now?

It messes your head up knowing they probably spent two, or three hours on one scene. You got to get four or five different camera angles. They got to get your closeup, the other actors’ closeups. They got to do a wide shot. You have to just be willing to wait and work. That's acting. You get paid to wait. It teaches you patience.

Were you nervous about playing your father?

The nerves left me the first season. I always knew in my head I was going to have to kill it in this role to show people I'm a real actor, but the work's still not done. I'm still growing and honing my skills in this field. I never want people to think I did not put in the work to get here. I still put in the work to stay here. The work doesn’t stop.

What was Big Meech's reaction to Lil Meech playing him in the show about his life?

He couldn't believe it! Going from just visiting him in prison, to one day I'm on TV and he’s watching his son play him, it's crazy to him still. He can't believe it.

Did your father offer you any advice on his journey? What's something he says to you, to keep you focused?

My father tried his best to keep my focus strong. He always wants me to understand what direction I'm going in. He helps me plan out the year, how he sees me and what he wants me to do. The situation that he's in, being incarcerated, he makes sure I'm doing everything I need to do to stay on track.

When did everything start clicking for you?

I was in 12th grade, my dad called me and said, "Man, 50 Cent is making a movie or a TV show about my life. I just don't know who's going to play me yet," he said, "It might be Terrence Howard or T.I., or it could be you if you go to acting classes, but I don't know if you could do it." I didn't even think I could do it at first. It's like, I didn't even know the first step to being an actor. I didn't have the money to put myself in school. 50 invested a lot of money for me to go to school.

Wow, 50 saw the potential in you?

Yes. It was just the first casting call held in Atlanta for BMF. The line was around the block. 50 Cent pulled up. This was my first time seeing him in person, and he was like, "Damn, man. You look just like your daddy, man. I'm thinking about all these other people to play him, but you look like the best person to play him. I'm going to put you in acting classes, you ready?" That day, he saw something in me. I didn't even know If I was ready, but I was like, "Hell yeah." One of the greatest, if not, the greatest artists of our generation ask you if you're ready, then you’re ready. I had to move from Miami to LA. I slept on my cousin's couch for a year and a half. He had to take me to two acting classes a day. The rest is history.

What was the hardest part about becoming an actor?

The hardest part about being an actor is using your emotions. I had an amazing acting coach, Tasha Smith, who taught me everything. I learned how to attach emotions to scenes. As men, we are taught to be guarded and not show our emotions. I learned how to wear my emotions on my sleeve and that's when I got comfortable. You can't lie in front of the camera if you're not being truthful and you're not using a true emotion the people will know, and it will mean nothing to them.

You always call 50 a second father. What has his mentorship been like?

He is like my other father. Since I met 50, he stepped up and helped me to this day to keep my mindset going. He taught me how to elevate myself and my career. He's been so instrumental in my life every step of the way. That's what means the most, having somebody really care about you and help you and also being able to learn from them. He's my mentor but also my other pops. He has my back for real and has proved it plenty of times.

And that's what matters the most, man. It's hard to find people in this world who actually care and want to see you do good and are not just worried about the business part but, there’s an emotional attachment. So that's what I respect about him the most, man. He actually cares about people. He tries his best to help you.

50 is a genius, I’m not just saying that. It's hard to be somebody where he came from. There are few African Americans that are in the position that he's in right now. From music, movies, businesses, liquor brands, and television. I look up to him and that's where I want to be someday.

Could you ever see yourself making an appearance on Power or another 50 Cent show?

Hell yeah, I'll do anything he wants me to do. Yeah, if 50 blessed me and I'm able to, hell yeah, I would love to go on Power and show them how it's done.

How did you end up being on Euphoria?

My agent is really good friends with one of the producers on Euphoria. They mentioned to him an opportunity for me to be on the show. I auditioned, they loved it, and they invited me on the set. Euphoria was so fun. It was a different environment. It was truly an honor to be able to work with Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, and all the other actors. Then being able to learn from Sam Levinson—you can’t beat that.

Which TV shows inspire you as you pursue this acting journey?

The Wire and Billions, those shows are so cold, man. Truly some of the best acting I’ve ever seen with Wood Harris and Idris Elba, and Paul Giammanti.

You’ve called BMF the “Black Sopranos.: Why did it make that correlation to you?

Because that is what my father represented—the likes of Pablo Escobar, Scarface, Tony Soprano. My father would always tell me to watch those films and shows ”Watch all the New York Mob films”. When it comes to the impact of The SopranosBMF can be that. My father is one of the biggest, if not the biggest African-American kingpins in history. So you can't compare him to anybody except the biggest.

It’s awards season. Can you see yourself being up for an Emmy?

Hell yeah. I know when the time comes it'll come. It's still very early in my career so I don't expect things like that to happen until I've been an actor for years. Hopefully, we can get nominated for an Emmy in the future and eventually win it.

What can BMF fans expect from season 3?

Season three is more about the two brothers Meech and Tee. We see how they're navigating through their new lives. They're running their crews and coming into their own. Meech is in Atlanta now meeting a whole new crew and creating a whole new life for himself. This is where Meech really becomes Big Meech.

There are a lot of celebrity appearances this season: 2 Chainz, Ne-Yo, and one of your good friends, LIl Baby. What was it like working with them?

It's crazy working with music legends that I listened to, Ne-Yo made it fun. I can't wait for everybody to see his role and how he killed his part. Lil Baby is my homie. We hang out outside of all of this. It was perfect for him to join the cast, especially him being an Atlanta native. It was his first time acting and he was very comfortable on set and he told me he wanted to come back in the future.

Did you offer him any advice?

I just told him, "Be yourself." I helped him with his lines. We went over our lines together and made sure our scene was tight. That's really it. Because you really want people to stay natural. You don't want people to be in their head too much in acting, or you'll overthink it.

What do you think the show does for your family's legacy?

It just brings light to the family legacy. This show was needed for the culture. People obviously heard about BMF in many rap songs, but they don't see it.

Who else has an impact on the show from your family?

My uncle Southwest T is a very important piece in the story because he was right there with my father. So he and DaVinci talk. He also speaks to the producers and lets them know how things went.

If you weren't acting, what would you be doing?

Maybe an architect. I like buildings. It's cool to me how they design buildings. I'm just afraid of heights, so I wouldn’t be able to be an architect. I’d just draw. I can't be up on a building. I would pass out.

When is Big Meech coming home?

What helped my father so much in his case is that he was a nonviolent offender, so he’s not doing 100% of his time. That's what I'm so thankful for and we're so blessed, he's able to come home early. 10 years early. He was sentenced to 30 years. He did 18 already, but he should be home in the next year or two, so he only had to do 20 years for real. Still a long time out of his life, [but] hey really should have taken off more.

Your fits go viral all the time, sometimes with people criticizing them. Do the comments ever give you pause?

I wear what I feel comfortable in. I don't let anybody tell me what they think I should wear. I love Rick Owens, I love Chrome Hearts. I love that new-age fashion, that oversized baggy type look. I like putting that shit on.

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 23: Demetrius Flenory Jr., jewelry detail, attends STARZ Series "BMF" World Premiere at Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood on September 23, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.(Photo by Prince Williams/FilmMagic)

Even your flashy BMF pendant—comparing it to your father’s, you took yours to another level.

He had the best jewelry quality of his time, but now everything is elevated. Now the jewelers are more detailed and have more craftsmanship about how they do everything. And I just wanted to make the original BMF pop 10 times harder. It's a great promotion for the show. It's just so heavy, I can't wear it all the time. I want to give it to my dad when he comes home. Let him wear it, whatever he wants to do with it. I've worn it long enough.

How do you block out the noise? you're on the internet, It's always something. It's not one thing, it's another. How do you just stay focused?

I have tough skin. I was raised differently. My parents have always put it in my head that It doesn't matter what someone says about you. What matters is what you think about yourself and about how you act in this world. It's not about what's the perception of you. You can't go around trying to be a people-pleaser. You have to be yourself. And if people don't rock with it, they don't rock with it. But you can't go around just trying to be somebody you're not. I want to be the best possible person and actor I can be. I can't worry about what somebody else thinks of me, I can only get better. We have enough things going on in our lives that we shouldn't be judging anybody.

Shit happens.

Exactly. We should be trying to fix everything about ourselves before we give input on somebody else's life. So that's why I just stay in my bubble and stay in my world. I just block that out, because if you let that get in your head, then you are already going in the wrong direction.

Originally Appeared on GQ