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Pulling Back the Stylish Layers of Curtiss Cook

Curtiss Cook is an actor who has been committed to his craft for decades. Cook started in the theater and eventually moved to London and New York City to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor, like those he admired while growing up in Dayton, Ohio. While Cook is no stranger to the small and big screens, in recent years, he has skyrocketed in success, regularly appearing on hit shows such as The Chi and Luke Cage. Now with the much anticipated West Side Story gearing up to hit our movie screens, Cook is ready to show that he is a man of not only great talent but great style.

"It was really my parents," Cook says about who influenced him throughout his career. "But they influenced me in different ways. My mom was my biggest critic, but also my biggest supporter. She was brutal. As a young kid, she would let me know when I did a great job, but she could be brutal when I didn’t do well," Curtiss continued. "My dad, he was more like a ninja, quietly getting stuff done to help me behind the scenes. He wanted to make sure I was doing what I wanted to do and I really didn’t know he did some of the things he did until later in life.”

And with the example set before him from his upbringing, living in Dayton Ohio shaped a young Curtiss and pushed him into his acting career. "It was interesting because I didn’t realize I could act as a profession; I didn’t realize that was a real job," Cook speaks on his early high school days. "I was into theater in high school, but it wasn’t until I joined this organization called the Muse Machine and the founder asked me what I was going to do after high school. I said I was going into the Navy, and she said ‘nooo,’ and it all kind of jelled for me from there."

His career later led him to live in London, where Curtiss became the first American to receive a full-ride scholarship to London's prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, and New York City, which exposed him to different styles. "When I first got to London, I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t even know how the train worked. I didn’t realize the train doors closed at a certain time and literally all of my luggage was left on the platform," Cook shares. With mistakes along the way, Cook also says that both cities influenced him, artistically. "I would say the cities are similar artistically and culturally in many ways. I mean it is all right there; you can literally go from a predominantly African community to a predominantly Asian community quickly, so as someone that didn’t have any exposure to that, I was able to take it in a very pure way. I was not used to it, but it allowed me to tap into different aspects of who I was, and that stays with you forever. Once I got to New York, I was able to work towards my dream. I've only had one 9-5 job in my 30 some years of acting; everything else has been through performing."

With over three decades under his belt, Curtiss has created many characters through his acting, and he has a process on how he picks his roles, "I am attracted to characters that don’t seem stereotypical. I like if there's a place in which you think you know and understand what they are but there's so much more, they're layered even more than what you think. And sometimes, it may not even seem that way, initially, but as I read it, I can say, ‘oh, there's space in here to add another dimension to this character’,” Curtiss says about his acting. "Let's take someone like Otis “Douda” Perry on The Chi, right? That character could have easily been this sinister, maniacal, evil drug dealer, right? Something that we've seen in our television and movies genres for years. And some may even think that in watching it, that’s what he is. But when we watch him, hopefully, people begin to see different layers of him and begin to wonder, is he bad?" He says, about his Chicago-born character. "I would like to think you could keep becoming more human, becoming more three-dimensional and he too becomes more complex, like all of us are."

The Chi’s Douda Perry is not only a role that audiences are able to see Curtiss’ range, but it is also a character where we see fashion play a major role in who Perry is. "From the first to the second season, how they put him together was cool. The first season, we didn't really know who he was yet. But then this season man, what they put this dude in, it was a whole new level for me; I particularly liked the suits. And I love the turtleneck. I love the old school nod to the 70s, kind of like that Superfly kind of feeling," Cook explains Douda’s style. That style continues to carry into Cook's real life.

"It has changed over the last 18 months. I'm going through a few iterations. When I first got to the city, I was doing musical theater and Broadway, and with any kind of profession, there's a uniform that everyone kind of wears that you realize that this is what people wear within this community no matter if it is lawyers, doctors, garbage men, whatever…this kind of a look that you convey. I was always wearing a lot of blacks and dark colors. Now when I step out, I try to be thoughtful about it, although I mix things. Like, the shoes might be a $2,000 pair of sneakers, but on top of that, I have on a pair of TJ Maxx jeans.

"Definitely a suit. If you can't do the regular Black suit, I will say a brown or a gray suit like a charcoal gray suit," Cook says every man should have in his closet. "Have a nice pair of jeans, something that fits well and if they don't fit well, you have them tailored to you. Also, a really nice pair of brown dress shoes because although I know black goes with everything, I think brown shows more individuality."

With a whole new set of eyes on him, Curtiss does not see his career slowing down anytime soon. "Ideally, I want my own show. That's my goal right now, my own television show. I mean, there's been talks about a spinoff of Douda," Cook says about his next act. "That would be amazing to do because I think there's a lot more to discover about him.” Whatever the future holds for Curtiss, he’s going to continue to apply pressure. “It’s going to be interesting to see how long that train rides itself. I'm going to keep trying to do what I do because that's what's gotten me here. And, and that's what will get me to where I'm supposed to be next."

Curtiss will also be seen in the new West Side Story adaptation bringing to life the new character ‘Abe,’ a mysterious NYC man who has his hands in everything happening in the streets. From a career that most actors dream of, to being a father and raising his legacy, Curtiss Cook is the ultimate man of style.

Check out the Style Issue.

Photographer/Creative Director: J Monroe

Fashion Assistant: Justin Wiley


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