Bodega Bamz Goes From Harlem to Hollywood With Role in New Series ‘SMILF’
The Latino community has always held a strong presence in hip-hop, producing some of the more charismatic characters in the history of the culture. New York native Bodega Bamz is just one of the more recent spitters repping for his community while delivering quality rap musings.
The 32-year-old rapper of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent has built a rep as one of the more respected artists on the underground circuit. Having made waves with projects like his breakthrough mixtape, Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z., and his 2015 debut album, Sidewalk Exec, Bodega Bamz is looking to add thespian to his resume with his new role in the forthcoming Showtime original series, SMILF.
Created and directed by, and also starring Frankie Shaw, SMILF is set in Boston and examines the life of a single mother looking to balance her professional and personal life while simultaneously making sense of it all. Although details are scarce, Bamz, who will be credited as an actor under his government name, Nathaniel DeLa Rosa, will play the role of Carlos, a rapper and close friend of character Rafi (played by Miguel Gomez).
SMILF, which is scheduled to premiere on Nov. 5 at 10 p.m. on Showtime, also stars veteran talent like Rosie O'Donnell and Connie Britton. The role is Bodega Bamz's first foray into the world of Hollywood, but could very well prove to be the start of a fruitful career in front of the camera and help boost his musical brand as well.
During a recent visit to XXL, Bodega Bamz opens up about his role in SMILF, transitioning into acting, the status of his long-awaited project, PAPI, and what's next in store for him as he continues to diversify his portfolio.
XXL: You recently landed a recurring role on the new Showtime Series, SMILF, which premieres Nov. 5. How did that opportunity come about?
Bodega Bamz: So, I got an email to my brother Ohla. They wanted me to audition for the role for SMILF or whatever and it was in L.A. I was in New York at the time, so I couldn't make it to L.A., so they rescheduled to do it in New York. So I went to the ABC Studios in New York, I auditioned and a few hours later, they had called me and said they wanted to fly me out to L.A. to meet the creators and there producers over there and audition again.
So I went out to L.A., auditioned again, but the network passed on the role I auditioned, feel me, they passed. So I was like, Damn, that's fucked up. I was kinda bummed out ’cause I really wanted to be a part of it, but I kept my head up high. So when I got back home, I just continued business as usual and then a few weeks after they told me the network passed on me, they called my manager and they said, "Listen, the creator of the show, Frankie Shaw, she loved him so much that she created a whole new character for him on the show and she wanted him to get back on the show." So that's how I got back on the show.
What was the role you originally auditioned for?
So the role that I originally auditioned for was Rafi, he's the baby father of the girl on the show, Bridgette. So I originally casted for that role and like I said, that role wasn't for me and that's how the world works some time. But by the grace of God, I was able to get another role on the show created just for me, you know what I'm saying? So I'm happy for that, you know I'm mean, that Frankie Shaw, the creator of the show, she saw something in me.
How would you put the premise of SMILF into words for someone that's unfamiliar?
The premise is "Single mom, I like to fuck." It's about a single mom with a biracial baby who's just juggling real-life situations, juggling relationships, sex and trying to break into the business as well. To me, it's a raw show, it's raw comedy, you're gonna see shit that you're not really used to seeing.
Frankie Shaw, who's the creator of the show, she also stars in the show. She's the director, she's an amazing talent. She's a genius at what she's doing, her storytelling ability is great, her whole team at Showtime has been great with the storytelling. So the show is based in Boston, she's a Southie from Boston. It's got Rosie O'Donnell in it that's playing the mom, you got Connie Britton in it, you know what I'm saying, so it's a very well-rounded cast that I'm happy to be a part of and shit like that and it's gonna be good.
The show is based in South Boston. Did you gain a special appreciation for the city?
What's crazy is the fact that the show is in Boston and I'm a Boston Red Sox fan. I'm from New York, but I always been a Red Sox fan and the fact that I got a part of a show that I was a fan of the city already, it was a blessing. Every time I go to Boston on tour, I always love hitting that city. I got family in that city, I just love the love in Boston so it definitely, being on the show now and being on a different side of the spectrum filming the show is fire, but I always liked Boston, even before I was on the show.
In what ways did you prep for the role of your character, Carlos, and how much of yourself do you see in him?
Well, I guess I did, like, beginning preparations because I'm a beginner. I'm new to this. So just went over my lines with me and my girl, my girl helped me a lot—just going back and forth. Then mostly, the main thing that I prepped was getting my mind focused, you know what I'm saying, just making sure my mind is focused and I prayed to God and told him to prepare me.
It wasn't really no kumbaya preparation. It was just me going in there and being who I am and what I bring to the table. That's all I can do is be me, you know what I'm saying? I see a lot of similarities because this character ain't Bodega Bamz, this Nathaniel DeLa Rosa. That's my government name, that's who I am. So I see a lot of similarities, but I would want people to wait see the show to try to contrast, but I see a lot of similarities thus far.
What was is like working with the show's creator, Frankie Shaw, who is basically a jack of all trades when it comes to acting and television? What are some of the things you learned?
One of the things she told me was, "Bamz, this is a little knowledge for you, when you're acting, don't look at the other actor more than three seconds [at a time]." She said, "Every three seconds, you gotta look away" and that was something I never knew because when I was doing one of the scenes with Rafi, who Miguel Gomez plays, me and him were looking eye-to-eye for 10 seconds and she was like, "Cut." And she was like, "Nah, you can't look at him straight, you have to be looking away every three seconds." And I didn't know that and she was like, "That's regular acting shit. Now you know that every three seconds, keep looking away."
But other than that, she's just been a joy to be around, man. She's just been an awesome person. She's super supportive. I always come to her and ask her, like, "Frankie, you got any notes for me? Could I have done that better?" And she's always like, "Bamz, you good, you got it Bodega, you good." I'm just happy I'm a part of her vision ’cause like I told her, she's super creative, super talented, and I know she's gonna do real big things.
What would you say was your most memorable moment or memory from filming this series?
We filmed a scene in the same building that they used to film Saved By the Bell and Full House, so I felt that was kind of weird. It was super quiet and almost haunted like, you know what I'm saying, that was memorable to me. We in there like, Damn, I used to watch these muthafucking shows, you know what I'm saying, and now I'm actually in the building. I'm in the same presence of A.C. Slater, you know what I mean, and Zack Morris.
They got the ghosts around.
What was the name of the dog on Full House? Comet. I got the ghost of Comet running around, so yeah, that was a memorable moment for me, man, but it's been a lot of memorable moments. It's hard to really dissect every one because this is like my first rodeo and I'm just in awe of the whole process of everything. Every little moment, I try to savor it to the point I don't even take pictures because I want to have a mental memory of it. I don't need pictures to mess up the memory. Every moment since being in this process has been memorable.
Being that this was your first major role, in what ways did you have to adjust from rapper mode to focusing on full-fledged acting?
That's a good question. I feel like, even in rap and being a rapper, I'm me, I'm not another nigga, I'm not a different person. So I feel like it wasn't really a different transition. It was just once I get involved in something, I just keen in and I focus on it. Like the rapper Bodega Bamz, he's a part of me too. And they like that, they like my charismatic confidence, they think that's unique.
So I didn't really have to channel nothing off. I just brought everybody together on some Jekyll and Hyde type shit. It might sound kinda weird, but yeah, I guess the same way people see me in real life is literally what I brought to the camera. I'm just me, I can't really be anybody else.
SMILF may be your first TV show, but do you have any other plans to pursue acting?
Oh yeah, definitely. That's the goal. The goal was to start off and the goal was to keep on progressing. I remember doing interviews two years ago saying that one day I want to be on the silver screen. I remember doing interviews saying this, I wanna be in Hollywood, I wanna act and I'm getting that opportunity now, you know what I'm saying? Every step of the way, baby steps and each door opens after every accomplishment, man, and it's just progressing.
One day I wanna be in movies, obviously. This is my first role and I'm on Showtime. That's a blessing; I can't be more blessed. A lot of people, they whole lives they wanna be on Showtime and I got it my first shot. So I'm blessed and super appreciative for the moment. But yeah, you definitely gonna see me in more shit, definitely gonna see me in more movies, definitely gonna see me in more projects.
Did you have any acting experience previous to this and what sparked your interest?
No, and what's crazy, when I'm on set and I'm doing my thing, everybody thinks I have experience from before. And they be asking me, they be like, "What you done before?" I'm like, "Nothing," and they can't believe it. They like, "Nah, how you never did nothing?" But nah, bro, I never done nothing before, but what I will say is that acting is something I always wanted to get into.
Even before I was a rapper, even before I was getting any kind of name or success for myself as a rapper, I always wanted to be an actor, but it was one of those dreams where I dreamt it, but I didn't know how to pursue it, you feel me, and music is what opened that door for me to get in there. ’Cause even in my videos, if you watch my videos, for anyone that's a fan of me, I add the acting element in my videos, the storytelling, the storyline, the charisma, I always try to add that in my videos.
So that was my only way of acting, just being in music videos. So the fact that I'm getting the opportunity now to break into this business for the first time is a blessing ’cause I always wanted to get in it.
What was the moment that sparked you to really say that you're gonna delve into this and start the process of auditioning?
There's a lot of similarities in music and in acting and one of the similarities is just the confidence. Like, I feel like this music game, it's hard to get in and once you get in it's even harder to stay in and I feel like I was trained already going into this acting shit, that my confidence level was high because I already been through the ups and downs with the music shit.
So me being tested in the music game, it just made me better off in the acting shit, like nah, I'm just ready, I'm prepared for whatever, I'm ready to take over Hollywood, you know what I mean, little by little. The same way I did my thing in music, I'm applying that same mentality in the acting shit. It literally started happening in April. I auditioned for other roles and shit for other projects, but literally, when they hit me up, it started in May. Now I'm here now. I got on the show, first time I auditioned, first time everything.
You've also been active on the music front with releasing the new song "Can't Ban the Tan." What was the inspiration behind that song?
Just growth, bro. Just talking about things that people need to feel, people need to hear. I feel like I came a long way in this music game and I feel like my penmanship and the way I'm writing music now is totally different than I was for a long time because I was in a dark place and I had to get out of that dark place to grow. And I feel like the same feelings I had when I first started in the music shit, just doing things for the fans and loving the fans and the reaction I'm getting that feeling back.
So songs like that I just wanna show fans that I'm a role model, that you got a big brother on me, you got an uncle in me, like I'm past the stage of being ignorant and trying to damage my people. I'm about uplifting, you know what I'm saying? So that's the type of time I'm on, just showing inspiration and I know I have influence so I have to show the people I'm for them. I'm for the people.
Fans have been anticipating your forthcoming project, PAPI. Is there any timetable on when that will be released?
Um, yeah, so PAPI, it's been a project that we been working on for almost two years and it's been a homecoming project. It's gonna be project that people are gonna adore, they gonna love. Whatever people remember me for, they gonna love it whenever it comes out. Right now, projected, I'm probably gonna release it next year, but in between those times, I'm gonna keep releasing songs and keep on engaging my fans I have right now ’cause my fans are super special to me. They're super beautiful because they been with me since the beginning and I could never forget about them no matter if I become a movie star I'm always gonna cater to them in some way or form, but definitely, PAPI is gonna drop next year.
How far along would you say you are in the recording process?
The project is done. It's already done, it's on ice right now. It's just about getting it mastered. We have the tracklisting, we have the covers, we have the name, Proud and Powerful Individual. We have to get some business shit out the way, but other than that, the shit is done, you know what I'm saying, it's ready to go. I could drop it tomorrow if I want to, but to me, I'm all about timing.
What's the perfect time? What's gonna coincide with the whole acting shit? It's ready though, it's ready to go. We gonna shoot video, I got a few videos on ice. I got a documentary, The Making of PAPI, on ice right now. There's a lot of things going on with the music. It's gonna be beautiful.
Who are some of the artists you've connected with musically?
Right now, literally, I been working with the artist I'm ’bout to start pushing forward. There's an artist I'm working with called 3AMTOGO and that artist is the future and I've really been working with that artist. I've done the whole artist shit with other niggas and shit, but it's about me now, it's about being that boss dude and trying to put other people in position. So I've really been trying to surround myself with people that's hungry and trying to chase their dream and I'm just trying to help ’em.
What producers have you locked in with recently?
The producers, too, I been working with producers that I handpick, in-house producers. Like I ain't got no big-name producers and all that. I'm just working with producers that cater to my sound. Like I said, I've done the big producers and all that kind of shit and I really wanted to keep this album really intimate and really in-house. With the features, I wanted to keep the features limited I also wanted to keep the production level, not unknown producers, but producers that's on the come up and that's hungry. So everything is in-house, real personal.
Can you name some of those producers you're working with?
I got some stuff with my homie name JohnBoy, he did a lot of stuff for me in the early ages of Bodega Bamz. I got some production from some kids named MVP. I got some production from some dude named Dolla Bill Kidz, who's done some stuff for Meek Mill, Vado. I'm waiting on some beats from Salaam Remi, you know what I'm saying, but other than that, it's producers that's just coming up and they're about to break through. I got some shit with V Don, V Don's my bro, but yeah, that's about it.
What topics, themes or vibes will you be touching on on PAPI?
Proud and Powerful Individual, you know what I'm saying, that's really the theme of the whole shit. Like, it's not just a Latino phrase, it's bigger than that, it's a world phrase. It don't matter what color you are, it don't matter what gender you are, you can be a proud and powerful individual so that's what I'm talking about. The vibe is colorful, sonically, it's just colorful.
It's a feeling, it's how you feel, not even to be on some real mathematical, scientific shit about it, it's just a feeling and it's real colorful. ’Cause usually, everything I've done thus has been dark. I just been a dark dude, all the shit I done went through, I try to translate that in my music, but right now, I'm in the best shape of my life. I'm feeling the best ever so I got a lot of good things to talk about. So I would say it's colorful.
What would you say is the next level for you in your career with all you've experienced this past year?
For the music, man, the next level is just bigger platforms, more ears, just progressing. Getting awards, like I always wanted a Grammy, man. I want a Grammy, you know what I'm saying, someway, somehow, no matter how long it takes, that's, like, the goal for me, a Grammy. Even more than selling records, I wanna be remembered on that kind of level. And the acting shit, awards, too, man.
I'm trying to win Oscars, I'm trying to be at the Golden Globes, I'm not playing. I'm not here just to be a fly on the wall, I'm really here trying to make my mark. And you know, in music, continue to make my mark. I feel like when I came in this game, I made a wave and I feel like people remember me by it and I feel like people appreciate. It's just about continuing that wave.