By Gregory Poblete
Titus Makin has been setting the television and film industry on fire in the last few years. Growing up entertaining his family by performing at home-staged talent shows, he was a natural when it came to sports, gymnastics, dancing, and singing. Recognizing this, his parents encouraged him more to when he believed gymnastics would be his career of choice. However, it would be an outing to a movie theater during his senior year in high school after watching the movie hit dance movie Step Up, that the military born singer and dancer began realizing that his love for dance may lead him to take his shot at Tinseltown.
Titus took his talents to The New York Conservatory and took jobs as an acrobat with the New York Knicks and a dancer/tumbler with the WNBA’s New York Liberties. Knowing that his opportunities would be more attainable if he was in Los Angeles, Titus packed up and relocated. Two years later, he was booked for FOX sensation GLEE for 3 episodes. After 2.5 seasons of working with the show, he was booked for the GLEE 3D CONCERT MOVIE and national tour.
Stretching his talents across multiple fields, not only is Titus is a self-defined storyteller and a talented actor who’s had roles in Hulu’s The Path, A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song, Pretty Little Liars, Star Crossed, and most recently The Rookie in which he plays a police officer, Jackson West. He also creates music under the name Butterfly Ali with his most recent single being the smooth and soulful “Rose.” Titus is excited to share his life experiences and make the world feel a little less lonely.
I had the honor of briefly talking with the charismatic and extremely delightful Titus Makin after the holidays. He has just wrapped up holiday traveling and was happy that he was finally able to rest. Ultimately, I wanted to know about how he initially got his start in entertainment, the difference between being an actor and musician, and the growth of his character, Jackson West, on The Rookie.
Before we get into all our current projects going on, I want to get a sense of where you started. What was your upbringing like? What kind of kid were you, and where did all this creativity initially come from?
Titus: I was a military kid, so I moved all over the place every 2 to 4 years. So being in different countries and seeing different ways of life I think played a huge factor into my creative side and opened me up.
We know how you got your start in the industry. What were the main challenges you faced upon entering such a competitive field?
Titus: I feel like the typical hardship, at the time when I was starting, the industry was just then awakening its more ethnically diverse lead casting, so I kinda started at a good time. They were more open to cast people of all ethnicities, and every show wasn’t typically cast. So it was a good time for me, but obviously it was still difficult not having as many credits as the people you’re in the room against.
Before we move forward with what you have going on, I feel like a popular trend right now is people reflecting on the past decade and highlighting all the things that they’ve accomplished and achieved over the last 10 years. Looking back, what would you say is the project or role that you are most proud of in the last 10 years and why is it significant to you?
Titus: There’s a few, but if I had to choose one I would probably say Glee, only because it was the one that catapulted me into all things industry. It was, honestly, kind of a whirlwind. It gave me a stepping stone, credit-wise, as far as being able to audition for other stuff, but it also showed me the world. You know, going on a world tour with Glee and all that stuff. It was very eye-opening. It gave a lot to me right upfront.
Yeah, definitely, because that was such a monumental show.
Titus: Exactly. It shows you can handle a lot. That show had a lot of attention, so it definitely set me up to be able to handle the other shows.
As mentioned, you’re an actor and a musician, but what do you anticipate being your main focus if there is one within the next year and do you ever foresee these two worlds colliding anytime in the future?
Titus: Yeah, I think they work together beautifully now. The same following, the people that support you in the roles you do typically are pretty excited to support your music as well. They’re just excited to be apart of your journey. So I think both worlds exist quite nice actually.
How would you say the way you express yourself through your music is different from your acting, or is there even a difference?
Titus: Oh, yeah. Huge difference. With acting, I’m playing a character that somebody else designated for me. And with music I get to speak from my own experiences. Growing up a Southern church boy, I liked to infuse a lot of my music with those Southern feels and bring a modern twist to it all. But yeah, it’s quite honestly, polar opposites. I’m obsessed with quirky fashion, and I typically play pretty straight-laced characters.
You previously released music under your name, Titus, but with your new song, “Rose,” you released it under the name Butterfly Ali. Why did you decide to go with the name change?
Titus: For a while, I was playing by Titus, but I felt like I was releasing this new music and kinda stepping into a time where I really feel like I’m doing me for the first time and really recording all this music that I want to do, personally. It’s kinda equivalent, in my head, to a mother giving birth and naming her kid. It’s like I’m birthing this new music that’s fully me. And I just wanted to name it. I just wanted it to have a name that I feel inspires my artistry. And it’s the same person. I don’t view it as an alter ego. It’s just like this is, if I can name my music, this is what I would name it. It feels like this energy.
Instead of asking what inspires your music because I feel like that’s a very generic question, I want to ask, if you weren’t able to create music how would your life be different?
Titus: If I wasn’t able to create music? I would probably be expressing myself in some other quirky way, I’d probably be an artist like a painter. I like loud, things that are loud. Not necessarily in sound but whether that’s color, I like to express in some way. So I would probably be a painter.
I was watching an interview you did with Riker Lynch and I found out that you were very close to getting the opportunity to be one of the leads in a Star Wars movie not just once, but twice. Looking back on those experiences of auditioning and getting callbacks then eventually not getting the role, what do you think is the most important thing that you learned from these experiences and do you think you have grown as a performer because of it?
Titus: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely teaches you humility. It baffles me how there are some artists who can be arrogant because this keeps you humble. No matter how famous you get there’s still always somebody that they’re optioning you against, for the most part. And honestly, it taught me when the timing’s right, timing’s right. Don’t freak out because that’s just kinda the name of the game. When it’s your role it’s yours.
You currently play one of the main characters, Jackson West, in The Rookie. On the surface, he is this all-knowing and experienced police officer when in actuality, he definitely has a lot more to learn. And over the course of these 2 seasons, he’s grown a lot and has definitely shown his rightful place on the squad. What do you enjoy most about playing Jackson West and how do you see his character progressing in the show?
Titus: I think we’re going to keep seeing him grow in general, taking on the streets a little better. Throughout these 2 seasons so far he’s been running into some pretty big learning curves. But I think we’re just going to see him continue to come into his own and kinda be that boss cop that he assumed he was in the first place.
Do you have any personal connection with Jackson West? Do you feel like you can relate to any of his struggles?
Titus: Not really. We’re pretty opposite. I’m pretty, I guess, be perceived as a confident dude. He’s a lot more rule-following than I am, to put it like that. He kinda likes to stick to the book and I don’t think I have enough discipline to actually be a cop for real. But I admire his dedication and drive because he knows what he wants and he’s going for it.
So you’re still shooting the latter half of season 2, and I’m not going to ask what is going to happen next in the show, but during the shooting has there been any new challenges or unexpected things you had to learn how to do as an actor?
Titus: Some of the cop things. We’re constantly learning more cop jargon that I’ve never heard of. And you’re just learning these massive terms. But other than that, just the action of it all. Every episode kinda introduces us to new situations that cops deal with on a daily basis.
From playing this role, do you feel like you have found a new appreciation for police officers? What is your opinion on their place in society now having put on the uniform for TV?
Titus: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Before I would just view them, you know, cops are kinda viewed as the people you never want around until you need them type of thing. And this definitely changed that. I think the show does a great job of painting them in a very human light, not people who are trying to ruin your day but are genuinely trying to help you. And their call is to make very tough decisions on a whim. Obviously, just like there are tons of bad people, there are tons of bad cops. But there’s also many who are good ones who get caught up in situations that are hard to make good calls in within point-five-seconds. So it definitely opened up my heart a lot.
This next question is a Nathan Fillion question. With classics such as Firefly and Castle under his belt, he’s gathered this almost nerd-cult type following to any of his projects. From working with him on The Rookie, have you ever witnessed or encountered this dedicated fanbase in person, and what is the most memorable moment you can remember?
Titus: Well, everybody respects his body of work everywhere we go but the place I saw responded to the most was Comic-Con this past season. And it was insane. It was actually really cool to see so many dedicated fans he has from a lot of his shows. There is a Nathan Fillion cult. And that’s so cool to see that he’s created a career that is so respected like that. That’s awesome.
Did you get to enjoy the Comic-Con at all for yourself? Was there anything you got to see?
Not really. I didn’t get to see much because they issue us around and we do our signings and stuff, but from what I did see just looking out into the sea of people, it was really cool.
To wrap things up, what is the main thing you want readers to know about you, whether it be a piece of advice or a little inspiration? What keeps Titus Makin waking up every morning and wanting to create and trying to make an impact on the world?
Honestly, I’m a religious guy and prayer changes things. Prayer changes things. I’m all about taking time to just sit and meditate. Think, pray, and gather yourself and go out and conquer.
To keep up with everything that Titus Makin is doing, you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @titusmakin. Make sure to be on the lookout for Butterfly Ali’s new single, “Righteous,” coming out early February as well as the return of season 2 of The Rookie on Sunday, February 23, 2020.