'Beats' actor Khalil Everage on navigating through Chicago, hip-hop and the city's epidemic of violence: 'It has to stop'
In an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), the young Netflix star and Chicago native opens up about gun violence and his experience working on the movie
Netflix's 'Beats' tells the story of a young musician living with anxiety caused by the senseless murder of his sister. It is a touching tribute to Chicago, hip-hop and the victims of gun violence. The movie stars 18-year-old Khalil Everage in his first feature film. Everage is a Chicago native and the violence that is haunting the city is quite familiar to him.
In an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Everage said: "It's very close to my heart because I've lost friends to gun violence, so I know first hand this can take a toll on someone whose had this happen to them in real life. It has to stop. I'm excited to be part of a film that not just highlights the violence, but the trauma that comes with it. It also shows the power of one individual and music."
Everage's character in the movie, August Monroe, is a musical prodigy whose life turns into a personal hell due to PTSD and borderline agoraphobia caused witnessing his sister's shooting. However, his music helps him get back on his feet and he soon starts a relationship with the woman he loves.
"It's dope to represent my city in a positive way," the young actor said. "With such a negative light on Chicago, I am proud to represent the good things/people that come out of Chicago!"
While he has had a recurring role on YouTube's 'Cobra Kai' and an appearance on 'The Chi', this is his first time acting in a feature film, that too in the lead. Everage kept his involvement with the movie a secret, not even telling his friends for a long time.
"They were surprised when they found out," he said. "I was a classical singer at my old school. I didn't act at all, so when I got a role in a movie... the lead role at that, they were very geeked for me! It was like the best-kept secret."
'Beats' also features veteran actor Anthony Anderson as Everage's co-lead. Anderson plays Romelo Reese, a washed-up manager with a dark past who helps Everage's August come out of his shell and make it big with his music. The young actor said that working with the star was "amazing".
"It was amazing working with Antony. He is a legend. He acted as a true mentor giving me advice about acting and life. It was definitely a pleasure to work with someone of his caliber. He made me better."
The musical setting of the movie is also quite familiar to Everage as he comes from a family of musicians and studied vocal performance in school. The young actor is unsure of branching out into a musical career but he isn't ready to rule it out completely either.
"Although I wasn't able to finish at ChiArts, I am sure my training will show up somewhere down the line. But a musical career? I'm not sure about that one. But I'll never say never."
'Beats' is available for streaming now on Netflix. The movie features a number of actors and musicians who are natives of Chicago, making it an appropriate tribute to the city.