'Manifest's Curtiss Cook says his character Radd on NBC show is not one-dimensional

Cook's character has been the most sensible of them all in the NBC show, and the actor explains how his past shaped the way the character turned out

'Manifest's Curtiss Cook says his character Radd on NBC show is not one-dimensional

Curtiss Cook's character Radd has a lot to offer in Jeff Rake's show 'Manifest'. As much as his character stands apart from the rest on the grounds of his virtuosness and lifestyle, he also holds a pivotal place in defining the time gap on the show. Curtiss is also starring in FX's highly acclaimed show 'Mayans M.C' and in the upcoming second season of Showtime's 'The Chi'. With these three roles, Curtiss has emerged as one of Hollywood's most prolific actors this Fall TV season.

NBC's 'Manifest' is a sci-fi drama about a routine flight from Jamaica to NYC, which turns mysterious when passengers discover that five years have passed when they make their landing. Curtiss stars as flight passenger Radd, a leading violinist from the Jamaican Philharmonic who must deal with the consequences of being absent for the lost years, including being re-introduced to his son (played by his real-life son Curtiss Cook Jr.). 

An actor who began his career struggling on Broadway as a single father of 3 children, Curtiss first caught the bug for acting early in life.



 

Following his passion, he put everything he had into solidifying his future career as an actor. Curtiss became the first American to receive a full-ride scholarship to London's prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. He then moved to NYC and began performing on Broadway, including in productions of 'The Lion King' and 'Miss  Saigon'. Despite being a single father of 3 children, Curtiss received encouragement and help from his family to audition for television and film and is now best known for projects including 'Arbitrage', 'The Interpreter' and 'Shutter Island', along with roles in series such as Netflix's 'House of Cards', 'Luke Cage' and 'Narcos'.

In an exclusive conversation with Meaww, Curtiss elaborated on his character Radd in 'Manifest' and what more awaits for him and his son. 

How would you categorize 'Manifest'? Is it sci-fi or is it a mythological fantasy? 

I think it is a bit of both. There is the mystery of the plane which disappeared with all the passengers, and when they return they haven't aged a bit. There are also elements of sci-fi and spirituality in that everyone who got off the plane got a second chance to change themselves and make it happen. It merges two things together, and there is also the conflict of ages. It is one of the shows, that compels you to think what is going on and what is happening?



 

There are speculations that the show is loosely based on the incidents of the Malaysian Airline's Flight 370. Is it true? If yes, then what are the elements that were picked up for the show?

When the director/creator was talking to everyone about the show, he said that the incident has always intrigued him. Also, there was this other thing that people used to talk about. It's not coming to me now, people would disappear suddenly in the middle. So Rake had this idea that what would happen if all of us would disappear all of a sudden, never to be seen again. What would that kick in? It's about how much of it is brought into the story. Ah, and I remember, it was the Bermuda Triangle. 

Let's come to your character Radd now. How did you land the role?

I got it through auditioning, you know the way it goes. I got a call from my agent about this interesting new show. Then I got to know the names of all the creators and all the producers. The casting director had kept me in line because she knew me from 'House of Cards' and 'Luke Cage'. So she probably thought that I could bring in a lot to the table. Later on, I met with the producers, and when they asked me "how would you like to join us?" I was like, "are you kidding me? Of course!" So I became Radd, this guy who has been living in the states for almost 15 years, and he stimulates himself to classical instruments. That is the world that is not very familiar to me, and that was the challenge of the role. The more the challenge, the more intriguing it gets. So you should always give it a shot, to challenge yourself, to know your capabilities. 



 

Do you find any similarities between yourself and Radd? Do you have a common point?

Yes, we did have one similarity. Radd is a single father, and I have been a single father with three children. When my wife left us, it was just the four of us together. Radd's wife too left him and his son when she dies of childbirth. It is a challenge raising children as a single father, so that is probably one common point we had. 

Radd seems to be the only one who understands the actual consequences of the delayed flight. Why is that?

It's quite interesting that you see that. Well, I don't know that. Radd is somebody who has already dealt with loss. He lost his wife at childbirth, so maybe with all the hardships and pain, there is a better scope for him to get a clearer vision of things. He sees things from a different perspective. As the people of color, we certainly do not have the privileges so we have to manipulate our way through terrains. If it's good or bad, I don't know but it is different. There's a different perspective, a different plight, and a different knowledge that people get when they hear about it. 

Radd is somebody who has already dealt with loss. (IMDb)
Radd is somebody who has already dealt with loss. (IMDb)

We are really eager to know, is Radd's son really innocent? What do you think must have compelled him to stay behind bars in spite of being innocent?

That's a good question. It's like one of those things...sometimes it takes more than the truth just being heard. You see things differently. It cannot be just about hearing the truth, there has to be more, to show you that what you think is the truth, isn't really the truth. It's a feeling almost like I did not do this, this is not me. There are consequences and circumstances and we cannot see other people's truth. Thankfully, Radd had a friend who looked at his situation differently. 

What is the real connection between Radd and Ben? How does Ben play a pivotal role in Radd's life?

I think the one obvious connection between the two is that they were both on the plane at the same time. Also, both of them are fathers, and they both have children, for whom they can do anything. Radd and Ben are with each other at their time of distress and help. Ben could relate to Radd because they both left their children when they were very young. As Radd is trying to reconnect with his son, Ben is also trying to relate to his daughter, reconnect with her. That is another thing in common. 



 

'Manifest' as a show has a very diverse cast. However, do you think that every character is getting an equal amount of screentime?

It is one of those things about looking at the show from a perspective. There are things that need to be addressed. The show is supposed to be based on a certain family, but the other characters too get their deserved time. Especially the passengers who are the key people in the story that needs to be heard. Of course, there are people who care about representation but it also depends on what the process of the story. There you have to make a decision accordingly so that you have enough time to show the goal. In TV there always isn't enough time to show things that are important to them. 

Radd is a street musician who plays classical music. Why is it so that in spite of being a man who appreciates world classical music, Radd is still on the streets with his violin? 

Well, we have to remember that when he left, he was a Jamaican living in America. But when he returns, everything he owns is gone. His visa expires, everything that he had was taken away. His son was taken away. Also, you have to remember, we are in the present day now. When he left Obama was the President, and now when he has returned in the present day, Trump is the President. So there are these concerns. There are also bigger concerns about getting his life together. He is not a one-dimensional character. He is a black man without a Visa in America, who left his son with a neighbor...not even family. 

What more is in store for Radd and his son?

With TV shows, we take the script as it comes, and we find out just as much as the audience does. Knowing too much can get in the way sometimes, so we stay away from that. But I am hoping that a lot more will be delivered about these characters in the upcoming episodes.