Titus Makin Interview: ABC's "The Rookie" Star Opens Up About His Role and Music
Image attributed to Eric Carroll
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii to a military family, Titus Makin is both an actor and a musician. He can currently be seen portraying Officer Jackson West on ABC’s The Rookie, also starring Nathan Fillion, Alyssa Diaz and Richard T. Jones.
Other TV appearances include Wayward Guide, FBI, The Path, NCIS: New Orleans, Pretty Little Liars, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle and Glee (as David Thompson, a member of the Dalton Academy Warblers) and Millennials: The Musical. In addition to acting, Makin is also an accomplished musician under the stage name Butterfly Ali and will soon be releasing an EP.
“Butterfly Ali is my eccentric expression of my music.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Titus, I’m enjoying your work in The Rookie.
Titus Makin: Thank you very much.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Did you audition for the part of Jackson West?
Titus Makin: I sure did, yeah. I was technically up for a show called The Boys, which is on Amazon, and I didn’t get that one. It was between me and Jessie (Usher). In that same casting office, they said they were casting another project called The Rookie and asked if I would be interested. I said, “Yeah,” so they threw me in the process of the auditioning where they were, and it worked out.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You already knew Nathan Fillion from guest starring on Castle?
Titus Makin: Yeah. That was cool, and it was about six years prior that I co-starred in Castle. My scene was with him, and yeah, that is just bizarre how full circle that was.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Officer West has come a very long way since the early days of memorizing the penal codes and being afraid to fire his weapon. How has that character evolved over time?
Titus Makin: I’ve loved it personally. It’s one of those things where at first, Jackson was just as annoying to me as he was everybody else (laughs). I was like, “Come on, man. Step it up. Do something now.” I loved to see that he is finally coming into his own. He’s finally speaking up, and he’s finally doing all the things that we essentially expected him to do anyway based on who he was in the academy and how he was raised in the family he’s in. So it’s really nice to see that coming of age story and him coming into his own.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: It would also be great for him to have a love interest that actually lasts more than a minute (laughs).
Titus Makin: Let me tell you this! Ain’t that something because I’ve said the same thing. I’m like, “How many people are we going through here?” We literally just talked about that on set the other day, and I was like, “What happened with that?” I’ve been provided no answers, so I have nothing (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How did the story arc of policing and racism come about?
Titus Makin: Obviously, it’s what we’ve been seeing happening in the press, so that’s one of those storylines that we needed. It would be completely ignorant of us to mute that point if we’re going to be on a cop show the same way that I feel like it’s ignorant of them on a doctor show to ignore COVID, you know what I mean?
It’s one of those things that is a reality. Does it have to linger there? No, because we see enough of it in the news. But should it be touched on? Absolutely, and I think the show’s done a really great job of letting the world know that we see it, we acknowledge it, and we stand against police brutality and racial injustice. We’re also a show that is aspirational, that wants to point toward what policing should look like, could look like and hopefully will look like.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I thought Brandon Routh (who played Doug Stanton) was an interesting choice to play the racist police officer since he’s known for portraying superheroes. What did you think of his performance?
Titus Makin: I know! I thought the same thing. I even told Brandon, “Well, this is a bit of a pivot for ya, huh?” The funny thing is he’s the complete opposite as expected. He truly is a lot closer to the Superman heart. But I think he did a fantastic job because it was so believable. It takes a lot of bravery to be on that side, to be open to being ridiculed because some people can’t divide acting from reality.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Exactly.
Titus Makin: Obviously, there’s going to be tons of people messaging Brandon on social media, yelling at him and accosting him, and he’s like, “I’m just an actor.” So I think it took a lot of bravery for him to even do that role, and I think he did a great job with it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I agree. As a black man, have you ever been put in a position where you’ve been scared of the police?
Titus Makin: Oh, yeah. Absolutely, yeah. It’s happened more times than it should ever happen. But I guess I should thank my upbringing for that. I’ve always been one to go the route of compliance. Like, even though I know I’m in the right, I’m just going to do what needs to be done because I know that egos get in the way if people feel called out.
If the police officer feels called out, it can go south real fast. I’m just going to comply and contest it later. So thankfully, mine didn’t escalate. But I’ve definitely been in that position a couple of times, and because we’re from Georgia and North Carolina, obviously, out there it’s been a fluctuating situation. But overall, I’ve had rather smooth ones, if you want to call it that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Tell me a little about your family.
Titus Makin: I’m a military kid, so we were all over the place. But my parents are from Georgia and North Carolina, so that’s where all of my home time has been spent when it comes to holidays and all that. So we moved around every two to four years for a long time. My dad’s a preacher. Both my mom and dad are retired. That was pretty much my childhood, me and my sister.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: So we can assume you were raised in a religious home since your dad’s a preacher?
Titus Makin: Yes, I sure was. Some people have a scorned path with religion or God. I’ve been the opposite. It’s been a very helpful, loving, beneficial thing for me personally. I’ve never had a problem with it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: When you moved to Los Angeles, did you want to first establish a music career or an acting career?
Titus Makin: That’s actually a good question because a lot of people assume that it was acting. Actually, I moved out here knowing that this is where acting would take place more because I was coming from New York. I came out here knowing this was a better place to be for acting.
But my first goal right off the bat was to get my music going. So in 2009, when I moved out there, it was like, operation “get in the music game.” Then obviously, I’d be doing acting stuff. Acting just picked up first because of booking Glee, and that started snowballing all the rest of the acting stuff for about two and a half years. It just kept working out. So acting took off first, and now it’s been nice to be able to get back to my music.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Why did you decide to use the name Butterfly Ali in your music career?
Titus Makin: I used to have my music under Titus Makin obviously. Then I started realizing that people weren’t separating the two worlds very well between my acting roles and the music. I’d have people say, “Wait. You’re a cop, but you’re like a funky soulful musician?” So I wrote a song called “Butterfly Ali,” and I had lyrics like, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” which is obviously a Mohammed Ali quote. It was my way of giving him credit for the quote, and I told the music producers I still like this name.
I’m a fun-loving person the most, I hope. But I also know how to spread those wings and rear up and defend if I need to. So a butterfly is kind of the perfect thing. People were always associating it as a feminine thing, but I said, “There are male butterflies. Let’s open this up and stop with the only women love butterflies.” I just honestly took that all in, and I was like, “Butterfly Ali is my eccentric expression of my music.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How are you using your music to advocate against racial injustice?
Titus Makin: In this upcoming EP that I have, I definitely put all of my frustration and thoughts on the topic into these songs. I just use it the way somebody might make a long post on Instagram. Instead of doing that, I just put my thoughts and heart into the songs so people can know my opinions on these topics based on what they’re hearing in these songs. So I just needed another platform to encourage, inspire and hopefully create a few more conversations.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Did your time on Glee help your music career?
Titus Makin: It didn’t necessarily help my music career. Well, I guess I can’t say that because I met some really cool people. Actually, you know what? It helped a lot because when we went on tour for the Glee 3D summer tour, that actually opened me up in a whole new way like performing in front of that many people and getting used to the lifestyle of tour. So it actually started preparing me for a lot that I didn’t realize.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How do you juggle your time between acting on a series and making music?
Titus Makin: That actually sounds a lot more than it is. But since people do ask me that, I guess it does sound like a lot. It kind of works out because a lot of music life happens at night because studio sessions happen at night. So I work throughout the day on the set because we’re there at 4:45 or 5:00 AM, and that goes for about 10 to 12 hours. So I come home and have a writing session or I’ll record on the weekends because we’re always off on the weekends. So it actually falls into place just fine. It would be more difficult if I weren’t filming in LA. If the show filmed in another state, and I wasn’t next to all the studios I needed musically, then it would become tricky.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Well, I was going to ask what you enjoy doing when you’re not working …
Titus Makin: The funny thing is what I enjoy doing when I’m not working would be music, and it’s just great that is also my profession.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: So no time for a social life with that special person?
Titus Makin: No. I’ve got my dog. My special person is Gigi, the pup (laughs). Right now, it’s just all work and making it through this COVID.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What’s next for Jackson West, John Nolan and the rest of The Rookie gang?
Titus Makin: We definitely continue to ride the wave of independence. You’re already seeing us kind of step out and elevate from that rookie position. So it just keeps going in that direction, and there’s plenty more action that arises in the rest of the season. It just gets cooler, to be honest, like where we’ve kind of substituted romance this season, we’ve put in a lot more action and kind of cliffhanger things. So it’s going to be a lot coming up still.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you have any upcoming acting projects?
Titus Makin: Not really at the moment. But musically, I have my first Butterfly Ali EP coming out. The first single from that comes out on April 23, and the the EP will come out around June. But, yeah, that’s about it.
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