Ser’Darius Blain was a competitive basketball player in college before a serious knee injury slam-dunked his prospects for progression in the sport, so he doubled-down and followed his passion for acting.
The 6’5” gentle giant talks about his acting influences, impressions of being part of the huge Jumanji cast, and how his character in his new show The Big Leap taught him that dance is a great tool for anyone hoping to improve their balance and flexibility.
Growing up, the fledgling actor would eagerly help his drama-teaching mom write scripts for the school play, admiring Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, and Leonardo DiCaprio on screen.
“Will Smith was my idol,” says Blain. “I don’t get starstruck very often, but if I were to meet him, I would probably pee my pants like a teenage boy [laughs].”
The 34-year-old says that he studied the way these actors focused on their characters, viewing them as heroes. While growing up, acting provided Blain with an outlet to express himself freely. He found performing to be a real confidence booster and in 2018, he landed a regular role in Charmed. Since then, Blain’s career on-screen has gone from strength to strength.
Ser’Darius Blain is embracing the grind
While playing the younger version of Anthony “Fridge” Johnson in the previous two Jumanji movies, a role that he shared with comedy powerhouse Kevin Hart, Ser’Darius Blain made sure to keep his ears open on set and soon found himself in awe of both Hart, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s intense work ethic. “These guys are making decisions about six other projects that they’ve got going on at any one time, while being completely focused and locked into the current project, which was Jumanji at that time,” says Blain. “Kevin is making decisions about his clothing line and Real Husbands of Hollywood and the LOL Network, and he’s launching all these different things at the same time, and then he’s still able to bring creativity. The Rock is the same way too. They were able to bring creativity and be completely focused on Jumanji, so when I worked with them, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m not doing enough,’ so it kind of kicked my hustle into overdrive.”
The talented actor confirmed that he expects to reprise his role as The Fridge for his third Jumanji appearance, hoping that production halted by the recent coronavirus pandemic will resume soon.
The Actor Adapts to Any Role
Ser’Darius Blain has form when it comes to committing to the character. Starring as a trained assassin alongside Bruce Willis in the upcoming move The Fortress, Blain bulked up to 250 pounds and is passionate about taking on whatever shape is required to make each scene as convincing as possible.
Another soon-to-be-released movie, American Underdog also had Blain reaching for the weights. “With American Underdog, I play a semi-pro football player,” he says. “In the arena league, a lot of times, guys will play both sides of the ball — they’ll play offense and defense. My character is supposed to be a linebacker who also plays tight end, so I definitely bulked up for that one, and I went up to about 257 pounds.” Blain says that on that project, he trained for a wider frame for realism, since he would be up against 270-pound defensive linemen. “That involved a lot of skull crushers and kettlebells and more heavy lifting, and I reduced my cardio.” Blain says that the real challenge for him is to hold weight, because he loses it very quickly.
Making the ‘Big Leap’
For his role in Fox’s The Big Leap, premiering Sept. 20, Blain plays a football player who must balance both his masculine and feminine side. The show is a musical comedy-drama, and the plot sees him entering a reality dance competition. “This big tough guy, he’s a party boy and a little wild, but in my off-time, [my character is] doing ballet,” laughs Blain. “I had to learn how to do a Sisson (in which the dancer jumps and splits their legs like a pair of scissors before landing) and all this other stuff. We have this term, it’s called a ‘sous-sus,’ it’s a ballet move, and every time we did it, I tried to make the character look tougher.” The actor would shout out macho quips for comedy effect during shots, while executing the intricate movement that requires him to turn out both heels, giving the impression of a single foot. “I think we should all be in touch with the masculine and feminine because that actually empowers us,” he says.
Similar to the process for contestants who enter Dancing with the Stars, Blain was put through bootcamp-style training with a private instructor in order to pick up the moves before filming even began. “It’s changed my gym routine,” says Blain. “Now, I want to stay limber, so I start with half an hour of stretching. I’ve been focusing on Pilates and elongating the muscles whereas before I was just going for brute strength and lifting heavy. With this character, it has caused me to focus on my flexibility and go through the full range of motion when I’m working out. I’m doing a lot of cable work, lots of lunges to get those hip flexors opened up and to strengthen the hamstrings and things like that. You don’t realize that every single muscle and ligament is engaged when you are dancing.”
From the dance floor to the end zone
In The Big Leap, Ser’Darius Blain portrays a Detroit Lions tight end, and he will represent a football player once again for his role in the upcoming movie, American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story (out December). In order to bring the correct level of swagger to these physical roles, Blain observes those around him; from his brother who played football, to his Jumanji colleague, The Rock, picking up on their charisma and replicating this in his own way.
“A good friend of mine, Braylon Edwards, who played for the Jets and the Browns has got this tremendous confidence, and I’ve kind of based my [American Underdog] character on him a little bit, even down to growing out the beard,” laughs Blain. And, while this may come as a surprise to some, but not others, dance has long been a go-to training method for football players because it’s a great way to improve coordination. “I’ve got friends, NFL pro ballers, who actually take ballet classes to stay limber,” says Blain. “Dancers are true athletes. I’m an athlete as well, and I like to be the best at anything I put my athletic hand too, and dance definitely kicked my ass, for sure.”