On FX’s Mayans M.C., Curtiss Cook is cast as the by-the-book federal agent Larry Bowen who butts heads with Lincoln Potter, a man who defies law enforcement norms and ideals Bowen holds dear.
Which makes for crackling scenes between the two actors.
On the most recent Mayans M.C., Agent Bowen and the female CISEN officer attempted to put the screws into Emily (Sarah Bolger) during an interrogation.
When Emily asks for her lawyer, Bowen rudely asks her about an abortion she had eight years ago and if EZ was the father. Potter walks in on this exchange and dismisses the two, sharing with Emily he “really didn’t like that man.” The feeling, as you can see in subsequent scenes, is mutual.
Cook is also in production on the critical hit The Chi for Showtime, playing Douda, a big shot on the Southside of Chicago with deep pockets.
He also stars in NBC’s Manifest as Radd, a Jamaican classical musician who is swept up in the cryptic time delaying narrative.
Cook’s Radd was in Jamaica for a one-night performance with the Jamaica Philharmonic, leaving his then 13-year-old son in the care of a neighbor as he was supposed to return the day after. Except that mysterious flight from Jamaica to New York landed exactly five years after it took off. Radd’s son – played by his real-life son Curtiss Cook Jr. – is now 18 years old and sits in jail wrongly accused.
Cook’s previous credits include guest starring roles on The Sopranos to Luke Cage, House of Cards, Bull, Elementary, A Black Man Acting, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
We spoke to him about Bowen on Mayans M.C. and The Chi:
Monsters and Critics: Your character on Mayans M.C., you are delightfully annoying. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
Curtiss Cook: [Laughs] It does.
M&C: When you were presented the character of Larry Bowen, and you read the script, how did you interpret him?
Curtiss Cook: When I initially came into the project, of course, Kurt Sutter and Elgin are amazing writers. And major storytellers. When I got it, I saw that this dude could easily get on everybody’s nerves.
So I was like, “Okay, I can do one of two things, I could try to go in there and try to make him what he’s not, or go in there and follow along with what they’ve already presented, which is amazing, and have it be what it is.”
Because I never got to play that dude. That annoying cat that comes in and every time you see him you just want to roll your eyes and kick him in the shins and shut the door on him. I’ve never had that opportunity.
The beauty of that was, was at that time, I was doing two other projects. One of them was Manifest and the one that I’m currently finishing now is The Chi, which are totally different from each [other]. What a prime opportunity for me right now to go in here and give this dude life, which is, like you said, annoying.
I remember one day we were shooting and I had this one scene where I bust into the office and I didn’t know when the independence was of the Spanish Revolution and I was thinking it was Cinco de Mayo and I was like, “Do I really have to say anything like this?”
Everybody just bust out laughing. That’s the beauty of this. As you get to show this real world and all of these different factors of our society.
M&C: Right. You know who’s even more annoying that your character?
Curtiss Cook: [Laughs] Who’s that?
M&C: Lincoln Potter, your nemesis. Who actually said to Emily (Sarah Bolger,) “I don’t like that man.” Talk about when you’re in scene with Ray McKinnon and how crazy Potter is and how your character is trying to not hit him?
Curtiss Cook: Right. First of all, I must say that Ray is a jewel. When I first met Ray, I had seen him, of course, in “Sons of Anarchy” amazing. When I first met him, he had come in. I hadn’t met him at all. He said, “Oh, my God. I think I just bought a house.”
I’m like, “What do you mean you think you just bought a house?”
He’s like, “No, I went to see this place and I was looking at it and at the end of the day, I think I’m about to sign this lease and I just bought a house.”
I was like, “Dude, who does that?”
So, from that moment on, we hit it off. This dude is totally grounded, eccentric, funny, crazy, exciting, and the way that we butt heads on the scene, I think it’s just par for the course because I would like to think that I am also just as strong and just as unpredictable as he is, as well.
The battles that we have on screen, I think they’re respectful. ..so we’re not yelling at each other, but you can feel the tension in the eye mostly when I look at him and how he looks at me.
My character doesn’t need to say to him, “I don’t like him” because when I turn around and look at him, you’re like, “Okay, they’re not buddies at all.”
M&C: Your Bowen is a company guy. A by-the-book guy. And Potter is so not by-the-book. He’s an anomaly.
Curtiss Cook: Right. And how nice is that to see that, April? Just to see a strong black man who is basically doing everything by the books, trying to make sure that everything stays in line the way that it is – in air quotes – supposed to be.
Sometimes we almost can see this rogue dude or this kind of cool dude or this dude who just wants to get along, wants to be the friend. But this dude, he has a job to do and he is competent in his job and for all intents and purposes, it’s the right thing to do because we are trying to make things better, in general.
M&C: And yet, Jimenez picks fights with you and plays the “You’re bigoted against Mexicans” card when he’s in a scene with you.
Curtiss Cook: Right. And what can I say to that but get the f*** out of here? Are you really gonna say that to me? Really?
Okay, so now I see that you’re really trying to get under my skin. You really want to get under my skin. You want me to yell. You want me to jump and throw sh** at you or you want me to do all this kind of stuff.
“No, dude. We have rules. We have rules that we need to follow and your dudes aren’t following these rules so it’s gonna mess everything up. It’d be better if you decided to be in this organization the way that you stand initially, then we have to follow these guidelines.”
And, unfortunately, I have to be that strong arm. Good or bad.
M&C: Knowing how Kurt Sutter kills characters off left and right. Will we enjoy your character through to Season Two or is something unfortunate, we think, is going to happen to Bowen?
Curtiss Cook: Let me ask you this. Are you enjoying my character now? That’s what I’m saying. I’m enjoying him now, too, April. I’m enjoying him now, too.
Now, when you watch these next three episodes, you gonna have a good time. I’m going to tell you that. You’re going to have an amazing time.
M&C: If you were a Mayan, what would your Mayan gang name be?
Curtiss Cook: Black Hands Bowen.
M&C: Good one. How far along is The Chi in production? When are you guys going to wrap?
Curtiss Cook: We are [working] on Episode Ten, which is the finale of the season. It is really very amazing. It’s coming along very well. Ayanna Floyd Davis and Lena Waithe have done it again. They have pushed the envelope even further.
This guy that I’m playing is, like I said, totally different. He’s a billionaire, a large businessman on the south side of Chicago, with his hands in a few pots and a lot of different things. It’s really one to wait for ’cause it’s going to be very exciting. It’s going to hit the market very well.
M&C: It’s going to be interesting, jumping from where you can use any kind of language and it’s a much more gritty narrative on Showtime versus “Manifest”, which is broadcast on NBC. Your character Radd, you’re acting with your son, your actual, real-life son. Tell me about that.
Curtiss Cook: Every time anybody asks me about that, I tend to get all choked up because Curtiss, Jr., who plays my son on “Manifest” … His character is Adio and I play Radd, a Jamaican immigrant who is a concert violinist.
My son [Curtis Cook Jr.] is the oldest. He’s the one who actually made me a father. So when I was doing those scenes sometimes and looking across at him … In his eyes, there would be this surreal feeling of, “Honestly, I couldn’t ask for anything better than this.”
If I would have asked for anything, I would just be being greedy in asking for something like that. To have your son on a network show with you, acting with you, and he’s doing a hell of a job. He’s knocked that out of the park.
On “Manifest,” it was surreal to say the least, and I just remember that day when he said to me he wanted to be an actor and I didn’t know if I should believe him… Because you remember how it was before we started to really earn any money? It wasn’t fun, dude. You really want to do this? And he was like, “Yeah, dad. I think I want to.”
And that was enough for me to support him … because I was a single dad for a good seven years before I met my wife now. I’m a very fortunate, dude.
M&C: I know Luke Cage was canceled, but do you want to say anything about your character in the series?
Curtiss Cook: Luke Cage was amazing. It definitely was groundbreaking in terms of that was one our first times, not our first time because we had “Blade” and we had “Mantis” and we had some other African-American or people of color be heroes that were on television and movies.
Luke Cage came at a time where there was big news about young black males being shot in a hoodie. And then, all of a sudden, you saw this big black dude in a hoodie walking around who was bulletproof.
Which said a lot for our community and for our people and it continued on to do that with challenging some certain narratives that needed to be challenged and looked at differently through the eyes of a Marvel comic.
It was still a Marvel comic. My character, on the other hand, I think it broached on subject matters that happened all over the world and all in the community but sometimes we like to be precious with our problems.
You know that old saying that my grandmother used to say to me all the time, “Don’t put your dirty laundry out there. Don’t air your dirty laundry.” But sometimes that stuff needs to be said so it can be dealt with.
So the people who may be going through it can say, “Oh, no, that also happened to me and it needs to stop.”
I don’t know if people know that Uncle Pete wasn’t the nicest dude and some of the things he did … and it was hard because he was trying to uplift one side of the family while he was doing some really horrible things to another side of the family.
In terms, there is no good in him because of that but it was not as black and white as easily to sever him from the family as you would think it would because you’re like, “Oh, no, But, how?” And sometimes that is the plight of what’s happening in certain families and certain places in our country and in our world today.
M&C: Back to Mayans. Tell us about your character Mr. Bowen, and what can you tease for the fans, ahead of the show?
Curtiss Cook: I’ll say this. It’s definitely getting hotter. We’re finding out a lot more intel about EZ and The Mayans that we need to find and we need to know to move forward to break this up and how we’re figuring out there’s another foe in our way that we also need to deal with.
Which makes it a lot hotter and a lot more difficult to eliminate than Bowen thought it would be initially. It’s getting hot.
He’s finding out a lot of this s**t and he needs to go deal with it because, once again, he is a man that goes by the book. “I understand. I need to deal with this.”
And so it puts him in a little bit of a tough situation there.
M&C: Do you and Potter have any more head-to-head, toe-to-toe scenes?
Curtiss Cook: Mmm hmm. Listen, if me and Potter were right here, right now, I’d body slam, April. I’d pick him up and I’d body slam him on his back right now if he was right here! That’s Bowen talking, not Curtiss. That’s Bowen talking.
Mayans M.C. airs Tuesdays at 10 PM on FX.