Actor Robert Ri'chard on 'Chocolate City' and How Moms Learned to Appreciate His Butt

Photo: Getty Images

After years of playing “America’s favorite son,” as Robert Ri’chard puts it, the 32-year-old actor is all grown up -- and taking it off in the new all-male stripper drama, Chocolate City.

Co-starring Tyson Beckford, Vivica A. Fox, and Ginuwine -- yes the ‘90s R&B singer responsible for the hit, “Pony” -- the film tells the story of young dancer (Ri’chard) who joins the male revue, quickly becoming the ire of the crew’s oldest performer (Beckford). The new film -- which Ri’chard says is “one of the best decisions of his life” -- shines a new light on the actor, who many fans may know from Coach Carter, House of Wax, or his short tenure on The Vampire Diaries.

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Ahead of Chocolate City’s release, Ri’chard shares his thoughts with ETonline about not getting passed by (movie) lightening twice, what’s kept him out of the public eye the past few years, and shedding his boyhood image.

On the eight-year project that’s kept him out of the public eye:

I’ve been making a film that’s been taking eight years to make with some of my best work. It just hasn’t manifested to the public yet, as far as being in theaters. But I’ve been working the entire time. I’ve been in North Carolina with Dan Pritzker doing Bolden!, a biopic on Buddy Bolden, who invented jazz music. I play this awesome French clarinet player named George Baquet… It’s literally like making Avatar. Everything is to absolute perfection.

Why he signed up for the stripper film, which similarly to Magic Mike sees a lot of the cast shedding it all in front of the camera:

I’m going to be so honest with you. Ten years ago, I went out for a movie I wanted it so bad -- this drama -- and this script came across my desk. The script was called “Stomp the Yard” and they were like, “It’s about stepping.” “Stepping? That doesn’t sound that cool.” And then Stomp the Yard blew up and became an urban hit. So when the phone call came about doing a stripper movie, my gut reactions was “No way! I’m not doing a stripper movie.” But then I thought, “Don’t make that same mistake again. God is giving you a second chance.” [Laughs.] So I say yes and I answer the phone call at 2 o’clock in the morning -- I was living on the East Coast at the time -- and by 7 a.m. I was on a flight to Los Angeles.

Photo: Paramount

On his co-stars, who not only dominated the screen and radio in the ‘90s but also his childhood:

Dude, I told Ginuwine -- I flipped out when I met Ginuwine -- “Do you know how many girls in high school I grinded against to your songs.  It’s a wonder I don’t have people pregnant from your music!” And Vivica: Literally when I was a kid, was on my top five list of most beautiful women in the world. It was like Halle Berry, Whitney Houston, Vivica Fox, and Cindy Crawford.

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Why he didn’t hesitate to take it off on screen:

I work out -- I’m ripped -- so I wasn’t worried about that part.

How Chocolate City has given moms a new appreciation for him:

I’m totally over the hump with this film. Everywhere I go, every airport that I walk through, there’s a 60-year-old woman grabbing my butt. “You’re not my son anymore. You’re my heartthrob.” Literally in this interview someone just walked past me and grabbed my ass. [Laughs.] That’s why I had to mention that. 

Chocolate City is in theaters and on demand Friday, May 22. Watch the trailer below: