PHOTOGRAPHY BY NOLWEN CIFUENTES
STYLING BY APUJE KALU
INTERVIEW BY KATINA GOULAKOS
Imagista talks to rising talent Johnell Young about his experience playing GZA and how he stays on his A-game.
Johnell wear printed silk shirt by Fendi @fendi. Black joggers by ATM @atmcollection. Black high-top sneakers by Paul Smith @paulsmithdesign.
Imagista: What motivated you to get into acting?
Johnell Young: I was always the “entertainer” in my class. I enjoyed being the class clown because I loved to act out and make people laugh; however, it always got me into trouble haha Luckily that has worked out in my favor 🙂 What also sparked my curiosity as a young boy was going to my aunt’s plays and my mom’s dance recitals.
Johnell wears black leather motorcycle jacket by Mackage @mackage. Black distressed jeans by Ksubi @ksubi. White t-shirt by John Varvatos @johnvarvatos. White high-top sneakers by Converse @converse.
Imagista: Who has inspired you most throughout your life?
Johnell Young: My parents have inspired me the most because they have sacrificed for me and have faced a lot of life challenges yet still have overcome them. They are like some sort of superhumans or something… seriously.
Johnell wears white denim jacket and gray t-shirt by John Varvatos @johnvarvatos. White speckled jeans by Diesel @diesel. Smoke gray boots and necklaces by Yves Saint Laurent @ysl.
Imagista: What was it like playing in the film “All Eyez On Me” ?
Johnell Young: It was so cool. Being on that set was when I really caught the acting bug, it was terrific to work with Benny Boom and lt Hutton. I will forever be grateful for that experience even though my one scene got cut.
Life on set was crazy. It was wild getting picked up from my grandma’s house every day by a driver nonetheless and then looking out the window at my city that I happen to be filming an iconic story for a series. People would wave and stop by the set to take pictures; it felt like the whole neighborhood was acknowledging me. The love and energy were unreal, and it has been the most fun set I have been on thus far in my career. I love each and every person on that set, and I made sure to tell them that. There really was no low moments while filming this. I am playing the GZA! So crazy!
Johnell wears orange trench coat by Harry Brown @harrybrownmenswear. white t-shirt by John Varvatos @johnvarvatos. Blue distressed jeans by Diesel @diesel. Watch and jewelry by David Yurman @davidyurmanmen.
Imagista: What was it like playing such an icon?
Johnell Young: It was amazing playing GZA. We are somewhat alike in some ways, so that was an even more enormous relief. There was a little bit of pressure because he is an iconic legend. However, I feel as if I have been preparing for this role since I was 14 getting on the Staten Island ferry rapping wu-tang to give me the courage and confidence to sustain city life.
Johnell wears charcoal overcoat by Paul Smith @paulsmith. Green printed shirt and pants by Grayscale @grayscaleic. Black leather boots boots by IRO @iroparis. Jewelry by David Yurman @davidyurmanmen.
Imagista: What has your journey as an actor taught you so far?
Johnell Young: To stay mentally physically and emotionally aligned, and to always be prepared. You never know when God is going to call your number.
Above facing left Johnell wears cognac turtleneck sweater by COS @cosstores. Gray plaid pants by Reiss @reiss. Gold watch by Movado @movado. Jewelry by David Yurman @davidyurmanmen. Facing right Johnell wears charcoal overcoat by Paul Smith @paulsmith. Green printed shirt by Grayscale @grayscaleic.
Imagista: If you could give your teenage self one piece of advice what would that advice be?
Johnell Young: Trust in your powers and focus on taking in the present moment.
Imagista: What can’t we find out about you through a google search?
Johnell Young: I love to dance.
Cognac turtleneck sweater by COS @cosstores. Gray plaid pants by Reiss @reiss. Gold watch by Movado @movado. Jewelry by David Yurman @davidyurmanmen.