Melvin Gregg of “The Way Back” on Being the Star of Digital Entertainment

A sensation both on cinema and TV as well as social media, Melvin Gregg has plenty of tales to tell about the world of digital entertainment.

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Bold, confident and ambitious are some of the best traits to describe Melvin Gregg. The Virginia-native, producer, actor and social influencer came to prominence from curating comedic content around pop culture through Vine, where he amassed a total of seven million followers in just three years—making him one of the top 100 personalities on the social media platform. At the moment, he’s still active on YouTube.
Following Vine’s decline in 2015, Gregg transitioned from the digital world into film and TV. Highlighted on TV Guide’s Freshman 15 list, his breakout role was as DeMarcus “Mr. Untouchable” Tillman in Netflix’s critically acclaimed series “American Vandal.” Some of his other acting credits worth mentioning include Hulu’s “Freakish”, Lifertime’s “UnREAL,” along with film appearances in “The Land” and Netflix’s “High Flying Bird”

DA MAN: Your first credited role was for “Whatever, The Series.” How did you get your start in that project?
Melvin Gregg:
“Whatever, the Series” was my first job I booked when I moved to California. It was a web series and actually where I earned my union eligibility from. I got into acting—I believe it was my second year at Old Dominion University in Virginia—because I needed an extra class to meet the standard for my curriculum. I always wanted to be a performer of some sort. As a kid, I was into all that’ I love TV. I was thinking about acting: “Okay, this could be cool and fun!” But initially, it started as something to fill my schedule. I took the class and really loved it. I had an instructor that encouraged me to pursue acting if it was something I was really into. I enjoyed it more than any of my other classes. This further led me to take classes off campus and supplement what I was already learning in the classroom. I was finding acting work in Virginia, whatever I get my hands on, before I was able to move to Los Angeles.

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DA: Then came your days making videos for Vine. Was this something you’ve always thought about doing?
Vine was not a thing long before I joined. When I was younger, I used to make little sketches, essentially 10 second sketches on the PlayStation EyeToy. I hooked it up to a VCR and recorded myself. I actually still have some of the tapes. When I saw Vine taking off, I thought to myself: “Okay, this is something I can do. I did it before when I was a kid.” It was not reliant on resources and I didn’t have any resources, which made it an even playing field based off creativity. I felt like it was a challenge and also knew that if it worked out in my favor, it could maximize my exposure. I could make a few dollars that would give me the space to pursue acting full time without having to work multiple side hustles and side jobs and I could be creative. I met a lot of really great friends, who are still my good friends to this day. I learned a lot about creating and about myself as an actor. From idea conception, acting and editing hundreds of hours of videos, just looking at myself you kind of learn your tweaks and quirks. I loved meeting the fans! Vine had such a wide audience. I met a lot of great people, which is definitely the highlight for me.

DA: Your most recent appearance was in Netflix’s critically acclaimed “High Flying Bird”—which was shot on an iPhone. What was the experience like as opposed to acting in front of a traditional camera?
The experience was completely the same. The slight difference was how they were able to complete turnarounds and set up the cameras and equipment fairly quick due to shooting on an iPhone. As a result, the days were much shorter, we were able to do more tapes than normal … which, as an actor, provided much flexibility for me. The scenes were not dependent on camera and focus pulling. Majority of the time we depended on natural lighting and it just worked very well. Given my background and comfortability of shooting with an iPhone for the past five years, I was the most experienced on-set with this aspect.

DA: You’re also starring in “The Way Back.” Can you tell us a bit about this project?
“The Way Back” is a great film directed by Gavin O’Connor who also directed one of my favorite movies, “Warrior,” starring Ben Affleck, who I am also a fan of. It was a great experience! I met a lot of amazing people and shared the screen with talented actors while learning so much. I learned a lot from Ben Affleck and I look forward to everyone seeing and enjoying the movie. This is a human story, definitely a basketball story, but at the core it is a story about humanity. You learn to see people not for their biggest mistake, but how they bounce back from it and how we can be for one another.

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DA: This is the third time that you’re playing a basketball player after “High Flying Bird” and also “American Vandal.” Do you consider yourself a good basketball player?
I was also a basketball player in Hulu’s “Freak-ish,” so that makes it four basketball roles. I’m a good basketball player … good enough to look great on camera. I’m a better actor than I am basketball player, but I can play!

DA: Another project we heard that you’re involved in is “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday,” a biography about the famous female jazz singer. How did it feel having the opportunity to be a part of such an iconic story?
It was a great experience, having the opportunity to work with Oscar award winning director Lee Daniels, who I’m a fan of as well. It is a period piece which I love. It takes place in the 1950s in Harlem. I loved the costumes and the overall tone. It was my first time shooting on film. Andra Day plays Billie Holiday, was so great to work with and it is a great project. I’m looking forward to seeing the film!

DA: And lately, it seems that you’re not just busy acting but also being active on social media. As a content creator slash actor and also a producer, what’s the biggest challenge of juggling between all of these passions of yours?
Juggling my projects and passions is difficult. I used to try to juggle and then I stopped. I wanted to focus more on traditional acting, which is what I’m currently doing. I’m not as active on social media as I once was and nowhere near as active as I used to be. Now, I simply post a few highlights of my day; I’m not really curating content specifically for social media like I did in the past. It is a lot to juggle, as I’m still producing and developing content, but nothing that you’ll see online.

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Jacket & T-shirt by Mazine / Bag by Atomic Mission Gear
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