EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Rome Flynn has been a regular fixture on our television screens, but the actor is making his move to music. He spoke with us exclusively about his new single "Keep Me In Mind," becoming vulnerable in his new creative space, his forthcoming project that may have a feature from Wale, and what he learned from Kehlani about navigating his R&B career.
The road to Hollywood hasn't been an easy journey for Rome Flynn. Prior to winning an Emmy for his role in The Bold & The Beautiful and before he starred in three seasons of How to Get Away with Murder, the Chicago native periodically lived in shelters with his mother and siblings when he was a child. As he got older, he learned from his mother's tenacity, watching as she built a life herself and her eight children. Rome moved to Los Angeles on a whim and a prayer, working odd jobs until he landed his first major role in 2014: Drumline: A New Beat. Since that time, the past six years have seemed like a whirlwind as he's shared acting spaces with Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson, Richard Roundtree, Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, and many other noteworthy actors. Yet, not many people know that music is Rome's first love, and while the budding actor is returning to a space that's familiar to him, it's a side of himself that he has yet to share with the world.
Recently, Rome Flynn released his single "Keep Me In Mind," a sultry, sexy, side piece R&B jam that the musician has admitted is about his good friend Kehlani. The track is the second song we've received from Rome, as it follows "Brand New," his first release last Fall. We spoke with Rome last October about "Brand New," so it was only fitting that we follow up with the multihyphenated performer to discuss his transition from acting to the music industry. He described this stage of his journey as a "freeing experience" as he shared that he's also "in a really good creative space." Yet, there are multiple levels of vulnerability in choosing to walk this path of creativity, and as he presents this side of himself that people aren't used to, he forges ahead into unchartered territory.
"I think that artists that do music and grow their fanbase from people that [have] grown accustomed to seeing them as artists, it’s a different kind of vulnerability," said Rome. "For me, I’m really putting myself in a position where I’m allowing people to really judge who I am personally after kind of navigating them to judge me through the characters that I’ve played." According to the actor-singer, it's not necessarily a bad thing. "When I come and try to reintroduce myself to people [outside of my roles on televison], there’s a little bit of pushback just because change is always scary for people. And anything that doesn’t align with who they think you are, it doesn’t feel natural to them. It feels forced or it feels fake maybe or something to do. So, it’s a road that I’ve been having to travel...It’s a different vulnerable space."
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"Brand New" and "Keep My In Mind" are but two pieces to a grander puzzle as Rome has been laboriously crafting his debut EP. When he spoke with us last year, Rome was clear that the project would be titled Energy, but things seem to have shifted. With growth comes movement, and Rome has put the idea of "energy" on the shelf for the time being. "As I was writing most of these records for this EP that will have probably six or seven songs on it, they’re in line with the vein I want to be in with ['Keep Me In Mind'], so I don’t think 'energy' is something that—that’s something I may revisit another time but, yeah," Rome said. "With art, it just evolves and I’m just allowing myself to grow. If I do grow in a different direction, I have to allow myself to do that."
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many artists to press the pause button their plans as studios have closed, social distancing keeps people away from one another, and tours have canceled. Rome's untitled EP, an album that's "geared toward love," is still slated for release this year, but things may take a bit longer to come together than he expected. Rome holds his cards close to the chest when sharing details about the project—a record the self-proclaimed "hopeless romantic" describes as "Trap-R&B"—but he did let us know that he's looking at having "maybe two or three" features on the record, including a collaboration with Wale.
"I just spoke to him a few days ago about doing something with him," Rome shared. "I’d love to do something with Bia. We’ve been talking about it." His music tastes are clearly influenced by our favorite classic oldies as Rome told us he has Soul icons like Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass on rotation, but that doesn't mean that this current generation of artists doesn't move him. "I’ve been listening to Tory Lanez. I think that he has such a unique, kind of this Trap-Soul thing that’s similar to why I listen to Bryson Tiller a lot," Rome admitted. "I listen to Chris Brown’s album a lot, Indigo. I like Eric Bellinger. He has his own kinda style. Erykah Badu. Those are a few R&B people. Khalid, too.”
While Rome Flynn's looks have set him apart in Hollywood, the 28-year-old has often been pigeonholed as a vacant-minded pretty boy. If you take a quick stroll through his social media pages, you'll find thousands of messages from people who have defined him strictly by his outer appearance—but his "intellectual property," as he calls it, is a personal quality that Rome would rather be exalted over any physical characteristic. His life experiences have made him a person who sees far beyond the surface and he hopes that his audience will take the time to do the same as he exposes inner parts of himself rarely seen by the public. It's clear that his river runs deep, but the assumption of superficiality plagues the rising star.
"I think that a lot of times people just see me for my photos and they only see me as some sex symbol or something like that. I never asked for any of that. It just kind of happened," he said. "And because of that perception of people seeing the amount of attention that women give me or whoever, they have this idea that I believe it or I buy into it. But really, when people give me compliments on how I look, I frankly don’t take them with much credibility." He added, "I’d rather be [noticed] for the work that I have put in, for my career, and where I came from. Those kinds of things. I think people think I’m pretty shallow and I’m actually the exact opposite. I probably think deeper into things than I should."
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Regardless of how he hopes people will perceive him aside from his exterior, Rome understands that when it comes to being in the public eye, it's impossible to control the minds of the masses. "Whether or not people love you or hate you or like your music or not, your job is to always just try to be true to yourself and allow those other things to weed themselves out," he told us. It's a bit of advice he's received from his fellow artists as he moves from portraying Gabriel Maddox on HTGAWM into hopefully becoming the next R&B star.
"I had a conversation with Kehlani about how she navigates being an artist. She’s one of very few artists who are just out in the open with everything and it’s a really vulnerable space, but she kind of elaborates it to being a freeing place to be," Rome continued. "I can see how that can be. Having a conversation with her and recently having a conversation with Sevyn about her journey, too... Her kind of perception on that is being true to yourself. People are going to hate you or love you regardless, so as long as you’re happy with what you’re doing, that’s really all you really have control over."
While fans await the Spanish version of "Keep Me In Mind," watch the Riley Robbins-directed music video for Rome Flynn's latest single below.