Lloyd Talks 'The Bobby DeBarge Story': 'It's About Bobby's Immense Talent and the Power of Love'

Courtesy of TV One
Roshon Fegan in The Bobby DeBarge Story.

TV One brings Black Music Month 2019 to a dramatic close with The Bobby DeBarge Story. The original film, premiering Saturday night (June 29, 8 p.m. ET), tells the story of the former lead singer of Gordy/Motown Records’ late ‘70s R&B/funk band Switch.

Switch is best known for the top 10 hits “There’ll Never Be,” “I Call Your Name” and “Love Over & Over Again.” But beyond the hits, DeBarge was plagued by a dysfunctional childhood, drugs and other personal struggles outlined in the film, which also follows the concurrent rise of the singer-songwriter’s younger siblings as the popular Motown R&B/pop group DeBarge.

The Bobby DeBarge Story, directed by radio/TV personality Russ Parr, stars Roshon Fegan (Greenleaf) as Bobby. Additional cast members include Grammy Award winner Big Boi as Berry Gordy, Tyra Ferrell (Boyz in the Hood) as matriarch Etterlene DeBarge, actor Blue Kimble as Switch member/Bobby sibling Tommy DeBarge and recording artists Lloyd and Adrian Marcel as Switch member Gregory Williams and James DeBarge, respectively.

Chatting during a phone interview on the morning of the film’s premiere, Lloyd is a bundle of swirling emotions. “I’m on the fence between anxious and nervous,” he says with a laugh from his Atlanta home. "But at the end of the day, I’m grateful and hope everyone likes the film. It’s about Bobby’s immense talent and the power of love.”

Lloyd, who released his fifth studio album Tru last August, talks more about his first foray into acting, having Donald Glover as a performing arts school classmate and learning how to not block your dreams below.

On choosing the biopic as his first acting project: “The reason why is Russ Parr -- the man, the myth, the legend. He put me on my first tour after my debut hit single ‘Southside.’ Russ called me personally. He knew that I’d read for the Tommy DeBarge role, but that part required more time on-set and I was touring with B2K. Russ then said he had another role for me, that of Gregory Williams. He told me he had another role that didn’t require as many days on set, but that I’d have to be on set that very next day.”

On channeling Gregory Williams: “‘I Call Your Name’ Is maybe one of the first hit records I learned to sing as a kid. But I was very ignorant, growing up thinking that El DeBarge was the father of the falsetto when it was Bobby on that song. I also didn’t know who Greg Williams was but now I do. He’s a much better musician than me [laughs]. He played multiple instruments; wrote and produced multiple hits. I tried to find a way to meet him but because of the timing of the shoot, I didn’t have time to speak with him and get some insights. That would have been great. But I asked a lot about him on-set [Bobby’s widow Teri DeBarge is one of the film’s executive producers].

“Plus, I started out in a group called N-Toon. We didn’t quite have the same intensity as Switch, but we had our disagreements, fallouts and eventually broke up. So I tried to channel back to that time when it was important to me that N-Toon, this group of talented people, stay together. Gregory would butt heads with Bobby about missing rehearsals, arriving late to shows and not treating things seriously. Outside of my children, my biggest love is music. So the idea of someone trying to jeopardize that or not take it seriously … that was how I tried to get inside the role.

“People who saw the various premieres [in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and Washington D.C.] have assured me that I did a great job for my first time. I’m probably holding myself to a standard that’s pretty impossible for a rookie versus those who have dedicated themselves to the craft. But I pray that I did justice to Mr. Williams, portraying him with respect, honor and dignity.”

On what he learned about acting: “I learned that once you let go of fear, then you start to blossom and turn it up. Fear is just this big bag of burden, weight and insecurity. It will prohibit you from being great in your own right. I had to let go of that. I also learned that you are the sum of the people you are around. And I fortunately happened to be around talented brothers like Roshon, Blue, Parr, Big Boi and Adrian. When you’re around people who are better than you, they can help you elevate your game. I went to a performing arts high school in Decatur, Georgia and Donald Glover was one of my schoolmates. Drama was part of the curriculum, and I watched him do anything he put his mind to. So I’ll wait and see what happens as to where acting may take me from here.”

His takeaways from The Bobby DeBarge Story: “All fathers should take away one thing: that what you put out is what you receive back. When you abuse people, many grow up to be [abused] themselves. However, if you give out love, encouragement and support to your children, they will return that to their loved ones and the cycle will continue in a positive way. I also realized how easy it is to ignore the voice of a child. Children can be whimsical and imaginative but that doesn’t prohibit them from speaking the truth no matter how embarrassing or hurtful it can be. The film also speaks to the fragility of a dream, how important it is to nurture your dream and not take it for granted. And one last takeaway: get out of your own way. To not block myself from what’s in store for me has become a theme to my life. For example, I was apprehensive about being featured on [TV One documentary series] Unsung and telling my story, but it ended up being one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Then there was the Tru album, putting my vulnerability front and center. And now here I am with this movie -- and something else to celebrate.”


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