Keith Powers specializes in dying – or so it would seem based on his past two Hollywood roles.
The Sacramento native plays Tyree Crayon, the younger brother of hip-hop icon Dr. Dre, who – spoiler alert – is murdered during a fight in highly praised “Straight Outta Compton,” which hit theaters in August. More recently, Powers played a drug dealer named Calvin in the AMC spin-off “Fear the Walking Dead,” who – you guessed it – dies in the pilot episode.
While attending Sheldon High School in Elk Grove, Powers, 23, dreamed of being in the spotlight – not as an actor, but a professional football player. But “things just didn’t pan out with football the way I’d wanted them to,” Powers said.
He signed with modeling agency Wilhelmina in Los Angeles. In Southern California, he realized his fondness for acting. “The same feelings I had before stepping on the field on game day I felt when I was acting,” he said.
Powers landed roles in ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” and New Life Cinema’s spin-off comedy “House Party: Tonight’s the Night.” Then came an offer from Universal Studios for the film about legendary hip-hop band N.W.A. Powers, who said West Coast rap is the soundtrack to his childhood and teenage memories, said he was honored to be in the movie, which has grossed more than $180 million worldwide.
“I knew all N.W.A.’s history and I already felt so connected with their story,” Powers said. “Being apart of this is a blessing. It’s history. And to be able to do it so early in my career – it’s unbelievable.”
Dr. Dre (née Andre Young) met with the cast on set, giving Powers the opportunity to pick his brain about how to play Tyree.
“After the premiere, Dre told me I held it down for his bro,” Powers said. “He told me his mom cried. It was a huge responsibility representing his brother and I know it was really important to Dr. Dre.”
Powers attributes much of his success to a grounded upbringing, attending public school and being exposed to a diverse community in south Sacramento. Being likeable is a key to working in the entertainment industry, he said, and “being from a real background where I learned to open doors for people and not complain has made me likeable, I think.”
He said he returns to Sacramento as frequently as his schedule allows, for holidays, birthdays and long weekends. His favorite hometown activities include visiting his uncle’s food truck Meezy Meals on Wheels, which serves soul food and nachos.
Powers said he plans to stay connected with the community.
“One day, I want help and inspire kids from Sac with seminars,” Powers said. “I want to show them that you have to evolve as a person and sometimes leave your comfort zone, even if it means bumping your head.”
As for his upcoming roles, Powers said he has no plans to come back from the dead on “Fear the Walking Dead.” He said he’ll appear in the upcoming season of ABC Family’s “Recovery Road” and in the soon-to-be released action-comedy film “Maximum Impact” with Eric Roberts.