One of the most important things John Singleton did before exiting this world was give us the ability to see ourselves on screen. He did it as an acclaimed director, and strove to continue this activity, right through his final project, FX’s Snowfall. In speaking to the actors who worked on the series, there’s a lot of gratitude paid to the track Singleton laid. De’Aundre Bonds, who plays the insane Skully on the FX series, is a prime example.
Fans of Black folks in cinema should be up on Bonds—he’s been in some heaters. The first time I saw the Los Angeles native on screen was in 1995’s Tales From the Hood, where he played one of the Gs who were being told those creepy tales. His character Ball also had an amazing line about refried beans. A year later he was in Spike Lee’s Get On the Bus, and went on to appear in hood classics like Sunset Park and The Wood. Bonds has lived a life that mirrors what his on-screen counterpart must have faced. The authenticity he brings is welcomed, and he finds a way to stand out in a cast full of beasts.
During a recent Zoom call, Bonds talks staying with Skully during production, how John Singleton gifted him this role, where Skully ranks in his personal list of characters he’s portrayed, and the one dream role he hopes to obtain.
How important has this role been for this chapter of your career?
Man, it’s been a blessing having this opportunity to play this character. And I’m only sure it’s going to open up many more avenues for me. It’s been quite easy for me. It’s not too much to have to tap into, being that I was born and raised in the hood with real people. And Skully’s a real person, so I just go from my experiences and bring that into the character.
How did you actually come to become Skully?
Well, I had a rapport with John Singleton from a while back when I met him on the set of The Wood. He said he had wanted to work with me one day, and the opportunity came years later. I had a chance to audition for Skully. I went and I read for John and the executive producers, and I knocked it out the park. The rest was history.
I had a chance to work with John on the set before he passed. He gave me some pointers as far as to the nature of Skully and who he was, and how he wanted me to bring it about.
At that time, did you know that it was going to grow to what it is today?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t, but I’m happy it has, and it is. That’s a blessing, man. And that people are receiving it. They’re giving me a whole lot of feedback, positive feedback, and that’s what it’s about, man.
Is it hard to shake Skully off after they yell “Cut?”
It’s kind of like you have to stay in character, especially during like the hospital scene, where I had to come see my daughter. I couldn’t come up out of that character. That emotion, I had to stay in that realm of pain, anxiety, and things like that. You can’t really hop in and out of that. You have to channel that, and build on it, and hold it. I pretty much stayed in character. Wasn’t no talking, especially because of the COVID. A lot of people stayed their distance from one another. You really wasn’t talking, no touching, no things like that. So it was easier to stay in character because you couldn’t come up out of it.
I read that you had actually had COVID, and came out on the other side of it.
Talk about dealing with that.
When we came back from the hiatus, because of COVID, we were getting tested like two or three times a week. I had probably around 20 tests, and all of them were negative, every single one. And then one day, it came back positive, man. I didn’t believe it. I was hoping that maybe it was one of those false negatives. But it wasn’t. I got another test, and it was confirmed. I didn’t really have symptoms. I didn’t lose my sense of smell, or taste, or anything like that, but I was real fatigued. Real fatigued, and tired, and that wasn’t normal. But by the grace of God, [I] stayed hydrated, took my vitamins, quarantined myself for like two weeks, and got over it, and was clear to work again. We get to see the fruits of our labor.
It’s got to be amazing every week to see the feedback from viewers online.
To see myself on there, and added to the show, and then to be able to witness it, and people [giving] feedback. I was in the streets the next day. I think I went to a restaurant, and a couple of people [were] like, “Man, that was you in that episode of Snowfall last night, right?” I was like, “Yeah, man.” They was like, “Yo character bugging, bro.” That’s been a blessing, man, to be able to consistently work and see myself every week on TV, something new. It’s almost like I’m doing a movie every week. Every time we shoot, it [has] that type of feel, it has that type of energy.
I think one of my favorite scenes featuring you was this season with the bullet in your arm, trying to pull it out with the knife. Are there any particular scenes that you’ve been in as Skully that you say were some of your favorites?
That was one of them.
Absolutely. Because I had to get real wild and express myself, my feelings of pain. I’m under the influence of some kind of narcotic, plus anger from that happening. So I was in character, but it was fun. “Shut up! Give me the whiskey.” It’s like a dream come true, man. It’s something I always wanted to do. This is something that I’ve always had in my heart to bring, to make happen. And I’m able to do it and express so many different emotions, man. There’s more to come.
Talk about how you’ve seen things for Skully this season.
Well, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Let me say that. Especially with everything that’s occurred in Skully’s life, especially since he lost his daughter. It’s going to be a shift in his energy. Ultimately, however, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Snowfall recently got picked up for Season 5. How are you feeling about the show’s future?
It’s a great gift and a blessing, and a huge relief to know that we’re coming back for another season, at least. And I’m happy to be a part of it. I’m ready. I’m loving this little vacation we got, but I love to work more.
Where does a character like Skully rank for you in your career? Where do you personally rank Skully?
I’d say he’s the best.
Yeah. For me. Because John hired me specifically, personally. That’s his gift to us. And he keeps giving. And I’m thankful to be a part of it. I think actually Skully’s my favorite character thus far.
It’s almost like a gift to see you get something to really attach yourself to, and really be able to spread your wings, and show all this stuff you could do. We’ve seen a little bit here and there over your career, but in Snowfall, we get everything.
That’s absolutely correct, bro. It’s like I say, the different wavelengths. The emotional waves that we have to be on, and that we get to display every week. It’s so many different things that can take place, especially in the series, anything can happen at any time. You’ve got to be ready for it at the same time. I’m ready and I’m prepared now. There’s more to come, like I said.
What are your thoughts on you taking offers for other films, other projects? Where are you at with acting in the near future?
Right now? That’s still open. I’m going for auditions. I just booked a cameo with Mark Wahlberg in a film. It don’t stop. You’ve got to keep grinding, you’ve got to keep eating. We still working, even though we on hiatus. So within that time, that’s time for you to do other projects. I’ve got music I’ve been doing. Trying to re-establish a clothing line that my brother and I, we’re bringing out a line called Grind Til We Rich.
Do you have any dream roles?
I really do want to play Billy Dee Williams.
I respect the man, especially the time he grew up in, in the area he grew up in. Just his style, his charisma, the way he had it with the ladies. I would love to play Billy Dee. That’s one of my dream roles. I had a friend actually writing it up, trying to get it so we can do something with it, with his permission.
He was the Black sex symbol for years. It was him, and then that was it.
I’m the Black sex symbol now. But he was, man. He just… He was that dude. He had it. He’s still got it. Much respect and love. Hopefully, one day we can make that happen.
That story has to be told at some point because again, he was a legend.
Absolutely. You can’t take nothing from him, man. He did a lot for us, and opened up a lot of avenues in Hollywood, and in acting, and just in feeling good about ourselves.