A Conversation with Golden-Globe Nominee David Oyelowo

As a young girl, I can vividly remember one of my favorite uncles always greeting me with: “Hey little Black child!” To which I would smartly retort, “I’m not Black, I’m brown!” He always laughed and picked me up afterwards, much to my frustration, excitement and utter confusion. Such was the struggle of a five-year-old who had yet come to terms with the concept of semantics. But in spite of it all, what was abundantly clear was the amount of love my uncle and I shared. And in the new Blumhouse thriller Don’t Let Go, starring David Oyelowo and Storm Reid, that sentiment is undoubtedly the beautiful undercurrent that steers this psychologically twisted tale.

Shown through an exhilaratingly suspenseful yet understandably confusing lens, what stands out most of all in this film is the loving yet nuanced dynamics of family. Which is a theme Oyelowo admits he was extremely drawn to from the beginning. “I was very just blown away by how much the script packed in. The action, the time travel, the suspense,” the Selma star tells me during our midday chat. “And then in the middle of all of it, is this beautiful and unconventional relationship between an uncle and his niece. And this sort of heart-thumping question of, ‘Is he going to be able to save her?’ I was just really taken with it.”

In Don’t Let Go, the 43-year-old Nigerian English American stars as Detective Jack Radcliff, who gets a shocking phone call from his recently murdered niece Ashley (played by the “emotionally mature and very special” Reid). Working together across time, they race to solve and prevent her murder before it can happen.

In our chat for xoNecole, I talk exclusively with the Golden Globe nominee about his latest project, being a father of four, and why self-sacrifice is paramount in marriage. Check out the highlights below and click here to read the full interview.




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Photo courtesy of: Lacey Terrell/Universal Pictures

On Situations Unfolding Different Than Expected: “Everyday we make judgments based on what’s in front of us. And I can tell you for a fact that if someone I love and lost suddenly called and told me they were calling from a different time plane–I would definitely be skeptical and that’s what was fun to play in the film. You’re watching this character do what I definitely would do and I think most people would do. Where we get to say, “Am I going crazy? What is this? Is someone trying to trick me, is this a prank? Oh my goodness maybe this is real. It is real. How am I going to tell everyone? They’re going to think im crazy” (laughs). You know, I just loved that I got to play the reality of that instead of just the fantasy.”

On How His Outlook Has Changed Since Beginning His Career: “The David now very much recognizes that you have got to really just enjoy the journey and be less focused on the results. I think earlier on in my career, it was all about box office, and the reviews, and accolades, you know–tangible evidence of success. But there’s no way of predicting how any project you do is going to come out. And sometimes there are mitigating factors that you just can’t control. In fact, ALL the time there are mitigating factors you can’t control. And I have in the past allowed those things that I can’t control rob me of the joy and achievement of just getting to be in things and tell stories. Sometimes in the moment you don’t recognize that, especially [in] films and television shows.”

On Love’s Most Common Misconception: “There’s this notion that empowerment, true femininity and masculinity is tied to being able to be self-reliant entirely. And anyone who’s lived on a deserted island for a week will tell you: I just don’t think we’re designed to be alone (laughs). I think we’re designed to rely upon each other. I think we’re designed to be vulnerable with each other. And I truly do believe that we are, we are designed to love in a way that is not just about what I can take, whether it be sexually or financially or, or emotionally. But to give, I think giving is the height of who we are. And that is also something that is in short supply these days.”

On The Missing Element In Marriage: “I’ve been married 21 years next month and my parents were married before my mom passed away, for all of their adult lives. And I know there are reasons why people end up breaking up and all of that, but I feel like in society now, I don’t know that we work as hard as we should to stay together. I think that there’s a misconception that love should always feel like butterflies and be romantic. But there’s an element to love that is work. There is an element that is pure self-sacrifice without the desire to get anything back in return. And if two people are doing that to each other: then you are loving and being loved at the same time. So, I think that the sheer amount of work that needs to go into keeping your family together and keeping a marriage together, is something that we’re losing as a skill.”


TBT: A Coversation with ‘Snowfall’ Actor Melvin Gregg

Having been up since 4 in the morning and fresh off a flight from the East Coast, there is a tinge of fatigue in Melvin Gregg‘s voice. And understandably so. He later reveals that despite the long flight back to LA, he’ll be headed to audition not too long after our conversation ends. Such is the life of an up-and-coming, especially as an already in-high-demand actor.

With several critically acclaimed films and series under his belt like American VandalHigh Flying Bird, and most recently, Snowfall on FX, it’s safe to say that “busy” is now Melvin’s new normal. Which is arguably in stark contrast to how things were when they were just getting started. Originally moving to California to pursue acting, Gregg found himself trying to secure as many gigs as he could–which often came in the form of short commercials and indie films.

But it wasn’t until he decided to take his talents to the streets of social media, that he would begin gaining more leverage to support his acting endeavors and eventually land his way back on the big screen. He tells me, “With doing all of that, I was really just trying to get back into traditional media. Acting was always the goal. I redirected my focus at the top of 2018 and I’ve been able to consistently work and level up with each project. I’m thankful, but I’m not content. But I do understand the process and I trust it completely.”

I got the chance to catch up with Melvin for xoNecole, where we talked about stepping away from Vine, what he appreciates most about his current relationship, and why he feels that true love is all about timing. Check out the highlights below and click here to read the full interview.


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On Going From Vine To Traditional Media: “Social media was sort of a stretch for me because I’m somewhat introverted. So being over the top and what I had to be online, my energy had to be a lot higher. And with the platform I was working on (Vine), it had a majority audience that I wasn’t used to. So I had to adapt and study what was working, teach and train myself to do it. Coming back over to traditional media was where I wanted to be so it wasn’t that hard. But the hardest thing I will say is that, when you create a monster with social media, you have to fight it when you move back over. Because people only want to see you in the light they first saw you in, you kind of have to go uphill to try to win people over on a different medium.”


On The Most Enjoyable Part Of Creating Content: ” Everything I did, I produced, edited, [and] I was working with other actors as well. So it was similar to the traditional format, it was just a lot shorter. What I enjoyed was just having creative control to really do what I wanted to do, from top to bottom. Writing the product to shooting, directing and editing. But when it comes to acting, you pretty much only have one job. I enjoy it though because it is a longer format and you do have time to really play up your character and win the audience over. But as far as digital–I enjoy the creative control more. So I guess the ideal would be creating content on the traditional format in the same way I did in the shorter format.”

On What He Appreciates Most About His Current Relationship: “She’s my best friend. It’s about more than just the physical. If something were to happen to where we’re not together anymore, she could still be my best friend. I’d still want her in my life, to the point where it would probably get in the way of every other relationship I would have. I don’t understand how somebody could be all about this one person and they mean so much to you and then something happens and they never talk again. That’s weird, especially if you connect with that person on so many different levels.”

On People’s Biggest Misconception When They Meet Him: “I think that I’m always joking. Most people always say I’m different from what they expect when they meet me. For women, I think a lot of them think or thought that I’m some womanizer. It’s a misconception because of the videos and things that I put online so it’s partially my fault (laughs). For other people, everything on social media is transparency when it comes to their real-life but not for me. It was just a platform for me to distribute the content I created, none of that was real. But a lot of people mistook it for being real. But again, that’s partially my fault.”

Actor and Activist Kendrick Sampson On How Hollywood Can Begin to BLD PWR


If I were to tell you that Kendrick Sampson‘s journey into activism was inspired by a sign in the bathroom, you wouldn’t believe me.

But the fact of the matter is, it’s 100% true. A simple message, “Leave It Better Than You Found It,” became the mantra that the Houston native would eventually tap into in order to shift his activism efforts from a simple act to a revolutionary lifestyle. He is coy yet hilarious as he divulges this story over the phone during a quiet yet busy evening in LA. And as he continues to speak, it becomes more and more apparent that while the impetus may be comical, his dedication to amplifying the voices of those who live in the margins of our society are indeed no laughing matter. “I have a platform, I have a voice, and I need to do the work and utilize whatever privilege I have in order to keep people from dying. And I can’t be complicit in that,” he tells me.

He continues, “It’s our purpose, I feel, to leave this Earth better than we found it. And so I really just leaned into that and who I am because it’s completely righteous and justified. I’ve gone about different creative ways in doing it based off what I feel led [to do] and what’s most effective, but there’s definitely tactics and nuance to all of this.”

And tactics and nuances seem to be the main aspects undergirding his new initiative, BLD PWR (pronounced “Build Power”). It’s a liberation training, freedom-fighting measure that seeks to leverage the collective power of those primarily in the entertainment industry, to lend their platforms and voices to increase civic engagement and create real shifts towards transformational social justice. In partnership with visionaries such as Tia Oso and Mike De La Rocha, they hope to not only raise up the next wave of socially conscious entertainers but to also foster a safe space that cultivates both imagination and radical love.

I recently got the chance to chat with Kendrick about his new initiative for xoNecole, check out the highlights below. And to read the full interview, click here.


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On the new BLD PWR initiative: “BLD PWR is about taking action and how to do that in a healthy way. It asks how do you lift up those vulnerable voices without speaking for them? And how do you learn from your mistakes and what that looks like in a training process? We want to build up the next Harry Belafontes, Marsha P. Johnsons and all these amazing, dope, radical change-makers that were involved in the process and movement. Whatever privilege they had, they aided in uplifting those with a little bit less privilege. Whether it was with their resources, or creatively producing content, or just showing up at marches and protests.”

On The Moment That Defined His Passion For Activism: “There wasn’t a clear defining moment, but I feel like my whole life, I just had this inclination towards trying to do right. And a lot of times it was more so about being right and that was a selfish thing. I think God used that against me to where it was like, ‘If you really want to be right all of the time, you need to acknowledge that you’re not right. That you don’t know everything, you can’t be a know-it-all and it’s impossible. You need to humble yourself.’ So I listened to God in that and try to do my best in allowing that to lead so that I can follow and be an example in that. And it’s manifested itself into different ways throughout my life.”

On Whether Or Not Art and Activism Can Ever Be Mutually Exclusive: “It depends on how people understand activism. A lot of people think that every project should be an activism-centered project. They think that there needs to be a protest or a statement on something. And I don’t necessarily think that. But I think the way we approach stories should be activism in the sense that our lives are activism. Think about Insecure for example, there’s no clear policy that they’re trying to push, but it was activism in the sense that it told the story of vulnerable communities that had not been seen before in that space. And that’s so essential and important.”

On The Evolution He Hopes To See 5-10 Years: “I want it to look like an army of freedom fighters. That we’re out here building multiple safe spaces, we fostered other people’s initiatives and communities, and that we won’t necessarily get the credit for it. You won’t be able to fully grasp the scope and reach of what we do and manifested in the world. I want it to amplify other people’s work, the people on the ground, and in my heart, I want to be able to say, ‘that’s beautiful that I was a part of that’ and no one will ever know. But ultimately, [I] want to see safe spaces for the liberation of the most vulnerable folk and people of color, black, brown, indigenous folks and uplifting their stories and bringing them into the center. And having Hollywood lead the charge.”



TBT: A Conversation with Celebrity Trainer Corey Calliet

Happy Thursday–or should I say Throwback Thursday! That’s right. I’m sure by now you’ve been bombarded with baby photos, high school yearbook pics, or maybe even just selfies from last week from various social media followers. And I hate to say it, I hope I don’t sound ridiculous: but I’m about to add one more throwback to your day. Only this time, its in the form of an article I wrote about Celebrity Trainer and Body Transformation Specialist Corey Calliet.

Boasting big-name clients such as Terrence J, John Boyega, Rocsi Diaz, and Lance Gross, Calliet is known most notably for transforming Creed and Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan‘s body from wholesome snack to full course meal. He also stars on E! Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian where he whips contestants into both physical and mental shape in order to bring about the best versions of themselves.

Our original conversation took place December 2018 , so grab your gallon of water enjoy this walk down memory lane. And be sure to RUN to the nearest gym after because, well,–you know you should.


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E!’s Revenge Body has become the latest addition on my list of TV guilty pleasures. I’ve always been a sucker for a good transformation and seeing these people literally change their lives in a matter of 12 weeks gives me all the feels and motivation needed to drag myself to the nearest gym. But what I’ve come to realize is that the people who serve as the driving force behind it all, the trainers and life coaches, are arguably just as alluring and inspiring. Enter celebrity trainer and body transformation specialist Corey Calliet. With a blunt yet endearing personality and a cutting-edge yet challenging approach to fitness, it wouldn’t be long before the world took major notice of the New Orleans native.

After moving to LA in 2014, Corey was catapulted into the spotlight after CREED, when actor Michael B. Jordan became physical evidence to his fitness training prowess. And thanks to two record-breaking box office hits, namely Black Panther and CREED II, the young 30-something has been highly sought after by celebs, professional athletes, and the likes and is arguably more visible and busier than ever. Which is something that becomes evident during our chat that ironically takes place within a small window on his jampacked schedule.

According to Calliet, he “wasn’t expecting everything to blow up so quick,” but he makes it clear that his expeditious trajectory wasn’t just due to just good fortune alone. Citing what he calls the “journey from the hood to Hollywood”, it was his confidence to believe in his dreams coupled with the determination to evolve and go beyond his humble beginnings that makes Corey stand out among the saturated market of fitness gurus and exercise experts. And now with his own fitness brand LEVELZ entering the game, he lets me know that despite the prominence and prestige, personal success via fitness has never been his only end goal.

“I don’t care how big or famous I get, I want to always be able to talk to the people,” he says. “The people are the ones that make you, they’re the ones who go with you on your journey.”

But don’t let the Nike sweats fool you. There’s a lot more to Corey than just dead-lifts and dumbbells. Up next for him is a territory that seeks to work a muscle you can’t define or discover in the weight room: acting.

Catching a mere glimpse into this particular skill set during his cameos in CREED II this past November, Corey admits that he’ll be flexing his muscles onscreen more in the upcoming year casually making mention of his first official movie script he’s just received a few days before our call. The focus in the forthcoming months he says, is to get in front of the camera in a way that has nothing to do with training. It’s to show people just how they too, are able to pivot into a different industry and still be able to flourish. It’s to show them that it’s okay to go full speed in the direction of their dreams in order to lay hold of future you once thought unattainable. And perhaps at the heart of it all, it’s to show others how to continue push onward and upward into their future no matter what shape or form the past has taken.

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“Coming from where I come from and going through all I’ve gone through: it’s all prepared me. So, I use my journey to inspire people to be greater than they ever thought they could be. I don’t do this for me, I do this for everyone else.”

And if you needed further proof of this, just take a scroll through the hashtag #CallietWay or a quick peek at his own personal social media. It’s filled with fans and followers alike tagging him in their latest gym selfie, weight loss progress pics or sometimes humorously and touchingly interacting with him under his motivational posts on Instagram. And that’s because Corey has masterfully finessed the task of putting the “personal” back in personal training. He knows that it’s the lives he touches by helping them shift both internal paradigms and external pounds that serve as the major motivation that helps him to push forward and go harder. And it’s the ability to relate to others and inspire them in and out of the spotlight that makes training all worthwhile.

“Everything I’ve gone through was to help somebody else get to where they’re going. And if I had to go through the roughest of times to get to the better times, that’s just proof that my life was a full transformation. My whole life is proof of that.”

Transformation. Defined as a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.

But for Corey Calliet this 14-letter word is more than just another entry in the dictionary.

It’s a way of living and it’s something he plans on continuing to carry out in the lives of others, one encouraging word at a time, one fitness challenge, one bicep curl at a time.

Thomas Q Jones On TALES, Love, and How Acting Has Helped Him Grow

Thomas Q. Jones may be a relatively new face in Hollywood, but he’s undoubtedly already making major waves. Starring across from industry heavy-hitters such as Gabrielle Union, Alfre Woodard, and now Isaiah Washington on BET’s Tales, this 40-year-old pro-athlete turned persuasive actor is proving with each project that he can indeed hold his own and that he’s ready to continue making a name for himself. Only this time, it’s on a different kind of world stage.

Hailing from humble beginnings in Virginia, Jones decided to pivot in 2014 after 12 successful years of playing football. But as he revealed in our chat on an early midweek morning, acting wasn’t necessarily the plan, nor was it something he was even seriously considering–at least not initially. “It wasn’t until I got the role on Being Mary Jane where I said, ‘This could either go really good or really bad depending on how I approach it,'” he tells me. “But now, especially after my training, I’m able to put my full self into each role that I get. And it’s almost like I never played football because nobody really talks about it much or brings it up. And that was my goal.”

So whether you know him as an NFL champion, Comanche, or perhaps more intimately as Cuddy Buddy–it’s pretty safe to say that for Thomas Q. Jones, capturing the hearts of viewers is a task he is both ready and willing to take and run with.

I recently got the chance to chat with the Tales star for xoNecole, where we discussed his latest role, personal growth, and why honest women are the keys to his heart. Check out the highlights below & click here to read the full interview.


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On his role on BET’s TALES: “I think Irv and his production team, the whole crew, post-production, sound–everybody just killed it. It wasn’t like I was watching TV. It felt like I was watching a movie. Everyone was very connected to the characters and in tune and we were really like family on set. Irv did a great job directing it. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with the story and the writers knew exactly what they wanted to do. They really pulled those characters out of us…”

On how acting has helped him evolved: “Acting is very, very different. You’re playing different characters, working with different actors, directors, producers, environments. It’s just so much more there. You’re working with people who have different backgrounds and life experiences; you have to interpret things differently. And in turn, you grow as a person…”

On what he’s learned about love: “Love isn’t black and white. And I’m a black and white person, so that’s tough. You have to be able to find the silver in it. And that’s where I am now; I’m trying to find it. There’s going to be moments where it is black and white, but if you can find that middle–then the relationship can work. Because love is very complex, it’s not as simple as finding someone, getting married, [and] having kids…”

On some of the biggest lessons he’s learned: “Hard work pays off–which I already knew. But especially in this industry because there’s so much competition. There’s a lot of slots, but there are only so many slots based off who’s who and where you’re trying to go in your career. I’m a very dedicated and ambitious person. I’m kind of a busy-body so being in LA and in this industry is great because I’m a hustler by nature. I like working with people and connecting the dots…”

Robin Givens on Love, Faith, and AMBITIONS


The OWN network has turned up the heat on Tuesday nights. And if you watched the premiere of the Will Packer produced series Ambitions, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Viewers were catapulted into this deliciously messy drama that follows the lives of five families who are all trying to navigate the waters of dominance, disloyalty, dishonesty, and most of all: debauchery. The cast is full of amazing actors who do more than a good job bringing their characters to life — I’m talking Essence Atkins, Brian J. White, Kendrick Cross, Brely Evans and the lead lady of the pack: Robin Givens.

Owning the role of Stephanie Carlisle Lancaster, wife to Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster and successful lawyer at her family’s firm, the 54-year-old proves once again why she’s able to maintain relevance in an industry of come-and-goers. She’s poised, she’s sexy, and she’s deliberate.

Givens knows exactly how to reel you in and let you go with just enough so that you’ll keep coming back for more. But perhaps what’s more impressive than what she does on-screen, is the woman she’s become off-screen.

As we chat over the phone on a midweek afternoon, it becomes clear that Givens is a woman who has both lived and learned a lot. She’s a woman who, at this point in life, is very clear on who she is, where she’s going, and who she hopes to be. Her light and reflective disposition radiates easily as she speaks and it lets me know that, more than anything, Robin Givens is an unstoppable, unshakable, and inspiring force.

The renowned actress spoke candidly with me for xoNecole about Ambitions, faith, and if she’ll ever get married again. Check out the highlights below and click here to read the full interview.


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On the allure to play Stephanie Lancaster on Ambitions:  “The writing was just SO good, and I thought I could shade her in and color her a little bit differently than a lot of people would. I just knew I thought of her in a certain way and I wanted to give her a sense of humor. So I think that was a little bit different than what Jamey [Giddens, creator] had in mind initially.”

On what she’s looking for in love: “Well, I like being treated like a lady. I really need someone who just gets me, you know? I’m so different from any of my characters. I need someone who understands me. Someone who thinks I’m cute apart from all of this, acting and getting dressed up… I’m looking for peace because I like that. Laughter, friendship in a very simple way. I like to enjoy life with simplicity, so I try to keep things that way. And someone who is patient, likes dating me, and who can make me laugh…”

On her personal evolution: “I’m grown up–I’m a grown up now! I started this really, really young; I think I’ve had my SAG-Aftra card probably 35 years now or something like that. I’ve grown and the world kind of watched me grow up. Now I’m a grown woman and I like being a grown up. So I think that’s probably the biggest difference. I was a baby in a sense, a kid initially. But with being grown and being more mature, I have a perspective and respect for things and opportunities…”

On the importance of keeping and maintaining her faith in God: ” I think often times, we go through these rituals and we–or I didn’t really get to know God– or what it meant to really fall onto your knees [in prayer] until I could only fall on my knees and prayer. So that relationship changed for me and went beyond being a ritual to being a real relationship and that has meant the world to me…”

Neil Brown Jr Talks Marriage, Love, and Personal Growth


Neil Brown Jr. gets to play pretend for the rest of his life. His words, not mine. But if you really sit back and think about it, he’s absolutely right.

Fans of Insecure and most recently SEAL Team might also be able to attest to this statement as well, as they watch him so effortlessly portray DJ Yella, Chad and Ray respectively. And whether that’s due to his on-point comedic timing or striking ability to connect with his character and viewers, it’s obvious that pretend or not: Brown was indeed made for these roles.

What’s also obvious about the Florida native is that he’s madly in love with his craft, his life, and most importantly his wife. He emphatically gushes about her as we chat over the phone in the early hours of the day. He tells me that not only does his wife Catrina play a pivotal role in his professional evolution, but his personal one as well.

“Her love abounds,” he explains. “You know, it turned me into a man, a father, a good friend, a faithful husband, and a faithful Christian in a certain way. She’s a cold piece of work. That’s my soulmate. I knew we were always going to be together, but we had to learn to be together and how to interpret the dream that was our marriage.”

I got the chance to talk to Neil about his new role, why compromise is central to maintaining a long relationship, and why having the capacity to love and endure is so important. Check out the highlights below and click here to read the full article:






On The Black Love Docu-series

We never knew that it was going to be as big as it was. At that point, we had been together for about 18, 20 years and we just saw so many couples with this false sense of what it takes to make a relationship or a marriage work. And no matter what they said, as soon as it got a little rough, they’re like, ‘Well I don’t have to stand for this.’

Throughout our walk in faith, in God and with each other, no matter how rough it got–we had to go back to the core value which was that we wanted to make it work. Outside of someone being abusive towards you, if you made a commitment to each other, then you made a commitment to work things out, not just to be cool when things are all good…

On Learning His Wife’s Love Language

But I always pray to speak to my wife in the love language that she understands and for her to speak to me in a language that we understand.That journey has been so magical because you get little breakthroughs. Especially when you realize you two just had a debate over something and you realize it wasn’t an argument anymore but more like, “I need you to understand me about this.” And you both get it and understand…

On Maintaining Your Relationship

Just because people aren’t arguing, it doesn’t mean things are great and just because people are arguing, it doesn’t mean their relationship is bad. So you really can’t look to others or what you need to learn about each other. Because a lot of times the only taste of happiness and joy that some people will ever get in a relationship is when they take a bite out of yours. So you don’t want other people influencing your process of loving the one you’re with…


The fans are so engaged and then I keep running into military personnel from all branches and they really feel it. You know, we’re trying to portray the pain and the pitfalls of not just the Special Operators, but their families as well. But they all dig the show and that’s the most heartwarming thing. I actually wanted to be a Navy Seal when I was a kid but I just didn’t want to join the Navy (laughs). But now I get to play one on TV which is far more lucrative and way less dangerous…

On Insecure

Chad’s just an honest dude, but Prentice Penny and Issa [Rae] and Melina [Matsoukas]–they’ve been so great. The writers on that show are crazy. People think I’m ad-libbing a lot but I’m not…But the funny thing is, I think everybody at some point in their life knows a person like Chad. But I’m humbled by it, the love is real, it’s another dream come true. I couldn’t thank HBO and Issa enough. Plus I get to play off Jay Ellis, we have a good time. I wish you guys could see what doesn’t make the show…