An Exclusive Interview with Actor Jocko Sims: The Talent Behind NBC's 'New Amsterdam'
BY: DANIELLE GERMAIN
The Blackprint got the exclusive opportunity to sit down with Jocko Sims, Dr. Floyd Reynolds on NBC’s latest medical drama “New Amsterdam.” From offering his take on being a Black actor in Hollywood to tackling his fears, Sims may not be a fresh face (yes, Sims is the Elvis Kelly from "Dreamgirls" and yes, he worked alongside the Beyoncé), he has continuously defied odds to become another beacon of hope in positive on-screen representation for Black men in the mass media. (More doctors, less this).
BP: What’s it like being an actor of color, specifically a Black actor in Hollywood right now?
JS: I think this is one of the great times to be an African American in Hollywood and I say one of the great times because it ebbs and flows. There was a time in the 90s, where you turned on NBC and you saw Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and you turned on Fox and you saw Martin and In Living Color, and then we had a late night host Arsenio Hall; those were good times. The Cosby Show was also on. And then, for a period of time that all went away. So instead of saying this is the best time that we had, [we’ve already had] some grand grand times on television in particular. But it’s coming back and [we’re] making a resurgence. You had all these things, but then they started relegating us to our own network; you know of course like BET, UPN and Centric, but now we’re getting back on the mainstream. Lil Rey even has his show on Fox. So were coming back into TV and of course we’re killing it in movies. We’ve been killing it in movies for a long time. Like number one in the box office with movies. Girl’s Trip, Black Panther, Night School, all No. 1’s, I love it. And I don’t know what this is about either because [I feel like] the number have always kind of been there, but you know I’m not a network executive. [Somewhere] they were still saying no let’s not make these films and these TV shows but were still taking over. My white brothers and sisters in Hollywood, are unfortunately; and I don’t want anyone to struggle but you know the tables turned for them, and it’s very hard for them. I wish there was a way we could all thrive. But it’s a great time for us.
BP: There are a decent amount of medical shows on TV at this time, how does this show differ from others? What does this bring to the table that others don’t?
JS: This show is different from the others because it’s based on a true story. It’s also based on a book by Dr. Eric Manheimer called Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital. Bellevue Hospital [located in New York] is the oldest public hospital in America. And he [Dr. Eric Manheimer, saw a lot of things, he spend 15 years as a medical director and he went in there he was just like one of those people like what the heck is going on in the system all this bureaucracy, is getting in the way of caring for patients. So, he did all the things you saw in the show; he fired entire departments, he was really diagnosed with cancer. You know even the relationship with Dr. Fromm and the young girl having behavioral problems; that was based on a real person that he has a relationship with. That’s what makes us from different shows, out the gate. I feel like you see that in movies a lot, but it’s rare that a show of this magnitude is based on true events.
BP: Your character tackles many social issues, including lack of female and minority representation among doctors in your staff, as well as dealing with interracial vs. dating within the Black community. Do you feel like experiences in your own life have helped you portray your character in a way that makes him more genuine?
JS: Let’s get right too it. Let’s talk about the part where he’s [Dr. Floyd Reynolds, talking to Dr. Lauren Bloom] like, “you know I don’t want to explore this because you’re not Black.” Now, I being a Black a man who does not discriminate and I’ve dated outside my race, and I have felt uncomfortable possibly taking someone home to mom. But my issue with it in the script was that I’ve never felt like I’ve been compelled to say it to someone. So I don’t know if that was because I wasn’t coming to terms with my own reality about it or if I didn’t want to be you know, mean enough to say this to somebody. But I’ve talked to the writers, and we had a conversation where we sat and came up with a happy medium and to answer your question yes, absolutely those were my words. When I say you don’t know how confusing it was growing up and seeing every Black athlete marry or have a white girl on his arm; or seeing how betrayed my mom felt seeing happen time and time again. That was my experience; and as a Black man, you know you have that sometimes. You know, you have people who are just like Floyd, who are like I know what I want my family to look like, but at the same time he’s a flawed individual because she [Dr. Lauren Bloom] is good enough for him. So what does that make him look like, you know? So I love that he’s not perfect and he’s trying to figure it out. Generally I got Black Twitter on my side. But then every now and then, I got my boy texting me and he said “my wife got a bone to pick with you about the character.” So you can’t please everyone.
BP: Did you have any fears going into acting?
JS: Every blue moon in my process of the 16 years of profession work, maybe like twice I would get scared [and ask myself’] “How am I going to pay these bills?” You know if you listen to odds sometimes and stats then you can really psych yourself out of the situation. I generally just try not to do that. When you get to college they say to you “look to your left and look to your right, this person won’t make it or that person won’t.” I just had blinders on, I had too. The more I did not focus on negativity or the reality of statistic the more I was successful.
BP: What advice can you give Black college students with all of the mayhem that’s going on in the world right now?
JS: First of all I would just say that it’s a tough time right now. Whenever you see the movement of any sort of positivity that I’m gathering, I’m learning from life that it’s just going to be a big backlash. We had our first Black president and then for the first time in I don’t know how long we have the most racist things happening. So unfortunately I’m just learning to accept that. I would say much like before, it’s gotten better and it’s going to get better again. I would encourage Black students to just hang on, it’s going to be alright. And, it’s very important for me to impart this message: lead by sitting down and listen. Don’t talk first, try to have empathy, sit down with somebody polar opposite sex of you, or polar opposite political spectrum of you -- sit down with someone, and I’m going a little extreme here; but someone who may even be a “self - proclaimed racist” and have a conversation. Say “I just want to get to know you.” And if you get that hatred out, and I know it’s hard -- but the reason I want to impart that upon the Black youth is because you guys our future, you’re going to carry the torch. Right now the country is so divided and it’s so much hatred and nobody’s listening to each other. I’m personally relying on you to be different then how we’re screwing it up, and that’s very important.
You can catch “New Amsterdam” on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. Check out the show’s official trailer below:
Stream the series here.