From the first time we meet Andre in the Netflix “On My Block” spin-off “Freeridge,” he’s exuding confidence. It doesn’t matter that his boyfriend Cameron, a classic messy bisexual, is literally running away from him: it takes a lot more to get Andre down. Because Andre, as played by Zaire Adams, knows what he brings to the table. It’s everything: he brings everything to the table. How could he not? It’s what Zaire himself brings as well. From his first Broadway appearance playing young Simba in “The Lion King” to his gorgeous upcoming EP, Adams brings the carefree, confident energy of a much older actor to his performances. At 20, Adams is queer, proud, and living his dream. INTO sat down with Adams to talk about singing, podcasting, and bringing “Freeridge’s” most hilarious character to life.
INTO: So tell me about how you brought Dre to life. He’s such a lived-in character and we meet him sort of in the middle of the action.
I literally just gave him his whole universe. I gave him a little backstory. I gave him so many just little tidbits that were native to him, because I’m a little bit more reserved than Andre and he’s so larger than life. I was like,” I’m just gonna go out there and just give it give him everything.” So even down to the mannerisms, how he holds his hands, how he points, how he walks. That’s all very native to him. So I wanted to just kind of create this little world for him. He lives in this little bubble and I wanted to make sure that there’s these moments where he’s just so giving and so loving and just wants the best for everyone. And I just wanted to kind of employ this sense of genuineness to him. Andre is so sweet, so nice and so kind, but then I’ve got to amp up those really bitchy moments, like when you cross Andre. I wanted to do a 180 and show that he’s so loving and so kind. He’s so good and he wants everybody to heal. He wants everybody to learn about themselves. But if you cross him, it’s over for you.
I’m very curious about how the podcast theme song for “It’s a Brand New Dre” came about—did the folks behind “Freeridge” know you were such an amazing singer?
Actually no. They didn’t say anything about me singing when I was doing the whole audition process. They didn’t do anything about it. I never said anything about me being able to sing, and it wasn’t until maybe two or three weeks into filming that one of the co-creators of “Freeridge,” who is also the music supervisor, sent me an email and was like, “Hey, I know during the table read he saw that there was going to be a theme song and I was just wondering if you can sing.” I go in and record it. I literally do the first take. I don’t think anybody was expecting it to be like that.
And you have a really beautiful single that just came out. What’s the response been?
Yes! “Back to Lonely” is out, it’s my first song, I recorded it when I was 19, and I was going through a lot of loss and grief and I was alone in that space. So much beauty can come out of so much pain, you’re creating art but at this huge expense.
And there are plans for a music video right?
I actually just finished my music video about a week or two ago and it was so much fun. A lot of the work that went into that was all on me so it was honestly like a learning experience more than anything. And yes, I will be dropping my debut EP sometime this summer. The song for the video which is not the song that I just released by the way that will be coming out in March as well.
Was there ever a moment when you were like, “I’m going to be a musical theater star?”
Yes, I started out in theater and that was very much the goal. I started off training in theater. for like the first half of my life, I want to say from like, age five to 10 or 11. I was young Simba in “The Lion King” on Broadway. That was my first big role. And I did that for about a year and a half. And after that was when I decided I want to transition into TV and film but that was just such a whole different process.
So now do you feel like you’re looking to do both stage and film/TV roles?
I definitely want to like I like to be a trick of all trades. So if there is ever a point in time where I can be you know, doing theater maybe once a year and still do film and TV and maybe film and a little music at the same time. That would be like a dream, but I also like to pay special attention to one thing at a time just so I can give it my all, so I don’t know. I’d be a little conflicted. I feel like I kind of got tired with theater because you just travel a lot. You move around a lot. And it’s kind of hard to just sit somewhere steady. You know what I’m saying? I think what I appreciate with film is that I could just come to LA and just be here for awhile. My friends may be doing a theater project here and I’m kind of excited. I want to see what theater is like out here.
Is there an artist out there right now where you’re just like, “I can’t wait to see what they do next?”
Beyoncé. She has me on the edge of my seat. I’m still waiting on the visuals for “Renaissance.” I actually am going to go see her on tour this year, which is crazy. I love SZA too, and we actually share the same birthday, I have a SZA tattoo, I love her.
What are you most excited about when it comes to sharing your “Freeridge” performance with viewers?
I guess I’m just really grateful to be playing a character like Andre. I hope so many kids, Black and Brown boys from all over the world, can find some kind of relatability in him. I hope that that’s what they can take from my character.♦