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‘Black-ish’ Star Deon Cole Talks Diversity in Television and Landing New Dream Role

2019 is shaping up to be Deon Cole’s year, and to hear the actor and comedian tell it, “the stars have lined up and everything is coming together.” Fresh off the Season 2 premiere of Freeform’s “Grown-ish,” with Cole reprising his “Black-ish” role of Professor Charlie Telphy, the actor takes on a slightly different role this month, as the brand new global ambassador for Old Spice.

The venerable grooming brand unveiled its “Men Have Skin Too” campaign today, featuring Cole as the face of Old Spice’s new “Fresher Collection.” The actor will appear in broadcast and digital spots, as well as social media ads promoting the new antiperspirant, deodorant, body wash and shampoo line, which focuses on fresh scents and real ingredients (think: products infused with lavender, mint, charcoal and shea butter).

deon cole grownish old spice campaign
CREDIT: Old Spice

For Cole, partnering with Old Spice has been a dream come true, and validation after years spent hustling to find roles he could be proud of and stand behind. A vocal advocate for diversity in television, Cole says he’s also proud to continue the tradition of strong, African-American men representing the Old Spice brand, following in the footsteps of Terry Crews, Von Miller and Isaiah Mustafa, whose viral, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign has racked up more than 55 million views to date.

“I’ve grown up on Old Spice my whole life, from seeing my grandfather use their products, to my uncles, to my cousins, so I feel like it was inevitable that we would eventually work together,” Cole says. As for why he thinks he’s the perfect spokesperson, Cole says it’s all about finding humor in life and always keeping it real.

“Old Spice came to a guy with no abs and said, ‘Let’s make a deal with him,'” Cole chuckles. “They’re committed to helping young dudes navigate the seas of masculinity and I hope I can do the same through my comedy — and this campaign.”

What made you want to partner with Old Spice?
I actually have friends who once told me that I’d be a great “Old Spice Guy” and we would laugh about it, but never in a million years did I think that it could actually be a thing. I was so honored that Old Spice saw something different in me. I think it compliments how original they are with their products. The campaign has a funny vibe too, which I really liked. I grew up on films like “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun” and I like that type of quirkiness in comedy. Plus the idea that “Men Have Skin Too” was so great. We have skin too and we’ve been overlooked all these years; we’ve been played!

You’ve been working in the industry for more than two decades and you just landed a global campaign. What do you attribute your longevity to?
It’s simple: you’ve got to believe in yourself. I’ve learned that if somebody doesn’t pick you for a job, it’s okay. If you’re kind and unique, people will remember you. Look at yourself and see the differences between you and everyone else, and believe in what you have to offer. See what you can bring to your industry or to the world.

Everybody’s doing the same thing in movies and music and it’s hard, but I’m here to tell you: I hardly ever got anything I auditioned for, from TV shows to writing jobs; I never ever got anything. I had meetings of course, but nothing ever panned out. And now it’s all panning out. Hard work pays off.

There’s been a lot of talk about increasing diversity in television, but what about diversity in commercials and campaigns?
I remember watching “Soul Train” and they used to show Black people in Afro Sheen commercials and I would think that was so great, to see Black people represented in advertising, even if it was just on a show like “Soul Train.” This is definitely something I’ve dreamed about from a young age, to be an ambassador not only for a brand, but for my community. From Isaiah [Mustafa] to Terry [Crews], Old Spice has always been great with diversity and giving everyone a chance; I always respected them for that. To be another African-American man that’s now a part of their brand is such an honor; it blows my mind every time I think about it.

You’ve been vocal about telling more authentic stories, both in front of the camera and in real life. Why?
There are a lot of things and a lot of people that have a Black face these days, but not a Black voice. And that’s contributing to what’s going on in America right now. Everybody is lying and not being real. And the number one thing for me is to not only be bold and humorous and thought-provoking, but to be real. I think that’s why I appreciate “Black-ish” and “Grown-ish” and a lot of the other great Black television shows right now — they’re not just showing a Black face, but representing the Black voice.

The more real I am and the more honest I am, the more people are going to resonate with the things I get behind. It’s not a coincidence that we got Cardi B winning over the music business right now — people love her because she’s just being herself. And of course Kenya Barris (the creator of “Black-ish”) is dominating TV and now Netflix (Barris recently signed a reported $100 million deal to create original content for the streaming giant). People connect with real people. They want to see real stories come across their screens. With Old Spice, I plan to be me, I plan to be honest, I plan to be real.

What do you hope people take away from this new campaign?
As an iconic American brand, Old Spice continues to evolve and listen to what guys want. Everybody in commercials usually walks around like they’re so perfect, but we’re showing a more human side to this. This campaign’s about a common man helping other men with common problems. And that’s what’s going on.

Old Spice’s nature-inspired “Fresher Collection” introduces five new antiperspirant, deodorant, body wash and shampoo scents and is available online at Walmart.com. The full product line will be available across all retailers on Feb. 4.

VarietySPY editorial products are independently selected. If you buy something through our links, PMC may earn an affiliate commission.

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