24 years old and making his mark, Allius Barnes is no stranger to the screen. Having steadily built up his credentials in shows like the Emmy-nominated PEN15, FX’s Snowfall, and Cruel Summer, Allius is one to watch. Now, with his latest endeavor, Prime Video’s I’m A Virgo, he finds himself within the mind of master storyteller Boots Riley. Filled with whimsy, the weird, the wild, and the downright wacky I’m A Virgo, takes the over-saturated superhero genre and re-packages it into something brand new to devour. In true Boot’s Riley fashion, all is not what it seems, hidden behind a colorful smoke screen. I’m A Virgo is a real-life social commentary on the state of our world and how it treats the marginalized, anyone who dares to be different and challenges the status quo.
Enter Allius breathing life into the role of Scat. It was as if the part was tailor-made for him. His charm, his wisdom, and his overall enthusiasm make him captivating to watch. Learning to trust his creative process and more importantly, himself, has paid off and then some. The spark of his creativity knows no bounds and while it’s taken him time to evolve (through some trial and error), what’s left is a stellar performance.
As he continues to grow into himself and test the boundaries of his acting ability, Allius is grateful for all the opportunities he’s been given. It’s clear while working with a creative like Boots, Allius understands the weight of what bringing a show like I’m A Virgo to the mainstream can mean. Having grown up with little to no examples of seeing POC represented on the screen, Allius hopes that this show and all the people who created it ignite a curiosity for the craft of storytelling that only representation can spark.
In conversation with Schön Magazine, Allius discusses, his thoughts on I’m A Virgo, how he has evolved as an actor, and so much more.
When you read the script for, I’m A Virgo, what were your first thoughts?
I need to be a part of this. How can I be a part of this? I know I’m supposed to be a part of this.
What is a quality you share with Scat and one you don’t? What is a piece of advice you’d give to him?
Scat feels like someone everyone knows. We’re both someone people want to know; someone people care deeply about and want to be around all the time. Having us around brings a feeling of safety and comfort into the body. I think Scat’s a little bit less in his head about life though. Maybe it’s because he’s still quite young, but even so, he’s better than me about not worrying.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the show? And what are you as a viewer most looking forward to watching when it releases?
I hope it challenges people to separate how the world perceives them vs how they perceive themselves. Also, I just love that my beautiful black people get to see themselves represented on screen in a way that I never personally experienced growing up.
If you could switch characters with one of your co-stars, who would it be and why?
I don’t know if I would. Everyone fits perfectly like Cinderella and her slipper. It’s amazing casting honestly. But if I had to choose, probably Kara Young. Her character ‘Jones’ is the opposite of Scat. She’s so well-informed and driven. A really intelligent human being that Boots (Riley) crafted, man. There are qualities about Jones pulled straight from Boots’ real life that I admire.
What inspires you?
Life. Everything about it. It used to be all the ugly parts of life, but I think as I grow older it’s kind of the full circle of it all. Look around. Everything we see, touch, and smell… all of it was a part of someone’s creative process, whether it be God or man.
If you could experience a movie, novel, or album again for the first time, what would it be and why?
To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar. I was still young and had a much narrower scope of artistry and what it means to be an artist than I do now. But it changed the way I looked at art and what I even considered to be good or bad art.
If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
This is hard. I’m not sure. I might have an answer for that in a few years. Maybe sooner I don’t know.
What is your favourite thing about being an actor?
It’s a confirmation of how infinite I am. I’m literally so many things constantly. Keeps me aware of that.
What is your most memorable moment about being on set?
We shot the bits where Cootie is riding around with the gang in downtown Oakland one night. We drove around and around in that car for hours doing the scene, improvising, cruising, just hanging out. The reactions to people on the streets of Oakland seeing Cootie sitting in the backseat were real. They knew Boots was up to something in the city. So, when they put it together, they were going crazy. I remember that night vividly.
How do you feel you’ve grown as an actor?
Lately, I trust myself more. The roles that I’ve been blessed to step into recently force me to do that. I’ve played some very likable people which shows me how likable I am in real life. It’s like therapy. I’m seeing parts of myself on screen through these characters that I’m either uncertain about or didn’t know existed altogether.
What does a day off set look like for you?
I love sitting at restaurants. Whether it’s with friends or alone to get some thoughts and ideas out.
What is something you’d like to manifest for yourself in 2023?More books.
What advice would you give to your younger self knowing all the things you do now?
Appreciate the time you have with family and friends. Also, appreciate your solitude and time of rest. It’s not always in your control.