Deric Augustine channels Cassius Clay in ‘Godfather of Harlem’

“Godfather of Harlem” takes an historic flip in Sunday’s episode — as Cassius Clay begins his journey to turn into Muhammad Ali.

Clay has overwhelmed Sonny Liston for the heavyweight crown and is has been courted by Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch), on suspension from the Nation of Islam and searching for a technique to get again into the great graces of chief Elijah Muhammad (Clifton Davis). He’s hoping that introducing Clay, a current convert to Islam, to Muhammad will do the trick.

Actor Deric Augustine, 31, has portrayed Clay over the previous two seasons of the collection, starring Forest Whitaker as ’60s-era Harlem gangster Elwood “Bumpy” Johnson, Vincent D’Onofrio as Vincent “The Chin” Gigante and Giancarlo Esposito as Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Augustine (“Saints & Sinners,” “Cloak & Dagger”) spoke to The Post about his on-screen alter-ego and about Sunday’s episode (9 p.m. on Epix).

Photo showing Deric Augustine as Cassius Clay and Nigel Thatch as Malcolm X in "Godfather of Harlem."
Nigel Thatch, left, as Malcolm X and Deric Augustine as Cassius Clay in “Godfather of Harlem” on Epix.
Myles Aronowitz/Epix

Is there rather a lot of strain to painting a world-famous icon?

I used to be very involved with [Clay’s] mannerisms, his voice, his speech patterns; he had rather a lot of charisma, and to have that on my shoulders was actually anxious. You can put your personal spin on it, however you’re enjoying a real-life character and want it to be reasonable — and never come off such as you’re making an attempt to placed on a present. As quickly as I acquired the position I began watching movies of him, interviews … I learn quite a few articles and I contacted my speech coach in New York and we labored on his speech, his dialect, how he delivered his phrases — and that’s how I conquered his voice.

Deric Augustine as Cassius Clay trains in a gym next to a punching bag.
Deric Augustine gained 15 kilos to play the position of Cassius Clay in “Godfather of Harlem.”
Myles Aronowitz/Epix

I didn’t know that Malcolm X had renamed Clay as Cassius X earlier than it was modified by Elijah Muhammad.

I knew [Clay] had a major, brotherly relationship with Malcolm X, who wasn’t supposed to do this. We brush on that in Sunday’s episode, and I believe it’s very insightful and informative for viewers. I really like how this present touches so many different bases … not nearly Bumpy, however about how he has these relationships with public figures. A black man in the ’60s and ’70s was not going to be well-known for graduating on the high of his class or because the world’s best neurosurgeon, so when Clay turned the heavyweight champ he was extra of a public determine and will actually leverage his relationships to do what he needed to do.

Did you do something particular to arrange for taking part in Cassius Clay?

Once I discovered that I booked the position, I educated for 2 months, gained 15 kilos — I used to be intaking 6,000 energy a day — and was tanning twice every week, since [Clay] was a shade darker than me and I needed to look the half. My hair is of course curly, so I picked it out, washed it, picked it out … they usually blow-dried it in hair and make-up, which is just about all I wanted. When you achieve weight it makes you look older.

Is this your first time enjoying an historic determine?

It is to this diploma. I did a film years in the past known as “Surviving Compton” and I performed DJ Yella from NWA. That’s why I used to be so nervous, as a younger actor, after I came upon I used to be working with Forest Whitaker and Vincent D’Onofrio … it forces you to carry your “A” sport and be sure to arrive on the set ready, and that’s what I did. Working with Vincent was like being in a grasp class. There’s a scene in Season 1 when Chin’s individuals kidnap [Clay] and tie him up in a chair. I wasn’t fighting it, nevertheless it was the primary scene I did [on the series]. Vincent mentioned to me, “When I’m telling [Clay] that the FBI is going to get a tape and that he’ll never be a Muslim, picture me telling you that I’m going to take your acting career away.” That acquired me immediately into the scene.

Photo of the real Cassius Clay, posing with his boxing gloves.
Cassius Clay earlier than he modified his identify to Muhammad Ali.
Getty Images

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