Kenyan-American actor Edi Gathegi is wrapping up a big year in 2015. On television, the 36-year old actor plays the menacing Cabal henchman Mr. Solomon on the blockbuster NBC drama "The Blacklist," where he gets to face off against Emmy winner James Spader, and Gathegi recently debuted as rival Baron Jacobee on AMC's new martial arts series, "Into the Badlands." However, he also co-stars in a new independent film, "Bleeding Heart," in which he snagged an undeniably enviable role -- Jessica Biel's boyfriend.
In "Bleeding Heart," which opens Friday, Gathegi plays Dex, the boyfriend of May (Jessica Biel). Dex and May are opening a yoga studio together and both are buy in heavy to the practice's values of inner peace and pacifism. That all changes when the adopted May tracks down her mother and finds out she has a biological sister, Shiva ("Girls" star Zosia Mamet). The discovery rocks her world as May struggles to care for her new, troubled sister, causing her to question how she was living her life before Shiva. Dex, meanwhile, can only watch helplessly as his partner's life rapidly changes without him.
Gathegi spoke with International Business Times to talk about the challenges of the role and what is was like to star opposite Jessica Biel:
International Business Times: How did you get involved with "Bleeding Heart"?
Edi Gathegi: I think I heard about the script and Diane Bell is such a great storyteller and passionate person and we kind of vibed in the room, so she gave me the job a couple days later.
IBT: Was Jessica Biel attached already?
Gathegi: Yeah, Jessica was already in place. I think Zosia Mamet was in place too. I don't know if anybody else was, but I knew I was signing up to play opposite Jessica and I was excited about that.
IBT: What was it like working with Jessica?
Gathegi: Well, it is not hard to have chemistry with Jessica Beil. She is one of the most awesome people that I have ever worked with -- just extraordinarily talented. She does the kind of work in this film I think she should definitely be proud of. She is very natural and easy on set. She didn't look like she was struggling at all. She didn't look like she was struggling to find her character, she was just moment to moment and I love that, that she can just be present.
Watch the trailer for "Bleeding Heart" below:
IBT: Without giving too much away, Jessica's character, May, ends the movie in a very different place than the one she is in at the start of the film. What does her journey mean to you?
Gathegi: It's complicated because there is no conclusion in anybody's lifetime. There is nothing you achieve that you can take with you at the end of the day when you leave this planet and I think a journey is just a journey. I think there are many meanings to be drawn from it, but, at the end of the day, this is a character who is dealing with the issue of "Can you save someone," "Blood is thicker than water," "How do you step up and protect the ones that you love" and she makes her decisions. At the end of the day I think it is just an exploration of one person's arc in extreme circumstances. Anybody can make a decision that can take their life to a complete different place than they could ever expect.
IBT: What were the challenges of playing this role?
Gathegi: I'm the one who is in the dark and the challenges of playing my character were making him three-dimensional and giving him a life. That is an acting challenge and I love acting challenges. I have a need to attack challenges to grow as an actor. Dex was the least flashy and maybe even least complex character in the film and I wanted to be able to bring a complexity to his circumstances. He also grounds the film in nobility. He is trying to do the right thing and live by the rules and Jessica's character is questioning those things. I think those are fascinating ideas to explore.
IBT: Is Dex at fault for his relationship problems with May? Could he be a better partner to her in the movie or is their relationship in some ways just an inevitable victim of what she is going through with Shiva.
Gathegi: I think he could have been a better boyfriend, but at the same time he is only operating at his own level of awareness. He is protecting the interests of the relationship and the sanctity of what they set out to achieve together, opening up the yoga studio and she was not holding up her end of the bargain, so he got frustrated. Maybe if he was more open to what she was going through emotionally he would have been able to step up or step in and get to know Shiva and accept the situation. I think Dex was frustrated because she was changing rapidly from the woman he understood her to be and he was not prepared for her. He could have probably made better decisions and she could have probably made better decisions, but that is life!
IBT: There are some moments that are a little tongue and cheek with Dex about yoga culture. You have also appeared in the 2015 web series, "Namaste, B------," that pokes fun at yoga culture. Do you have any personal feelings on the subject?
Gathegi: It is interesting. Yoga is one of the things that saved my life to be honest. I had a back injury and saw a bunch of therapists and no one could fix me and yoga was a big part of the healing that actually helped. So, I love yoga, but the culture is fascinating. I really don't have a judgment against it, but I understand that it exists.
I got on board with "Yamaste, B------" because a friend of mine was a yoga instructor for eight years and decided to do a series based on that experience. So, she is much more embedded in that culture and she has a lot more stories, both good and bad, about yoga. I think yoga has become commercial in this country and is more of a business, but the practice of yoga can be a healing and spiritual practice. It can be all those wonderful things, but I might have some things to say about the business side of it.
Watch Gathegi in "Namaste, B------" below:
IBT: Is Dex in it for the spiritual reasons? He is certainly preoccupied with the business end during the movie
Gathegi: Yeah, if you are part of yoga, especially in this country, then you can not separate yourself from that. There is a part of you that is that. If you are really in it for all the true and honest reasons you might need to go somewhere else, potentially. That is a strong statement, but Dex is certainly trying to get a business going. He may believe in the spiritual side of yoga, but he also believes in the business side of it as well.
"Bleeding Heart" premieres in select theaters on Friday, Dec. 11. Check back later this week for more from Edi Gathegi with International Business Times on NBC's "The Blacklist" and AMC's "Into the Badlands."