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Chester Rogers’ Double Life and How to Balance Hollywood and Football

Boardroom speaks to NFL free agent Chester Rogers about acting in Starz’ Black Mafia Family hit television series.

Chester Rogers has been a journeyman since entering the National Football League in 2016 as an undrafted free agent. Rogers has been on five teams in five years while playing in games for two of those teams. Football has been something he was good at since his youth, and yet it was not his passion. What was his, you ask? Acting.

Photo Credit: Kayla Madonna

Rodgers began taking roles at 10 years old including Tyler Perry’s cult-favorite film Madea’s Family Reunion, Cartoon Networks’ Re-Animated, and Dirty. Not long after, his acting career was put on pause because of the time commitment that was required from football. Rogers attended Grambling State University, a Louisiana-based HBCU, where he played football for four years and eventually went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. Later, he signed to the Indianapolis Colts where he spent three years before bouncing around the practice squads of the Dolphins, Titans, Texans and Browns.

Fast forward a few years later, an opportunity arose for Rogers’ on-screen return with rapper and executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s television show Black Mafia Family, co-starring Lil Meech, Da’Vinchi, Kash Doll, and Lala Anthony. In the STARZ hit series, which was recently renewed for a third season, Rogers plays the role Sterling Black, head of a local Detroit gang known as the PAs and a strong ally to the BMF. The 29-year-old hasn’t officially hung up his NFL cleats, but he does hope to continue to sink his teeth into a few screenplays and pull up a chair to a few table reads.

Ahead, Boardroom caught up with Rogers about his role in the hit STARZ series, the challenges of building two careers at the same time, and how his HBCU experience molded his career today.

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Randall Williams: What’s the transition process over the past couple years of going from multiple NFL teams to acting?

Chester Rogers: I wouldn’t really say transition because I’m still doing both. I was in Indianapolis for four years, in Tennessee for two, and last year, I was in a couple different places. It’s a little taxing to have to pick up and start over, especially when you’re trying to juggle both of these careers at the same time. It goes back to your discipline, your regimen, and having set schedule. That was the most difficult part because with football, I’m on a set time with everything throughout my day. When I got to acting, all that went out the window. I could be on a set for 12 hours. It’s been difficult but I’m enjoying it.

RW: Expand upon the difficulty of adjusting to the schedule change.

CR: It comes down to knowing you’re going to have to sacrifice in some areas. For example, in the back of my mind is diet, but at the same time sometimes I’ll have to eat what they have on set. Not being able to workout at certain times for various parts. It throws you off of what you’ve known all your life, especially after the last eight years in the NFL where I learned how to be a professional.

Photo Credit: Kayla Madonna

RW: Was there anybody that helped you throughout this period of time?

CR: Julio Jones. He never let me lack or not come in and give it my all. I’m having to keep up with him after filming for 12 hours and he’s fresh out of sleep and ready to go, but in my mind, I’m not gon’ let him outshine me so he definitely helped throughout the offseason.

RW: Talk to me about getting back to the league while also juggling the acting career.

CR: As long as I’m still having fun with it, I’m going to continue to play. It came down to sacrifices when I was filming this last off-season. I turned down maybe 10 different offers from NFL teams just so I could finish this role. Whatever I’m in, I’m going to finish it and give it my all. I didn’t want to be halfway in at OTAs and have to leave and finish filming. Really going forward it’s the same situation for me. Finish filming and go back to the field.

RW: Why are you so committed to acting?

CR: It’s my first passion. Even though I started playing football at the age of six, it wasn’t a career for me and acting was my first career. I started at the age of 10 so naturally it became my first passion and I always knew I was going to go back.

RW: Are you starting to get that thrill of tapping into your first passion again or are you itching to lace the cleats up again?

CR: I try to stay in the moment. I don’t think about one or the other whenever I’m dealing with them. Whenever I’m in Hollywood, I’m Tre Rodgers and the moment I strap my cleats up, Tre Rodgers no longer exists – I’m Chester Rodgers. It’s basically like I’m literally living in two different worlds.

RW: What is the difference between Tre and Chester?

CR: Being Chester, I gotta be on the football field and be the tough guy, clean cut, professional and what I learned over the years from all the vets. With Tre, I’m more artistic, creative, I wear different clothes, I do whatever I want to express my creativity.

RW: What did you miss about acting while you were playing football for so many years?

CR: The gateway it was for my feelings. Whenever I’m acting, I can get those feelings off my chest because whenever you’re embodying a character, it’s a way of therapy. Off the field, I can really be myself. I always felt like I was in a box when I was just a football player and I’m more than an athlete.

Photo Credit: Kayla Madonna

RW: What do you enjoy about the role you’re playing in BMF?

CR: BMF has always been a legend. Growing up in the south, I always watched their documentaries when they started back in ’05 [and] I wasn’t nothin’ but 10-years-old. I always heard about it and read about the cultural impact that it had on us so be able to land a role on a TV show and illustrate that, it was a no-brainer. I felt like the character was someone who I could really embody. I think everyone is going to love this character.

RW: Give me five characters off the top of your head that you’re perfect for.

CR: I would love to do an action movie, like a Denzel Washington in Training Day type of character. I would love to be in a Marvel movie. A comedy would be dope. I would want to do animation again; I did it when I was younger for Cartoon Network. I have a son so a kid’s movie would be cool, just so he can hear my voice. Maybe one day.

RW: In football years, they say you’re getting old. You’re 29, but in acting you’re so young. How do you see your career going as you go into the future?

CR: The next five years, hopefully I can transition into being a full-time actor and be a household name. I feel like this my second shot and so I really want to take it to the next level and be a household name.

RW: Let’s go back to your roots at the HBCU of Grambling State. What role did your HBCU play in helping to bring you to this point?

CR: I owe Grambling State a lot of credit because they played a big part in my development and maturity. I had to grow up fast. Being away from home in a small town that I knew nothing about, it was a lot of different things I faced. I wasn’t really living as a college student; I was on my own. Seeing where HBCUs are now compared to when I was playing, it’s amazing because we really got it out the mud. It was the hardest thing ever, but it molded me.

RW: Now I have a tough one. If you get a call in June for a great Hollywood role but you get a call from the Chiefs or the Bills and both want you, which one do you pick up?

CR: Money talks. It would come down to who wants me more. I have a family to take care of. It would also come down to the situation. I feel like I’m very young in my acting career so I have time. I’m limited in my football career. It would be a really tough decision, and it would come down to that.


About The Author
Randall Williams
Randall Williams
Randall Williams is a Staff Writer covering sports business and music for Boardroom. Before joining the team, he previously worked for Sportico, Andscape and Bloomberg. His byline has also been syndicated in the Boston Globe and Time Magazine. Williams' notable profile features he has written include NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent, Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad, BMX biker Nigel Sylvester and both Shedeur and Shilo Sanders. Randall, a graduate of "The Real HU" - Hampton University - is most proud of scooping Howard University joining Jordan Brand nearly three months before the official announcement.