Champaign native on new VH1 show
Pro basketball players and the cheerleaders who love them. That's the stuff of drama on a new show that features a Champaign native and former Illini as one of the stars.
McKinley Freeman will be a star of VH1's new drama "Hit the Floor" about the fictional Los Angeles Devils. And Freeman's role is one of the most devilish: Cheerleaders beware.
"Hit the Floor," which was created by James LaRosa, premieres May 27.
Taylour Paige plays the Devil Girls squad's innocent rookie, Ahsha. Freeman's character, Derek Roman, wants to make a play for Ahsha.
Freeman has been working his way up the Hollywood ladder. He's wary about releasing his age because he's playing a young stud hoopster.
But imdb.com has a long list of his roles, including parts in "Crosstown," "Devious Maids," "End of Watch," "The Client List," "Blue-Eyed Butcher," " The Closer," "The Protector," three years on "Days of Our Lives," "Waking Madison," "General Hospital," "NCIS" and "Samantha Who?"
Also on the list are "Look," "10 Years Later," "Delta Farce," "Criminal Minds," "Boston Legal," "CSI: Miami," and "ER."
So you probably have seen him somewhere — if not on the basketball court playing for Parkland College and the University of Illinois as "David Freeman."
He attended school at King and Yankee Ridge elementary schools (when he he played the role of Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz"), Urbana Middle School and Champaign Central High. He was telemarketer for The News-Gazette.
He also has an MBA from Illinois.
"My goal was to become one of the first black CEOs at IBM," Freeman said. "IBM recruited me right out of business school."
Acting and business can use similar skill sets, he says.
"You can give a presentation to people dead set against doing something, or use your business sense in a meeting with (producer) Ivan Reitman," he says.
But Freeman's acting career has put all that behind him, and he's worked his way up to a starring role.
The new VH1 series follows Freeman's character as he navigates through the woes of being the team's bad boy. That includes playing a lot of basketball just to stay in shape, he says.
His steady stream of roles has convinced him that he made the right decision to leave a powerful job at IBM.
"I've been in L.A. for about eight years now, so it's a home a home away from home," he says. (When he comes back to Champaign, he enjoys both Monical's and Papa Del's).
Freeman is single and has "no shorties." He said he is "trying to be the best McKinley Freeman I can be."
And whether it's basketball, business or acting, Freeman said that while growing up in Champaign he always had great aspirations.
"I thought I'd go with being the next Michael Jordan," he says. "There's no value in being realistic."