Thanksgiving is this month and while many of us are looking forward to family, friends, food etc. This year, an extra amount of anticipation for the national holiday means the debut of NETFLIX/Spike Lee's 'She's Gotta Have It' which begins streaming on the network for this movie turned series. Rafael V DeLeon plays Manny Garciela and we caught up with him in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
ATHLEISURE MAG: We've seen you in print campaigns and we know that you have acted in a number of shows/films, tell us about your journey in both areas.
RAFAEL V DELEON: Yes, I have! Well, the journey is still ongoing, but I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I have been given so far. When I first moved to NYC, I worked the graveyard shift at a hotel. That was the bottom...I mean, “beginning” of the journey. lol
AM: Tell us about your role in Netflix/Spike Lee's 'She's Gotta Have It', how long were you filming and what was the auditioning process like?
RVD: I filmed scenes over the course of several months. The audition process was like any other; you go in, do your best work, and leave the room knowing you gave it your best.
AM: In your opinion, how has 'She's Gotta Have It' been tweaked from the world it existed in 1986 to now?
RVD: Well for starters, in 1986, social media didn’t exist. The integration of social media and cell phones are the two biggest tweaks. Other themes like: racial inequality, gentrification, feminine empowerment, and social justice were already top-of-mind issues for Spike...back in 1986. “Been Woke” as Spike would say.
AM: What did you know about this movie prior to auditioning and what are your thoughts on this now that you have played the part of Manny Garciela that plays the best friend of Mars Blackmon played by Hamilton's Anthony Ramos?
RVD: I was familiar with the project but had not seen the film prior to auditioning. I had done my research on the film and prepared accordingly though. My thoughts now are “Whoa. What an experience!” To work with creatives at the top of their game both in-front of and behind the camera is a milestone moment for me. You find yourself surrounded by so much talent it’s awe-inspiring sometimes.
AM: With 'She's Gotta Have It' streaming on Thanksgiving, how excited are you to be a part of this iconic series?
RVD: As excited as Spike was when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009.
AM: We know that you live in Brooklyn, where are your 3 favorite places to eat, workout and to grab a beer?
RVD: 1.) Eat- I really enjoy Archie’s Pizza in Bushwick (I hope they read this).
2.) Workout- Any playground basketball court. Always good competition there.
3.) Grab a beer - The Rookery Bar (I REALLY hope they read this).
AM: Do you still play basketball as we know that you played Division I at Temple?
I do still play! A colleague of mine has pick-up every week (shout out to DG) and gets a bunch of ex-division 1 guys together for weekly runs.
AM: What's your personal style when you're going out to grab a drink versus when you're running errands?
RVD: Oh man, when I’m going out I try to dress in something that is comfortable, individualist, and on-trend. When I am running errands? Whatever is clean.
AM: What roles can we see you in next?
RVD:I have a few opportunities in the pipeline, but nothing I can announce currently. I will just say that I am excited for what 2018 has in store.
AM: With Christmas around the corner, what are you doing this season and where will you spend NYE?
RVD: I am spending the week leading up to Christmas with my family in Prince Georges County, MD and will be traveling to Costa Rica on the 26th through the new year!
AM: Tell us about charities that you are a part of?
RVD: I work closely with the Make-A-Play organization, Camp Ryan, and volunteer at a middle school in my neighborhood. Lending a hand in my community is something that is very important to me.
AM: Is there anything else that you would like to tell us that we have not covered?
RVD: I love playing Chess, day-trading stocks, reading The Atlantic, and watching critically-acclaimed films with my Somali princess. Oh, and I still haven’t beaten a local chess-master in Union Square.
Our shoot took place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the McCarren Hotel and Pool as well as the famed The Meatball Shop. You can watch Rafael V Deleon on NETFLIX in Spike Lee's, 'She's Gotta Have It' streaming now. You can also connect with him socially.
Twitter | @RafaelVDeLeon
Instagram | @RafaelVDeLeon
Facebook | /RafaelVDeLeon
We're big fans of The Meatball Shop at Athleisure Mag and it was fun to chat with their Marketing Director Natasha Miller about their history, menu, neighborhood locations and spirit.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us about The Meatball Shop - what the concept behind the restaurant is, who are the co-founders, when it was created, and current as well as upcoming locations of this eatery.
NATASHA MILLER: The co-founders are Daniel Holzman (Chef) and Michael Chernow, a pair of childhood friends who opened the first The Meatball Shop location on the Lower East Side in 2010. Since then, they’ve expanded to open locations in the Upper East Side, West Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and Williamsburg. The Meatball Shop is all about eating responsibly sourced, delicious food in a fun, hip location.
AM: What are some of the signature dishes and cocktails that are available at The Meatball Shop?
NM: The beauty of The Meatball Shop is that you can put together any dish you'd like! But, some of our guest's favorites combos are definitely our Classic Ball (a mix of beef and pork meat) with our Classic Tomato over Spaghetti. Our Kitchen Sink Salad is also a big hit with our guests. Our cocktail menu changes seasonally, but I’d say our Moscow Mule is pretty classic (and delicious).
AM: For those who are vegetarian, can they also enjoy the experience at The Meatball Shop?
NM: Totally! We have vegan veggie balls that are out of this world, I like them best with our pesto, but they can be served however you’d like! We're all about cooking seasonally and are always changing up our awesome roster of veggies sides. Currently were serving sides like Roast Brussels Sprouts and Apples, Braised Kale and Tomato Soffrito, and Butternut Squash Sage Rissoto.
AM: If you haven't done so already, can you tell us about Sidepiece?
NM: Sidepiece is the bar connected to our Hell’s Kitchen location – you walk to the back of the restaurant, past the restrooms, through a little hallway, and you’re there! Sidepiece has a totally different cocktail menu and acts as our meatball test kitchen where we serve some super fun dishes like Pretzels Balls and Meatball Nachos, in a speakeasy-esque space. It can also be rented out for private parties too!
AM: With a number of locations in NYC, what is the thought of the aesthetic of the restaurant in relation to the location of the neighborhood that it resides in?
NM: The aesthetic of each individual restaurant definitely changes based on the neighborhood that surrounds it. We want each location to feel like its own restaurant - the Williamsburg location, for example, is more subdued and looks lovingly worn in, while the Lower East Side shop has a poppy-feel, with a deep navy wall coated in bright white metal meat grinders.
AM: We shot a portion of our shoot in the Williamsburg location of The Meatball Shop. What can you tell us about this particular location (when it opened, those who tend to stop in)?
NM: We opened up our Williamsburg Shop in 2011 and it's become a stable of Bedford Ave. We get a lot of neighborhood locals for sure but as the neighborhood has changed we're also seeing a ton of tourists stop in which has been really fun. We recently started serving brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am-4:00pm – this was the first location we started doing so, and it’s been a nice change of pace.
AM: What can we expect with the upcoming holiday season in terms of events or promotions taking place at The Meatball Shops?
NM: We’re just about to launch our latest SHUT skateboard deck design, which will be available on our website. We encourage fans of the brand to check out our other gear as well, like our Ballers sweatshirt, Ballerina Tee, and our jarred Classic Tomato Sauce- which can all be found at www.themeatballshop.com.
AM: What are the Co-Founders' favorite dishes at The Meatball Shop?
NM: Michael Chernow loves a Kitchen Sink with Veggie Balls and Pesto and Daniel Holzman loves a heartier dish of Pork Meatballs with Spicy Meat Sauce over Polenta with a Family Jewel on top!
AM: Are there new dishes (whether ongoing or seasonal) that will be coming to The Meatball Shop?
NM: We just started serving our Grilled Cheese balls in all of our locations this week – they sit like dumplings atop a layer of cream of tomato soup and are dangerously good. Right before Christmas, we will be bringing back our Jingle Jingle Balls made with venison and paired with a traditional Cumberland Sauce. We also have a killer Bread Pudding special for dessert this month!
AM: We know that you can buy The Meatball Shops' sauce and cookbook, are there other items that are available that people can purchase when they can't get to the physical locations?
NM: We love designing merch! In addition to our sauce and cookbook, you can find our "Balls" shirts, Grinder Snapbacks, and Grinder Carhartt Beanies at all of our shops. We also carry limited quality items such as our Hedley & Bennet Aprons, "Mini Meatball" Onesizie, and (Baller)INA Pink T-Shirts that you can find in our different shops!