In the relay of life, Mo McRae is not afraid to pass the baton. According to the actor, who appears in Fox’s new sports-centric drama, “Pitch,” much of his success is due to support he received as a kid who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, generally known as one of the city’s tougher neighborhoods. Now that his career in Hollywood—just across town, but a world away—has taken off, McRae says he’s determined to pay his success forward and embolden others, like his early mentors did for him.
“In my life I’ve always been an advocate for growth, chasing dreams and breaking boundaries,” says McRae, before adding, “It’s important to use my opportunity, my voice, my platform, to effect positive change, to inspire and make necessary contributions to conversations that are happening [on] social issues, people’s quality of living, equality, whatever that may be.”
One look at McRae’s resume, which includes films that address such heavy issues as racial inequality (The Butler) and drug addiction (Wild), and it’s clear the 34 year-old has something to say in his work. His new series, which follows Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), the first woman to play on a Major League Baseball team, is no exception: It confronts the age-old debate over gender roles in professional sports.
In Pitch, McRae plays Blip, Ginny’s San Diego Padres teammate and ally, who has known her since their days playing together in the minor leagues. Like McRae, Blip knows that to motivate, one must be a positive force among the strife. “There is a lighter side Blip gets to show, too” McRae says, going on to explain that his friendship with Ginny offers her much needed levity in the midst of the constant criticism and pressure she faces. Again, McRae draws parallels here between his art and his own life. “I see how I’ve been able to benefit as a result of people pretty much coming to my aid when I had these lofty ideas and big goals. I feel like I was very familiar with Blip in the way he dealt with Ginny. Like, ‘Hey, this is her dream, she is good, she deserves this opportunity. Let’s get behind it.’”
McRae’s penchant for tackling challenging subject matter shows no sign of slowing: Among his upcoming projects is the highly anticipated “Vital Signs,” the semi-autobiographical drama series about the rapper and record producer, Dr. Dre, that marks Apple’s first venture into original programming. “I can’t say much about it, but it’s incredible,” McRae says of the very hush-hush project. “I remember getting the scripts and being so blown away by the depth of the material. My biggest takeaway from [the production] was the collaborative nature of it. We got out there and we figured things out as we went along.”
While his career may have taken him out of his native South Central neighborhood, McRae clearly hasn’t forgotten his roots. He still resides in Los Angeles, and after three decades of exploring all the city has to offer, he has superior insight on the places one can’t miss if he ever finds himself in the City of Angels. Below, a McRae-approved key to the city he calls home.
Cup of Joe: “Full disclosure: I don’t drink coffee. But The Bourgeois Pig, which serves it, is the coolest place to go think, vibe out or whatever, in town.
Power Lunch: “The Parlor, on Melrose, has a nice patio, and its tuna melt sandwich is incredible.”
Cocktail Hour: “I don’t drink alcohol either, but the Soho House West Hollywood is a cool nighttime spot.”
Retail Therapy: “Undefeated, for its sneaker selection.”
Date Night: “For a really special occasion, Mastro’s, in either Beverly Hills or Mailbu. But My Two Cents, on West Pico Boulevard, serves incredible modern comfort food in a somewhat looser atmosphere.”
Don’t Miss: The tours at Paramount Studios. There is just something about being on that lot that makes you feel nostalgic. You feel the old Hollywood magic all around you.
Hidden Gem: The Culver Hotel is a historic building in Culver City with great food and, depending on when you go, live music. I’m a big “vibe person,” and I love that classic wine-and-dine atmosphere.