As a guest on the Out of Character Podcast with Ryan Satin, Kofi Kingston joined the show to talk about his debut in 2008 for the WWE as a Jamaican character. The former WWE Champion revealed what his initial conversations were like with Vince McMahon involving several vignettes he started with.
“This was my first meeting with Vince, we had a bunch of writers and they had written out six different skits and they were all me rescuing somebody on the beach because it was ‘Trouble in Paradise’ and that was the line,” Kofi explained. “At that time, you’re just happy to get a chance to be on TV so I’m not gonna go through and be like this is garbage and I don’t think this is going to work. So we’re going over it, he’s going through all the skits and he approves everything. We go down to Miami to film everything and it was a great experience, the first time that everybody on the set was there for me, it was all rotated around I was the central figure.
“We taped them and then they started airing several weeks later. A lot of times the shows being broadcast, you can put on a set of headphones and listen to everything that’s going on between Vince and the truck, the camera guys. As a studious guy, you put on the headset and listened to the show and my vignette comes on where I buried the guy in the sand and I remember Vince coming on the headset and he goes ‘ugh, this is barely passable.’ I was like oh my god, we got six left! But he must know that I’m on the headset right now and he’s ribbing me. Years later I’m like there’s no way he knew I was on the headset, he really thought these vignettes were barely passable, this was his actual opinion and he said it out loud. For all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t be here. I go back and I watch those vignettes and I’m like oh my god, it’s cringe-worthy. It makes my skin crawl a little bit.”
Kofi Kingston also spoke about having to take on the Jamaican accent and use it during every promo or interview he had. The WWE superstar also revealed conversations he’d have with WWE Magazine people where he’d have to switch his accent mid-conversation.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” Kofi Kingston said. “Initially when I came in, Vince was like ‘look, you’ve got to do everything in character, I want you to do every interview in character.’ At the time, we had WWE magazine and they would call me. I’d get a 203 number so I’d answer the phone like ‘Hello?’ ‘Yeah this is Scott Dorsey and I’m calling for Kofi, is Kofi there?’ I’m like ‘oh, yeah, he’s here, hold on.’ [Speaks in his Jamaican accent] ‘What’s going on, Kofi Kingston here, what’s up?’ Then he’d ask me all the questions you know? It was a silly situation because you know that I’m not Jamaican and I know that you know that I’m not Jamaican but Vince said that I have to put this accent on and now we’ve got to play this game and I’ve got to interview with you with this accent on.”
Continuing to talk about his early start with the WWE, Kofi Kingston revealed that his mom was the first person to spill the beans outside of WWE that he wasn’t Jamaican. At the time, it was reported that the company didn’t want to market him with the stereotypical accent when he wasn’t Jamaican. The former WWE Champion said he spoke with BBC News about his character and revealed that shortly after they called his mom and she told them this:
“15 minutes later my mom calls me and goes ‘oh Kof, some guy just called me and asked me about your career and asked if you’re Jamaican and I said no, he’s from Ghana but he’s just doing it for work…’ So now I’m like ‘Mom, kayfabe mom, kayfabe!’ It’s over. Two days later Leslie Goffe writes this article, you can go out and google it and it’s BBC. Come on man, you know this is World Wrestling Entertainment, you know there are people out here that play characters on there. The Undertaker is not a walking zombie, he’s not actually dead, he’s alive and he has kids.
“So then the article comes out, talking about ‘Kofi is ashamed of his culture and heritage,’ and I was like oh my god, it’s over bro. I survived these vignettes, this terrible accent, all for this and now it’s over. I go to New Orleans, go into the office with Vince and say ‘Vince we’ve got to talk man. It’s over bro, they know, the cats out of the bag.’ He goes ‘Well, you might think that everybody knows but it’s just a small section of people that know and you’re still going to go out there and do that accent.’ I’m like no but then six months later he calls me back into his office and says ‘yeah, I think we’re going to have you drop the accent today.’
Lastly, Kingston also mentioned the first time he went to Jamaica after playing this character for a few years. The New Day member revealed the reaction he received from the Jamaican people and also shared conversations he used to have with another WWE superstar going through a relatable situation to him at that time.
“I thought people were going to be mad, I can never go to Jamaica and people were going to be mad that I tried to imitate their culture,” Kofi said. “I’ll never go and I had never been there before. It was three years later that I had an appearance there and I was like guys, you can’t send me here, they’re not going to let me come back. Of course, I go over there and everyone’s cool. It was all love and everything was alright. It was liberating to be able to drop the accent and the only other person who had the same struggle as I was Santino because he’s actually from Canada. We would just sit in the bleachers sometimes and tell our stories and we could relate to each other. When I finally got to drop it, it was a dap like you got out. It was really liberating because it’s hard enough to remember what you have to say to millions of people let alone how you’re saying it. The fact that I didn’t have to worry about how I had to butcher an accent and use an entire culture’s words was liberating. A big relief off my back.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Out of Character with Ryan Satin with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
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