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Timely topic: ‘The Rookie’ actor honored as series takes on issues of racial injustice

Titus Makin stars as Jackson West in the ABC series “The Rookie.” (Ed Herrera/ABC)

Titus Makin is using his voice to make a difference.

The actor portrays Jackson West on the ABC series “The Rookie” – a role he’s grown along with for three seasons.

Yet this season, Makin is honored to be part of a series that is addressing the racial injustice that the country is feeling.

“It’s honestly an honor,” he says. “ABC and ‘The Rookie’ are both willing to undertake it and add to the conversation. It could be going in its lighthearted style. But they are gong for it and opening up this dialogue.”

“The Rookie” is a police procedural series that follows John Nolan, played by Nathan Fillion, a man in his 40s who becomes the oldest rookie in the Los Angeles Police Department.

Titus Makin, left, and Brandon Routh in a scene from “The Rookie.” (Courtesy of ABC)

Joining Fillion and Makin are Alyssa Diaz, Richard T. Jones, Mercedes Mason, Melissa O’Neil, Afton Williamson, Mekia Cox, Shawn Ashmore and Eric Winter. The series premiered its third season on Jan. 3 and airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC.

In the current season, Makin says, West continues to grow into the person he’s meant to be.

“I feel like everybody has their storylines,” Makin says. “Jackson is complicated. He’s following in his dad’s footsteps, so there’s that pressure. He’s not only a cop. He’s gay. He’s Black. He’s a rookie. There are so many colors to play as a character. This season, we get to see Jackson take hold of his voice.”

Portraying West has also taught Makin some valuable lessons.

He says West will stay quiet in certain situations, while he won’t.

Nathan Fillion and Shawn Ashmore in a scene from “The Rookie.” (Courtesy of ABC)

“There are some scenes when I ask myself, ‘Why is Jackson not stepping up to the plate?’ Then there are times where I’m on the opposite side of the fence,” he says. “It’s been extremely rewarding to play a cop in the first place. I was fearful because of the perception. The great thing about our show is that we show people what policing should be like and how to inspire change. It’s police officers policing each other.”

Makin has been able to inject more of himself into West’s character this season.

“I speak through him, and it’s great,” he says. “Starting with the third episode, you see Jackson begin to own his voice and not back down.”

Another lesson Makin has learned from the show is simple.

“It’s taught me that I don’t have what it takes ever to be a police officer,” he says. “If there’s a gunshot, I will cower or run. I don’t have it in me to walk into any of that.”

When Makin gets breaks from production of “The Rookie,” he can be found making music under the stage name Butterfly Ali.

Nathan Fillion, Melissa O’Neil and Mekia Cox in a scene from “The Rookie.” (Courtesy of ABC)

The music he creates is influenced by Motown artists and is often compared to Frank Ocean, Andre 3000 and Anderson .Paak.

He says music delivers something that Hollywood just can’t, and he accepts nothing but complete control over his art.

His most recent release, “Pray for ‘Em,” is a ’70s-inspired jam with a strong message in support people of color in the current climate.

“My truest form is music,” he says. “Acting takes a lot of work. Music comes out of me naturally, and it’s my detox when work has been really hard.”

Writing music is the polar opposite of his time on “The Rookie.”

“If you give me an opportunity, I’ll always show up with a new face,” he says. “It’s great to push myself to grow.”

Makin hopes to get some time to travel to New Mexico and to write some music.

He’s been to Albuquerque before, but never for long, he said.

“Everything there sounds inspiring,” he says. “I try to do something different each time, and that’s how I push myself in music or acting.”

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