SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — When Che Tafari, age 12, didn’t get a callback following his audition for Netflix’s new hit “Me Time,” he was understandably feeling a bit dejected. But it turned out to be a good thing — a very good thing. Che had so impressed “Me Time” lead actor Kevin Hart and director John Hamburg that they gave the role to him outright.
“My agent gave me the audition, as normal, and then I did not get a callback. I was like, ‘What is happening? Where’s the callback?’” Che told the News-Record in a Sept. 11 phone interview. “It turned out later on that I didn’t get a callback because Mr. Kevin Hart and John Hamburg liked me so much that they just knew that I was the person they wanted to play Dash.”
Che, a South Orange native who moved to California in the past couple of years to pursue his acting career, was thrilled to be a part of the “Me Time” cast. In the movie, Hart’s character, a stay-at-home dad, finally gets some “me time” when his wife, played by Regina Hall, takes the children — including Che’s Dash — on a vacation without him. Hart’s character reconnects with an old friend, played by Mark Wahlberg, a somewhat immature playboy who quickly gets the two leading men embroiled in some hectic hijinks. The movie premiered on Netflix on Aug. 26.
With several acting roles under his belt already, Che said “Me Time” is his favorite so far.
“Working with Kevin Hart was amazing, and Mark Wahlberg was great too. And so was Regina; Regina was just very loving, kind, caring,” Che said. He added that his favorite scene to act in was one near the end of the movie when Dash, using a stage persona called “Lil Silk,” is playing the piano in a talent competition and gets to yell at Hart.
“The best one was playing piano and when I got mad at my dad. That was really fun,” Che said, adding that the fun came from “just getting mad at Kevin and he can’t do anything about it.”
While that scene was his favorite, Che admitted that he and his character are not too similar; Che loves playing the piano, while Dash hates it.
“I really love the piano, so not liking the piano was the hardest part for me,” Che said.
While Dash does not like the piano, the character instead found his calling in stand-up comedy, which Che got to perform, mimicking the styles of some of the field’s top talents.
“I watched a lot of stand-up with my family, so I was able to pick up on certain gestures and timing that they do,” Che said. “I was actually able to get a little bit of learning experience from Mr. Kevin; he was able to show me a few things. That was a great honor.”
Since the movie premiered on Netflix, Che has been getting a lot of positive feedback from viewers.
“I’ve gotten some feedback saying that it was really funny, it was great, they loved me and everything like that. I mean, I’m Lil Silk,” he joked.
But the recent acclaim is not going to his head; Che remains a funny and outgoing 12-year-old, who admitted that his favorite thing to do is dress up. Che wasn’t even the one who initially suggested he go into acting.
“Originally my sister’s track coach suggested to my mom that I take acting classes,” Che said, adding that he was about 6 years old at that time. “So after my mom’s initial hesitation, I did, and at the end of a showcase some talent agents were interested; that’s how it happened.”
As his career began to heat up, the family made the decision to move to California to provide more opportunities for Che. Nevertheless, there are still parts of South Orange he misses — mainly the food.
When asked what he misses most about South Orange, he answered without hesitation: “Walia in South Orange. It is a great Ethiopian restaurant. I love all of their injera, their shrimp tails, especially the mango juice. I love how thick it is.”
While he may be pining for some local cuisine, Che is forging ahead with his career. For his next project, he will be appearing on Paramount+’s “The Good Fight,” a spinoff of “The Good Wife.”
“It’s basically about this mom and lawyer who tries to make sure that everybody who is innocent gets the right attorney,” Che said, adding how much he loves doing scenes with the show’s cast. “I love working with Andre Braugher and Audra McDonald for ‘The Good Fight.’ They are just lovely people.”
Che was surprised to learn in that moment that Braugher, like himself, is a source of pride for South Orange.
“My mom just told me that Andre Braugher used to live just right around the corner from me in South Orange,” Che said. “It’s just crazy how life can all come together.”
Photos Courtesy of Amani Tafari