I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Rokki James at the Clearwater Beach Sand Pearl Resort this morning. Rokki James, born Andres Archontakis, changed his name at the recommendation of his agent, Richard Heckenkamp. Richard told him “No one is going to remember that name!”. So, Rokki named himself after his mentor, Rocco Paskidlis, a senior in high school when Rokki was a freshman. Rokki said Rocco was the toughest guy he’d ever met. A boxer and kickboxer, Rocco was a legend in the Underground fight scene in Tampa, Florida.
Rokki was a wrestler in high school, but an altercation at the beach, where he suffered 200 blows to the head, lead Rokki to take up boxing. He started training at the 4th St. Boxing Gym in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Growing up, Rokki admired 3 Martial Artists: Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee, and Don “The Dragon” Wilson, the 11-time world champion kickboxer who was also from Florida.
After graduating high school, Rokki moved to New York City, to work as a bouncer at CBGB’s, the undisputed birthplace of punk, and, according to Rokki, a “Dangerous place to work.” Rokki lived with a musician friend that he described as looking like Steven Segal by day (Hair slicked back in a ponytail, suit) and “Slash” by night.
In the early 1990’s, a job offer took Rokki to Chicago. For the next four years, Rokki worked in advertising, and modeling, while training at The Windy City Boxing Gym. At 152 pounds, Rokki modeled suits for Marc Jacobs on the runway. He was able to save enough money to move to LA, and not be broke.
When I asked Rokki what made him decide to become an actor, he said that he loved reading Shakespeare. He would practice reading scripts like “Swingers” and “Pulp Fiction” with his friends, and they encouraged him to move to LA to pursue a career in acting.
So, Rokki packed up his pick-up and headed for California. He first lived in Beachwood Canyon near the Hollywood sign, and while in a bar, recognized an actor, bought him a drink, and was introduced to a manager, who bought him dinner, and introduced him to his agent, Richard Heckenkamp. Rokki credits Richard for teaching him everything he knows about “the business”.
Richard asked for Rokki’s “headshots”, and immediately ripped them up and threw them in the garbage. He instructed Rokki to buy a certain book on acting, and when Rokki showed it to him, Richard took a black marker, and drew a line through each page. Rokki was in shock, as he’d paid good money for the book. Richard told him “I saved you thousands of dollars later”.
While working out at GOLD’s GYM, Rokki met Mark Walberg. Rokki had known a friend of Mark’s, Bobby Dee, while living in Chicago. Bobby told Rokki if he ever ran into Mark, to let him know he was OK, as Bobby had been in Desert Storm.
Mark also gave Rokki some good advice: Don’t go to nightclubs trying to make friends, the friends you meet in acting class will be your friends. Rokki says he stays in touch with them to this day.
Rokki said his biggest achievement to date was when he landed a role in “Paying Mr. McGetty”, and got to work with one of his martial arts idols, Don “The Dragon” Wilson.