"I don't really talk much because I've learned that when you do, it can come back and bite you in the ass," he says mysteriously, refusing to elaborate. "In life, you've got to be careful what you say." Careful is an understatement with this kid, but here's what we do know: He was born in New York City, and at age 7 or 8, the family moved to Clearwater, FL. He has three sisters (two older, one younger). His father now lives in Dallas, TX and owns Italian restaurants. His mother, who is still in the Tampa bay area, works at a doctor's office. A week after graduating from high school, Kaba returned to New York, apparently to attend St. John's University and play soccer. After one semester, he switched majors from business to fine arts. This is where things get a little murky. Over the next three years, he attended two more universities, hurt his ankle, and quit soccer ("but that's part of the 10 reasons why I quit playing"), worked a series of jobs, returned to Florida briefly, went back to New York, and eventually got the job at ATWT after one of his first auditions. According to his official bio, it was his modeling career that launched him into acting, but he doesn't want to discuss that.
He's a bit of a tease, though. Rather than simply not answer a question, he tends to talk in frustrating circles. Whether that's because he has not yet gotten the hand of this interview game or whether he's busy strategizing is unclear, but it's more than likely a little of both. Check out this exchange:
Digest: Did you want to play pro soccer?
Kaba: I had dreams, but... (trails off)
Digest: You must have been pretty good.
Kaba: I wouldn't go that far. I wasn't a bad player.
Digest: So, what happened?
Kaba: That's a whole disaster. I don't even want to get into that. It was just a big mess, lying to myself. I went to New York, then I moved back to Florida for like, three months, and that's when I realized that I had a purpose to being in New York. I felt like I had to do something there. It's a long story.
Digest: Well, that's why I'm here.
Kaba: Yeah, you could say that [laughs]. There were other reasons, but...
Digest: But you don't want to say them.
Kaba: Well, I honestly always felt like something was going to happen...I desired it a lot, I wanted to do it. And when you have a desire, you don't stop. It's not like I gave up on it, like I did with soccer. I wanted to do it. That's it. So, I came back the second time a lot more charged, like nothing was gonna stand in my way. And it didn't.
Digest: What happened then?
Kaba: Things just happened. From one job to the other to the other...
Digest: What kind of jobs?
Kaba: First I was a receptionist at a sports club, then other stuff happened. I like to leave a lot of stuff out because, you know, about my jobs...
Digest: Okay, but you were...
Kaba: I'm gonna make it straight up for you: It was tough, the last year of my life. I didn't think I was gonna make it. But it's a long detailed story, and... I'll hopefully save it for [THE E!] TRUE HOLLYWOOD [STORY] one day. I don't know. I'd rather not say. I don't even like thinking about it sometimes because I'm still in New York, and sometimes, I get these feeling, and I just...
He breaks off there with a wincing groan and defers the next few questions with what seems like an earnest request to leave it alone. It's clear that he's getting a little weary of this game, that this whole business of being "it" is a bit taxing. "It's scary. Some of the stuff I don't really think about because it's like, too much. I'm enjoying it, but I just don't know what's next anymore," he says. "Of course, I want the highest I can get. Nobody wants to stop at the ceiling. But I'm so not used to this business that whatever happens, I'm trying to be cool about it. But I didn't have a job four months ago. That's what I mean. It's overwhelming to a point where I can't show enthusiasm. I don't know how to explain that. I'm in shock."
As to whether all that hype will lead to something bigger, "I don't even think I could think that far ahead. I'm just gonna say this: I'm not gonna rush it. Yes, eventually, I'd like to do that, but I'm happy where I am," says the actor, who does seem to get genuine pleasure out of his camaraderie with his fellow castmates, as well as the stability of a full-time job. "All I know is that I wake up every morning and get to do what I always wanted to do. Security is something I haven't had for years, so that's why I'm very happy. I have a decent job. I can go to sleep without waking up in the middle of the night worrying about something."
He had even considered going back to school, which would mean revisiting that time when things weren't going so well. "I'll get my degree. Make my mom smile and have some kind of back-up," he says. Not that mom needs such reassurances. "She's always proud. She was proud of me when I didn't have anything. She's like that. She's one of those ladies you want to [put on THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW], you know what I mean?" And lest we forget, there's also a girlfriend, who, not surprisingly, Kaba won't name. "She was my inspiration. She was always behind me during the hard times. She never gave up on me," he says with a coy smile, thinking of more secrets he's not ready to reveal. "It makes people come back for more," he grins, before adding a more straightforward disclaimer: "The rest is personal, and I kind of want to move on... Eventually, it will come out." For now, thought, he'll keep a few things to himself.
Birthday: February 16
On His Name: "I've had people try to call me Jimmy or try to get away with other things. I kind of get offended because I know my name's tough, and I know it's not like a normal English name. That's just it. If you can't say my name, don't call me."
Favorite TV Show Ever: IN LIVING COLOR. "It was the perfect case. They all made it."
Last Movie He Saw: Unfaithful
One He Thinks Is Better: Y Tu Mamà También
Favorite Movie?: "I have so many favorite movies that I can't even answer the question. That's really hard. Like you can have a favorite book, but you can never have a favorite movie."
Okay, Favorite Book?: "No [laughs]. I don't. I'm not gonna lie to you."
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