Security Guard turned actor and musician, here’s Derrick T. Tuggle’s story after dancing in one of The Black Keys’ most iconic songs.
If you know of The Black Keys, chances are you have seen the official music video of ‘Lonely Boy’. For those that are living under a rock, The Black Keys is an alt-rock band that has heralded a generation of garage bands, and is famous for producing music that steers clear from the mainstream.
The Lonely Boy music video features actor, musician and then part-time security guard Derrick T. Tuggle dancing and lip-syncing to the song in a single take shot, in front of the Pepper Tree Motel in North Hollywood, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
The video went viral and garnered more than 400,000 views on YouTube within 24 hours. The video originally had a script and a cast of more than 40 people, but changed the premise after director Jesse Dylan noticed Tuggle’s quirky dance moves. At the 2013 Grammy Awards, “Lonely Boy” also won Best Rock Song and several awards for its original video.
A decade after the video was launched, we tracked Derrick Tuggle and spoke to him about the music video that changed his life.
MB: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! Your dance in the video is so unconventional and represents freedom to many. How did this happen? Walk us through it.
DT: I auditioned a lot and submitted myself for the casting of this song. It didn’t say who the group was so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. My actual casting was to be for a motel owner. Interestingly enough, there were supposed to be six other dancers on the song too. That was the original premise of the video. But they scrapped that idea and decided to focus on me because of the way I was dancing.
I was cast as an extra, and there were maybe six or seven other people who were going to be in the video. It was supposed to be a motel shot where the guys from the Black Keys come and give me the keys to their motel room. When I got the role, they had me come down to the set and had me reshoot the video with just me dancing. And the rest is history.
MB: The reason why the dance made it to the video, is because it’s so unconventional. You’ve mentioned before that some of the dancing was borrowed from Carlton from Fresh Prince. What was going through your mind?
DT: I had no idea that they’d be playing the song. The director asked me if I could dance, and so they played the song and I just danced. Some of the dancing was borrowed from Carlton from Fresh Prince, and some moves from other influences. A little bit of John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction, and a little bit of Michael Jackson, so it was a smörgåsbord of everybody in there.
MB: A lot of people interpret the song differently. What does the song mean to you & what is your favorite Black Keys song apart from Lonely Boy?
DT: For me, the song has a simple and straightforward meaning. It means that at some point, all of us think we are lonely but we must remember that we are alone only for a short period of time. Gold on the Ceiling & Wild Child are my favorite Black Keys songs.
MB: What was your reaction to the video going viral?
DT: It meant different things to different people. A few people contacted me & congratulated me. People started doing their own version of the dance. I distinctly remember when I received a message on Facebook from someone who was suffering from cancer. They said that this song made them smile. I had no idea the dance could mean so much to people. I’m truly touched by this.
MB: What has your career trajectory been since the song was released?
DT: I listen to all types of music, and in particular rhythm and blues radio stations. I started pursuing a career in music, but there’s a lot of politics inside the music industry. I used to work as a security guard back then, and I got by doing background acting for TV shows and music videos. I did a couple of other background work for other artists such as LLoyd and Lenny Kravitz. But, The Black Keys video pushed me over and then I got a lot of offers from others. I even got a call from Ellen Degeneres where she also did the dance with me.
MB: If you had to describe your personality with a Black Keys song, what would it be?
DT: It would have to be Wild Child from their new album. Most of my demeanor is laid back and quiet, but once the camera hits, I turn into a whole different person.
MB: Any advice for people who want to make the jump to a creative industry?
DT: It was a really big step for me to move from Chicago to Los Angeles. I didn’t have any family out here. I pioneered myself to come out here and pursue my dreams. My advice to others would be to not let anything or anyone stop you from achieving your dreams. Just go for it.
MB: Lastly, what makes you a blahcksheep?
DT: For me, I would say that I would be considered a blahcksheep or an odd-ball, when I’m out buying albums. I’ve always been a shy kid while growing up, so I made sure to look at who the musicians or producers are before buying an album. Most people don’t care to know who the people behind teamwork are.
Mansi is the Co-Founder of The Blahcksheep. An independent journalist, writer, and musician, she is currently pursuing screenwriting from New York Film Academy in Burbank, LA. She is often found overwrought with overthought; plagued by the idea of losing – of oneself and of the other. She is an avid archiver of memories and feels strongly for the cause of ecological-justice. Most of her written work revolves around the idle optimism of love regained. She goes by the stage name Yemaya. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @someonecalledmansi