Ex-NFL player Matthew Cherry tackles filmmaking, earns an Oscar nomination for Hair Love

Alazja Kirk | Staff Writer

From the NFL to Hollywood, the writer, director and filmmaker Matthew Cherry has had an impressive rise to the top.

The Chicago native is a former NFL receiver-turned-filmmaker who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens. Cherry moved to L.A. to pursue a career in entertainment after his retirement in 2007. He’s worked as a production assistant on more than 40 commercials and 20 music videos.

Cherry’s latest project, Hair Love, received an Oscar nomination this month for best animated short film. Hair Love is about an African American father attempting to do his daughter’s hair for the first time.

Matthew Cherry joined Robin Roberts, Micheal Strahan and Lara Spencer on Good Morning America to talk about his career transition and how meaningful it has been to see the love and support for his short film.

“I moved to L.A. 13 years ago and kinda started over when I retired,” Cherry said in the interview. “And I started as a [production assistant] and kinda worked my way up doing music videos and short films — so to be here now at the highest level is so crazy.”

Cherry also spoke on the inspiration behind what made him want to create an animated short about an African American dad who learns how to do his young daughter’s hair.

“A couple of years ago, I was coming across a lot of viral videos about African American fathers that were doing their daughters’ hair,” he said. “It seemed like it was an anomaly. People were sharing it because they weren’t used to seeing it.”

Cherry spoke on how essential it is to normalize black men doing their daughters’ hair due to the stereotype they often face of not being involved in their children’s lives. He saw the importance of showcasing a strong black family unit and show that dads are present.

“This has to be one of the sweetest short films I’ve ever seen,” Hampton University senior Darius Hamb said. “He deserves everything that comes his way.”

Cherry has directed music videos for musical artists Beyoncé, Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland, Tweet, Jazmine Sullivan, Lalah Hathaway, Kindred The Family Soul, Snoop Dogg, The Foreign Exchange, Bilal, N’Dambi, Maysa Leak, Dwele, Najee, K’Jon and Chloe X Halle.

Cherry’s first feature film, The Last Fall, made its world premiere at South By Southwest in 2012 and received awards at the American Black Film Festival for Best Screenplay and Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival for the HBO Best Feature Film Award. The Last Fall was acquired by Image Entertainment, made its television premiere on BET in December 2012 and is currently streaming on Netflix and Hulu.

Cherry’s feature film 9 Rides premiered at SXSW in 2016 in the Narrative Spotlight category and stars Dorian Missick, Omar Dorsey, Robinne Lee, Xosha Roquemore, Amin Joseph, Skye P. Marshall, Thomas Q. Jones and Tracie Thoms.

Cherry also has directed the TBS series The Last OG, the CBS drama event series The Red Line executive produced by Ava DuVernay & Greg Berlanti, the ABC action-comedy series Whiskey Cavalier, CBS’ The Unicorn and most recently, ABC’s hit series Black-ish.

“It’s great to see positive examples like Matthew,” said Brittany Mimms, a fourth-year MBA major at Hampton University. “He shows young people that anything is possible to accomplish as long as you stay passionate and persistent.”

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