Only in Hollywood can being tall, chiseled, and handsome be considered an occupational liability. Actor Timon Kyle Durrett knows roles can be limited for 6’5’’ specimens.

“Height has its advantages and disadvantages,” Durrett says. “Flying on regular airplanes might be a little uncomfortable. But booking a role as a pro ballplayer? I can do that.”

As one of the stars of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Queen Sugar, which begins its second season Tuesday, he gets to use his size advantage for precisely that role. “There were some roles that I missed out on because of my size and my height. It’s part of the game. But then there are some, like Queen Sugar, where [director] Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey said, ‘We want a legitimately tall person who’s fit and who looked like he can be a pro ballplayer in real life.’ That’s what I am.”

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Queen Sugar follows the life of three siblings who move to Louisiana after the death of their father to claim their inheritance, an 800-acre sugarcane farm. Durrett’s character, basketball star Davis West, is forced to make amends and rebuild his family after a sex scandal rocks his world. But besides the sensitive and challenging subject matter, keeping his physique in top shape is part of Durrett’s role requirements.

“It’s my biggest role, the one that’s got me the most notoriety,” says Durrett, who also played in films such as Barbershop 2 and Like Mike. “The thing about the show that I like is that you’re mixing it with fitness and acting. I have it in my head that I have to keep looking good for this role, so the fitness aspect, along with the acting, goes hand-in-hand for me.”

And when you see Durrett’s washboard abs and rim-shattering python arms—which he maintains with a daily regimen either in the weight room or by boxing, swimming, running, and cycling—the notion that at one point Durrett was once a skinny 5’8’’ high school teenager too small for his high school basketball team in Chicago would come as a surprise. But then came the rapid 9″ growth spurt over the course of his high school days. “I was the fortunate one in my family to get more clothes and shoes than most of my brothers and sisters, for no other reason than the fact that I was growing faster than anybody else had,” Durrett jokes.

Then, as a 6’5’’ freshman in college, Durrett had the size of a power forward, except he had zero organized basketball experience. But was still hell-bent on making the team by any means necessary—even if it meant starting as the team manager. Unrecruited, his natural athletic skills—he was faster and stronger, he says, than most of the team—allowed him to progress at such a pace that head coach Sam Weaver took notice and added him to the team, full scholarship.

“I was determined to play basketball, and Coach Weaver, he knew that. I wasn’t on scholarship. I hadn’t been recruited. I just had to display the athletic talents that I had, ’cause I was a very inexperienced ball player. I had never played any formal ball, so actually making the team and being put on scholarship the year after I managed was the highlight for me, because I’d never had any organized sports training. I just used my athletic prowess to get me on the team.”

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Durrett’s dedication to fitness not only kept him in top shape, but, as an LA trainer for 11 years, he’s helped others achieve their muscle goals. Some even turned out to be co-stars.

“I trained [rapper and actor] Nelly, a couple of times, not anything long-term,” he says. “A few days later, I ended up doing a commercial with him. He was telling the people how sore he was. I walked in, and he’s like, ‘There’s the guy right there.'”