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One of my greatest lessons in life came from my mom. When I told her I didn't want to go to church, she said, 'You don't have to go to church, but you have to go somewhere. You have to believe in something.
Until film is just as easily accessible as a pen or pencil, then it's not completely an art form. In painting you can just pick up a piece of chalk, a stick or whatever. In sculpture you can get a rock. Writing you just need a pencil and paper. Film has been a very elitist medium. It costs so much money. It doesn't allow everyone who wants to tell stories tell stories. The great storytellers however are going to rise to the top, no matter what. That's why independent film is very important to me.
My work is just another expression of my growth as a person.
In high school I did some musicals, but I never took acting until college. I was studying opera, classical voice, and a speech teacher asked me to audition for this play and I got the lead. And she helped me to get into a conservatory, with a scholarship as a singer, and then I was accepted into the acting conservatory. This agent saw me, the summer before I went to conservatory, and while I was in school, I started working right away.
Good science fiction is always based in contemporary truths. One of the themes is the overextension of credit, the nature of being indentured to something. It's the idea that they can take everything away. Here, it extends to your physical being, to your body.
I think that there's an awakening inside of me really honestly, and I honestly believe that the best work of my life is about to happen. I'm finding a balance in myself as an artist from the external and the internal, and so as a result the characters I play are going to be quite different. So what's going to happen is that it's going to lift up the characters I play, we're going to start to see it and I think it's going to change the face of my career.
I have friends, African-American actors, who've had more of a struggle; hopefully they're starting to see some air and light now. But in my directing career, in my acting career, in my producing career, I haven't been bound by a lot of limitations. When I first started doing these kinds of unique characters, these diverse characters, there was hardly anybody doing them. So I had this open road.
Stereotypes do exist, but we have to walk through them.
My parents moved to Los Angeles when I was really young, but I spent every summer with my grandparents, and I'd stay with my grandfather on the farm in Longview. He was retired from the railroad, and he had a small farm with some cows and some pigs. I remember part of my youth was feeding hogs and plowing fields and stuff, so that's apart of me. And my parents raised me to say 'sir' and 'ma'am,' to open doors, things like that. That's the way I was brought up. Also, unfortunately, I was taught not to question too much. I didn't really question my mom and dad. That's usually what they told me to do.
If I were to mark three, I'd mark Bird, because I grew immensely as an artist, I learned a lot, and also, I think, it was when people started to take me more seriously. I'd also mark Ghost Dog, because I started to understand something about myself in silence, how I'm capable of communicating certain things without doing much. And then I'd probably mark The Last King of Scotland, which marries the internal and the external in a strong way and brings together all of the things I've learned about my work into one character.
I'm an actor. And I guess I've done so many movies I've achieved some high visibility. But a star? I guess I still think of myself as kind of a worker ant.
I go back and forth between indie and studio because I feel like it, not because I feel obligated to do one or the other. The only reason to make a decision like that is financial, you know, you can't live. That doesn't make my decision for me, I do what feels right for me. I'm not going to do a bad movie just because it's a studio movie or an indie film, and there are hordes of bad independent movies. People tend to think that indie movies are always good, but I've seen horrific ones, just as well as I've seen horrific studio films. So I just go by how I feel, it's the only way you can figure it out. Otherwise you get lost in the maze of trying to second guess the people, the studio, how you can make your career long or short. It's easy to get lost in this maze, called life, really, you know what I mean?
I can play a man who's despicable. But I'll still look inside him to find a point of connection. If I can find that kernel, audiences will relate to me.
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