Are you anything like your character?
Absolutely. I’m a grandchild of the civil rights movement. My mother went to a segregated school. My grandmother and grandfather worked in the field. It wasn’t something out of the history books for me. It was more so looking through a portfolio of your family and seeing what they did. Seeing the blood on those leaves is the same blood that’s running through my veins, so it was very important for me that I be a part of this.
Who were you closest to on set?
Me and David bonded on Red Tails together, so him and I always had a bond. A lot of things were shot separately so there weren’t many characters that were on set at the same time. You might be flying out when Jane Fonda or Robin Williams could be coming in for three days to do all of their work. I find it very interesting that now is the time that a lot of people are getting to bond during this press run and the green rooms and red carpets.
What will a young person living today get from this film?
Number one: We sometimes don’t acknowledge the severity of the actions that went down in the civil rights movement. It’s hard to grasp that these kids younger than us were being hosed down, dogs were being siced on them. They were even working at the White House for a number of years and being treated unfairly. There’s so much that we don’t revel in because we have it so good, but we have so far to go. The Trayvon Martin thing just happened and everybody’s in an uproar about that, but there’s so many Trayvons and Oscar Grants.
Number two: There are not a lot of movies that [positively portray the] relationship between father and son. It shows that not all of our sons are in jail. Not all of our fathers are out of control. There is love in the black household.
Is there camaderie between you and other black actors in Hollywood?
There’s something that happens in Hollywood. A lot of the time, it pigeonholes you against you’re brother. And I’m not saying that in a sense of the color thing. They make it a competition, like there’s one spot. So there’s an immediate tension that is created. You’re competing with Tristan (Wilds). You’re competing with Michael B. Jordan. Within that, finding the camaraderie is easy, but it can be difficult, too. I don’t feel like any other man is better than me at all in what I do. But, what’s for me is for me and what’s for them is for them.