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  • - I did Juice when I was 17 but my 17 back then,

  • was like the average 25 year olds now so.

  • - Yeah.

  • - I'd seen and been through so much.

  • - Well speaking of Juice,

  • thank you for offering--

  • - You like that segue?

  • - I did.

  • I did.

  • It looked planned didn't it?

  • Y'all know there is just natural chemistry right there.

  • (laughs)

  • This was your first film ever, ever, ever?

  • Is that correct?

  • - Mhm.

  • - When I first heard that, I was like,

  • no way, there's no way that this was his first film.

  • The acting in that film was phenomenal.

  • And I think it showed me, are there Black people like this?

  • And by like this, I basically mean like, different from me.

  • I grew up in Kentucky.

  • - Okay.

  • - Which, you know, had its rough parts and everything,

  • but just like the depth that we saw of the characters,

  • and of course, Pac's performance.

  • I would imagine that you get asked a lot about

  • this idea that playing Bishop, which was Pac's role,

  • changed him by the end of the movie?

  • Is that something that you hear a lot?

  • - No.

  • - No?

  • - No that wasn't it.

  • Pac was already on his way, I mean,

  • he was writing his first album

  • while we were filming the movie.

  • He had already sort of been semi-famous,

  • 'cause you know his whole experience

  • with Digital Underground.

  • And so, he was sort of breaking into his own,

  • and it was both of our first films,

  • but Pac was an actor, like a trained actor.

  • And that's why those performances were so great.

  • And I think that also the timing

  • of when Juice was happening, it was just magical,

  • because you also have to look at like,

  • we call it a culture now, but it's hip-hop.

  • It was all happening at the same time,

  • so it was all exploding at the same time,

  • and we were sort of that second wave after Spike Lee,

  • of the young culture, so for us

  • we were these four kids,

  • we could so relate to it, 'cause it was us.

  • you know, we didn't necessarily know each other personally,

  • but it was easy to put,

  • okay, he's that archetype, he's that archetype,

  • he's that, you know.

  • And Pac and I had a somewhat similar dynamic

  • to Bishop and Q.

  • - Oh yeah?

  • - you know, I was sort of the you know, responsible one,

  • and he was sort of the renegade,

  • but he was a great, great brother.

  • Great brother, yeah.

  • - Do you remember where you were

  • when you heard the news that you got the role?

  • - Yeah, I was at home.

  • - Yeah?

  • - I was at home and the phone rang.

  • It's before we had cellphones, y'all.

  • (laughs)

  • The phone rang and it was Ernest Dickerson,

  • and he said, hey man, you go the role,

  • and I was like, wow that was incredible.

  • And I called my mom and she was like, all right cool.

  • We didn't know exactly what was happening.

  • - Yeah.

  • - you know, 'cause even though it was it was my first film,

  • I was taking a train to set, you know.

  • I lived at the time, in East New York.

  • And we were filming all the way in Harlem.

  • So I ended up going to stay with the first AD.

  • - That's a stretch.

  • - Because he lived downtown Brooklyn, so it was easier to,

  • you know, it was still brass tax.

  • It wasn't like limos were coming to pick me up.

  • And we were helicoptering.

  • you know what I mean?

  • So it was still you know, it was still grounded.

  • The experience of it was still grounded.

  • But it was it was incredible.

  • It was incredible.

  • It was it was also dangerous, again we filmed in like,

  • in the middle of the hood in Harlem.

  • - Yeah.

  • And I'm sure Harlem was a different place back then too.

  • - Harlem was a very different place back then.

  • That's when they, you know?

  • I mean, Pac was befriending certain cats on the set

  • and the next thing you know.

  • While we at lunch they running up in his trailer.

  • - Oh, lord.

  • - Steal jewelry and stuff.

  • - Oh my gosh.

  • - This is the old New York, this is real New York.

  • - Right. I was gonna ask for a favorite

  • behind the scenes story.

  • Maybe, what is your most memorable behind the scenes story?

  • - One of my most memorable

  • behind the scene stories of Juice

  • is one day, one morning we came in

  • and we're reading the papers

  • and some woman had thrown her baby in the trash right?

  • Horrible, but it's also horrible

  • that that was normal to me growing up in New York.

  • You heard stories like that all the time.

  • Well Tupac was really really affected that day.

  • And he just kept talking about it, kept talking about it.

  • And then by lunch time,

  • he was like yo O, come in the trailer,

  • and he starts rapping, this song.

  • And I'm like man yeah that's cool.

  • And then so we wrapped the film

  • and a few months later his first album comes out

  • and I hear Brenda's Got A Baby.

  • - I knew you were gonna say Brenda's Got A Baby.

  • - And I was blown away.

  • - Wow.

  • - That right there I knew, oh he's special.

  • He's gonna go somewhere completely different.

  • - Wow, I love this story so much.

  • So shortly after that,

  • you are in, Daybreak and The Program,

  • both in 1993, hardworking man, same year, I can't imagine.

  • So Daybreak was like a dystopian sci-fi type movie,

  • very very different from Juice.

  • Genre wise.

  • - It's based on a play.

  • - Based on a play?

  • - Yeah.

  • - How did your preparation for this sci-fi role

  • differ from your preparation for the role in Juice?

  • - I guess it differed in terms of like trying to understand

  • the world of Daybreak.

  • 'Cause as you mentioned, it was just sort of,

  • I don't know if it was so much sci-fi as it's like

  • pushing the boundaries of, you know, it's kinda like

  • this apocalyptic world.

  • - I think that's the word that I meant.

  • - So it was just kinda

  • try to imagine yourself in that circumstance.

  • What was fun for me, with Daybreak is that,

  • the role they originally wanted me for,

  • to come and read for,

  • is not the role that I responded to.

  • - Hm?

  • - And so I had told my team

  • about the role that I responded to.

  • And they were like,

  • but that's written for a white dude and I was like, so?

  • That's not, it's written for a 25 year old white dude,

  • you're a 18 year old Black kid.

  • And so what I did when I went into the audition,

  • was I just signed up for that role and then got it.

  • - Wow, you were like haha.

  • - Not so much that but it was just you know?

  • When you're young and I think your naiveté

  • can shield you from certain realities.

  • But that was fun for me.

  • That was a fun experience.

  • - How often did situations like that pop up in your career?

  • Where like there's a role that you want,

  • but like race is a thing that could've barred you from it

  • or should've barred you from it?

  • - It, I mean, it's happened a few times.

  • It's happened a few times.

  • I think that's what it's

  • exciting about now, is that it's,

  • that's changing a lot.

  • I think that a lot of

  • not only filmmakers, but like studios

  • are challenging themselves to say

  • hey why can't this, they call it diverse.

  • But you know, why can't this role be a female?

  • Or be Black?

  • Or be Asian?

  • Or be Latino?

  • you know?

  • I think they're trying to at least push the boundaries.

  • So that what we see on film or television can look like

  • what the world really looks like.

  • - I place you in like this group of Black actors

  • who obviously very talented, versatile,

  • can play just about any character in any genre.

  • But my favorite is like

  • the movies about Black men being friends.

  • And just like Black friendship.

  • Which brings me to The Wood in 1999.

  • Which is one of those movies that I watched,

  • my mother may or may not used to bootleg movies

  • 'cause she had two VCRs.

  • Not saying that she did, also not saying that she didn't.

  • But that was one of the movies

  • that I would just like watch.

  • Over and over and over.

  • And in this movie, you're acting with Taye Diggs

  • and Richard T. Jones and just like actors

  • that I feel like I know

  • because I've seen you all in so many things growing up.

  • Was the chemistry that you all had on that set like natural?

  • Organic?

  • Were y'all all friends off set?

  • Did y'all just like go to clubs together and stuff?

  • - Nah, I met those guys during that experience.

  • I think again it kind of

  • 'cause we were kind of all around the same age

  • the gel kinda came naturally.

  • 'Cause at that point you know

  • we'd done a little bit of work.

  • Had our sea feet underneath us.

  • And it was just like, let's go have some fun.

  • I think we could all relate again

  • to not only those characters, but that comradery.

  • you know like, for me it was Marlon

  • and my other boy Mitchell Marchand who's a writer.

  • We were the three musketeers.

  • So it was easy for me to sort of find my character in that.

  • I'd assume the same for Taye and Richard.

  • - Yeah, it seems like a situation like that

  • would lend itself to a lot of improvised moments.

  • I don't know if that makes sense or not.

  • But it just seems like you know

  • like y'all got the chemistry down and everything like

  • makes sense and you're comfortable.

  • Were there a lot of like improvised moments in that movie?

  • - I wouldn't say there were a lot.

  • But there were definitely some.

  • And that makes for fun and you know,

  • Rick Famuyiwa's super talented

  • and he was collaborative and he had such a clear vision.

  • And he just anchored that so well.

  • - I would get run outta town on a rail.

  • If I did not mention Love and Basketball.

  • Especially by most of the people sitting behind me.

  • There's been a lot of renewed conversation

  • about Love and Basketball.

  • You play a guy named Q.

  • Basketball?

  • Your moves?

  • you know?

  • The crossover was like, you do it all right in the movie.

  • - It was all right.

  • That was tough training.

  • - I was gonna ask about that.

  • Did you have to like train with a coach?

  • - Yeah, yeah, yeah.

  • We trained like really hard.

  • And Sanaa trained really hard as well.

  • And just basketball is just a different