You’re an executive producer on this movie. You’re more than just an actor. How did this come your way? How did you get involved, and how did you decide you’d take on a bigger role in it?
It came about in a roundabout way. Sometimes management people get a script and they don’t see any attachments or any money behind it, so they never show it to you. So Aristotle Torres was trying for a year to figure out how to get in touch with me. Finally, one of our boys that we know called me up and said, “Yo, there’s this great script,” blah, blah, blah. So I said, “Yeah, send it to me. I’ll read it.” I read it in one sitting. I absolutely loved it. I called Aristotle. We got together, and I said, “Hey man, I would love to do this movie.”
I called my people and kind of gave him a little bit of a spanking because it should never always be about money. This is art that we do. We’re storytellers. We spoke to some people that we knew and we brought in some money for this project because we pretty much said how passionate we were about — it’s a New York story, man. It’s a great story. It’s not a “bang-bang, shoot ’em up” type of story that you always see [where] somebody dies in the urban setting. This was a real story. It was a story about this young kid who lost his family, lost a brother, had an extended family, which wasn’t the best family, and ended up with a mentor in me who was not the best role model in the world. But he tried, and he saw something in this young man, and he didn’t want him to make the same mistakes that maybe his own son in the story made. So it just had all these great ingredients to it.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to see enough of these types of roles. Listen, I’ve had a great career. I’ve always worked and stuff. But to be in a position that you are actually helping a character to grow, that you are in a position to nurture, and then on the flip side, as an executive producer to help the project along, it was something very welcoming to me. It did pose its challenges, yes, but we got it done. The old adage, a labor of love.
Well, the movie speaks for itself. I’ve loved movies as long as I can remember. The only reason I do this is because I love movies. And like you said, you’ve worked forever. I’ve seen, I don’t know how many movies I’ve seen with you in them and you’re always great.
But from your first scene in this movie, I was floored, because it’s not what you expect. I don’t want to spoil it for anybody, but your first scene in this movie, there’s compassion, and it takes an unexpected turn. From then on, this is the best performance I’ve ever seen from you. Can you talk a little bit about your character in this movie? You are driven by compassion, it seems, and we find out why a little later.
This character, for me, is people that I’ve seen growing up in my days in New York City. So that resonated. That’s the first thing. I’ve had neighbors that work for the MTA. It’s a job and it’s not the most prestigious job to have. There’s nothing scientific or really challenging about it. It’s something that you do day in and day out. I saw these people, but they also have their own stories of when they go home. I wanted to exemplify that persona, a working class person, but also someone that had their own issues in life.
When this kid shows up and he points that thing at me, I’m over there saying, “Oh, come on, man.” That, to me, is real. Because I don’t think this guy was suicidal in the sense of, “Go ahead, just take me out.” I’ve been held up numerous times. Sometimes I just talk myself out of it. “Here, bro, here’s $10. Just go.” I saw something, I saw this human being who didn’t fit that mode of what I had gone through with others. “Come on, for real?” That was a sensibility to that Luis character. But it was also because it just felt really real to me. Asante was this real kid. I didn’t know what his story was when we first met up, but I know he was in some kind of pain. You are a token booth operator, you see all the personalities. You see someone that says, “I ain’t got no money. I’m just trying to get home. I just got fired from my job.” It becomes emotional. It’s very organic; it’s real in my mind. That’s how I approached it all. That’s how I took it all in. This was not acting to me, this was exemplifying life as I see it, as I have lived it. I’ve seen those people. I sat next to those people. I have conversed with those people. Those people have conversed with me. You see?
Don’t get me wrong, it is acting, but it affords you an incredible reality to dive into.