Interview: Derek Luke

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The reason why this film is different is because it shows how one person from one community, whether it’s from Washington, whether it’s from the press, whether it’s from East L.A. or Compton, how we all come together.

[Actor Interview]



Born in Jersey City on April 24, 1974, Derek Luke took a most unusual route to fame and fortune. He did move to Los Angeles, but was discovered in 2002 while working at a gift shop on the lot of Sony Studios. And right out of the box he was cast in the title role as Antwone Fisher, the bittersweet bio-pic which marked the directorial debut of Denzel Washington.

A critically-acclaimed performance led to Derek’s landing leads in such pictures as Catch a Fire, Glory Road, Pieces of April, Biker Boyz, Spartan and Friday Night Lights. He’s also recently finished work on his first romantic comedy, Definitely, Maybe, and he’s currently in Tuscany shooting Miracle at St. Anna, an adaptation of the James McBride WWII saga about four Black soldiers who find themselves trapped behind enemy lines in a tiny
Italian village.


In 1998, Derek married Sophia Hernandez (Knockout) the attractive actress whom he brought up on stage with him when he won an Independent Spirit Award for Antwone Fisher. The couple is eagerly anticipating the arrival of their first child in the Spring.

Here, Derek talks about Lions for Lambs, his new release, a war flick in which he plays a college student who, along with an equally-idealistic classmate (Michael Pena), drops out of school and enlists in the military in order to serve in Afghanistan.


BSN:
How’d you enjoy making Lions for Lambs?
DL: It was the most intense and the most insane, but it was also the most fulfilling film I’ve done so far.


BSN:
How was it not only being directed by, but co-starring opposite Robert
Redford?
DL: What I loved about Mr. Redford was how he gave. He always gave in a scene. And he was kind of teaching without teaching.


BSN:
How was your character, Arian Finch, moved to give up his creature
comforts and enlist?
DL: Dr. Malley [Redford], I like to say, used words. Words are defined as vehicles that take us either mentally, spiritually or physically to places that we’ve never gone. And Dr. Malley challenged Arian to think further. To think that you shouldn’t just come to school to get the job, suggesting “I know you may be from this part of town, but there’s something more. You can’t just consume from life, you have to give back.” So, that message transformed Arian. And it almost transformed me, too, as a person.


BSN:
How would you describe the picture’s plotline which threads three different stories together?
DL: In the beginning, they seem like they’re separate, they’re almost like separate households, and they’re almost like separate families. But the way they come together, there’s a ripple effect of opinion. There’s a ripple effect of someone’s decision. And you see how one decision affects another and another. It’s like a domino effect. And the last people to catch the domino are Arian and Ernest (Pena).


BSN:
And what is the upshot of that domino effect?
DL: This film was a discovery about “Who I am as a person.” “Where is my voice in my community?” “Do I have a larger voice on the outside?” The reason why this film is different is because it shows how one person from one community, whether it’s from Washington, whether it’s from the press, whether it’s from East L.A. or Compton, how we all come together.


BSN:
What’d you think of being paired with Michael Pena?
DL: Michael Pena is a phenomenal actor, and more importantly, he’s a phenomenal person. I couldn’t have literally thought about acting in a movie with anybody else to play friends, to have a camaraderie and to be brothers in spirit.

 



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