The Glory Road Interview
My father is a civil attorney and he kind of specializes in Civil Rights. I watched a lot of documentaries and I looked at pictures. One picture that sticks out in my mind and kind of gives you goose bumps, even actually till today is at the Memphis Garbage strike. And thereâ€™s this guy holding up a sign that says â€˜I AM A Manâ€™. A 65 year old gentleman. And I never saw this picture before. But it brought me to tears the first time I looked at it. And Iâ€™m just thinking to myself, what the hell kind of world did you live in that he had to go home and write, â€˜I AM A Manâ€™. Itâ€™s a society that does not reciprocate your existence as a law abiding, tax paying citizen
Desperate Housewife star Mehcad Brooks plays legendary Harry Flournoy, #44, one of the top rebounders in the nation in the new film â€œGlory Road,â€? about a team of Black athletes being accepted into an all white basketball league. He found time to chat with BSNâ€™s Tonisha Johnson.
BSN: What did it take for you to get into this character?
MB: The most difficult part would be, trying to put yourself in the mind state of the social and racial climate of the 60s, which Iâ€™m not used to cause I grew up in the 80s and 90s. But, itâ€™s something that you really have to go in a dark place for, going to work everyday like that. But luckily, they yell cut and we can go back to â€™04, â€™05; but there is no cut for the real players. So, it was our obligation really. So no matter how hard it was where 2000 people were yelling the N word or whatever the case wasâ€”you have to understand that somebody actually went through that and your just emulating walking a mile and it sucks.
BSN: When you went to basketball camp was it hard for you to adjust to the shoes?
MB: Basketball camp is a euphemism for the seventh circle of hell. This was ridiculous. This was not even human. I mean, I have a new found respect for athletes. We worked so hard. I thought we were shooting Chariots of Fire II. Tim Floyd who is an incredible coach and also a slave driver. He really got us into basketball shape. And really we are happy about that cause the basketball scenes look amazing, if you ask me. If I could judge that. It was worth it to tell you the truth. It was like camp WD40â€”you get the rust off you. The hardest part was learning how to play 1965 style.
BSN: Does it make a difference?
MB: Completely. Itâ€™s very fundamental. The way you dribble. Every thing.
BSN: In the film, there were things that your character got kicked out the game for but then everybody did it. Why is that?
MB: â€˜Cause the games changed. You can hang on the rim if thereâ€™s danger under you. Now if the referee is going to call on you, itâ€™s his discretion whether or not to call that technical on you.
BSN: Can you continue to explain the differences in the 1965 style of ball playing as oppose to today?
MB: For instanceâ€”when you pass the ball, your thumbs have to be up. Youâ€™re always in a triple threat position. You never cross your feet, because all the times, guys like to do defensive running, but thereâ€™s no side step. You have to run to the defensive position. Itâ€™s really tiring to play 1965 style. And these skiâ€™s they call Chuck Taylorâ€™? Itâ€™s like Glory Road on ice. Youâ€™re running around in some Victoria Secret short shorts. The secret is, donâ€™t put men in shorts that short.
BSN: So, your on â€˜Desperate Housewivesâ€™ and your mom is played by Alfre Woodard. Whatâ€™s the difference between preparing for TV verses a Feature Film like this?
MB: Preparing for TV is different because there is no preparation. We get the scripts a couple of days in advance and that changes 75 times in the next two days. Youâ€™ll get new scripts sometimes twice that day youâ€™re working. And sometimes you have very little or no preparation. Itâ€™s an interesting way of working. I wouldnâ€™t say ones better than the other; I would just say itâ€™s different.
BSN: For this role, you were already an athlete; you just had to conform to 1965 styles of playing. But how did you prepare for the racially charged scenes in this film?
MB: I tried to talk to as many people who were in the Civil Rights struggle as much as possible. My father is a civil attorney and he kind of specializes in Civil Rights. I watched a lot of documentaries and I looked at pictures. One picture that sticks out in my mind and kind of gives you goose bumps, even actually till today is at the Memphis Garbage strike. And thereâ€™s this guy holding up a sign that says â€˜I AM A Manâ€™. A 65 year old gentleman. And I never saw this picture before. But it brought me to tears the first time I looked at it. And Iâ€™m just thinking to myself, what the hell kind of world did you live in that he had to go home and write, â€˜I AM A Manâ€™. Itâ€™s a society that does not reciprocate your existence as a law abiding, tax paying citizen. Or even as a human being whoâ€™s been through certain experiences. Everyday you wake up, Iâ€™m gonna treat you like shit. Just like a boy, no matter how old you are or what you been through. Or what your character deserves. Kiss my ass! And youâ€™re just like Oh My God.
BSN: Has racism changed that much?
MB: Yeah. Racism has changed. Weâ€™ve made some strides. But not enough. Racism doesnâ€™t die it just recycles into something else. For instance, this country always likes to have a scapegoat. Now, we have made strides within the African American community with racism but now you find a lot of people who look at Muslimsâ€™ and say terrorist. You know, right of the batâ€”and thatâ€™s not right either. I think that when you look at this film and not seeing Black people being able to play basketball, in large numbers 40 years ago, thatâ€™s ridiculous.
BSN: Hard to believe huh?
MB: Yeah. Cause if you look at the racial make up of NBA or college today, itâ€™s all integrated if not predominantly Black. Now, I canâ€™t wait for the day till we say itsâ€™ ridiculous that we can look at anyone and think we can read them like a book. Thatâ€™s just naÃ¯ve.
BSN: Did you get to talk to a lot of the counterparts that actually lived this story?
MB: Yeah. I got to talk to all the players; David Lattin and Nevil Shed before we shot and everybody else after we shot. Harry Flournoy came up to me and said, you were an amazing me. And I thank you for that. And as an actor, thatâ€™s all you can ask for.
Copyright Â© 2006 Tonisha Johnson
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