The Glory Road Interview

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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 there’s this guy holding up a sign that says ‘I AM A Man’. 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 I’m just thinking to myself, what the hell kind of world did you live in that he had to go home and write, ‘I AM A Man’. It’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 “Glory Road,� about a team of Black athletes being accepted into an all white basketball league. He found time to chat with BSN’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 I’m not used to cause I grew up in the 80s and 90s. But, it’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 ’04, ’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 was—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 WD40—you get the rust off you. The hardest part was learning how to play 1965 style.

BSN: Does it make a difference?
MB: Completely. It’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: ‘Cause the games changed. You can hang on the rim if there’s danger under you. Now if the referee is going to call on you, it’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 instance—when you pass the ball, your thumbs have to be up. You’re always in a triple threat position. You never cross your feet, because all the times, guys like to do defensive running, but there’s no side step. You have to run to the defensive position. It’s really tiring to play 1965 style. And these ski’s they call Chuck Taylor’? It’s like Glory Road on ice. You’re running around in some Victoria Secret short shorts. The secret is, don’t put men in shorts that short.

BSN: So, your on ‘Desperate Housewives’ and your mom is played by Alfre Woodard. What’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. You’ll get new scripts sometimes twice that day you’re working. And sometimes you have very little or no preparation. It’s an interesting way of working. I wouldn’t say ones better than the other; I would just say it’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 there’s this guy holding up a sign that says ‘I AM A Man’. 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 I’m just thinking to myself, what the hell kind of world did you live in that he had to go home and write, ‘I AM A Man’. It’s a society that does not reciprocate your existence as a law abiding, tax paying citizen. Or even as a human being who’s been through certain experiences. Everyday you wake up, I’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 you’re just like Oh My God.

BSN: Has racism changed that much?
MB: Yeah. Racism has changed. We’ve made some strides. But not enough. Racism doesn’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 Muslims’ and say terrorist. You know, right of the bat—and that’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, that’s ridiculous.

BSN: Hard to believe huh?
MB: Yeah. Cause if you look at the racial make up of NBA or college today, it’s all integrated if not predominantly Black. Now, I can’t wait for the day till we say its’ ridiculous that we can look at anyone and think we can read them like a book. That’s just naïve.

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, that’s all you can ask for.

Copyright © 2006 Tonisha Johnson

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