You researched Box by hanging out with the Bloods in Brooklyn, got any stories?
Once when the crew wasn’t around and I was chilling in Red Hook with the Bloods, someone wanted to take a picture. One dude tells another to take off his shirt to show his tattoos, so dude takes off his shirt and he has this huge pistol in his pants. I’m thinking ‘I’m away from the crew and I feel completely at home.’ [The atmosphere] ain’t too far removed from [my hometown of] Norfolk, Virginia and the projects I grew up in. But I work in Hollywood and live in Pasadena, I’ve got a family, I’m a so-called polished person but for Red Hook Summer I’m with the Bloods, there are guns in every waistband and we’re taking a picture.
I heard you’ve been to Star Wars director’s George Lucas’ famous Skywalker Ranch?
After working with director George Lucas [on Red Tails] I sat behind his director’s chair a lot. I want to produce and direct, most of my acting is drama but I would direct a comedy. J.A.W. is a sci-fi project I did for Lucas, I talked to him about the idea and he said ‘Go shoot it.’ I raised $150,000 with my producing partner Glenn Powel and Jesse Williams is [the star]. We shot it, took it to Skywalker Ranch, screened it in his massive theater and he gave us his blessing. Now we’re shopping it as a tv show, I’d be creator and maybe producer, depending on my acting career which comes first.
People say you’re the next Denzel Washington, did you two build a relationship while filming The Great Debators?
He’s made himself available when I have questions about my career path. I don’t strive to be anyone but me. In 50 years, I want for people to say every time I got on screen, I told the truth. I’d like to think that that truth will affect people long after I’m gone. If from that, people say ‘Hey, the association we’re giving him to Denzel is that he tells the truth and Denzel tells the truth’ then I welcome that with open arms. But I imagine when Denzel was coming up and people said ‘You’re the next Sidney Poitier,’ he said, ‘I’d like to be myself.’