Dinner with Russell Hornsby - The Hate You Give

Russell Hornsby (“The Hate U Give”) with award-winning, Indian playwright Rahul Tiwari, Ocean Prime, in New York City. Feb. 12, 2019 Photo credit, Lapacazo Sandoval

Russell Hornsby (“The Hate U Give”) with award-winning, Indian playwright Rahul Tiwari, Ocean Prime, in New York City. Feb. 12, 2019 Photo credit, Lapacazo Sandoval

“It’s colder than a pimp’s heart out there,” bellowed actor Russell Hornsby, as he entered the private dining room of New York’s chic restaurant, Ocean Prime to chop it up with a very small, select group of journalists to share light on his role, as Maverick ‘May’ Carter  in director George Tillman Jr’s, “The Hate U Give” which also stars Amandla Stenberg, now available on Digital, 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD.

It was an enchanting evening …

The dinner invitation to meet Hornsby was extended by 20th Century Fox Studios and the attentive staff at Ocean Prime filled the massive dining table with food, fine wine, and exotic cocktails. In short order, the evening morphed into a comfortable exchange making it feel more like “fam” was being schooled by a seasoned and respected member of an elite clan of like-minded storytellers.

Here’s where it gets very interesting because in discovering Hornsby what I noticed first (happily) is that he’s unapologetically Black (recognize),  brimming with passion for his profession, acting, and unafraid to share details about the dark moments of his climb to fame. From where he’s standing now, it’s hard to believe that he had moments of doubt, but he confessed:  “I thought this might never happen” sharing more with me, in a tone much lower than he used to field questions from across the massive dining room table— ”It was my wife,” Hornsby said in a tender, hoarse tone. “She’s my ride-or-die.”

There are moments …

Now that I have spent some quality time with Hornsby, I won’t use the word “fan” to describe my admiration for his work. Rather, I will lean on the word respect. Respect for his process of finding the soul of his characters and honoring his theater roots and the powerful connection he has with the work of the late, great playwright August Wilson.

Hornsby is always at the ready …

Toward the end of the dinner, he turned his body toward me—forcing the person seated between us to slide forward (and stay there) and he dropped, ever so cool,  into a monologue from “King Hendley 11,”  the ninth play in August Wilson’s ten-play cycle that, decade by decade, examines African American life in the United States during the twentieth century.  Set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1985, the play tells the story of an ex-con in Pittsburgh trying to rebuild his life.

Hornsby’s eyes never left ours and although there were other colleagues in the room at the time, his performance was done, just for us.

Here are edited excerpts from my shared evening with thespian Russell Hornsby.

MyNewYorkEye:  Did you just say ‘it’s colder than a pimps’ heart’? I’ve never heard that expression.

RUSSELL HORNSBY: Clearly, you’re not from Oakland [California]. That’s where I grew up. Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”) and me went to the same high school, miles apart which is cool.

MNYE: Looking back do you remember your first thoughts on reading the screenplay for

“The Hate U Give?”

RH: Great question.  Well, I knew it had the potential to really make a dramatic impact, a deep impact, a social impact. Understand, just a visceral impact if it was done authentically and honestly, and that’s what George [Tillman] did.

MNYE: You’re a father of two, small sons.  That must be challenging balancing being a working actor and a father.

RH:  First of all to be truthful and this is very real, I picked the right mate. And, I’m not saying that to ‘say it’ it’s real. I have a ride-or-die wife. We’ve been married for ten [years], but we’ve been together for 15 [years]. And so, my wife in her vows said that ‘I will do whatever it takes to be supportive of you.’

MNYE: Russell, wait … I think I’m going to cry.

RH: I’m on the verge of tears myself and my wife, she’s held [to her vows] to that! She’s had my back the whole way. Do you know what I mean? And so what it really challenged me to do is to grow up! You know what I’m saying, on some real stuff. It didn’t take me long to realize that she’s given me a leg, a real opportunity to do what I need to do, and to be successful.

MNYE: That’s powerful. Thank you for sharing that.  Question, along the way, did you ever get a piece of advice that struck and stuck with you?

RH: Yes. Years ago a friend and mentor told me, when I was 30, that I had to put life first and I think when you choose to put life first, the balancing act comes easy because the choices and decisions that you make are in support of your union and your family.  I’m really trying to walk in accordance with that. I’ve been blessed.

MNYE: You’re the type of man that keeps it 100%!

RH: Exactly. I’m the type of cat that keeps it 100!

MNYE: Let’s discuss the character that you play, Maverick. A stretch to find him?

RH: Not at all!  I know him. You know him. Maverick exists in my community; I grew up seeing Mavericks, the character jumped off of the page and hit me; it was real and three-dimensional, which you don’t see.

MNYE: So the layers all the conflict that make him so powerful were there, on the written page?

RH: Absolutely on the page.  Listen, we’re talking about a complicated man who has conflict—outer conflict, inner conflict. He’s desperately looking for ways to resolve it. Right?  Maverick is an ex-con, a store owner; he’s a father and a husband. This is real life stuff. Regular people, stuff, how does one go about navigating their way through that mire?

MNYE: Real people are often the most challenging to bring to life, on the big screen. Do you agree?

RH: Hell yes, I agree and because of that, it presented a wonderful challenge, to be honest with you, keeping it 100, that’s the kind of challenge, as an actor, that I want to take on. It’s good to be a little nervous, but in the end, you just dive in.

MNYE: Got it. You dive in.  How did you, the actor find a sense of the reality of this character?

RH: As an actor, I do my research. I read the news, books, and I listen. I create a character’s backstory.  The saying goes, [that] you can’t lie in life, and tell the truth on stage. The character has to be a representative of who you are. I tell people, all the time, that there are very few, true chameleons in the business. So then every character that you portray is a representative of who you are at this point in your career.

I know Maverick. I know how he talks. How he walks.  I understand who he was, who he is now, whom he wants to be.

Russell Hornsby (“The Hate U Give”) at a special dinner held at, Ocean Prime, in New York City. Feb. 12, 2019

MNYE: You are a father of two, small boys.  What do you think of him as a father?

 

RH:  Maverick is an exceptional father.  There are men who get down. Who go to work every day, come home, feed their kids. He encourages his daughter to use her voice, however difficult it might be to do so.  He’s like an old school throwback.

MNYE: Who encouraged you? You mentioned that you were raised by a single mother.

RH: Good question. Let me think. I can’t narrow it down to one person. As you mentioned my mother raised me.  I was raised without a father, so many men that I encountered in my life helped raise me. Coaches, the football coaches, the soccer coaches and then the men you see in the street, around you. You know, as I get older and I reflect back and think, wait, maybe Maverick may have been a drug dealer, and you begin to realize the dimensions that people have, and that people take on, and the humanity that they possess.

MNYE: That was insightful.  Let me ask you if you could do anything for the big screen, what would it be?

RH: Any and all of August Wilson.  My favorite is ‘King Hendley 11.’  He says:

‘I don’t know about you and Leroy but Pernell made me kill him. Pernell called me champ, I told him my name is King.  He said, yeah champ. I go on. I don’t say nothin. I told myself, he don’t know. He don’t know my daddy killed a man for calling him out his name. He don’t know, he’s fucking with King Hendley, the second. I got the atomic bomb as far as he’s concerned and I got to use it.  Now, they say that GOD looks after fools and drunks. I use to think that was true but seeing how he was both, I didn’t know anymore. He called me champ but I didn’t say nothin. I put him on probation. I told myself, he don’t know but I’m gonna give him a chance to figure it out. He come back and say he’s sorry I’ll let him live. I’m gonna fuck him up. I’m gonna bust both his knee caps but I’ll let him live. Saturday. I don’t know why it’s always on a Saturday.

MNYE: OMG, that was amazing. Thank you.

RH: You’re welcome!

“The Hate U Give” now available on Digital, 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD.

https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/the-hate-u-give

Chat w/ William Fichtner - "Be more fearless than you ever thought you were."

William Fichtner is an actor’s actor. With a expansive resume of work in TV, film and theater, he’s well respected as a character actor who can perform equally well in a comedy or drama or action or whatever you throw at him. He’s well known around the world for his roles in movies such as Black Hawk Down, Heat, and Armageddon, and his collaborations with top directors like Christopher Nolan and Michael Mann. He is also well known for his roles on TV as Sheriff Tom Underlay in Invasion and Alexander Mahone on Prison Break, and now on Mom as Adam Janikowski.

You can see more of William in his new action avatar, in Matthew Hope’s new film ALL THE DEVIL’s MEN. All The Devil’s Men is a hard, relentless and explosive action-thriller about a battle-scarred War on Terror bounty hunter who is forced to go to London on a manhunt for a disavowed CIA operative, which leads him into a deadly running battle with a former military comrade and his private army. William plays an experienced CIA operative, the old guy who’s been around forever and should’ve gone home ages ago.

We talked to William about the film, his career, his upcoming turn as a writer-director in his directorial debut COLD BROOK, and New York City. Listen to the whole interview below:

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Exclusively on DIRECTV: November 8, 2018

Theatrical Release Date: December 7, 2018

Directed By: Matthew Hope

Written By: Matthew Hope

Produced By: Amory Leader and Hannah Leader

Starring: Milo Gibson, William Fichtner, Sylvia Hoeks, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Joseph Millson

Running Time: 100 minutes 

All The Devil’s Men follows a team of hardened military operatives on a relentless manhunt through the backstreets of London. The explosive action-thriller finds a battle-scarred mercenary in the War on Terror who is forced to go to London on a manhunt for a disavowed CIA operative, which leads him into a deadly running battle with a former military comrade and his private army.

Chat w/ actor Jeff Lima - "it’s an actor’s responsibility to be involved"

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Jeff Lima, is a New York City-based actor who is best known for his recurring role as Leon Cruz on NBC’s Chicago Fire.

Jeff got his start in theatre at the age of 11 after gaining acceptance to the “by audition only” junior high school, Tito Puente Performing Arts Academy. Jeff was immediately immersed in the teachings of Meisner and Stanislaski with ambitions to secure a seat in a premiere performing arts high school. His tenacity and diligent preparation earned him a seat at the Talent Unlimited High School where he’d study theatre all throughout his high school years. Fortunately for Jeff, preparation met opportunity. The year right before high school, Jeff landed a role in a short film titled ‘Gowanus Brooklyn’, which would later become a feature length Oscar-nominate film. He embarked upon his high school years having already starred opposite Ryan Gosling in ‘Half Nelson’.

During his tenure at Talent Unlimited, Jeff was not allowed to audition for any professional productions, as is the case with most Manhattan performing arts high schools. His insatiable approach didn’t allow him to align himself with the aforementioned school policy. Jeff would often sneak to auditions and one in particular would serve as the catalyst he’d been hoping for!

During an audition in which Jeff spent about an hour with the director and producer during a first session, a spectator observed from afar. At the conclusion of the audition, that spectator followed Jeff to the elevators and asked that he submit his headshot and resume to her agent for consideration. The spectator would go on to win the 2015 Emmy for best Actress in a Comedy Series… it was Gina Rodriguez!

Having remained a client with the agent to whom Rodriguez introduced Jeff, he secured a commendable amount of work in film and television. Jeff has guest starred on CBS’s Blue Bloods, Netflix’s The Get Down, and NBC’s Taxi Brooklyn. He eventually landed a series arc on the HBO mini-series Show Me A Hero and currently recurs on NBC’s Chicago Fire. 

Jeff hopes he can be as influential as many of the educators he’s come across. He is a founding member of the Achievement Lab After School and Summer Camp, which serves 150 at-risk children, annually. Currently, he is shopping to finance short films penned by serious filmmakers. His goal is to identify films that are prevalent to today’s society, and to see the films to fruition.

We talked to Jeff, and here are the excerpts:

  • What do you love about being an actor?

I love that I can be a catalyst for someone feeling an overwhelming emotion. Those instances wherein we’re consumed with feeling are scarce. We don’t feel enough. We go through life being numb.

But in those moments in which we’ve fallen in love like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction or when we’re stuttering from shock after cheating death like Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, we’ve reached a level of living that is incomparable.

I love that the art of acting affords this to me. If I can stir an audience’s inner being, I’ve done my job and I’m happy because I know how rich it is to be moved by a performance. As an actor, I get that platform.

And, as an actor, I love having a makeup artist- and if you’ve judged me for that- wow!

  • Why do you think it’s important for actors to be involved in social issues? What are the causes/ things you are passionate about?

Without trying, actors influence. This holds for both actors who take action and those who are ok with inaction. None of those two approaches are more powerful than the other. For that reason, it’s the actor’s responsibility to be involved.

A certain somebody recently made the decision to break their career long silence on politics and it resulted in a surge in voter registration.

Our convictions on all issues are probably as unique as a fingerprint. Whatever our convictions are, we should be part of that conversation.

Something that plagued me as child was bullying. Here I am years later, an actor, and I’m active in the discourse on bullying. It’s my social responsibility. I can affect change.

  • Whats your practical advice, based on your own experiences, for other aspiring minority actors.

I always ask myself if I belong in certain rooms. I’m sure folks who aren’t part of a minority group don’t feel this way, at the same frequency.

Now here’s the issue I take; if I’m part of a minority group and I’ve merited access, then I must be pretty darn good. But I struggle with the practicality of this theory. Too often I’m inundated with thoughts that lead me to believe that I am not deserving. Instances in which I walk into a room not questioning myself are rare but feel great.

Being part of a minority group means overcoming a lot of hurdles but it really makes all the difference in the world to remember that you belong exactly where you are. Your work has earned you the right to be in that place. Embrace it.

  • What are your favorite films and filmmakers?

I like a lot of old movies. Its hard to find someone who will sit with me to watch Sophie’s Choice, Scent of a Woman, and other oldies.

Oh my god- I’m obsessed with Stanley Kubrick. I could watch The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut everyday! His films are hypnotizing. Maybe I just like an eerie movie score!

  • What’s your most favorite and least favorite things about NYC?

My favorite thing about NYC is that you can literally walk to any audition, in character, drilling lines, and no one will look at you twice. We all assume the next person is crazy.
My least favorite thing is the parking. The parking restriction signs are like reading an algorithm. There’s a fire hydrant every 20 feet and the traffic agents are relentless- God bless them. You don’t know true heartbreak until you’re running late to an audition and realize your car was towed.

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Here’s the full audio/podcast of our conversation with Jeff.

Chat w/ Sanjay Rawal, director of '3100: Run and Become'

What would you do to transform your life? How far would you go to change yourself? Would you drive, would you fly, would you run? These are the themes of a new documentary about why we run, 3100: Run and BecomeThis uplifting, intimate portrait of endurance runners and what motivates them.

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Sanjay Rawal is the director of the film. Sanjay worked in the human rights and international development sectors for 15 years and in over 40 countries before focusing his love for photography and story-telling onto filmmaking. His first two shorts Ocean Monk (2010) and Challenging Impossibility (2011) were screened at over 120 festivals including Tribeca, St. Louis and Locarno.

Sanjay then directed his first feature, Food Chains (2014), which premiered at the 2014 Berlinale and then screened at Tribeca before securing domestic distribution from Screen Media. The film chronicled the battle of a small group of farmworkers (the CIW) against large supermarkets and fast food chains. The film was produced by Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser and narrated by Forest Whitaker. Food Chains had a robust opening release in 26 cities in November 2014 and went on to screen in 1100 more through its theatrical, semi-theatrical & community screening tour. It won a host of awards including a James Beard Award as well as the BritDoc Impact Award as one of the most important films of 2015.

A lifelong runner, Sanjay was happy to lose the pounds he gained eating Mexican food in farmworker towns and take on a project about running.

We had a chance to talk to him, here are the excerpts:

- What did you learn in process of making this film?

We wanted to approach documentary filmmaking and this story in particular as though we were making a narrative film. That approach allowed us the freedom to imagine we could stitch together incredibly different stories – from the world’s longest race where runners circle a ½ mile loop in New York City for 3100 miles to a Navajo spirit runner retracing a family journey thru the high deserts of Arizona. We were able to work with an exceptional director of photography, Sean Kirby, and focused our story telling thru visuals as well as deep character-driven storylines.

The final product doesn’t simply show people running; the film reveals the meditative reasons why people run long distances and the power of long-distance running to transform people.

It was an honor to spend time and document the stories of three remarkable groups of people all of whom have rarely shared their stories – the Navajo, the Kalahari Bushmen and the Monks of Mount Hiei, Japan.

- What inspires you as a director and storyteller?

My background is in human rights and international development and the projects I enjoyed most were ones where recipients of the programs had equal power in driving progress. Those projects allowed everyone to participate. In that sense, my style of filmmaking is no different. I really enjoy listening to other people’s stories and seeing those stories come to life in film.

- How being an Indian-American affects your storytelling? What's been your personal experience on this journey?

I had a traditional Hindu upbringing in California but after university I yearned to deepen my identification with India and I moved to New York to study at the feet of an Indian Yogi – Sri Chinmoy. He gave me an entirely new perspective on happiness and I began to understand how best to achieve happiness in the West. One can’t shun life – the Divine is in everyone. It is through the acceptance of life and of other people’s own journeys and perspectives that we can fully appreciate the breadth of the Supreme here on earth. Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy blended advaita, bhakti yoga and seva in very much a modern way. At the same time, he was an ardent proponent of physical fitness and running, and founded the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Run, upon which my film is based. So, in many ways, 3100 Run and Become is fully an Indian-American film.

- What's next on your plate?

I’m hoping to take some time off, my first break since my previous film started production in 2011.

- Who are your favorite filmmakers and few of your favorite films and TV show?

I really enjoy Wes Anderson’s films and his perspective on life. I tend to like dark comedies and Rushmore ranks as one of my all-time favorites. At the same time, I love crime dramas from the Godfather to more pulpy films like The Departed or Hell or High Water. As for TV, I love procedurals like Bosch and Southland.

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More about the film:

3100: Run and Become follows Ashprihanal Aalto, an unassuming Finnish paperboy, and Shamita, an Austrian cellist, in their attempts to complete the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, the world’s longest certified footrace, which takes place each summer June through August. The 3100 encourages runners to discover the limits of their capacities--and to try to go beyond them. And go beyond, they must: the small group of competitors come from all over the world to run a distance that approximates a US cross-country run -- a total of 3,100 miles in 52 days – 5,649 laps around one city block in Jamaica, Queens. 

Ashprihanal and Shamita’s 3100 quest takes viewers from the heart of this astonishing event in New York to places around the world where ancient cultures have held running sacred for millennia: the Kalahari Desert, Arizona’s Navajo Reservation, and to the mountain temples of Japan. Through the heroic stories of three other runners (Shaun Martin, a Navajo runner and Board Member of Wings of America; Gaolo of the San Bushmen of the Kalahari; and Gyoman-san of the Monks of Mt. Hiei, Japan) 3100: Run and Become presents a portrait of endurance and transformation. Beyond competitiveness and athletic prowess, they run not for glory but for spiritual enlightenment, universal oneness --or because they simply have the responsibility to run.

3100: Run and Become is directed by Sanjay Rawal (Food Chains) and produced by Tanya Ager Meillier (Alias Ruby Blade, Capitalism: a Love Story). It was edited by Alex Meillier (Alias Ruby Blade, Obscene) and shot in 4K by Sean Kirby (Racing Extinction, We are X, Long Strange Trip). The film’s soundtrack, composed by Michael A. Levine, features an original song recorded by Roberta Flack, her first after suffering a stroke in 2016. 

Running Time: 79 minutes

 Websitehttp://3100film.com/

Instagram: @3100film
Facebookfacebook.com/3100film

Twitter: @3100_film

Trailerhttps://vimeo.com/261386426

3100: Run and Become Festivals and Screenings

DATE                           CITY                             THEATER                                                                                               

Oct 26 New York                   Village East

Nov 9    LA/Santa Monica      Laemmle Theater