Anthony Mackie - The Crossover/Half Nelson Interview (2006)
with Kam Williams
KW: I first noticed you a couple of years ago, when you did such a great job in what I consider your breakout role in Brother to Brother.
AM: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
KW: What interested you in Half Nelson?
AM: I was just blown away by the sincerity of the story. I felt like it was very well put together, because it was judgmental, but simply an honest portrayal of these people in that situation. I enjoyed that because I feel that writers, as well as actors, are very judgmental about the characters they're creating in bringing them to life.
KW: Yes, this film struck me as a very realistic slice-of-life.
AM: And that's what's so great about it. It's not dressed up at all. I've never been a fan of slice-of-life movies, but I was very impressed by the way they were able to capture everyday living.
KW: Do you see yourself as a lead actor or as a character actor?
AM: My thing is this: I want to be able to do the stuff that they say Don Cheadle is too old to do. If that means that I'm a character actor, so be it. But I would never describe myself as a character actor. I think of myself more as an actor who makes good choices. Don Cheadle isn't a character actor, he's just a great f*cking actor. So, to limit yourself to being a quote-unquote "leading man" is nonsense.
KW: How have you gotten so many good roles?
AM: One thing that I've been very vocal about, and my representation has been very smart about, is that I didn't go to Juilliard to be "Thug #2" in movies. I like to be challenged. I'd say that about 40% of the roles I've done have been written for white men.
KW: Do you think Hollywood has finally arrived at a point where we've got completely colorblind casting, and you can audition for any role?
AM: [Laughs] No, though I think because of the work that I've done, people are starting to pay more attention.
KW: Tell me a little about your new film, Crossover.
AM: I'm really excited about it, because it's something that parents can take their kids to and come out and have an intelligent conversation about issues from day-to-day life. I feel that nowadays, kids don't have role models. They don't have anybody to look up to, or anything to aspire to. I wanted to make a movie where the kids could see themselves in the people on screen. With Crossover, they can realize that if you work hard, there will be a bounteous amount of opportunities in the future.
KW: What's your character, Tech, like?
AM: Tech is a very important character in this film because he understands how he can use basketball to further himself to go to college, and if he doesn't make it to the NBA, use it to help him achieve whatever he wants to do next.
KW: What's the demographic for this flick then?
AM: If you love basketball, and if you love a good story, then I feel this is a great movie for you and right up your alley.
KW: Are you interested in doing a TV series?
AM: My problem with TV is that 85% of the people don't know Steve Urkel's real name.
KW: That's true. What is his name?
AM: Exactly my point.
KW: I just saw him guest starring on Girlfriends the other day, and the first thing I thought was, "Hey, there's Urkel!"
AM: That's the problem. He's an extremely talented cat, but with TV, you develop a relationship with people.
KW: You get burned into their consciousness as that character.
AM: Because of that, I shy away from television.
KW: So, what's your next movie, Haven, about?
AM: Haven is a coming-of-age story, set in the Cayman Islands, which is told from three different perspectives.
KW: What advice do you have for anybody who wants to follow in your footsteps?
AM: The same advice my dad gave me: "To know is to study." Get some training under your belt, so that nobody what somebody asks you to do, you know how to handle it accordingly. I learned so much while working, because I developed a solid work ethic in school. Whereas, a lot of my friends had no work ethic; and because of that, they're sitting at home today.
KW You were born and raised is New Orleans. How're your family and friends doing?
AM: [Hesitates] They are… alive, I'll put it that way. It's been a very rough situation. And it's still at the beginning stages. Nothing has really been done.
KW: Where are your relatives living?
AM: Most of them are living elsewhere.
KW: Have you been back to New Orleans?
AM: Several times.
KW: What is it like?
AM: It's hard to describe it. I've been to the far reaches of the world. I've been to the backwoods of Brazil. I've been to the jungles of Costa Rica and Jamaica. But I've never seen anything this barren. It's a wasteland. There's really no way to describe the amount of unadulterated destruction and devastation that took place. It really looks like an A-bomb just wiped out everything.
KW: I'm sorry to hear that. I'll keep your folks in my prayers. Thanks for the time, and best of luck with the recovery and with your career.
AM: Thanks so much, I appreciate it. Talk to you soon.