March 2003
A Man Apart : An Interview with Larenz Tate

Larenz Tate in New Line's A Man Apart - 2003 A Man Apart: An Interview with Larenz Tate

For as many movies he has done and will continue to do, the role that made Larenz Tate a star was playing O-Dog in Menace II Society. He wasnít just good, he was great. He parlayed that performance into the leading man status in Hollywood. Next films such as The Inkwell and Dead Presidents followed before he started showing his romantic side in the classic Love Jones. More films followed until his last film prior to this year with straight to video with Love Come Down in 2000. Larenz Tate is back on the big screen with 2 films due out this year. Earlier in January 2003, he had a supporting role in the ensemble film Biker Boyz and now he teams up with Vin Diesel in Director F. Gary Grayís latest film, A Man Apart. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Larenz talked his role in the film and his friendship with Vin Diesel.


AH: Do you think itís fair to call this a modern Dirty Harry?

LT: Let me think about that. I donít know. I personally think its better than Dirty Harry, donít get me wrong Ė thatís a classic, but I think ours is a bit stronger.


AH: So did you feel like this Demetrius character was like O-Dog gone soft?

LT: No, he is not the ďMenace [to Society]Ē character, but clearly my character comes from the street and has street sensibility. Thatís what the character called for. He has the ability to make that kind of cop, and thatís a DEA cop that goes in and infiltrates. You wonít smell bacon or pig, as they say, a mile a way. I wanted to make sure I had all those sensibilities down and also be a caring, responsible, husband and father. Heís tough on his day job, but when he goes home, he is very protective and caring and sensitive about the well-being of his family.


Larenz Tate in New Line's A Man Apart - 2003 AH: Are you turning action-hero now?

LT: People want to see me do action now. I like the action business. I like the action movies. I guess Hollywood wants to see me do action. So I am down. I like it. This particular action film was cool because it was not jumping off of buildings with no parachutes and landing on our feet. In this one, if you fall, you are going to break a leg. It allows us to be real people in an action role. There is some humor that comes out of the dramatic situations but there are some rich characters. This is the ideal kind of action film because it really allows us to perform beyond one-liners, shirt open, - thatís crazy


AH: Do you feel a little tired of the straight drama?

LT: Itís not that I am tired of it, itís just that I am capable of doing other things. Therefore, I want to do movies that will put me in a different category. I like to be challenged. I should not just do one kind of movie. I have been fortunate to do a lot so far.


AH: How was it working with Vin?

LT: It was great. Vin is my friend. Vin and I were friends well before this movie and I knew he was going to do this picture. He told me there might be an opportunity for us to play almost like brothers in this movie. We are undercover cops and were dealing with an issue where we avenge this womanís death. I was really into it. I like stuff that gives people a question Ė like what are they going to do next? Vin and I work really well together and we have a great deal of respect for one another. He and I have both been at this for a long time. A lot of people do not realize that Vin has been around as long as he has. It just seems like he has blown up relatively quickly and thatís true in a lot of peopleís eyes. But I think theyíve been blind for a long time. Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room, films like that. Heís directed independent movies and so much stuff that he has been doing. Iím just here to get a little of that shine! We want our chemistry to just feel real and genuine. We kid around and just figured we could put it in the movie.


AH: So do you all hang out together outside of working?

LT: Yes. We hang out. We like to go to fights. We are both big boxing fans. We just chill out and do normal stuff. We play basketball. I call up my cousins and brothers, and we all hook up and play ball for hours. Having a good time.


AH: How do you think the hip-hop community will respond to your ďcool-copĒ characters?

LT: I think itís good for folks to see because I have met some cops that are really cool. We donít get to see that often and I have a whole new respect for cops now. A lot of these cops are young; 28, 25. They listen to the same stuff that we listen too. They watch the same kind of movies we watch. They have a pulse on what is really going on just like we do. Itís just that they chose a career to fight crime because of the personal reasons they have for wanting to clean things up and make a difference. Thatís the sort of direction that my character Demetrius Hicks takes. We are from the streets in this movie but we still hang out with our boys. I know friends in Chicago that are cops and they still hang out with their friends from the block. We wanted to show a different side to cops.

We wanted to show that everyone has a hand in this drug business, not just blacks and Latinos. Itís all kind of people. Just look at Timothy Olyphant who plays Hollywood Jack. You would never think that a guy like that sells drugs. Thatís what we wanted to show and not just target a particular group.

Gary did not want it to look perfect, because this world is gritty. We are not glamorizing this lifestyle or this world. We are on the grass roots level.


AH: What was it like working with F. Gary Gray?

LT: Heís a good friend of mine as well. He and I thought about what we could possibly do together. We just could not find anything to do. He is another buddy of mine that I just hang with. Weíve gone to film festivals together. We could not find anything until this came up. He told me he would possibly direct it and I told him I would be doing it as well. So it just worked out. It was good having your buddy directing you. Itís not always friends all of the time because as a director/actor we have to get to our job. I do see him as a director and take care of business.


AH: What are you working on next?

LT: I am considering doing a picture about Ray Charles and they want me to play Quincy Jones. I think I might do that. If I decide to do it Ė Iíll head out to do that next month. We are still in the discussion. If it all works out, I am going to love going in to play the young Quincy.


AH: What would you be doing if you were not an actor?

LT: I honestly do not know. I have no idea and the thought is scary, because I donít know. I would probably own something. I have a very entrepreneurial sort of mindset. Something would have to be mine. Iíd be somebodyís boss!