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September 2005
Lord of War: An Interview with Eamonn Walker

Lord of War: An Interview with Eamonn Walker

By Wilson Morales

One of the few cables programs that stood out in the last few years was the powerful and intense HBO drama, "OZ", which explored the inner workings of a prison and focused on several characters. Of the many characters that show had, only a few made an indelible impression and one was the Muslim activist Kareem Said played British actor Eamonn Walker. Since the show has stopped running, Walker has been making appearnces on a few films and theater such as appearing with Bruce Willis in Antoine Fuqua's Tears of the Sun and most recently appeared on Broadway with Denzel Washington in the theater production of "Julius Caesar" playing the role of Mark Anthony. Coming up next for Walker is the role of a Liberian dictator in Andrew Niccol's film, Lord of War, opposite Nicolas Cage. Walker spoke to blackfilm.com about taking on this role and how "OZ" opened the doors for him as an actor.

What was the appeal of taking this role?

Eamonn Walker: The script. It was an amazing script, basically. I turned around to myself after reading it and in talking with Andrew Niccol said to myself that I definitely wanted to be a part of this; because of the intelligence behind it and the different ways he pulls you into a multi-level formula of what he was trying to tell you and how he was trying to tell you. This particular character was an unusual one and I knew that everybody would go down the path and say that he's evil and a horrible and terrible man, but in actual fact, his role in the film is to provide the Nicolas Cage character with a part of himself that he hasn't allowed himself to accept yet.

At times, some of your scenes were seen as a comic relief. Do you think that was the case?

EW: No, I didn't play it for comedy. I'm glad that people are laughing. It was a character choice. There are certain things that people do that seem funny to other people so if people find him funny, he's a dangerous funny man.

Did you do any research in terms of the sale of arms in Africa and the impact it has on the people?

EW: Yes, I did. It was one of the reasons I wanted to the script, because I'm aware of those particular aspects. I'm aware has been misrepresented in film, especially American film for a long time and we've had a few really good movies that have come out. One of my favorite movies is a film called "Lumumba" that when I watched it, I just cried, subtitled and everything else, and I did cry because it broke my heart. In a way the Rwanda story did break my heart because it was much more about how black people were treating black people and they didn't have to kill them and the reasons why they went down the path they did, which is they kind of salvaged themselves to each other.

Did you think about how different your role is from "Tears of the Sun", where you played a soldier trying to save black people from genocide and here in this film, your character is almost promoting it by obtaining the arms?

EW: The roles I choose are all dependent upon the script. At the end of the day, if the story speaks to me;. I'm going to try my best to the character within the framework that's given to me. In "Tears of the Sun", I was saving people because I was a Navy SEAL for the American Army going in and pulling someone out because of a coup, which is another similar situation to this. A Coup happens, whether we like it or not. Africa is Africa and it's unsettled. We all because it's get reported all the time that there's corruption. There's no real way of how to get on top of anything and hopefully with this character, although you may be scared of him on one level, there is a man who understands who he is. He is scary, but if you look a little deeper, you'll find that he, being an African, or he being black is not the scary point of view because right next to him, his brother, the person most similar to that man, is the Nicolas Cage character. So you're questioning people's morals at the end of the morals and why they do what they do and it all comes down, bottom line, cash.

What did you get from Andrew from this film that's different from the other directors you have worked with?

EW: What I got was his insight; his insight into this particular problem of society and guns and bullets. Governments do what they do and most of time we are unaware of how these things go on; the deals that are made between them. He enlightened and educated me and hopefully, as I was educated, that when people watch this film they will be educated too just to open the door and have you think. That's what I like, to have you think.

How was working with Nicolas Cage?

EW: I loved working with Nic Cage, Ian Holm, and Ethan Hawke. I've been a very lucky individual. I've been working with some amazing stars recently in my life and I'm very happy about it. As a black Brit, I didn't expect to be here, but I am here and I'm grateful.

So far, you've been seen on the stage and screen this year, most recently with your performance along with Denzel Washington in "Julius Caesar" on stage. What was that like?

EW: Amazing. I was on stage with Denzel Washington. Are you kidding me? The first time I walked into the room, I didn't even look at him. I sort of looked into the side of my eye saying, "Is it really you?", but it was really him and spent the last six months of my life doing that. I still rewind it in my head and ask myself if it really happened and yes it did. Again, through that play, I know that we, as a cast, moved people's lives. People who had terrible times with English and with Shakespeare came in one way expecting the usual but they get to see Denzel and they walked out saying, "Oh my God, I understood the story. I so understand Julius Caesar now!" In school, it was like this block, so they walked out the theater feeling smart. I felt amazing. That was a great part.

When you were on "Oz", your character was one of a few that stood out and when the show ended, did you get a lot of offers to be in films or other programs?

EW: The door opened for me because of "OZ". That's the bottom line. Everything that come, every job, every film, the play "Julius Caesar" has been because of "OZ" and I've been able to work with those amazing people. So thank you very much, Tom Fontana; and the other cast members. It was 22 people in the cast and we are a family and I know a lot of times when we were working and some of the difficult stuff, emotionally or otherwise, you needed support, metaphorically speaking somebody would hold both hands at the base of your spine and say, "It's ok and we'll just go again". That was a refreshing moment because none of us knew what we were in for. To have that bond among us was an amazing thing, so I'm glad you say that I stood out. I'm very grateful, but guys like Harold Pirreneau, Chris Meloni, Lee Turgenson, and othersŠ we were in it and it was hardcore and we just had to buckle down.

What sort of roles do you look for?

EW: I look for good scripts. I don't look for roles. The script touches my mind or my gut. Primary I read and wait for the payoff (he snaps his fingers three times). Sometimes the first part of the script may just get one click, because there's a beginning, middle, and an end. It doesn't have to be good, and it doesn't have to be bad; I don't have to be a good person or an evil person; I just need a good script that I can relate to. It's that simple.

How do you make time between films, plays, and family?

EW: My family is the real deal. How do I balance being the actor that I want to be and my children, who turn around and say, "You've missed another birthday", so I don't know. Everyday is a new day.

Why should anyone see "Lord of War"?

EW: It will open up a new door in their head. A new perspective on how the gunrunning business is and the depths of where it will go and although we use comedy and sometimes we use some rhetoric and we use amazing actors who will pull you in with their amazing performances like Nicolas Cage and Jared (Leto). Everybody does an amazing turn. It's a great piece. It's a great piece of writing. There isn't one actor that I came across on this who didn't completely whole-heartedly believe in what this script was about, so when I say go and see this movie, I say you will move forward as a human being and your understanding of the world that you live in.

What are you working on next?

EW: I'm just reading scripts at the moment. You will see next in a film called "Duma", which opens on the 30th of September in Los Angeles. It's about a little boy and a cheetah and myself in the middle of the desert, the Kalahari desert, where we were four months shooting. The film is directed by Carroll Ballard. I play an African ex-con who's on the run in the desert and comes across the little boy and can't make up my mind, because it's modern day South Africa and the rules have changed, and this little white boy is behaving pre-ten years ago and I am very modern day and the only thing between me and the little boy is the cheetah.


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