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April 2006
Preaching to the Choir: An Interview with Billoah Greene

Preaching to the Choir: An Interview with Billoah Greene

by Wilson Morales

April 10, 2006

After waiting some years for the film to come out and do wonders for his career, Billoah Greene had to sit back and watch his leading role in Charles Randolph-Wright's Preaching to the Choir, travel through the festival circuit and win many accolades yet find no suitable distributor. But after last year's win at the ABFF, where the film won Best film and a Best Actor award for Greene, "Preaching to the Choir" struck a deal with Codeblack Entertainment and will be released in select theaters on April 14th. The film deals with two brothers - one a preacher, the other a rapper, who are brought together after years of estrangement by a series of events that ultimately lead to understanding and forgiveness. Greene plays the rapper. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Greene talks about his attraction for the film and the struggle it's been as an actor to find work.

What attracted you to the film?

Billoah Greene: At the time, I was in New York doing the HBO film, "Everyday People" and I got called directly into the producer's office about three days before they started shooting because they couldn't find their lead. I hadn't heard about the project ahead of time. I had known of Charles's work and naturally I wanted to work with him, but I never heard about the project. So I go in, get the offer the same day and it kind of went from there, so I got into the project as a blessing more so than something that I had pre-planned and once I got into it, it became off the hook. I was playing a character for the first time that most resembles me. I had played so many characters that were mostly thuggish. I think as a black actor breaking into the business, you have to plan on playing, and if you have an edge, which I do cause I'm from Newark, NJ, you can count on playing those thuggish gangster type roles to get your first break in. I had been playing more roles like that, and not necessarily getting to show the compassionate or artistic side of myself. This role was the first one where I get to show a little bit of my edge and get to show the compassion and real heart that I have, so I just ate it up.

Do you have any singing skills?

BG: I certainly do. I've been singing since high school and chorus and actually when I was in elementary school as well, but in high school, I focused on it. At the same time, I started focusing on acting and I've been doing it ever since.

Did you get nervous when you heard you would be the co-lead, amongst a bevy of talent including Patti Labelle, Ben Vereen, and Eartha Kitt?

BG: I would say I got more excited than nervous because I'm ready. At that point of shooting, I was ready. I had been through 4 years of training in high school. I had already been through 4 years of training in college. At this point, I'm dying to show somebody and have some recognition for the kind of expression I want to do; so when I heard I would working with Eartha Kitt, Patti Labelle, Ben Vereen, and all of these black legends, it was excitement. It was like, "Oh Yeah". This is a big step for me. It's a blessing. I'm barely with any experience not too removed from college and I'm about to go and get the lead on a movie with this many people who have already made the way for me. That's amazing! I definitely felt humble by the experience.

How was it working with the rest of the cast?

BG: Awesome! I think it was largely because many of us had come from the world of theater and we are currently working in theater so we have that camaraderie that theater people have when you are working with someone for a period of time. You get into each other a little bit. We all have that. We all care about the craft. We are all there cause we want to do a good job, not just for the money and just cause we want to do a movie. We want to do a good job and make a musical movie; so it was beautiful. Working with everyone was really fun, easy, and a lot of love.

What scene did you enjoy the most?

BG: There's one of two scenes I can think of. The main scene is the one where my character realizes that he has been missing something while being away from home and he sees how all the churches ended up outside the church before mass begins and he sees the different types of churches, one regular, one Baptist, one of a Latin flavor, and another one all out Methodist and singing to the skies and all of them coming together and circle around him and realizes that he stepped away from something that could be magical. That was one of my favorite moments cause we did that in the streets of Harlem. We did that in the middle of the streets with tons of people dancing around in circles and singing gospel. It was so awesome to do.

With the film having been shot some years ago to now, has it been a struggle to parlay that role for more work?

BG: It's been 100% struggle and I really believe that that's just part of the business. I don't know if I've bargained for as much struggles as I've seen but it's been definitely a struggle because of the fact that this movie was an independent and the fact that I was the lead versus someone who is as known as 50 Cent and something like that. It was hard getting it out to the public eye. It's taken us three years to finally get it to where we thought it was going to go six months after we did it. That time created a lag for me. I've been counting on this movie to let people see what I have to offer in the business and the fact that it didn't get seen as much as it could have in the beginning has created a bit of a slow lag for me. I've been working steadily. Luckily I've been blessed to be guest stars on TV and whatnot but as far as getting that real exposure, I've been waiting for this movie to do that and now that it's coming, it just so happens that it's coming at a time while other things are starting to come together for me. I'm about to leave for South Africa a week after the movie comes out and do a series for six months that based out of South Africa. It's set in a hospital and I play a doctor. I just got this gig about a week ago and so that's also going to help me go where I need to go now. The few years have been a piece here and there, audition after audition, and vice-versa. So it's starting to rain a little bit in the best way for me.

Why should folks go see "Preaching to the Choir"?

BG: I would say go see it because it's going to make people laugh, and not in a stupid way but because it involves a real family dilemma and the family relations and there's some humor to it and people go in different roads. You love your family to death but you end up as you get older feeling differently about life and that can either cause you to walk away from your family, but still love them and each other build. As long as you stay close to them, there will always be love and growth that comes out of it. You'll come out with a good message and get to laugh your butt off at the same time. There's also a mix of gospel and hip hop in the film as well that you will enjoy.

PREACHING TO THE CHOIR opens on April 14th in select markets, which includes Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, D.C/Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Augusta, Norfolk, Cleveland, Memphis, Charlotte, Richmond, Raleigh-Durham, Indianapolis, Dayton, Columbus, Jacksonville, Louisville, and Minneapolis


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