Larenz Tate ('Man Apart')
’The Action Man Cometh'
Born on the west side of Chicago in September 1975, Larenz Tate is the youngest of three siblings whose family moved to California when he was nine years old. Convinced by their parents to enter a drama program at the Inner City Cultural Center, the trio didn't take the lessons seriously until classmate Malcolm-Jamal Warner's ascent to fame after being cast on the hugely popular sitcom ‘The Cosby Show’. In 1985, Tate made his small-screen debut in an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone - The Series,’ which was followed by appearances in both ‘21 Jump Street’ and ‘The Wonder Years.’ Tate was then cast in the made-for-television feature ‘The Women of Brewster Place’ before receiving a recurring role in the popular family comedy series ‘Family Matters’ (both 1989).
Offers soon began pouring in and, following numerous small-screen roles, collaborative filmmaking siblings Albert and Allen Hughes approached Tate to star in their debut feature ’Menace II Society’. Following up with the little-seen, but often-praised television series ‘South Central’, Tate would later appear in the family comedy-drama ’The Inkwell’ before re-teaming with the Hughes
brothers for ’Dead Presidents’ (1995) and then ‘97s romantic drama ’Love Jones’. With subsequent roles in such films as ’The Postman,’ ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’ (1998), 2000's ’Love Come Down’ and 2003’s ’Biker Boyz’, Tate has continued to compel audiences well into the new millennium.
Now Larenz stars alongside Internationally-acclaimed superstar Vin Diesel (’xXx,’ ‘The Fast and the Furious’) in ’A Man Apart,’ the story of two men who grew up on the mean streets of Los Angeles, but now work together as DEA agents. Fighting a seven-year war to stem the virulent drug pipeline along the US/Mexico border, the pair are dubbed “the gunslingers” for their tough street tactics, but after a mysterious figure, known only as Diablo, emerges to violently claim the Baja Cartel (robbing Vetter (Diesel) of the one person who gives his life meaning – his woman, Stacy), with nothing to lose, Vetter pulls out every hidden resource at his disposal to bring Diablo down.
Now with the hard-hitting ’A Man Apart’ now in theatres, I recently got the chance to chat with Larenz in New York and first wondered why he had claimed that his role in ‘A Man Apart’ had felt “tailor-made” for him? ”Well, Demetrius is a character that has a combination of things and I think that combination is a person who has street sensibilities, but also has a great deal of compassion; a sort of sensitive side. And I’ve been able to play both spectrums; of a very street-edgy person and also a very sensitive guy and that’s kind of a bit of who I am in a way. So, I think it was tailor-made for me in that respect. I’ve always wanted to play a cop, but the kinda cop that I wanted to play was the kind of cop that Demetrius Hicks is. He’s loyal to his friends, he’s a responsible individual when it comes to his family; his wife and child, but at the same time his view is still very street mentality. And I like that.”
Is there a message to come from this movie? ”I think loyalty and the question of ‘If a friend really needs you, would you compromise yourself to be there for a friend in need?’ And that theme is something that really rings throughout the picture. What would you do if a loved one was taken from you? How far would you go? He's a good man, but his patience is wearing thin.”
What were some of the most memorable parts for you to film? ”Probably the most fun were the action stuff! I really like the shoot-out scene that we had that went bad! There’s a shoot-out sequence in the film that completely goes bad and when it goes bad it goes from bad to worse! It’s just a serious, serious shoot-out, gunfire scene! And it was the most difficult because it was so technical, but also there are some emotional things that are going on there as well. So, you have to make sure everything is all tight, and make sure everything is right from a technical, but also from a creative and a performance level.”
Any Larenz Tate ‘doubles’ brought in for the action scenes?! ”Most of my stuff is all me. There wasn’t things like where I’m jumping off buildings or out of airplanes, so most all of my stunts were done by me. I’m really athletic and I wanted to make sure that whenever I’m doing an action scene that people should see my face and not like the back of the stunt guys head. Usually, the stunt coordinators are there along with me to make sure that I’m doing everything properly. I do a lot of rehearsal and I’m prepped to make sure that I can do my stunts and also walk away pretty safely – and it’s been good, so far!”
Is this your most enjoyable role to date? ”I think it’s been one of my most enjoyable roles that I’ve played. I’ve been really working at building a great body of work and this is one that I really enjoyed. It was very intense though on the set, but we had fun doing the movie. But, it was really intense because of the nature of the picture.”
Talking of intense roles, tell me more about your recent role in ’Biker Boyz’ ”Oh, man, that was just pure action! For me, just riding on those bikes was just like a fun, hang-out gig with your friends. Like a High-School reunion, but on bikes.”
Was that you on that bike each time?! ”Of course,” he replies quickly and adamantly. ”It’s back to not wanting the stunt guy to do what I should be doing! I rode bikes before, but I ride better now, but I didn’t have to do anything that was crazy or too way off that I would hurt myself.”
What’s next for you after ’A Man Apart’? ”Well, I’m gonna go do a cameo, but it’s a very pivotal part, in a movie called ‘Unchain My Heart.’ It’s the Ray Charles story! Jamie Foxx is playing Ray Charles and I’m gonna play Quincy Jones – a young Quincy Jones. So, that’s gonna be fun and I’m gonna be starting that next week. So, I’m gonna go down to New Orleans, film that, then get back to L.A. and see what is next on my plate.”
In your early days, with films like ‘Menace II Society,’ ‘The Inkwell,’ and ‘Dead Presidents’, they all seemed to be primarily African-American movies, but was this a conscious game plan on your part to do that or was it just the way the cards fell? ”It’s the way they fell, actually. I didn’t have a choice of being in predominantly African-American films or any other kinds of films with other people. But, it didn’t matter to me I just wanted my opportunity and that was my opportunity and from there people saw that I had a really strong fan base in the African-American community. And so studios knew that they had to make stories that reflected African-American culture. So, they wanted me to star in most of those pictures. And they’re fine, and I’m very proud of them, but there’s much more for me to offer. Not only to the African-American community, but so many others, because my fan base transcends the African-American culture.”
It’s funny, but even after all these years, the media sometimes still looks at you as one of Hollywood’s ’most promising actors’! Does that ever put a smile on your face or annoy you?! ”Yeah, well, I’ve been doin’ it for a long time, but this is sometimes what people think! But, you know, hey, I’m doing it and I’m excited that people are supporting what I do.”
What’s the most interesting fact to know about you?! ”That,” he already laughs ”I’m not a perfect person. Sometimes, celebrities get this rap that we have to be ‘perfect’ and by far, I’m not perfect at all. But, I like to believe that I’m a pretty well grounded, approachable person.”
Finally, describe Larenz Tate in three words ”An equally, balanced person.”
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Check out Larenz's personal website at:
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