Alfonso Freeman ('Ten 'Til Noon')
'A Man Apart'
WARNING: This interview contains very precise plot information and twists!
Alfonso Freeman is a renaissance man, possessing talents that span various artistic arenas. Whether on stage, screen or in a recording studio, Alfonso is very much at home.
Born in Los Angeles, Alfonso from an early age displayed a prodigious gift to draw and paint. He won numerous awards for his artistic skills. Later he developed an interest in music during his pre-teen years and began playing drums (and thereafter piano) for his church in Compton, CA.
As Alfonso looked to further challenge his artistic intellect, he watched his father, Academy Award© nominee Morgan Freeman, win his first nomination for his role as Fast Black in the gritty drama, 'Street Smart.' Alfonso knew he too belonged on stage; and with his dad's encouragement, Alfonso began his theatre career.
Blessed with a powerful singing voice that was perfect for musical theatre, he performed in a number of musical theatre productions. Among them: Guys and Dolls, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Man of La Mancha. A gifted dramatic actor, he has also starred in 'I'm Not Rappaport,' 'The Boys Next Door' and 'Zoo Story,' to name a few.
His work on stage won Alfonso critical praise, and would naturally take him to film and television where he won guest-starring roles on such shows as 'The West Wing,' 'ER,' 'Providence' and 'The Practice.' His film credits include 'The Shawshank Redemption,' 'Nurse Betty,' the award winning indie feature 'Burn,' and now the highly-regarded, sexually charged thriller 'Ten 'Til Noon' - the story of a billionaire named Larry Taylor who wakens to find two assassins (Freeman and Jenya Lano) in his bedroom. The countdown then begins on the most terrifying and possibly final 10 minutes of his life.
Chatting recently with Alfonso Freeman, a man on a mission re: auditions ("I've had a lot of auditions. I'm a working actor, you know. I've got a pretty decent team who've gotten me out quite a bit ... although I haven't had any bites yet. It's been a tough season for me, but you just keep going"), I first wondered if having a famous father to (possibly) ride the business coat tails of was a blessing or a curse when it came to auditions?
Alfonso Freeman - "Well, in the early part of my career, and I started relatively late at 32 as a professional, I was just happy to get anything. And yes, I did look to my dad to get help to get bits. Just to get started and I got my SAG card that first time and everything. The very first thing I did was 'Shawshank Redemption' in 1993. Then in '94 I worked on the film 'Se7en' and then later on I worked on 'Nurse Betty.' I really never wanted to so-called 'coat tail' it. I really wanted to be viewed on my own merits. However, I didn't mind getting in the room based on my dad so long as they could see my work when I got there. The problem that I ran into is that the perception by some is you're just trying to ride the coat tails. By others maybe they've got one of these and they don't need another one. I'm not too sure how much of the latter one it is, but I know that I've gone on auditions a few times where they didn't necessarily know who I was; I just had had enough of a similar look that they wondered. As soon as they say, 'Are you related to Morgan Freeman?' I know I'm not getting the job!"
Knowing that filming on 'Ten 'Til Noon' first began back in October of 2004, is it weird to be chatting about it with me today in 2007? "No, it doesn't bother me at all. That's the nature of independent filmmaking. With independent films in a lot of cases you don't have the publicity machine behind you. So, the most publicity you can get is going to festivals, because these films are labors of love. Most times it's the filmmakers putting up their own money to make the film and they're relying on a lot of favors from the best talent they can get for their money .... which is usually nothing! But what you have from all that is a true labor of love."
As your character 'Mr. Jay' spends most of his screen time in 'Larry's bedroom verbally abusing the billionaire, did you even feel challenged by the claustrophobic role? "I don't know if I verbally abuse him ... well, the verbal abuse kinda comes later on. You've heard the statement 'Less is More' ... and in a film like that it's about someone feeling a heightened state of emotion, but yet cannot show them. The power of the scene is not whether or not you can cry, but whether or not you can keep from crying. Think about arguments that you may have had with a loved one, where you're trying to contain the anger. You're trying not to let things escalate out of control. Or maybe you're just messing with someone's mind. You don't need a lot of space for that. So, that scene was actually very cerebral. I had a lot of fun doing that scene with him."
I thought that the plot of the movie - that between 11:50am and 12:00 noon, a crime is committed and within that same ten minute period, we follow the lives of the ten people connected to the crime - was indeed an original one. Did it strike you that way also? "Yeah, which is why I did it actually. I liked the concept. I liked the premise. In this business you have to come up with something that grabs people that makes them think. It might make them squirm a little bit, but it also makes them think a little bit also."
Your own demise was – to be honest – expected from the moment we first saw blood splattered on the painting. Is that a shame that in today’s seen-most-things era that others might also expect the rope-a-dope effect of such a scene? "Actually no, which is surprising," he freely admits. "There's a clichéd truth often in films where the black man is always killed first," he laughs. "Which is usually related to a horror movie. But that wasn't the case here. Most of the people I talked to didn't see it coming. I suppose anybody who's a real movie aficionado might formulate ways of doing things a little different. In 'Ten 'Til Noon' you've got to make a film that is at least somewhat commercial. And commercial is formula. But I think it strayed away from formula enough that it made the film interesting."
I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the lovely screen time of Jenya Lano aka 'Miss Milch'! "I don't think there's anybody who would not like 'Miss Milch'," he laughs. "I think there's many a gay guy who's seen the movie and might be reconsidering things, because she's so beautiful and talented. She's from Russia originally and you wouldn't know that as there's no accent or anything. I loved that look on her face where you almost get a softness from her ... and then you see this vicious tigress that can take a life without thinking about it!"
The ending left me feeling cheated! Like, there could be a sequel. Will there be? "Yeah, I believe that was the thinking of the writer, because the sequel had more to do with the two cops who finally arrested the mobster who caused all this. The sequel, as I understand it didn't have anything to do with 'Larry,' that I know of. I think Paul [Osborne] was talking about expanding on those two cop characters. Would it involve 'Larry' [Rick D. Wasserman] or 'Miss Milch' [Jenya Lano], the uber-gorgeous hit woman, in the future I don't know. I think the first ending as it was, before the cops confronted the mobster was enough of a surprise for people that maybe they did not think there could be a sequel. But, as he's gonna find out his wife is dead maybe he'll turn into 'Rambo,' who knows!"
Please tell us more about your upcoming role alongside your father and the great Jack Nicolson in the movie 'The Bucket List.' "Yeah, I have another small part in this movie. This is probably a larger part for any of his films that I've been in before. But, a lot of the work that I did got left on the cutting room. They deleted whole scenes, because I guess it diverted too much away from the story line. But, it's OK as the film is just a wonderful, wonderful film. Just having the opportunity to work with Jack Nicolson and my dad in the same room ... I went to Julliard that day, I'll tell you. To work with these guys, and to see them processing the different ways that each person works, and to be given the opportunity to take that into my own craft now is just fantastic."
What does you character do in 'The Bucket List'? "My character is 'Roger' and I play the son of the character 'Carter.' He's a tax accountant who along with his family - although my character is still somewhat the voice of moderation - is trying to talk him out of going on this odyssey. It affects a lot of people when someone's diagnosed with a terminal illness."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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