Is your acting as a tribute to them in some way?
Everything I do is connected to my family, my child, and my ancestors. Without a doubt. We represent. It’s no joke when someone says represent—that’s a real thing. I take that quite seriously. My name is on something. My face is on something. I represent to my people.
How does that come through in Creed III?
In this picture, the character’s name is Damian Anderson. My mother’s maiden name was Terry Anderson. So the Andersons are half my family. I changed the name for that. So I’m always thinking about what my people are going to see—my nuclear family and the culture, what they’re going to see and what they’re going to feel with the roles I do and how I play those roles.
Growing up, what was the first performance you remember seeing that had a profound impact on you?
Church. And I was always in it, you know. There was a cool transition when I would pay more attention to the sermon than the praise and worship. The singing. Not everybody knows what praise and worship is. The choir.
And I remember when that happened. It happened quite young, when I was about six. I was no longer looking forward to the singing. I was trying to figure out what this person was going to say. I liked to watch what they were saying and how it was impacting people in the congregation.
What was it about those sermons that pulled you in?
Well, they all have a nice arc, don’t they? They have the slow part, the quiet part, the loud part, then the quiet part. That’s a movie. That’s essentially how movies go. This is the quiet part. This is the loud part. This is the loud, fast part. We’re cresting—this is the quiet part again. Thank you. Credits.
So watching that and feeling how that was moving through the congregation, and sometimes the organ comes in and that’s banging—I was looking at it as a bit of a dance, a party.
I could hear the nuance in the message, which was interesting to me. I like language. I like listening to how people talk, how they communicate. And I grew up in the South. So I was hearing the sermon, and I was hearing the homies in the street just talk crazy. That was also exciting to me.
Let’s talk about that nuance. How do you define it?
I think nuance is when you have two truths running at the same time, perhaps. That’s not the definition. But when you look at a character and you see two truths running parallel, sometimes those two truths may counter one another—they may not be saying the same thing, but they’re both truthful. That, to me, is interesting. That’s where you learn most about people. How great would it be if you could really understand somebody on two different levels at the same time? How much faster would we get to know each other?
When you take on a role, is that what it becomes for you—an attempt to bridge understanding between you and the audience?
The audience has to understand them. Otherwise, it’s essentially a bad performance. If you play a character that seems so fringe, if you can invite the audience to understand that character, that’s a lot more fun. And the reward is greater.