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August 2006
CROSSOVER: An Interview with Anthony Mackie

CROSSOVER: An Interview with Anthony Mackie
By Wilson Morales

After done some commercial films with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, Anthony Mackie has had his share working with the big dogs in the business, but he also loves to have the spotlight on himself having headline numerous theater productions and having bigger roles in independent films, such as the recently released “Half Nelson”. With future films like “Haven” and “We Are Marshall” appearing in the Fall, Mackie has another film coming out this week where his skills excel beyond acting. In “Crossover”, Mackie plays a street basketball hustler names Tech who tries to do right when he helping out his best friend, who’s off to UCLA. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Mackie talks about his character, working with Wayne Brady and his skills playing basketball.

Was it a challenge to get into this character?

Anthony Mackie: Not at all. The thing about “Crossover” that was so great that I really enjoyed from the jump we realized that we weren’t making “Above The Rim” and we didn’t want it to be something it wasn’t. It was a story of two kids coming of age and trying to make that hustle work; and from the first day that we arrived there was no necessary hierarchy on the set and a lot of that had to do with the producing team, a lot had to do with Preston and a lot had to do with the group of people that they put together. It was really easy to do because there was no pressure in trying to emulate Tupac or anybody in “Above the Rim”.

You’ve been putting a lot of focus on independent films as of late. Is that because it gives you an opportunity to define your character on your own terms?

AM: Well, sort of, and a lot of independent films that are out there are very processed oriented and it’s the closest thing to theater that you’ll get on film; like you actually get rehearsal and a group of people come together to do what they love to do instead of collect a paycheck; and that usually a way you get into trouble. That’s where you get movies and say why did they make that cuz anybody will do anything for a dollar. Independent films are so cool because nobody knew “Half Nelson” would end up where it is now. It’s sort of like the rich is at the end of the movie. It’s been a pleasant surprise that independent films, as well as theater, are starting to take a front seat to quality work and I’m happy to be a part of that movement.

What sort of message do you want people to walk away with from this film?

AM: The great thing about this in our community is that there is not a lot of emphasis on school, and I catch a lot of flack because of the fact that I went to school; and one thing I wanted people to come away from this movie is that basketball is a means to an end, and you can realized that by more than half of the veterans of the NBA in someway, shape or form, are struggling once they retire. Everybody doesn’t have the financial riches and stability of Magic Johnson as we say in Brooklyn. Everybody doesn’t have those resources. My dad always told me to “Use your best foot to get your education” and “use your education to take you to the next level” and that’s what I think the movie.

Did you get a chance to speak to former basketball players to get that message across in order to talk to the current generation or do you hope this film will reach this generation to get that message across?

AM: I hope this will reach that generation. What Vince Carter did was monumental. When he went back to school to graduate after he had left school early and came back the day of the playoff game because he didn’t want to miss his graduation in North Carolina was something I felt was so overlooked and so underplayed in the world of hatred towards NBA players and I felt that there should have been a huge confetti parade for him for doing that and I just want this movie to highlight that. I want people to recognize that just because you don’t make it to the NBA doesn’t mean that you are a failure.

How do you maintain your position with the films you are doing in terms of being grounded?

AM: 90% luck and turning a lot of stuff down. Vivica Fox once said “I never saw a job that I wouldn’t do”, as an actress.

The fact that you are not doing “Miami Vice” or other blockbusters may mean you have a longer life in the business. Is that part of your thinking?

AM: Not too many brothers get the opportunity to do “Miami Vice”. The thing about it is that there are ways of doing those movies and those being quality movies. You just have to be smart about the people that you are working with. You have to have a sort of swagger about your disposition. I feel like I am a talented young man and if I don’t feel that you are talented, then I don’t want to work with you. Now if you go around working with everybody, then you will do bad stuff. If you look at certain jobs on paper, they look like the best jobs of all-time; and something happened from the time you signed that piece of paper to the time the premiere arrives, where it’s like “Whoa! That’s not what I signed on for”. That’s where communication comes into play. Once you get to the color script pages, then you’re in trouble.

How good were your basketball skills before taking on this film?

AM: Let me tell you something. My brother was a phenomenal basketball player and I grew up playing baseball and football. When I took this role, I went across the street and played every day for three months. There was this other basketball movie I wanted todo that was being directed by Malcolm Lee and I didn’t get it. It was called “The Rucker” and I practiced hard for that movie. I went to LA, auditioned and didn’t get it. I swore after that day that if another basketball movie came up, I would be ready. I went to the gym and I ran and ran everyday for about a year. Played basketball at every opportunity I could and sure enough “Crossover” came by. So when it came, I was ready.

Were you a fan of the Rucker tournaments and what’s your take on street ball?

AM: I was a fan of the Rucker myth. I used to live around the corner from the Rucker. I used to walk there all the time and watch. The thing I love about street ball is that it’s a bunch of kids who got together and used to watch the Globetrotters and just went at it without the uniforms. I feel the Globetrotters the most unappreciated pure athletes of American history. You had guys that could things that were unimaginable and the only way you could do that was with practice and hard work, and now I feel with our generation, the idea of hard work is lost and that’s the Globetrotters now are different from the one of the past. I feel that contemporary street ball is just version of the HGB.

What were the challenges for you as an athlete and actor?

AM: As an actor, it was not cursing. I curse a lot. As an athlete, it was hard for me to get out of my own way because so much of myself is like, “I can’t do this” and I admired people for their talents. I will never be a writer because you can edit and I’m not. I know my limitations and that was very hard to get over. After doing basketball camp, like six hours a day, you slowly work your way up.

How was it working with Wayne Brady?

AM: I’ve been a fan of Wayne Brady for a long time and I feel that Wayne is another one of those brothers that suffers from his own success. Working with Wayne was a great experience. He’s a celebrity. Wayne commands arenas and when he showed up he just happened to be this cool brother and we were both working towards a common goal. When I was on camera and he wasn’t, I would go ask him because he’s been around this business longer than I have. He knows much more than I do. His level of intelligence and experience is far superior than mine.

CROSSOVER opens on Sept. 1st, 2006



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