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September 2008
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA | An Interview with Michael Ealy

An Interview with Michael Ealy
by Wilson Morales

September 24, 2008

Having done work with Ice Cube on both ‘Barbershop’ films and having the acclaimed cable series for Showtime, ‘Sleeper Cell’, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe to his credit have done wonders for Michael Ealy, but to be in a Spike Lee film is something different. Ealy has won the role of Ealy plays Sergeant Bishop Cummings in ‘Miracle at St. Anna’ along with Derek Luke, Laz Alonso, and Omar Benson Miller.

Directed by Spike Lee from a screenplay written by James McBride, the author of the acclaimed novel of the same name, the film chronicles the story of four African-American soldiers who are members of the U.S. Army as part of the all-black 92nd Buffalo Soldier Division stationed in Tuscany, Italy, during World War II. They experience the tragedy and triumph of the war as they find themselves trapped behind enemy lines and separated from their unit after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy.

Later this year, Ealy will be featured in ‘Seven Pounds’ opposite Will Smith and Rosario Dawson.

I caught up with Ealy recently at the Toronto Film Festival to go over role in the film.

What attracted you to do this project?

Michael Ealy: At first it started with the opportunity to work with Spike because I didn’t have a script. I didn’t know there was a book. Once I was able to both the book and the script, then it became about the character.

Were you given an option of which role you wanted to play?

ME: NO. I was always up for Bishop.

What separates Bishop from the other three soldiers in the film?

ME: He’s a bit slicker than his comrades. He came from the streets so he’s a street smart cat, whose survival is important and will basically do anything to survive. He doesn’t believe he should be in the war at all.

How much history did you about the Buffalo Soldiers prior to reading the book?

ME: Not very much. I had read a little bit about them and some history books in college and in my African American studies course, but mainstream stuff? Not at all.

What research did you do to familiarize yourself with the time setting?

ME: When you do research for a part, and in particular this film, you look at art from that period. You listen to music from period. You watch movies from that period. You try to put yourself in the time space and think about what people were doing and how racism still existed in the United States, while different in other places.

Did Spikewant you to do anything with the character in terms of looks or speech?

ME: All he did was stress the importance of not improvising with any language or anything contemporary.

How was boot camp?

ME: The truth of the matter is that with every war film, everyone goes through boot camp. Boot camp is really not a big deal. All it really does is get you in a military mindset. It gives you a tactical approach to your character. To me, it’s never been a big deal to go through that. I think every time you take a role as an actor, you go through a boot camp. It’s called research. For every role, you do research. When you are ready to do a movie and you are also physically ready, that’s your boot camp.

You also got to work withsome Italians on the film? Did you pick up the language while shooting the film?

ME: I didn’t learn to speak it and I didn’t speak it before. I just learned a couple or words here and there.

Was there any particular scene that stood out for you?

ME: I would probably say the scene between me and Derek Luke’s character where we both try to express our political views on the war.

What have you learned from Spike Lee that you didn’t get from other directors you have worked with in thepast?

ME: Spike has given me more leeway. Spike doesn’t chain you down as a director. He doesn’t keep you from doing anything. I think if you are still in character, he will let you breathe.

What roles are appealing to you?

ME: I like a role where the character has more going on inside as oppose to outside. On the surface level, you may look at this character here and say he is a bastard, but it’s what is going inside him that is interesting. That’s where the truth lies for the character. I can’t relate to that if I can’t find it in the role.

Why should anyone see this film?

ME: It’s hard for me to say to folks to go see the movie other than to say that if you want to see all of America’s contribution to this war, then you need to see ‘Miracle at St. Anna’. There’s a contribution made by a certain group of men that was left out and if you see the film, then you will see that contribution.


MIRACLE AT. ST. ANNA’ opens on September 26, 2008


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