Derek Luke Talks HawthoRNe, Captain America

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Exclusive: Derek Luke Talks TNT’s HawthoRNe, Captain America
by Wilson Morales

June 9, 2011

After appearing as a paramedic on on the NBC short-lived series ‘Trauma,’ Derek Luke is heading back to the hospital as a hot, young surgeon opposite Jada Pinkett Smith in the TNT series, ‘Hawthorne.’

The New Jersey native will play the role of Dr. Miles Bourdet, who arrives at James River Hospital to become the protégé of Dr. Tom Wakefield (played Michael Vartan). Currently in the midst of a divorce, Miles will attract the attention of Camille Hawthorne — daughter of Pinkett Smith’s Christina Hawthorne.

Luke has come a long way since he landed bit parts on the sitcoms ‘The King of Queens‘ and ‘Moesha‘ before landing the role for Antwone Fisher for Denzel Washington‘s directorial debut. Since then Luke has both leading and supportive roles in ‘Pieces of April,’ ‘Biker Boyz,’ ‘Friday Night Lights,’ ‘Glory Road,’ ‘Catch A Fire’ and Spike Lee’s ‘Miracle at St.Anna.’

HawthoRNe‘ returns for it’s third season with star and executive producer Jada Pinkett Smith as Christina Hawthorne, a Chief Nursing Officer ready for battle on the front lines of a war against declining patient services and hospital budget cuts. The series is told from the point of view of nurses as they struggle against the odds to deliver the best care possible.

Luke, who was last seen in ‘Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes To Jail,’ will also explode on the big screen this summer when he plays Howling Commando Gabe Jones in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ which comes to theaters in late July.

The good thing about being on ‘HawthoRNe,’ is that the shooting schedule allows him some flexibility to still do films, and while ‘Captain America‘ was shot last year, Luke will still be able to do any following sequels and spinoffs such as his rumored role in ‘The Avengers.’

In speaking exclusively with Blackfilm.com, Luke talks about his role in Hawthorne as well as his role in Captain America.

How would you describe your character Miles?

Derek Luke: Miles is a surgeon but I think he finds out that it takes more than just being a skillful individual that equals a good doctor or a good family man. He’s a guy who is conflicted with a decision and who is on the brink of a divorce. So that’s sort of a little introduction to who Miles is.

What was the appeal to doing the show?

DL: There were a few things that appealed to me. I had heard about ‘Hawthorne,’ but I never actually had a chance to watch it until just a couple weeks before the show starting taping the new season. One of the things that I like, at least when in working on a film, I enjoyed working with actor/directors. And on TV, what I love about ‘Hawthorne’ and working with Jada is that it’s a collaborative effort. It’s not about a character who only has one voice. But it’s a character that works in the best interest of your whole TV community. That right there just allows you to explore and go in areas as an actor that on the page sometimes is not scripted. It’s just organic. That’s what I like about being on the show. And Jada is what she is. She’s the only African American lead, so to speak, on TV or has been for a long time. I just think all around it was just great company.

Were you hesitant a little bit to doing another TV series considering that you had done ‘Trauma’ and that only lasted about a year?

DL: There are no rules when it comes down to your purpose. There are no rules when it comes down to TV. A good example is that about a few years prior, or less than ten, it was a no-no to do film and go to TV. Not only that, there were only a few people from TV who made it in film, but right now it’s open season. You can go back and forth.  I enjoy film and I enjoy TV. So they’re both exciting to me. There’s never a dull moment.

You are going to have the best summer this year considering you’re going to be seen on the small screen and on the big screen with ‘Captain America’ coming up. How did you go about in getting a role in the film?

DL: With ‘Captain America’, it was sort of similar to ‘Hawthorne’. On ‘Hawthorne’, it was an idea and I was submitted from a casting director who said, ‘I believe that Derek Luke would be great for this project’. Then I had a meeting with Marvel head Kevin Feige. He presented the character that I was playing for Marvel, and at that time it was interesting. We didn’t have a script. As a matter of fact, we didn’t get scripts until we showed up to shoot. So what ‘Hawthorne’ and Marvel have in common is that my preparation had to be very organic because ‘Hawthorne’ was actually shooting when I signed the line. And then Marvel signing the line you had to totally just go on faith. So both of these projects are so dear to me and exciting and that’s why I’m smiling right now.

When you were having the meeting with Kevin, did you have an idea as to what character you were going to be playing before you got the role of Gabe Jones?

DL: No. There was not much breakdown. And I think in Marvel’s defense is that as a nation there’s so much just piracy. You have to do so much just on loyalty when it comes down just to actors and fans. You work very hard on a film and sometimes it gets leaked out. So I understood or I was very undemanding to the fact that even though there wasn’t a script and there wasn’t much of a description of my character, I just believed that Marvel was doing some really great work, great messages in films. The good versus evil and I was just like, ‘How can I be down?’

Are you signed on to do more of ‘Captain America’ if there’s a sequel and will you be appearing in ‘The Avengers’?

DL: Well, with ‘Captain America’ and with Marvel you always sign multiple deals, and I had a chance to. So it wasn’t necessarily discussed on which one I’ll be in but granted that if there are multiple sequels then you will definitely see me. Acting is something that you step out in faith and you just believe that you will be in the right project at the right time.

Having Jada as a producer on ‘Hawthorne’ as well as your co-star, I guess it would be a little easier for her to give you some flexibility to do films, right?

DL: You know what I found out is that as an actor it’s very, you know, you hear about many people crossing over. You hear about TV going to film. Film going to TV. You hear about VPs that direct. It’s so interesting when you come as an actor, the sensitivity it takes and the sensitivity that you’re aware of that it takes to actually perform. You’re aware of why and what makes actors unhappy, what makes them stumble. I think that with Jada, it’s really an easy experience. She understands the full dynamic of production. To have her on the show as an executive but also as an actress it just lends a great learning. It lends a great flexibility for someone like me because you’re just able to understand what the creative process and get a lot of room.

HAWTHORNE returns for it’s third season on June 14 and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER hits theaters on July 22.


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