Green Lantern/ Michael Clarke Duncan
An Exclusive Interview with Michael Clarke Duncan
By Wilson Morales
June 16, 2011
Coming out this weekend is the much anticipated comic book film, ‘Green Lantern,’ which stars Ryan Reynolds as test pilot Hal Jordan, who is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe.
Directed by Martin Campbell, the film also stars Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Temuera Morrison, Geoffrey Rush, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, and Michael Clark Duncan.
Duncan, best known for his breakout role as John Coffey in ‘The Green Mile,’ for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, is the voice of Kilowog, a towering member of the Green Lantern Corps who is the primary trainer of the Corps’ newest recruits.
Over the years, the Chicago native has done numerous voices in films, including his last one, where he voiced a character in ‘Kung Fu Panda 2,’ but this is his first for a comic book film. He previously play Kingpin in the Marvel film, ‘Daredevil’ opposite Ben Affleck.
Duncan recently spoke with Blackfilm.com exclusively about his role in ‘Green Lantern,’ future film projects, his thoughts on the ‘Daredevil’ reboot, and ‘Thundercats.’
You’ve done voices before. How did they approach you for this film?
Michael Clarke Duncan: They approached me six months ago. We’d been in talks for a while and they wanted me to come in and lay some tracks down, lay some things down for Kilowog’s voice. I went in and did my thing as usual. I didn’t know that it was going to take that long. I was there for three hours doing everything. Then it was about a month or two where I didn’t hear anything and I started hearing other people were connected with the voice. I just kind of gave up on it then, and then after two months they called me back and said that I got the job of Kilowog and that was that.
How would you describe the character and what did you know about him from the comics?
MCD: He’s a drill sergeant type of guy, very mean, very tough, but has a gentler side to him as I do myself. He’s a no nonsense type of guy. He doesn’t take too much BS or anything, especially from Hal because he trains all the Green Lanterns and if you make passed him and Hal is going to be tested. He’ll be tested big time. So, Kilowog sends him through the ringer. I was a fan of the character from way back when. In the ’70’s I had a bunch of comic books. ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘The Green Arrow’ were my favorites. ‘Flash’ was another one. ‘The Hulk’. ‘Spider-Man’. ‘Captain America’. All of them were my favorites. So it was quite easy for me to go in there and connect with this character right away.
You will also do the voice for the animated series of ‘Green Lantern’. Will you do anything different?
MCD: Well, we haven’t done the animated series yet. So, when that comes about, no, I’ll play it the same exact way. I think once you play a character one way that’s the way that you have to be with the character. I think my voice is the way it is as far as that goes. I don’t think it’ll go any higher. Hopefully they don’t want me to go any lower. So, I’m just going to play it the way that it is, the way that you see on this movie coming up this weekend.
What was it like working with Martin Campbell?
MCD: Martin Campbell is a really great director. He did ‘James Bond’ and a lot of other great movies. He was very, very meticulous in getting what he wanted. It wasn’t like a regular voice over session where you go in there and you lay down your voice for a character. Martin was totally different in that he wanted specific things. He wanted you to pronounce in a specific way. The first time I laid it down it was very hard. I was very, very drill sergeant like. The second time Martin wanted him to have a bit of a sense of character, of not being so hard and not so hell bent on destroying Hal. He wanted me to be a little nicer. So the second time that I went in we did another three or four hour session and Martin knew specifically what he wanted and it made a difference. I haven’t seen the film. I’ve only seen what I did, but hopefully the fans will like what I did because I spent a lot of time in that studio working hard.
Were you and Ryan in the studio together?
MCD: You know the funny thing is that I’ve never met Ryan Reynolds. He was not in there when I was doing my thing, and the first time that I’ll meet him will be at the premiere. A lot of my cast-mates, this’ll be my first time meeting them. I’ve never met Blake Lively. She’s going to be there. I’ve never met Angela Bassett. It’s going to be very interesting. I know what they look like, and so I’m going to have to go down the red carpet, shake some hands and introduce myself to people.
If the film is financially successful are you signed to do any sequels?
MCD: Yeah. I’d have to do some sequels and hopefully it does exactly what they want it to. I think it will. I don’t think we’ll have any problem. Hopefully there be even more Kilowog. Maybe he’ll get his own spin off or something. I’m just putting it out there. I’m always thinking ahead.
You’ve done a Marvel film and now DC. Which do you prefer?
MCD: Work is work for me. I love work. I love working with great people. When they called me to do this it was like not even a question of when or where. I said, ‘When do we start?’ I was ready to start the second that they told me they were thinking of me doing it. For me it was a thing of being creative and getting myself out there and letting more people enjoy me and staying relevant, staying relationships, staying ready. Those three R’s are very important. Ready, relationships and relevance. You have to have that in Hollywood. So I always like to do little things. I always like to capture the imaginations of people. It’s funny, when I go into grocery stores, the first people that recognize me are kids. Kids have such a great listening device. When they listen they can hear everything and kids are always the ones that come up to me before anybody else. A child will hear my voice and they’ll just know where they heard it from. So, for me that’s the joy, the joy of just being an actor, the joy of going out and entertaining people, so to speak. That’s what I love to do.
You’ve got ‘The Discarded Boys’ and ‘From the Rough‘ coming up. Can you talk about those films and your roles in them?
MCD: Well, ‘From the Rough’ is not a golf movie. It’s something about golf, but it’s about life in general. Another Academy Award nominee, Taraji Henson, is in that and she does an excellent job. We have some very, very good scenes with each other. It kicks off with Taraji playing the first women’s golf coach in an all black school, an all black university. She worked her butt off. I play Roger the janitor. I’m also in the movie with Henry Simmons who’s a really talented actor. You might remember him from ‘NYPD Blue’. He’s very talented. Originally, I wasn’t play Roger. I was playing the Henry Simmons character, but when they got Henry Simmons they switched me to the janitor and the janitor was so cool and he knew everything that was going on in that school because he sees everything and he hears everything. So, the janitor is like a conduit between everything that’s going on in that school. As far as ‘The Discarded Boys’ I play a principle of an all boys school and it was really operational in North Carolina. It originally closed down because of funding, but the school was the last chance for a young man that had two strikes. This was his last opportunity to get it right. I play a principle there. I’m also in the movie with another talented actress, Lorretta Devine. With ‘Discarded Boys’, I had to really work on that one. There was of a lot of script to it.
There’s been talk of (20th Century) Fox doing a reboot of ‘Daredevil’. Would you go back to play Kingpin again if asked?
MCD: Oh, yeah. I loved playing Kingpin. Kingpin was a cool guy. He ran everything. Not withstanding the last fight at the end of the movie with Daredevil, Kingpin was the shit, man. I’d be honored to play Kingpin. I’m only 280 (pounds) now. So, I’d have to gain a considerable amount of weight because I think I was weighing 340 when I did Kingpin. I was well over three hundred. I’m an actor and if that opportunity came up I’d love to do that character all over again.
Are there any other comic book characters you would like to play?
MCD: I’d love to play Panthro from ‘Thundercats’. I remember character and the series from years ago. I used to watch that when it was on television a lot and Panther was baldheaded and looked like he was African American to me. He was very defined, quick, had the nunchucks. I don’t know what I’d do with the nunchucks. I hit myself in the head when I was younger, and so they’d have to teach me that move. Panthro would be a really good opportunity for me. I think that they have another ‘GI Joe’ movie coming out. I would love to try and get involved in that. There are a lot of different things coming up that I would love to be involved in. If they are open, I’m ready.
Green Lantern opens nationwide on June 17th