Wood Harris talks Dredd 3D, doing biopics, and being passed up on ‘Antwone Fisher’
September 19, 2012
Coming out this week is ‘Dredd 3D,’ which stars Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, and Wood Harris.
“Dredd 3D” takes us to the wild streets of Mega City One, the lone oasis of quasi-civilization on Cursed Earth. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most feared of elite Street Judges, with the power to enforce the law, sentence offenders and execute them on the spot – if necessary. The endlessly inventive mind of writer Alex Garland and the frenetic vision of director Peter Travis bring “Dredd” to life as a futuristic neo-noir action film that returns the celebrated character to the dark, visceral incarnation from John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s revered comic strip.
For Wood Harris, the role his plays is almost similar to drug kingpin Avon Barksdale, the iconic character he played on the HBO series The Wire, but this film is set in a sci-fi world. Aside from that, Harris is having a good year, having appeared recently on Broadway in the revival of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Harris talks about his role in ‘Dredd 3D,’ working with the cast, his theater work, and upcoming projects.
How would you describe Kay?
Wood Harris: Kay is a villain who is a member of the Ma Ma clan. It’s a villainous group of tyrants who have taken over what called a mega-structure block. If you can imagine a housing complex that can hold eight hundred to a million people with several blocks in these different cities, then this is it. This particular area is taken over by the Ma Ma clan, which is headed by Lena Headey, who plays Ma Ma, and myself. We have a drug substance that we submit to the people and it’s called ‘Slo-mo.’
The way I justify Kay is that I look at Dredd as a villain too because what he does is not necesarily right. The ability for him to be an executor, judge, jury and a fully-armed cop makes him a police state. That’s terrible.
When you read the script, did any thoughts of The Wire or New Jack City come in your head?
WH: Not at all. I can’t think about The Wire. That’s been over for years, but the show has been so well received, none of us thought the show would be considered by many as the one of the best shows of all-time. It has received so much fanfare, that it’s more popular now than when it was on.
Had you read any of the Dredd comic books and did you see the old film with Sylvester Stallone?
WH: I did see the old film and I didn’t read a Dredd comic book until after I was cast. We have a lot of heroes that we look at and growing up I was a Marvel comics fan.
How was working with Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, and Lena Headey?
WH: Those people are great people. Karl was very focused. He had a lot of work to do. He had to wear that leather agitating outfit 24/7. Olivia was delightful to work with and Lena is my girl. I got a lot of love for Lena. They were great to work with. For me, it was a cushier job. I’ve had jobs that had higher demands than playing Kay. I played Jimi Hendrix and other real life figures. Then again, I’ve also played bad guys. Avon Barksdale, who I played in ‘The Wire,’ is a real person; and so is AZ from ‘Paid in Full.’
Now that you’ve had your taste in being a comic book film, who would you want to be if cast in a comic book film?
WH: I’ll tell you what old answer used to be. When I was younger, I wanted to be Iron Man. When you were a kid and you had to choose a superhero, I chose Iron Man and my brother (actor Steve Harris) chose Thor.
You mentioned earlier about you having done a number of biopics. What do you think is the sell to these films? There’s been some discussion lately on recent casting choices on some upcoming films.
WH: The attraction is always the story in a biopic. It’s always on the person the story is about. If you are doing the Marvin Gaye movie, then the attraction will be Marvin Gaye and his story. It’s unfortunate that people can’t get the job done. I know that there is some hoopla over Zoe Saldana being cast as Nina Simone. I know Zoe. We did ‘The Heart Specialist’ together and her playing Nina are making people go, “Huh!” I don’t think it’s that simple. People are looking at the surface and they see two different people, but it doesn’t mean that she can’t embody the character and give in a good performance. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m not hating on Zoe for that.
You’ve had a good year so far, with this film coming out and being on Broadway earlier this year with ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ What was that feeling like?
WH: That’s one of my favorite feelings. You feel like a real actor, like a thespian. I’ve known Nicole (Ari Parker) for 20 years so working with her was just wonderful. I had never worked with her before. We both were in ‘Remember the Titans’ but we didn’t work together and we both were seriously up for ‘The Antwone Fisher Story.’ It was me and her, not Derek Luke and Joy Bryant. Initially Denzel (Washington) was looking at us and then the movie went away for a while and then it was revamped and they went along with Derek and Joy.
Any thoughts to going back to doing theater work?
WH: Sure, I would love to go back and do theater, but it’s a lot of hard work. It’s harder than doing film, but it’s very rewarding at the same time. People come and see you do it live and shows off your talent in such a way that a film can hardly do. You get to meet a lot of people who might not meet like Cornel West. We were going to go to England, but I’m going to Montreal to start shooting this Lifetime TV film called ‘Coretta and Betty.’ I play Malcolm X in the film.
What’s a good reason to see ‘Dredd 3D?’
WH: The film itself, as far as the technology and the innovation of 3D is amazing, and actually raises the question in regards to the police state that’s implored in the film. In an apocalyptic society, will we be headed that way? There are some things in the film that can really happen.