Harry Lennix talks ‘A Beautiful Soul’ and ‘Man of Steel’by Wilson Morales
May 3, 2012
Coming out this week in limited theaters is the inspiration gospel themed film, ‘A Beautiful Soul,’ starring Gospel singer Deitrick Haddon, Harry Lennix, Robert Ri’chard, Lesley Ann Brandt, and Barry Floyd.
Directed by Jeff Byrd, ‘A Beautiful Soul’, is the story of Andre Stephens (Haddon), an R&B superstar who has success, fame and fortune but has lost his way spiritually. The film follows Andre after his “perfect” life is shattered in a brutal attack that leaves he and his best friend, Chris Johnson (Ri’chard), clinging to life. The tragedy pushes Andre onto a spiritual journey that forces him to make a choice that could change his destiny forever.
For Lennix, who plays a record exec, the film is among the many projects the Chicago native has lined up. Besides this film, he’s featured in the upcoming Matthew A. Cherry‘s film, ‘The Last Fall‘, has a role in Danny Green‘s ‘Mr. Sophistication,’ and will play General Swanwick in the new Superman film, ‘Man of Steel.’
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Lennix talked about his role in ‘A Beautiful Soul,’ working with Deitrick Haddon, and his exciting over being cast in ‘Man of Steel.’
What was the attraction to doing “A Beautiful Soul”?
Harry Lennix: The initial inquiry came from my friend Holly Davis Carter, who’s a dear friend I’ve known for many years and know to be associated with quality projects. I know she puts her all into it. Then I read the script and thought it had tremendous appeal, a cautionary tale for our modern times, and also had resonances to movies from the past like “It’s A Wonderful Life”. So I was interested from the first time I heard about it.
What role do you play in the film?
HL: I play a character by the name of Jeff Freeze. I’m the manager for Deitrick Haddon’s character and just a kind of smooth Hollywood operator.
How similar is Jeff to “The Five Heartbeats” where there was a shady manager named Red?
HL: (laughs) Red is a far more malevolent figure than Jeff Freeze. Jeff is an operator but he’s not a pariah. If there’s any similarity at all it’s that Hawthorne James and I are both around the same age. I’m probably his age when he was playing that character, but they’re different in terms of temperament and instinct.
How’s working with Deitrick and had you heard his music before?
HL: I had not heard Deitrick’s music before working with him. As soon as I found out that I would be working with him I went to YouTube and found some tracks he’d done and was immediately impressed. At first I thought I was listening to Prince, he’s got a piercing voice like a clarion bell, he’s got a very clear voice mechanically speaking. To put that kind of voice onto inspirational music is a revelation. I think he’s a trendsetter. I don’t know a whole lot about modern Christian music, but having been a seminarian once I thought that he has tremendous potential to get this word out to a lot of people who are so in need to hear it. I have a great amount of respect for Deitrick, I’m very fond of Deitrick, and it was great working with him. He was a top-notch professional and all he wanted the entire time was to do the best job he could do.
You’ve done TV, you’ve done films. Obviously you learn something from each person you’re working with. What did you learn from director Jeff Byrd?
HL: Jeff is someone who I’d worked with before. I can’t remember how many years ago, but I didn’t have any surprises with his ability to get the job done in a timely and effective manner. I knew that he would bring a vision to the movie that was a professional-level eye, and he carried that out with poise and a tremendous amount of invention given the constrictions of the budget and so forth. He’s a nice guy as well so it was great to get to work with him again.
You seem to have a number of projects coming up soon. You’re working with Danny Green on “Mr. Sophistication”?
And I know you can’t say much on “Man of Steel” but how exciting was it to get that role?
HL: Oh man! “Man of Steel” is going to be a very big deal when it comes out in Christmas of 2013. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Superman has always been my favorite superhero, it’s not even close. I guess a close second would be Spider-Man, but I’ve always been a fan of Superman since I was a little boy. As a teenager I saw the reboot with Christopher Reeve and I’ve watched that many, many times, and the second one with Christopher Reeve many, many times. To be a part of something this traditional and this foundational to the American myth is a great honor and I’m pleased to say I have a good role in it and I was honored to have been a part of the whole process.
Is your General character a little different as an authority figure than some of the other authority figures you’ve played in other films?
HL: Well I’m not at liberty to say much about it, but all characters are a little bit different. I don’t know what authority figures your referring to precisely…
Well, you played an authority figure in “The Matrix”!
HL: Right, I was a commander, and in this I’m a general. I’m sure there are common threads but I try to imbue each character with a different take every time I do it, but I do certain things well. I’m glad people like using me in things I do well. I also like expanding my horizons, and I think that’s something “Mr. Sophistication” and “A Beautiful Soul” does.
As an actor you’re able to go back-and-forth between doing a film like “Man of Steel” and then an independent film like “A Beautiful Soul”. Does doing a bigger film help you market a smaller film that doesn’t have as many dollars behind it?
HL: Generally speaking actors, certainly those who enjoy the process of acting and aren’t trying to be movie stars, we just like the process of playing interesting parts in good films. It doesn’t really matter what level the budget is or how much attention is brought. I’ve done a lot of movies over a lot of years at every level of production. Some of my favorite ones have been the smaller movies, some of my favorites have been the big ones. It really comes down to the part. I don’t look at it as an overall career strategy. My career is what it is right now, and there’s always room to expand or growth, but I like my career and I like these movies that I’ve done for the most part. Some of them have been turkeys, but none of the ones I’ve done recently qualify for that term. I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve been able to work on.
Do you have any more films or TV projects in the works?
HL: Yes. Right now I’m doing what I think is the first black Shakespeare film ever done, which is called “H4”. It’s a reconfiguration using Shakespeare’s language of “Henry IV Part I and II”. I play Henry IV in it along with an estimable cast including Keith David, Angus Macfadyen from “Braveheart”, we have a number of young and talented actors. We’re extremely proud of what we’re coming up with on this. At this point I’m looking to produce more movies. “Mr. Sophistication” and “H4” represent my first production efforts and now I’m looking at all sorts of other scripts and trying to figure out ways to get these movies done. There’s a need for content. The success of “Think Like A Man” shows that there’s an audience for the content, and I think “A Beautiful Soul” will prove the same thing. We are very sanguine about the potential for this movie to get into the national consciousness. We want to be responsible for making these images of ourselves, and who better to do it than people who are like-minded. Yeah, I got a number of things up my sleeve.