In Episode 4, Chalky interrogates the local Klan leader and we learn the story of his father's lynching. What were your thoughts when you first read that scene?
It was very powerful. I immediately wanted to figure out how I was going to approach it. I decided I didn't want to play Chalky as angry. Didn't want to play cocky. I wanted to play it from a place of pain. Chalky is a man that saw his father swinging from the tree. I can't imagine what it must have been to live in those times. And I wanted to play the scene from there: With that deep, deep, deep-rooted pain, when it crosses being angry into that dead calm.
In what ways do you think his father's lynching influenced who Chalky has become?
It absolutely drives him. I think from that point, he was determined to make sure that never happens to him, and to get his slice of the American Dream. He wants a slice of the pie.
Did you do anything different to prepare for this scene than for others?
I have my usual routine of things that I do, but for that scene, I tried to channel my ancestral energy. My father being from the South, I'm quite sure there are people in my bloodline that have experienced that and I basically wanted to channel that energy.
What is your usual routine?
It's spiritual. You have to be still. You gotta meditate. Listen to music. I call on my ancestors. It's a spiritual aspect for me to deal with something that deep.
You mention in one of our "Creating the Scene" videos from Episode 3 that you would sometimes sit in a corner on the set of Chalky's warehouse, taking in the details. Does that help you get into character?
Absolutely. It makes me one with the room. It puts me there. It's not a set anymore. It's my space. It's like you go through a time zone, if you will. If you be still long enough, you kind of absorb the room. You become part of it. You cross that line where it becomes real to you.
"I ain't building no book case" is such a great line, and moment.
The line brings home what I said earlier: You ain't gonna do me like you did my father. I'm not going down. In fact, I'm gonna do you like you did my father. The undertone I had definitely came from that. It was homage to his father.
How was it to shoot that scene?
It wasn't a lot of takes. I prepared with my theater director Mel Williams, and we beat that up for a few days. So when I walked on set I was pretty much there already. That's everybody in the cast - we come prepared but I wanted to be extra prepared because I was very excited about the scene. That's the biggest speech of my career thus far and I didn't want any bloops and blunders going on. And if there were, I didn't want 'em to be on my behalf.