Denzel Whitaker – He’s So Darn Talented
Interview By: Le Le Symone
Too often these days, the term ‘child star’ has become a double-edged sword, signifying early fame and fortune at first, and then, if they’re not careful, dysfunction, drugs or death. But instead of falling victim to that cliché, Denzel Whitaker transitioned well from his Disney and Nickelodeon years (Dadnapped, All That) into a steady career, racking up appearances in several sitcoms and series as he scored film roles in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-New Orleans, Training Day, My Soul to Take and his defining role in The Great Debaters, which earned him an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture in 2008.
Mr. Whitaker’s latest film, Abduction, is set for wide release on Sep. 23 and pairs him with some industry heavyweights, including Academy-Award-nominated director, John Singleton, Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina and fellow thespian/Twilight series star, Taylor Lautner. Excited about the film and other opportunities on the horizon, the 21-year-old Torrance, CA native recently spoke with Knowshi.com about his latest character and what makes him accept—or reject—possible movie roles.
LE LE SYMONE- This upcoming film, Abduction, sounds exciting, can you give readers a description of the plot without giving too much away?
DENZEL WHITAKER- (laughs) I’ll give you a really vague outline. Taylor Lautner’s character, Nathan, and my character, Gilly, are assigned a school project about child abductions: when Nathan looks at pictures on a website, one of them is shockingly familiar and….well, my character helps him to sort it all out. What he goes through is like being told that Santa Claus isn’t real, his whole world’s breaking down all around him and he doesn’t know who to trust.
LE LE-Wow, judging from the trailer and your description, I’m looking forward to that one! You’ve worked with Taylor before in your early years, did you all ‘click’ again on the set or was it awkward? And what was working with John Singleton like?
DENZEL- I hadn’t seen Taylor in about five years. We were always amongst the same groups of friends who’d hung out on the weekends and had the same acting classes. As soon as I walked into the audition, It was like we had just picked up where we’d left off, which was pretty cool. It was less acting and more just being friends during the filming, like old times. As a director, John is very hands-on in his method, but he does give the actors a lot of freedom by letting us play around with the dialogue, but if he didn’t like it, he’d just say ‘Nah man, that’s not working, just go back to what we did before.’
LE LE- Sounds like you had a good time with that movie. What makes you take a role in the first place Denzel…or pass on it?
DENZEL- I’ve run into being offered the shallower roles, like the gangbanger, drug dealer, the single-parent-household kid who’s been abandoned, troubled….I just got tired of playing those. Also, on the same side of the coin, I was getting typecast for the overweight roles, the one always eating, stealing chocolate, getting picked on, so I finally met that goal I’d made every summer and lost the weight.
LE LE- You certainly have, so I’m sure those big fella roles are behind you now.
DENZEL- The first question that goes through my mind is, ‘can I look back on and still say that I was proud to be a part of it?’ I’m not picking a role that is going to typecast me or degrade (the image of) what I’ve done already. I’m not gonna put on a skirt, heels, blackface, none of that. You have to look at this career not only for the first couple of years regarding what you can accomplish, but also down the road, fifteen years or more, at where you want to be. Otherwise you make irrational decisions and who knows where that can lead.
LE LE- Good to see a young man with principles especially in show biz. If you’ve got fans out there wanting to follow in your footsteps, what would you tell them about being an actor?
DENZEL-(chuckling) Acting is so unglamorous, we spend nine and twelve hour days on a set, you’re in your trailer for two hours as they set up the next shot. There’s a lot of down time, traveling, awkward scheduling and time zone differences, taking meetings….this is a serious business confined within the arts.
LE LE- Do you have a hobby when you’re in-between projects?
DENZEL- Acting is my passion, but directing is the runner-up. If you go to Vimeo.com, you can search under my name and find a couple of videos that I’ve directed there and a feature I worked with a friend on, he wrote the screenplay.
LE LE- Scared of you!
DENZEL- Thanks…. you will see me somewhere in this field, either acting or directing. I don’t know where else it will take me, but I’m moving forward.