Nate Parker's Acting Tips

The Red Tails star has some advice for you aspiring thespians
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The Red Tails star has some advice for you aspiring thespians
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The Red Tails star has some advice for you aspiring thespians

Set during World War II, Red Tails follows a group of Tuskegee Airmen sent into combat in Italy. The George Lucas-produced movie features everyone from Bryan Cranston to Method Man (who ignored our request for a rap-off featurette), as well as up-and-comer Nate Parker. With Red Tails arriving on Blu-ray and DVD on May 22, Parker shared with us some acting tricks he’s picked up over the years. So get out your skull props and Chris Farley soliloquies — it’s drama school time.

Take Cold Showers and Get Awoken by Gunfire

It was funny because to be in a film like this, to fly the B51, people don’t understand that you have to be a certain size and you have to be fit because it’s very exhausting to operate this super advanced machinery for hours and hours at a time. They had us attend boot camp. As soon as we got to Prague, we had to drop our bags off and live in a tent in the snow for like a week and a half. It was cold, the showers were cold, we’re up in the middle of the night at like 3 am — they would wake us up every night simulating gunfire and we would have to go into the flight simulator and fly missions.

Listen to Mr. Star Wars

I’ve been a George Lucas fan for a lot of years, going all the way back to THX 1138. I’ve always felt that he was an innovator. Something that he said to me on set a couple times was, “If everyone tells you you can’t do it, you’re doing something right.” It’s that whole idea of fortune favors the bold, to not let anyone scare you from your goals and ambitions.

Write a Biography For Your Character That’s More Expansive Than John Adams

I have to write a character biography. And for me it’s big because if someone told me I had to play you in a movie, it’s like, well alright, I could look at a picture of you and ask a couple people who you were and try to play the role, or I could hang out with you for the day or a week or a month. What a biography does for a character — a backstory is what I call it — it teaches you to really dig deep into who the person was. The things they liked, the things they hated, their first memory as a child, their relationship with their parents, being the middle child or older child or younger child. I think all those things really build our psychosis as people.

Watch Denzel Washington Movies

Denzel [in Glory] — that was the role that made me want to be an actor. I felt so much that he was a representation of what I was when I was younger, that angry young man who didn’t know exactly where his anger came from but he lashed out at everyone. Towards the end of the movie you realize that anger lived inside of him for a reason he had never dealt with, and that’s the story for so many of our youth is that they fight this feeling of being invisible so they lash out, in some ways just to be seen. Until that energy is focused on something more positive.

On Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker

If you grew anytime from ‘75 to ‘85, I don’t see how you can not have had some kind of contact with Star Wars or Indiana Jones. It was the standard of adolescence. It was that escape, that imagination. I was talking to a friend of mine, and she said something very interesting: “When you’re young, when you’re a baby or two or three years old growing up, there is no line between real and imagination. When you get older, these people — your parents, the people around you — try to tell you that there is a line to protect you. And then when you become an artist, you spend your life trying to erase that line again.”

On His First Trip to Sundance

Sundance was incredible. I’m one of those people where I wanna earn my bones, like if I didn’t have a film, I wouldn’t even want to be talking to you. ‘Cause what would we have to talk about, you know? So with Sundance, I always said I had never been before because I never had a film there so I’ll go when I have a film. I was blessed this year to have two films. I had a Spike Lee film called Red Hook Summer and I had another film called Arbitrage. So we premiered them both, and there was great buzz, it was a great experience.

On Working with Spike Lee

It was a dream working with him. I hadn’t read the script and anyone that knows me knows I’m really big on material. I wanna know what the script is, I wanna know who the filmmaker is, but when Spike said, “Hey, I want you to do this movie,” I said, “I’m good. Done. I’ll sign wherever you want me to sign. I don’t need the script, I trust you.” It turned out to be a fantastic experience and a fantastic film.

On Being in the Market For a Director

I’m looking for a director, and you can put that in print. If there’s a director out there that is young and ambitious and innovative, reach out. Contact me. You look at what Spielberg did with Shia LaBeouf or Scorsese did with DiCaprio and De Niro. [Nicolas Winding] Refn just did with Gosling. I’m looking for a filmmaker that I can grow with as well. I feel like I’m in this business for the long haul, I want to take some risks.

Red Tails is available on Blu-ray and DVD now!

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