Monday, April 24, 2017

Interview - Loving's Christopher Mann: On Growing Up, Going Places Unplanned and Where He's Headed Next

Interview by Suzanne Ordas Curry

Off the heels of  his role as Theoliver in Loving, which received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations,  Actor Christopher Mann is now appearing in an indie film, But Deliver Us From Evil. His resume is impressive, having appeared on such notable shows as The Wire, House of Cards, many other hit shows and the movie Michael Clayton.

I was thrilled to have the chance to interview Chris when I met him through a film festival and even more thrilled to hear his honest, insightful and experienced answers.

Christopher will be appearing at the Ridgewood Guild International Film Festival on April 27th. Watch for him soon in the lead role in a biopic of legendary civil rights leader, Cecil B. Moore, in pre-production.

Tell me about your role in But Deliver Us from Evil. What was your character like? Are you a fan of horror films?

Christopher Mann: I play the role of Lieutenant Dahistrom. He’s an experienced law enforcement professional who is working along side a colleague and old friend, Detective Reid Mackenzie (played by Mr. RJ Konner). The two of them are diligently working to find out who’s causing these mysterious murders. Dahistrom’s charisma, quick wit and streets smarts are all tools of his trade.

Loving tells a story that needs to be tell, that no one knew about, like Hidden Figures. When you got the script, did you realize how powerful it was? Did you ever think it would be nominated for Best Picture?

Christopher Mann: I did understand how powerful the Lovings’ story was. I had seen the documentary about the Lovings that was produced by Nancy Buriski some time ago. So I knew the importance of the outcome of their ordeal. After reading the well written script that Jeff Nichols wrote, I was really excited and thankful to be a part of the production.

Christopher Mann plays the dad of Mrs. Loving                                   Photo: IMDB

Where was the movie filmed? Have you ever done a period piece like that? Were there some things that you remembered from your parents or grandparent's house? For instance, I recognized some Corelle dishes that I grew up with.

Christopher Mann: The movie was shot in the Caroline County Virginia and surrounding areas. Caroline County is where many of the actual events took place. I was fortunate to work on another period piece, called, “The North Star” (written and directed by Mr. Thomas K. Phillips). It was also based on a true story. The film was set in the mid 1800’s during the slavery period in American. It was shot in Bucks County Pennsylvania, which was also where many of the actual events in the story took place.

There were quite a few things or articles of memorabilia that I saw during the filming of “Loving”. Being born in the early 60’s, I remember seeing many of the cars that were driven in the movie. There was an old washing machine that was on the porch of the house that my character lived in. It had the rollers over top of the washtub. The rollers were used to ring out the water from the clothes before they were hung on the clothes line. My grandmother had a washing machine like that when I was a kid.

Loving cast mates, "family photo"                                              Photo  IMDB

What was it like working on that film? Why would you tell people to watch it?

Christopher Mann: It was an absolute pleasure and honor to work on the film.

From the producers, director, crew and fellow cast members, everyone involved were such a joy to be around. Everyone had a sense of the importance of what they were doing. We all wanted to do justice to the Lovings and their story. I would tell people to watch the film because it’s a part of American History that happened not very long ago. As a matter of fact, even though their Supreme Court Decision, that struck down miscegenation laws across the country, happened in 1967, it took until the year 2000 for the last state in the country to remove those laws from their books. It’s a movie that also shows just how mean spirited it is for people to be judged and mistreated because of racist views… views that stem from an inhumane period in human history.  The only divisions that exist between human beings are the ones we create.

Tell me about some of your other roles. House of Cards - are you a political junkie? Was that a fun role for you? What about The Wire?

I’m not what I would consider a political junkie. I do however keep my ear to the ground as to be aware of the issues at had in the political arena. All our lives are affected by the decisions made by politicians. That being said, I have had to toss my hat into politics as an actor. I played the Secretary Of Energy for a couple of seasons on The House Of Cards. It was a nice role to have. It’s always good to know you have a job. I was hoping the role would have expanded more than it did, but I’m happy for the opportunity to work on such a great show. I met a worked with talented people on both sides of the camera.

My role as Councilman Tony Gray on The Wire was such an extraordinary experience. During my period on the show I was able to work with a great number of talented directors and actors who’s work I admire. It’s awesome to have your character be an intricate part of a compelling storyline in a well-written series. I’ll never forget it.

You are from Pennsylvania. How did you get from there to "Hollywood?" When did you realize you wanted to be an actor? If you weren't an actor, is there some other path you had in mind for your life?

Christopher Mann: I don’t feel where you’re from has any real significance on “Getting to Hollywood”. You can talk to someone on the other side of the world and come to understand that we all have very similar experiences living on this big blue planet. “Getting to Hollywood” is something that I’m not sure I’ve reached. At the moment I’m pretty sure I haven’t. The sacrifice, pain and loss I’ve encountered on the journey outweighs what success someone on the outside sees on the surface.

Being an actor had been a passing thought until I was in my early twenties. My childhood didn’t afford me the luxury of thinking of the possibility to pursue this kind of career. I had always been an artistic individual. I could draw and sang in groups. These were things that one could explore without much formal training. I had to wait until I was working and could pay for classes to explore the idea of being an actor. I worked for one of the worlds largest telecommunications companies for 19 years. I would have probably finished out my time there if not for them letting me go because I had such a “successful acting career”. Their assumptions were perhaps based on Jealousy and envy rather than fact. The thought that I still may have to find another path is still not out of the question. I have no idea what that would be.

What was your first role and how did you get it? Were you nervous?

Christopher Mann: My first professional role was on Homicide Life On The Streets. It was a three day Guest Star role. My character’s name was Antonio Brookdale. I wasn’t so much nervous as I was extremely excited. I was on set with the likes of Yaphet Kotto, Michelle Forbes and Clark Johnson to name a few. I had the pleasure of working with a very talented actor named Erik Todd Dellums who is still a good friend of mine today.

You have quite a long resume in show business. Please tell me any funny, or memorable moment you have had on the set of any of the shows/movies that you have done that you would like to share.

There is one memory that always comes to mind when asked that question. It’s not a funny memory, but one about a gentleman who displayed great character and integrity. I was working on the movie, “Michael Clayton”. That alone was memorable… to be working with George Clooney and writer/director Tony Gilroy. On this particular day while on set, I had gotten the untimely news that my oldest brother passed way. Mr. Gilroy and Mr. Clooney came an offered their condolences. Mr. Clooney even went as far to offer to shut that set down and have us come back and shoot the scene we had already started on another day. Needless to say I was so humbled by the compassion and generosity shown to me that day.

What advice would you give to a young high schooler growing up in a small own that wanted to be an actor? Any words of wisdom or any specific courses/training you would recommend? Did you have any particular kind of struggle? Would you tell them to go to New York or LA?

My advice would be to learn and hone your craft. If your school has a theater class or program, take advantage of it. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to attend a performing arts school, do it. Surround yourself with people who believe in your vision. You’ll need the support from those people when times get tough… and they will. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to study theater and or acting on the college level, do it. Every ones situation is different. Make best what you have. Moving to NY or LA is something that is easy for some and not for others. Should you have the opportunity and can make it happen, do it. The only thing you have complete control of is your gift and ability with the craft.

Do you have a favorite show or shows you like to watch or binge watch? Name a few of your favorite movies as well.

I like lots of different shows. I do try to keep up with Blackish, Queen Sugar and This is Us when they are currently airing. There are a few others that I will catch On Demand if I forget the night they come on, such as Ballers, Ray Donovan and a few more.

When it comes to movies there are quite a few I can mention. Some of my classics would be The Godfather series, True Romance, Scarface, Cooley High, The Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby movies, Uptown Saturday Night, Let’s Do It Again and A Piece Of The Action. Then there’s movies like Joy Luck Club, Stigmata, Angel’s Heart, My Sisters Keeper, August Osage County”, Whiplash, Man On Fire, American Gangster, O Brother, Where Art Thou?,  Hidden Figures, Lion, Loving etc….

Any current projects you would like to talk about?

I have several projects that I’ve worked on that are either in postproduction or still filming. Can’t give up any info on them at the moment. I am slated to play the lead role in a biopic of Civil Rights Leader, Cecil B. Moore. The working title is “American Zealot. Written By Mr. Tigre Hill. It’s currently in preproduction but we’re looking to get that upand running in the near future.

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