Published on July 10th, 2019 | by Jessica Williams1
Larenz Tate: The Actor, The Legend, The Film Buff
Actor and Chicago native, Larenz Tate is no stranger to hard work and success. With over 30 appearances in television shows and movies, he has definitely become the poster child of what to do right in this industry when it comes to successfully staying booked, busy, and relevant for over 3 decades.
At an early age, his parents saw the potential in him and his two brothers as actors, so like most parents, they nourished this potential and registered their 3 boys for a drama program at the local community center. However, just like most children, these three never really took the classes seriously. It wasn’t until one of their classmates, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, got cast to play Theo on The Cosby Show. That was exactly the boost needed to help Tate and his brothers begin to take acting seriously. From making his acting debut in 1985 in The New Twilight Zone to securing a reoccurring role on the comedy series Family Matters, Tate set out on a path to success and never looked back.
During ABFF weekend, I got the opportunity to sit down with Tate to discuss past projects, the 25th Anniversary of The Inkwell, and what we can expect on this upcoming season of Power.
Your first major film was Menace to Society. You were just a baby back then. Can you remember how you felt when you received news that you were being cast in your first major role?
Larenz Tate: Definitely. At that time I lived in LA and spent all my summers in Chicago. One summer while in Chicago, I remember being 16 years old, hanging out with my friends. I remember my brother calling me saying ‘Yo, you got an audition, you gotta come back to LA.’ I went back and initially they didn’t want to hire me because I did not look like a bad guy. I was thinking ‘I’m from the Chi’. I ended up auditioning a couple of times, and finally they were like ‘you are the guy.’ I thought it was amazing that they would choose me, but it was something to the credit of the Hughes Brothers, Allen and Albert, who were geniuses. They thought, ‘let’s throw people off,’ this is a guy who is walking around with a Disney kids smile, and then he is the same guy that is going to turn around and yank that pistol on you and get to work. That in itself was a big shock to people. I am happy that we were able to do the movie when we were doing it, but we had no idea the impact. We set out to create a movie that was unapologetic.
This year makes 25 years since the release of the movie “The Inkwell.” Compared to where you were 25 years ago and where you are now, how do you see yourself as an actor?
Larenz Tate: First off, I can’t believe that this year makes 25 years since we shot that. It literally feels like the blink of an eye. I am a student of the art. I feel like I am still learning, but also that I have learned a lot. I’ve done some amazing projects. I feel like I am currently doing amazing projects. But for me I just want to continue to be challenged and to do solid work that people believe. And whether you like the characters that I play or not, you can walk away and say ‘I believe him.’ If I believe what I am in doing, then I believe the people who are at home watching will also believe. As long as I have things coming my way, I work them, and if they are not coming my way, along with my brothers, and my team, and people like those attending ABFF, we are going to make a way. We are going to do it. I fell good. It ain’t over, even though Power might be. We are definitely on to the next.
So, I have to be honest. Everybody has their favorite Larenz Tate character. I am old school so mine is Frankie Lymon from ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love.’ Out of all of the characters you have played throughout your career, who has been your favorite?
Larenz Tate: Oh wowwww!!! Okay I am going to be a little diplomatic with this answer here. I’m going to have to be Rashad Tate….triggering my inner politician. So I don’t necessarily have a favorite role, but there have been some roles that have been really impactful on my life…movies like Menace to Society, Inkwell, Dead Presidents, and Love Jones. I can however say that the movie I probably watch the most, believe or not is Dead Presidents, if it comes on. I think the film making was just spectacular on that. The music was great, the performances were awesome. I love watching that movie. Love Jones is also a pretty good one too. That movie challenged me because I am not a poet. But to be able to play Darius, a person that both men and women can connect with…and to have seen black love played out this way reminds you of Diahann Carroll and the great James Earl Jones in the movie Claudine.
You took it back. I loooove Claudine.
Larenz Tate: Me too. I am a movie buff. I love good movies. So to be apart if such great movies, there is no better feeling. But again I do love Frankie Lymon (LOL). That’s a good one.
(LOL). … Now when it comes to diversity in the film industry from where you started to now, how do you feel it has changed over time when it comes to how black actors and actresses are viewed and treated?
Larenz Tate: It has improved here and there. It is slightly different. I feel like back in the days, we had more black tv shows being represented. Now we have more black people on tv shows, but they ain’t black shows…which to be honest, I am not that crazy about. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that we are all working, but I would rather see more shows that were written by us, created by us, directed by us, and told by us. And when we get to a point where they can even be distributed by us, then that would be even better. There are some amazing things happening now. We have Ryan Coogler. We have Ava DuVernay. Things are definitely changing and progressing. Its time to stop asking for permission and just do it ourselves.
So before I let you go, I have to ask the question that is on everyone’s mind…what can we expect from Councilman Tate on this final season of Power.
Larenz Tate: All I can say is this season will be bringing it. You will definitely experience every emotion. You will hate me and you will love me. This final season was so well-written I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you catch the season premiere on August 25th.