Interviews

Published on November 19th, 2019 | by Hype Editorial

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In conversation with A Million Eyes star Elijah M. Cooper

A Million Eyes shares the story of a young photographer, grappling with his mother’s alcoholism, who sets out to capture his own truth. The film introduces 13-year-old Elijah M. Cooper in his debut film role. We caught up with Elijah to find out more about this exciting film, which is currently under consideration this Awards Season.

A Million Eyes, the film in which you star alongside Katie Lowes and Joe Morton, shares a story of a mentor. How important was having a mentor for you growing up?

Every day I’m learning more and more how vital mentors are to my life. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the people who were willing to invest in me and give me guidance. I’ve been really blessed. My mentors have taught me the value of discipline, work ethic, and drive. My mom and dad are my most important mentors because they strive for excellence in everything they do. Their examples push me which is really important in an industry that requires you to give everything you’ve got in order to be great.

What was it like working alongside the legendary actor Joe Morton in A Million Eyes?

Joe Morton is a legend and it was a humbling experience working alongside him. Watching him, it’s clear why he’s had so much success in the industry, for so long. He not only works to perfect his own performance, but he plays a big role in shaping the story behind the story of all the characters around him. He spent a lot of time talking to me about how to read other characters’ emotions and play off of them in a scene. It was like being in a masterclass. Watching him make movie magic was incredible.

Do you have a mentor or mentors that have affected your life in a positive way?

Even though I’m young, my mentors have done a lot to shape the actor and person I am today. Each and every one of them gives me something different to learn. My dad taught me how to work hard, my mom, how to pay attention to details.  One of my most impactful acting coaches, Matthew Barnes taught me the value of repetition. Each of these lessons helped bring Leroy to life.

In the film your mother battles alcoholism. Do you think this is an important subject to discuss and if so why?

I think all addiction is very serious and really important to discuss. Given how sensitive and painful it can be, most people don’t want to share their experiences with the world. They definitely don’t want to be judged or criticized for it. But these stories need to be told because more people than you would even think deal with these challenges. They need someone or something that they can relate to, and it is important that they know they are not alone. I hope this film might be one that they connect with. Beauty can come from difficult situations if we can learn to love each other through it all.

What drew you to acting?

A little over two years ago, I was diagnosed with a condition called vocal chord dysfunction, which required me to step away from sports, and caused me to really battle with anxiety. At the time, I needed an outlet that would allow me to express my creativity and give me a different focus. There was an acting studio down the street from my house, so I decided to give it a try. I absolutely loved the environment and threw myself completely into the classes. It all clicked after I took my first on-screen acting class, I could actually see myself building a career through this, and I made up my mind that I was going to pursue acting 100%. Who would have ever believed I’d be here today, working next to amazing talents like Katie Lowes and Joe Morton.

Can you give some advice to anyone who wants to get into acting?

My first piece of advice to someone getting started in acting is start slow. Find a class, or study material that lights you on fire. If you rush to learn everything about this craft at once, you’ll become overwhelmed. Secondly, embrace your weaknesses. It’s the only way you’ll grow and get better. I loved getting coaching on set, because I knew it would take me to another level. Lastly, practice, and practice even more. It’s tough, because we all have dreams of being a star day one, but you have to put in the work to get the reward.

What would it mean to you if A Million Eyes won an Oscar?

A Million Eyes is not your typical film, told in ways you’ve seen before. If it wins an Oscar, it will be because the story connected with others in a way that it connected with me. I think the world needs a story right now to remind us that hope can come from pain, and that each of us has a gift that we can share with the world. I would be the proudest person alive if we won, because I got to use my gift to shed light on Leroy and the millions of kids just like Leroy out in this world.

Do you have a favorite actor?

My favorite actor is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, because he has range. Range is one of the most important things you can have as an actor. Dwayne is so believable in a drama, does a ton of action and adventure, and is hilarious in comedy.  It is incredibly hard to be good at everything and he makes it look so easy. More than that, he talks all the time about the obstacles he had to overcome to be taken seriously as an entertainer. His perseverance and courage are super inspiring to me.

Did any celebrities influence you growing up?

Growing up, Zac Efron was my role model. I used to watch “High School Musical” all of the time and my eyes would be glued to the tv every time I watched it. I remember watching it one time and saying to my sister that I wanted to be like him one day. I wanted to be a movie star. I watched all three of the movies and memorized the choreographed moves to each song. I had the dream of being in a movie like him and little did I know, all I had to do was wait, and that wish came true.

What research did you do to create this role?

Bringing Leroy to life was a challenge. I have been fortunate enough to not go through what he went through in his childhood. I had to spend a lot of time reading the script, imagining his backstory, and working with Richard Raymond, the director of the film, to fill in the gaps. All of that information came together, like a collage in my mind, and it created Leroy. He became real, and I gained a greater understanding for him, his pain and his happiness. And then on set, I literally walked in Leroy’s shoes and rode his bike and laid in his bed.  Being on set actually allowed me to become Leroy and never really left the character. I learned a lot from that process.

What is next for you?

November is a big month for me because I have another film coming to movie theaters nationwide called “Line of Duty”, starring Aaron Eckhart and Courtney Eaton. It’s a thriller, and I can’t wait to see it on the big screen. I have also been cast in a movie that is in pre-production called “Summer Gold”, which we hope to film soon. Besides that, I’m doing a lot of auditioning and working hard on my craft.

How do we keep up with your work?

Be sure to follow me on Instagram @therealelijahcooper and find me on IMDb (Elijah M. Cooper). There’s a lot more coming!

Emmy Award-winning lead actor Joe Morton says, “A Million Eyes” is a film about hope, growth, mentorship, and the legacy of artists, like Gordon Parks, who paved the way for today’s American artists of color.”
Director Richard Raymond says, “A Million Eyes speaks to the importance of mentors in young children’s lives, especially those discovering their own artistic voices. It shows the significance that arts education can have on kids, especially in underfunded communities, and celebrates the importance of often overlooked voices.”
Actress Katie Lowes says, “A Million Eyes shows us how valuable it is to guide a young artist to find his or her voice. And when that child feels supported, even in a small way, their whole world can change for the better.”
A young actor and a fantastic film to watch out for!

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