Conversation with . . . Laz Alonso

2 04 2009

Actor Laz Alonso has been one of the steadiest actors still under the radar. With three films out this year, the DC native sits down with Kam Williams to talk about his role in the high-octane action adventure, “Fast & Furious.”

Alonso was born in Washington, DC, to first-generation immigrants who were refugees from Cuba. Although he developed a passion for acting at an early age, Laz initially pursued a seemingly more practical career in finance after his graduation from Howard University where he had majored in business. However, since he found it impossible to ignore his true calling, it was not long before he began going out on auditions while working in New York City as an investment banker.

After first finding work in TV commercials, Laz began landing bit roles on such TV series as “Soul Food,” “The Practice” and “CSI: Miami.” His big break in movies arrived in 2005, when he had the chance to appear opposite Jamie Foxx in “Jarhead.” Since then, he’s starred in “Stomp the Yard,” “This Christmas” and, most notably, Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna,” where he played the picture’s pivotal role as corporal Hector Negron.

Here, he talks both about his performance in “Miracle,” and about his portraying Fenix Rise in the “Fast & Furious.” The fourth installment of the muscle car series features a reunion of the original’s principal cast, including Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster.

Thanks for the time, Laz.
Laz Alonso: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you.

How did you enjoy making “Fast & Furious?
LA: Man, everybody who loved the first one, which really built the franchise, is just going to be absolutely ecstatic about this next installment. It brings everybody back from the original cast, only it injects about ten times the amount of testosterone. It’s like the original on steroids, so to speak. The budget is a lot bigger and technology has come a long way since then which together allows for more elaborate stuff. At the end of the day, the hero of the movie is still the cars, so any auto enthusiast is really going to love this movie.

So, is it safe to assume that your character, Fenix Rise, is a car thief.
LA: No, I don’t play a car thief. I play something a little less morally substantial, but the movie ends up being a fun game of cat-and-mouse between Vin [Diesel] and myself. [Chuckles]

What interested you in plying Hector Negron in “Miracle at St. Anna?
LA: First and foremost, the historical aspect. I remember growing up seeing The Tuskegee Airmen and what a profound effect that had on me. I didn’t really know at the time that I was going to be an actor or be able to play military roles, but it just really stuck with me. I think part of the reason why was because I was seeing people who looked like me in combat and other situations that were relevant to a kid’s history growing up. When you study black history, you always study the Civil Rights Movement, which encourages you to turn the other cheek. But watching a story about the Buffalo Soldiers, you see that these guys were also fighting for rights, but they didn’t turn the other cheek. They actually bore arms. So, it was a different side of Black History that I didn’t know existed outside of The Tuskegee Airmen. So, it was really interesting for me to be able to be a part of it.
I loved “Miracle” because I have an uncle who was wounded while fighting in Italy during World War II with an all-black regiment, yet I never saw any war movies with any African-American heroes in it when I was a child.
LA: Yeah, even during Black History Month, rarely do you hear anybody mention the Buffalo Soldiers, how they fought, or what they accomplished, although they existed as far back as the Spanish-American War. So, I think the fact that black people also sacrificed their lives for this country is a story that should be told, in order to give a balanced account of how we’ve contributed.
How was it shooting on location with Spike Lee?
LA: I’m glad Spike was at the helm of this, because he’s not somebody who’s going to pull any punches, so to speak. He’s going to tell the story the way it was. Sometimes, people accuse him of having his own agenda, but seeing from the inside how he operates, I have to say that he was very, very committed to being accurate, historically, on all accounts. He was true to what was going on at the time, not only with the American soldiers, but with the Germans and Italians portrayed in the picture.

To read the rest of the interview, click here.




One response

2 04 2009
Fast & Furious Review « FilmGordon

[…] of criminals in episode one, this time the kingpin is Mexican with a sadistic henchmen, Fenix (Laz Alonso). Directed by Justin Lin, he gives the fans exactly what they expect when they buy a ticket – […]

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