Two years ago, I was in South Carolina working with my buddy Justin Robinson on his latest short film “Popeye the Pizza Man.” It was an experience that left me drained. I put so much preparation into that role, and when the time finally came to step in front of the camera… I’m not gonna lie, it was hard. It was a hard film to do. Not just for me… for Justin as he wrote and directed, for the other actors, for the crew. It was heavy. It was dark. I’m thankful for the splashes of comedy sprinkled through it, because when I go back and re-watch it, I tend to forget how heavy the whole thing was.
Not long before filming, Justin emailed me and said he wanted to give my character, Lewis, a little more depth. He wrote this monologue at the tree house and sent it to me. Man, reading that scene… I kinda sat back and took a minute because I knew what it was going to take. But I wanted to do it. The gift of a nuanced character combined with great dialogue is what I live for… I hunger for it. I need it.
That night on set, I was walking around in circles in the dark listening to my music while Brent Christy finished setting camera, and when we finally sat into it… it was like a graveyard, it was so still. Because of the camera and lighting set up, a couple of crew guys were only feet away from me. I remember watching the audio guy check his set up, and then turn his back to me to give me even more privacy. After the first take, no one moved. Justin came around, knelt next to me, whispered some direction, and then he crept back around the camera and called action.
To be given that much respect as an actor… if you’re not an actor, I don’t think I can describe it. I’ve been on sets where I had an emotional scene and people from the crew, to the producers, and even the DP once, were cutting up, telling jokes, standing in my eye line… completely not getting what they were doing. Clueless. And so I say I’ll always work with Justin and with Brent because they protect their actors.
Lewis was a gift. I’ll always remember him. I’ll always have a part of him left with me, and I know I left some of myself with him that night.