Harry Lennix Stands Out In 'The Blacklist' And 'Mr. Sophistication'
That film is called Mr. Sophistication, and it boasts a fantastic cast including Harry, Tatum O'Neal, Robert Patrick (Last Resort), Gina Torres (Suits), Richard Brooks (Law & Order), and Monique Curnen (Lie To Me, The Unusuals). "I'm extremely excited about it," Harry told us. "It's my first executive producer credit. It's only coming out digitally, but I've really put my heart and soul and time into it for the last three years." You can check out the trailer for what's sure to be an awesome flick below.
The contrast between The Blacklist and Mr. Sophistication highlights the versatility of Harry, who's come to be one of our most dependable actors in any size role that we see him in. He's one of those people who always turns in a good performance. His journey to excellence in his craft is a story of time and hard work. "I did my first professional job in the theater at 18. I was still in college," he reflected. "I guess the first time I thought, 'Hey, maybe this will stick,' I was probably about 24, and it was the first time in my life that I could support myself just by acting. At the time I was a school teacher in the Chicago public school system, and I also owned a grocery store. I had to do a lot of things to make ends meet.
"I've never only been an actor. I've always done a lot of other things," he continued. "For example, when I taught, I taught music; I'm an amateur musician. i write. I have an interest in directing. I have an interest in politics. I'll never only be an actor." With such a varied life, it makes perfect sense that his credits would be equally diverse.
What makes him want to add a project to his lengthy resume? "There are many things that are important to me. One is the quality of the material," he said. "Is it logical, does it make sense, does it say something in an interesting way? That's the most important thing. As my friend Michael Wright tells me, the first rule of the artist is not to be boring.
"You want it to challenge you on some level. You want to add value to a project. That's the second part," he continued. "And thirdly, whether or not I can look at myself in the mirror having done it, because it has not done any harm. A lot of times I get offered roles in projects that are demeaning. playing people who are despicable, horrible characters. and I'm not interested in that. I think that we have too many images of black men in the media that are adding fuel to the fire of misunderstanding, and I think it has a measurable impact."
So there's a lot to admire about Harry Lennix. Not only is he a great actor to watch, but we can also appreciate the work ethic that's brought him to where he is today, the diversity of his talent not only on the screen but in the rest of his life, and the fact that he has a conscience that accompanies his acting chops in a business where sometimes that's not the case. Aside from being fans of his work, he's a person we can like as well.
Which prompts the question: who are the people that he would call himself a fan of? There's quite a list. "I like a lot of actors very much. At Comic-Con, a couple weeks ago, I met Tom Cruise, and I was over the moon," he said. "I'm a huge Tom Cruise fan. I think he's somebody that's extraordinarily admirable. He does his best work all the time. and I am inspired by the type of projects he does. Sidney Poitier. Laurence Fishburne, who's on Hannibal. And that cast. [It's] very intriguing, very good television. very unique in the depth that it goes to explain the backstory of the movie that we came to love."
He also counts himself as an admirer of the medium of television as well. "I think TV is now providing an opportunity for very gifted actors, many of them film stars, to go and over the course of time, to do very, very good work," he told us. "TV is the last bastion of saving this art form of storytelling. You get a lot longer period of time [to tell your story]." Hopefully, NBC will give The Blacklist plenty of time to tell its story, and for us to enjoy having Harry Lennix back on TV.
The Blacklist premieres on NBC on Monday, September 23 after The Voice. Mr. Sophistication is out now and will be released to DVD on September 17.