Actor Interview: Edwin Freeman

We’ve done the criminal, abusive husband, deadbeat dad, drug addict, and alcoholic roles over and over again, but we’re so much more than that.

[Black Star Interview]

BSN: So Edwin you portrayed Mister Cee in the film Notorious about the life of the late rapper Christopher Wallace a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., can you tell us more about your role in the film, and what steps you took to land the part?
EF: My agent informed me of the audition. Once I got word of the audition, I immediately began to watch videos of Mister Cee online, so that I can learn his body movement and mannerisms. I listened to him on the radio so that I could learn his tone of voice and I read any and everything about him that I could. Once I landed the role, I had to pack on the pounds; I went from 200 to 230 pounds. So I started eating fast food, cake, cookies and other junk food that I didn’t usually eat. My goal was to become Mister Cee in every since of the word. I’m grateful that the Casting Director, Wendy McKenzie felt t hat I was good for the role, because I really worked hard to prepare for it.

BSN: What inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
EF: I’ve had a passion for acting since I was very young. Since the age of five, I’ve been involved in plays in school, plays in church and plays in my local neighborhood theater. So for me to pursue a career in acting came quite natural, when you love the craft as much as I do, pursuing a career was a choice that was easy for me to make. They say if you find a job doing something you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

BSN: Which African American actor do you admire the most and why?
EF: The person that I admire the most is Tyler Perry. Not only for what he does, but also for how he does what he does. Here’s a man who came from very humble beginnings. He had a dream that he firmly believed in and he worked very hard to make that dream a reality. He doesn’t only write, produce and star in his own films, but he also opened up his own production studio. He doesn’t wait for any outside source to greenlight his projects he does that himself. I think the Chairman’s Award, that he received at this year’s NAACP Image Awards was well deserved. Doing for self is the key, Tyler Perry truly exhibits that.

BSN: As an African American actor, how do you feel about the opportunities available to African Americans in the film industry?
EF: I feel that there’s an open market for African Americans in the film industry. So many of our stories haven’t been told. Our experience in this country is one that covers so many different subjects. Although we’ve covered a lot of the things that we’ve experienced, we have so much more that we haven’t touched on yet. We’ve only scratched the surface, there’s so much more in store.

BSN: What challenges have you faced as an African American actor and producer trying to make it in the film industry?
EF: The biggest challenge I’ve faced, as an actor is being able to break out of the stereotypical mold that the major Hollywood studios have put in place for African American men. We’ve done the criminal, abusive husband, deadbeat dad, drug addict, and alcoholic roles over and over again, but we’re so much more than that.
We’re devoted husbands, great fathers, community leaders, teachers, preachers and the President of the United States of America. It’s time that we’re depicted for what we actually are, that’s been my biggest challenge as an actor. As for the challenges I’ve faced as a producer, securing financing and distribution for films that don’t depict African Americans in the way that we’re usually depicted in Hollywood films, that’s been my biggest challenge as a producer. That’s been a challenge that not only myself, but also most African American producers have had to wrestle with.

BSN: Recently Lee Daniels directed the film Precious based on Sapphire’s novel Push, about the harsh realities and abuse a young African American girl suffers at the hands of her family and how she overcomes her struggles. What is your opinion about why the film was such a success in Hollywood?
EF: I think Precious gained such success, because it depicts a story that so many people can relate to. It’s a story that has universal appeal, not only can African Americans relate to the story, but Whites, Hispanics and Asians can relate to the issues in the film as well. When you have a film like Precious, which resonates with the masses of the people, you’re destined for success.

BSN: How do you feel about the opportunities that the film Precious’ has opened for its star up and coming actress Gabby Sidibe, as well as the other actors
and actresses in the film, as well as the film’s director Lee Daniels?
EF: Gabby Sidibe and everyone who was involved in making the film Precious did a remarkable job. Since the film’s release they’ve gained continuous praise and accolades from fans and critics the world over. This puts them in a space where due to the film’s success fans and critics alike will anticipate anything they do in the future. Where they go from this point is totally up to them, the sky’s the limit.

BSN: Also there have been those who have openly criticized the film Precious for its harsh portrayal of abuse in the African American community, why do you think some people so strongly disagree with what’s presented in the film?
EF: It’s like a dark family secret that some people would rather not discuss. I so happen to think that it’s good that we discuss issues, such as the ones that are depicted in Precious. That’s the only way for us to begin our healing process. As long as we ignore these issues and pretend that they don’t exist, we’ll never overcome them. The film is cathartic for a lot of people, so many can relate to it. It’s a real story in my opinion.

BSN: Recently Precious won the NAACP Image Award for Best Motion Picture at the 41st Annual NAACP Image Award, how do you feel about the NAACP’s impact on the African American community, as well as how the organization has influenced the African American film industry?
EF: The NAACP just celebrated its 100th year anniversary. That’s a mighty long time for any organization to stay around, and continue to be active and relevant. What the many accomplishments of the NAACP, as well as the influence that they’ve continued to have on the African American film industry, does is motivates us to set our own standards and create quality projects that exemplifies us as a people, be it in film, television or any other form of media. We have to hold ourselves in high esteem; the NAACP has done that exceptionally.

BSN: So Edwin what can we expect from you in the future?
EF: I’m in the pre-production stages of a romantic-dramedy that I wrote entitled The Power of Love; we go into production this spring in Atlanta. Hopefully we can meet again to discuss the film when it’s complete.

“Speaking Truth To Empower.”

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