Although he received critical acclaim on Broadway, including a Tony nomination for his work in the late August Wilsonâ€™s Joe Turnerâ€™s Come and Gone, his film career got its biggest boost after Spike Lee cast him as Archie in Malcolm X.
You might be surprised to learn that Delroy Lindo was born in London on November 18, 1952 to parents of Jamaican extraction, since he doesnâ€™t have much of to have much of either a West Indian or British accent. Thatâ€™s because his family moved briefly to Canada when he was still in his teens, and then to the U.S. where Delroy would study at the American Conservatory theater in San Francisco.
Although he received critical acclaim on Broadway, including a Tony nomination for his work in the late August Wilsonâ€™s Joe Turnerâ€™s Come and Gone, his film career got its biggest boost after Spike Lee cast him as Archie in Malcolm X. Since then, Lindoâ€™s stock has skyrocketed, as heâ€™s appeared not only in more of Spikeâ€™s movies, such as Clockers and Crooklyn, but in such well-received hits as The Cider House Rules, Romeo Must Die, Get Shorty, Ransom and Heist.
Here, he talks about his latest Domino, a tragic bio-pic about Ford model-turned-bounty hunter Domino Harvey, where he plays bail bondsman Claremont Williams, a character said to be based on the late Celes King, a celebrated community activist in Los Angeles.
BSN: Did you ever meet Celes King, the person your character is based on?
DL: No, I never heard of Celes King, prior to coming to this film. And, of course, since heâ€™d already passed on, no, I didnâ€™t get to meet him. The closest I got was to speak to a former colleague of his. But I knew nothing about this man, before coming to this film.
BSN: He was a fairly well-known community activist in L.A.
DL: Thatâ€™s right. I know that, in some circles, he is extremely well-known and revered, but he was somebody that I was completely unaware of.
BSN: So, did you base your character on what you learned about him?
DL: I didnâ€™t. First of all, I only talked to the one former colleague of his. Thatâ€™s it. Thatâ€™s the only person I spoke to. I didnâ€™t speak to his family or anyone else. So, the fact of the matter is I didnâ€™t base any of what I did on him, because I would have needed, A, more time, and, B, to have invested myself much more deeply into who he was. The character isnâ€™t even based on Celes King, really. It was just a reference. And so, what I did really came from me, and had less to do with who Celes King was, in fact.
BSN: And how did you prepare to play a person who was a bail bondsman?
DL: I spent a couple of hours with a bail bondsman. He was kind of giving me the lay of the land, a feel for what he does. That was the closest I got to that world.
BSN: Dwayne â€œdogâ€? Chapman has his own TV show. How much do these bounty hunters make?
DL: Remember, I play a bail bondsman, not a bounty hunter. But I donâ€™t know what kind of money they make. There are specific rewards placed on individuals. And how badly they want that individual to be retrieved, I guess, influences the size of the reward. Iâ€™m assuming they get whateverâ€™s on the head of a given person. As far as bail bondsmen, they get a fee, a percentage of whatever the bail is.
BSN: Tell me a little about your character in the movie.
DL: Hereâ€™s the interesting thing about this character. What the audience gleans about this character is based on what people say about him, not on what the audience sees me do. It has everything to do with what people are saying about him. But in terms of what you see me do, you see me have a couple of conversations with Moâ€™Nique and Mickey Rourke. So, itâ€™s a curious way of presenting a character. I donâ€™t know if, ultimately, it makes it more difficult for the audience to judge the character, because the only thing you see me doing is seemingly arranging things so that I can get this money for my grand-babyâ€™s operation.
BSN: Sounds a little ambiguous.
DL: Exactly. It is ambiguous. And in this instance, thatâ€™s probably to the characterâ€™s advantage, because that makes it more difficult, perhaps, to judge him negatively. For example, one of the characters says that Iâ€™m a ladiesâ€™ man who sleeps with all these women. I guess my point is Iâ€™m really curious to see to what extent does that influence the perception of who this man is compared to what you see me do.
BSN: What types of scripts are you getting offered nowadays?
DL: Younger filmmakers want me to play the heavy, so they send me scripts where Iâ€™m supposed to play the gang lord. Invariably, itâ€™s just not interesting. Iâ€™m not interested. Other than that, I get sent a lot of cop roles. Whenever I get sent those kinds of things, I tend to think that people are seeing me in a certain kind of one-dimensional manner, and that they have seen the other broader work that Iâ€™ve done.
BSN: You received a Tony nomination for your performance in the late August Wilsonâ€™s Joe Turnerâ€™s Come and Gone. Did you meet him when you worked on that play?
DL: Yes, I did meet him. August was very actively involved in the rehearsal process, and doing some re-writes during the rehearsals, though the play was directed by Lloyd Richards.
BSN: What is your best remembrance of him?
DL: The poetry of his language. August was a poet. Joe Turnerâ€™s Come and Gone, I think, was Augustâ€™s best work. A profound, epic piece of work. I remember when I first went to see the play at Yale Rep, it touched me so deeply, and I wasnâ€™t sure why. And when they asked me to do the play, I remember reading the last page, closing the script, and knowing that I had to do it. That it was destiny for me to do that piece of work. Although I couldnâ€™t necessarily articulate why at that time, I knew that myself and that play, our destiny was to be together.
BSN: Does it bother you that youâ€™ve received your share of critical acclaim but never been nominated for an Oscar?
DL: Iâ€™m just trying to keep doing work of substance, because if you get involved in all that other stuff, you lose your mind.
BSN: Are you concerned that a lot of young people might get their sense of history from movies?
DL: If thatâ€™s true, and I think on some level you may be right, I think itâ€™s very unfortunate if people get their history from pop culture, because theyâ€™re two vastly different things. What I would suggest, in terms of getting your history is read, read, read. I would say that anybody getting their history from pop culture is making a huge mistake. What drives pop culture, in the final analysis, is entertainment. And on that note, later.