Actor Henry Simmons took time out of his busy schedule to talk with this journalist about his upcoming movie, “From the Rough,” a movie he stars in with Taraji P. Henson, Michael Clark Duncan and Tom Felton. The movie opens Friday, April 25th.
The film depicts the true life story of Catana Starks, a female Tennessee State men’s golf coach who overcame incredible odds and deep-seated prejudice to become “the first” African-American woman ever to coach an all-men’s team at a collegiate level.
Henry Simmons character Kendrick Paulsen, Jr., is the antagonist to the Taraji Henson character of Cantana Starks, believing that Starks could not handle the position of a men’s golf coach. Simmons talked about his attraction to the movie and about the role he played. “When I first read the script, I initially thought it was a story that took place in the 1950s and 60s and was shocked to see it took place in the 1980s. I was shocked to realize that people of color still face those types of barriers. It’s really is a shame, and for that reason I really wanted to be apart of the story and get the story out there so people understand .that these things are not part of the past but go on in our recent history” remarked Henry.
Born in Stamford, Ct, the son of Aurelia and Henry Simmons, Sr., Henry is one of three children. Simmons earned a basketball scholarship to Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire where he earned a business degree. After college Henry took a job in financial management but it didn’t last because Simmons was attracted to acting first and foremost.
Simmons’ first acting gig was as a hot-headed youth in the movie “Above the Rim” with Tupac Shakur. He went on to appear in movies and TV, most notably as Detective Baldwin Jones on the ABC police drama “NYPD Blue.” He also played Queen Latifah’s boyfriend in the 2004 action/comedy film “Taxi.” He had a leading role in “Shark,” a CBS drama starring James Woods. Simmons also appeared in World’s Greatest Dad”, “Man Up!” and besides “From the Rough” his next movie “No Good Deed,” starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson.
“Professionally I enjoyed the opportunity to play someone in From The Rough, that I rarely get a chance to play. Someone who is perceived as evil, I guess. That is a color I don’t normally play. I want to stretch and grow as an actor and this role presented that opportunity. I did not have a problem playing the character but did have a problem with the character. People like that whatever their reasons may be, may have good intentions or what they believe are good intentions. My character felt he was doing his best for the school by removing Ms. Starks from her job. But actually what he was doing was destroying people’s lives, “remarked the talented actor. “I tried to show that this man was racked with insecurity. His insecurity was one of the reasons he had a problem with strong women. I think one of his other issues was he felt unappreciated. You know it’s funny but you cannot work to get respect. However, if you do your work respectfully, than you gain respect. If you do things looking for respect or look for approval that is where it causes problems. You have to work to the best of your ability and let things fall where they may.”
From the Rough was actor Michael Clark Duncan’s last movie. Henry Simmons talked about working with the soulful Mr. Duncan. “When Michael Clark Duncan passed it was an absolute shock. I knew that he was sick but I thought he was going to be OK. But when he passed, I was in shock for days. I couldn’t understand how a man so good with such a big heart, so giving and generous, a great man could be taken away,” remarked Henry. “I prayed for Michael, he stayed on my mind; I just could not believe he died. But I was so grateful to have had the chance to work with him. Professionally, when Michael showed up on the set he brought an element of warmth that was not present in the script. The man was so talented. Personally it was a pleasure knowing a man like that. He walked into a room and filled the room with his voice, his personality and his warmth. The man loved life; you could see it in his smile. You could see his heart. He was a gentle giant. That is what he was. He will be missed.”
Mr. Simmons did not meet Cantana Stark during the filming of the movie. “I did have an opportunity to meet Ms Starks at the premiere of the movie. She seemed a woman of intelligence, class, and strength. There is a great deal of warmth about her. She is a woman who commands respect and certainly deserves respect,” stated the actor whose movie “No Good Deed,” will be out in September.
Fellow cast members in “From the Rough” include Tom Felton, known for his role in Harry Potter, LeToya Luckett (original member of Destiny’s Child), John Bailey (Little John), Justin Chon, Paul Hodge and Ben Youcef.
Interested parties can learn more about FROM THE ROUGH via www.fromtherough.com