Forest Whitaker is a distinguished artist and humanist. He is the founder of PeaceEarth Foundation, co-founder and chair of the International Institute for Peace and is the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation.
He is also a talented, versatile performer and one of Hollywood's most accomplished figures. Here, he talks about his latest movie, "Repentance," a psychological thriller co-starring Anthony Mackie, Sanaa Lathan, Nicole Ari Parker and Mike Epps.
Kam Williams: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: "What interested you in producing and starring in "Repentance?"
Forest Whitaker: I'd say the fact that it's a movie that talks about dealing with your past issues and past pain, and being able to move forward in the future from that. I think that's a lesson that we all have to deal with and learn from. In addition, the film offered me a great opportunity to do a really interesting character with an amazing cast of actors, and to be directed by a friend and associate, one of my partners. We own a company together. So, a lot of things came together to make this happen for us.
KW: What message do you think people will take away from "Repentance?"
FW: Understanding and searching for the truth by dealing with issues from the past, by taking them out and allowing them to be present so that you can move past them or with them into your future. I think this film suggests it's possible to address even those hidden secrets that we keep sequestered under the rug of our minds.
KW: Vassar Film Professor Mia Mask asks: "How do you prepare for a role? What steps do you take to understand and become Angel Sanchez?"
FW: I read a number of different books and articles on mental illness... about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, medications and issues surrounding those topics. And I also did some interviews with people dealing with those things. So, that helped shaped part of Angel. For the rest of it, I tried to look at grief and pain. I wanted to understand the stages of grief, and the escalation that might happen if this person was in deep pursuit of the truth about the loss of his mother, and then you put the other stuff on top of that. So, I just kept piling it on until it started to leak out in the movie.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: "Thank you for ('Lee Daniel's') 'The Butler' – your performance and that of the great ensemble cast made the movie truly memorable. What consideration enters into your decision to take on a role?"
FW: I think every character bears it, but I'd like to know that the movie's going to shed some more light on our humanity, and open up another door for me. I think the biggest thing that motivates me when I'm choosing a part is a role that will help me continue to grow as a person and as an artist, and a role that will deepen my understanding of humanity, and my connection to it.
KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: "I loved you in 'The Butler.' Is there a particular role that you would like to do next, if you could choose any one you want?"
FW: Well, I've been playing around and toying with doing the Louie Armstrong story. I've developed a script we've been working on. It still may happen. That's interesting to me. Otherwise, I'm just looking for characters that continue to make me stretch and grow and learn more about the human condition. ...
KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams asks: "When did you realize that you could carry a film as the star?"
FW: I guess it would be around the time I made "Bird," because, although I wasn't all that confident about my performance, it was the first time I was allowed to be the focal point of a film.
KW: Mike Pittman asks: When did you get your first big break as an actor?
FW: My first big break? I think "The Color of Money" was very instrumental in opening up other opportunities. People started to recognize me as an artist after that film. And then, after I did "Bird," it was more solidified. ...
KW: Is there something you wish people would note about you?
FW: The desire to connect.