Larenz Tate on his career, pushing Black stories in Hollywood and Chadwick Boseman
REVOLT caught up with Larenz Tate to discuss Black representation in Hollywood, the impact of Chadwick Boseman’s death, his “Uncensored” episode, among other exciting topics. Read up!
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Larenz Tate is no stranger to the small and big screen, and he continues to add standout moments to his resume. Originally hailing from the west side of Chicago, but raised in Los Angeles, the famed actor prides himself on making an impact in the entertainment industry — especially as a Black man in Hollywood.
It was in California when his parents got him and his brothers (Larron Tate and Lahmard J. Tate, both of which are also successful actors) into a drama program, which eventually turned into an entryway to the acting world. Since then, he’s starred in numerous films and television shows including Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, “South Central,” Love Jones, “House of Lies,” “Power” and countless others.
Beyond his high stature as a seasoned actor and entertainer, Tate started the Tate Bros. Foundation with his brothers to raise awareness for sickle cell disease, which mostly affects Black people. Married with four sons, he makes it a point to give back to his community, take care of his family, and continue to push the narrative for Black creatives in the industry.
Now, Tate is honored to be kicking off the premiere of TV One’s hit autobiographical series titled “UNCENSORED,” capturing his journey for the past three decades. Premiering on Sunday, Sept. 6., the in-depth interview sees Tate discussing his roots, meeting his wife at a Jamie Foxx party, landing film roles over television, and much more.
REVOLT caught up with Tate to discuss Black representation in Hollywood, the impact of Chadwick Boseman, among other exciting topics. Read up!
Being from the west side of Chicago, what was your household like growing up?
Coming out of the Chi, definitely can’t be soft. It’s a blue collar city, a great town, but the experiences can be very rough. Fortunately for me, my family was able to move to the west coast and not have to experience all those things we’ve seen family and friends go through. Chi-town is the real deal. It’s no joke.
As a kid, did you think you’ll become the star you are now?
No, I never assumed I’d even be in the industry at all. It wasn’t until we got to Los Angeles that we got involved in the entertainment industry. My father and my mother didn’t want my brothers and I to fall into the same patterns they saw us in Chicago falling in. They got us involved in a performing arts school and we started theatre. That was a way to express myself through the arts. A lot of music artists come out of Chicago, that’s another form of expressing themselves on an artistic level. I decided to do it on television.
What did the movie Why Do Fools Fall in Love do for your career?
It gave me an opportunity to work amongst some incredible leading ladies: Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon, of course Halle Berry. I was able to play a character I never actually played before in terms of a musician — find myself going back into a time capsule because it’s during the 50s music era. It was impactful in the sense that I was really able to showcase my range as an artist and to show folks I can continue to be a leading man.
People say you killed your role in that movie. How’d it feel playing a full-on drug addict?
Oh man, it’s interesting because I’ve seen a lot of that growing up. Coming from Chicago or here in Los Angeles, but also in the industry. Fortunately in my own personal life, I wanted to stay away from that stuff. I was able to connect because I’ve seen it in many people’s lives, people very close to me. To see what Frankie Lymon had gone through at a very early age was a reflection of what a lot of artists may experience growing up. Unfortunately, he died of an overdose. He didn’t make it. Oftentimes, you see people recreationally doing their thing or having a good time, but that stuff can kill people. It kills people today.
Best memory from shooting Dead Presidents?
I love period pieces. I love when we can go back and tell incredible stories. I love the idea that these young people put their lives on the line for the country. Going to Vietnam fighting a war, specifically Black men who came back home that didn’t get treated with the dignity and respect of someone who fought for their country. They couldn’t get jobs, a lot of things Black folks experienced throughout our journey here in this country. You decide to go ahead and pull off a caper, say to the government, “You’re going to burn their money.” Instead we’re taking the money and using it for something good, as opposed to burning the money. The government back then burned the money. To work with the Hughes Brothers again, work with incredible actors like Keith David, Terrance Howard, Chris Tucker, Freddy Rodriguez; it was really dope.
What can we expect from your “UNCENSORED” episode?
We can certainly expect the history of things you probably don’t know about me. It’s time for people to get a sense of what my experiences and journey has been. I have a career that spans over 30-plus years. You hear or see people with five years in the entertainment industry, they’re doing books and telling their lives’ story. I felt I needed to have more chapters in my own life, personally and professionally before I begin to tell my story. When “UNCENSORED” brought it to me, I thought why not? I’m excited for people to learn more about me.
How does it feel to kick off the season?
It feels good, I’m happy they included me. We’ll see what happens. It’s a real uncensored in-depth interview. It’s a great season of actors, actresses, artists, people you hear about in the media, but you don’t get a chance to learn who they really are. I’m hoping everybody tunes in and checks it out.
Being a Black man in the industry, how can you continue to push the narrative of Black stories?
Integrity, keeping my ego in check. Understanding I’m not in it for the fame alone. I really want to continue to use my talent, my gift, my platform, or the fact I’m in an industry where I can give voice to the voiceless. When it comes to telling stories of Black people in general, making sure I make an effort to get around any stereotypes that have been created by other people. I’m always fighting the good fight in that respect, trying to uplift us as the people.
Thoughts on Black people in Hollywood and the opportunities they get?
Mostly, we have to create our opportunities. Hollywood isn’t operated nor ran by the people who look like me. Now there’s more diversity and inclusion. But, on a whole, it’s been unbalanced for a long time. The opportunities are coming more, so now Hollywood and the entertainment industry are recognizing we have stories to tell. We’re not one kind of storytellers, we come in all different facets. We want to continue to shape up the narrative that we can create.
Historically, Hollywood [has] always written what they think and how they see Black people, as opposed to how Black people really are. These executives, writers, and directors don’t live the life of Black people. They don’t live with Black people or live the experience. So, how could you really write the experience? It’s only from their perspective. That perspective has been very distorted and inaccurate. When you have great Black directors, storytellers, writers, producers, actors, actresses, people who can help change the narrative that makes it more accurate and authentic, it’s important. We’re creating our own opportunity in that respect. We’ve been fighting for a long time, Hollywood and entertainment is starting to realize it.
Where do you see the future of Black people in entertainment?
Step by step, we have a long way to go. I’m inspired by the things I’ve seen, the work I’ve been a part of. I’m inspired by my peers, people who came before me and laid the foundation, and groundwork decades and decades before myself. I believe the more we tell our stories, the more we’re involved in the business of the entertainment industry, as opposed to just being the talent. It becomes the truth and the fullness of who we are. We’re more than the entertainers, we’re also incredibly smart business people. Technicians and technology, all those things I see Black folks really moving into in a real way. We’re some of the biggest consumers of all entertainment, but we don’t own most of the entertainment. We don’t reap the benefits as the people. They’re individuals, but I’m talking about the group. We need to continue to work to change that and make the balance.
How does it feel to have your brothers get on?
It’s great. My father and my mother always told us to always stick together no matter what. To be able to work with family is so important. These are people I know I can count on, I can rely on, I can trust. They really know who I am and I know who they are. My brothers Larron and Lahmard are actors and producers. We’re really moving into the space of producing our own content, producing content for other people, giving opportunities for people coming up because that’s part of it. You have to reach back, [and] find ways to open up avenues for those who are entering the business.
What do you think about your kids getting into this business?
I’d tell them to focus on their studies, as my parents did with me. If and when they want to get involved with the entertainment business, I’d encourage them and I have encouraged them to look at it not only as an artist, but from a business standpoint. My children watch a show, they’ll say, “How come this isn’t this way?” Or “Why’s it like this?” I said, “Why don’t you write something? Think about it, control it.” I try to instill ownership in business aspects of the entertainment industry to my children.
How did Chadwick Boseman’s death affect you?
It made a huge impact. He gave us so much in such a small amount of time. He’s inspired so many of us. Huge loss for the Hollywood community, but also for fans who loved his work. Also for Black folks, we’re certainly going to continue to celebrate Chadwick and all the things he’d done. All the things he’d given us. To work as hard as he’s been working and doing such incredible work at such a high level while dealing with his own personal circumstances is motivation. It’s remarkable, I’m forever inspired by him.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
Be your own self. Be your own man/woman. If entertainment is something you want to do, understand why you’re doing it. Is it for the fame or because you truly enjoy it? Is it because you want to be adored? Is it because you want lots of money? Because there’s a reality that comes with it. Highs and lows, you have to prepare for a lot of lows. When you’re at the top, at that high point, don’t forget about those who helped you get there.