I had the fortunate opportunity to interview Laz Alonso a couple of years back, around the time of the release of Spike Lee's flim, Miracle at St. Anna. You can read the write up and listen to part 1 of the phone interview below. Listening to the audio brought back a few memories...
Journalist on the hustle
It's awesome when I read interviews and the writer is hanging out with her subject at some lavish spa or fabulous celebrity home. When I interviewed Laz it was the middle of summer and I was talking to him on my cell phone sitting in my car. It was mad hot! I was at work--I don't recall if it was during my lunch hour, or if I called him right after work. Trying to do journalism and work a 9 to 5 meant a lot of "getting in where you fit in" and doing interviews in odd places likes cars and bathrooms.
I'm always surprised when...
Famous people answer the phone! Everytime I would do these phone interviews I never expected the artist to answer the phone themselves. I'm thinking I'll get an assistant, or have to go through all these gatekeepers. It's never been that kind of production. I wonder if I had his direct number? Hmmmm....
Phone interviews can be awkward
I will do an in-person interview anyday over a "phoner". I like talking to people in person and really being a part of their element. When I interviewed a bellydancer I took her class. When I interview musicians I go to their show or the studio. I want to really experience them. That's what can separate my interview from the dozens of other interviews the artist has done that week, or that day. No one can have the same experience as me. Some people are really good at striking up conversations with people they haven't met before (e.g., Oprah). It can be difficult for me at times, even when I'm well prepared with my research.
My favorite part(s) of this interview...
Aside from just hearing Laz talk to me?! My absolute favorite part is the very end after we've hung up and you hear me sigh. I don't think I breathed the whole while he was talking! I go into these interviews hoping I don't sound horribly stupid or inexperienced; I'm a little nervous. I'm hoping I ask something that hasn't been asked a zillion times. The sigh is cute...glad I kept the tape running on that.
I also love how Kanye West came up in the conversation. Anytime I can engage someone in conversation about Kanye is a good time. No one man should have all that power, seriously. I love him. It's pretty inspiring to hear an insider, behind-the-scenes of someone who knew Kanye before he became Mr. West.
Oh, and I really appreciated how Laz said the interview was on point. J'yeah!
Listen to audio on YouTube.
Follow Laz on Twitter @lazofficial
[This article originally appeared on InChiCity.com]
Saving the Best for Laz
Emmy Award-winning actor, Laz Alonso, on his upcoming role of a lifetime, new
projects and love for ChiCity
By Sandria M. Washington
Laz Alonso hasn't slowed down one bit since heating up the big screen with his role as
fraternity leader "Zeke" in 2007's box office hit, "Stomp the Yard" (Sony Screen Gems).
The Washington, D.C. born and raised actor has shifted the momentum of Hollywood
success into not one, not two, but three major motion picture releases slated throughout
2008 and 2009.
"It's a blessing," says Laz from his Los Angeles stomping grounds. Laz Alonso is
living out his childhood dream of being a successful actor and on September 26, 2008 his
dream of working with film industry legend, Spike Lee, will come alive in theaters.
The Spike Lee-directed, "Miracle at St. Anna," stars Laz alongside Derek Luke,
Michael Ealy, John Leguizamo and Kerry Washington in a gripping World War II drama.
On working with Spike Lee, he shares that, "Even before I really even thought that
acting was a real possibility in my life, Spike was always somebody that I looked up to
and admired. To have an opportunity to do a film with him, for me, it's like that in itself
was the biggest blessing."
The film, based on the novel of the same title by James McBride, is the story of four
black American soldiers--members of the U.S. Army's all black "Buffalo Soldiers"
platoon--who find themselves separated from their unit and trapped behind enemy lines.
With a heart wrenching twist, Alonso describes "Miracle at St. Anna" as a story about the
miracle of love "when everything is on the line."
Laz plays black/Latino Corporal Hector Negron, a character whose depth of
compassion initially attracted him to the role. As a first-generation American born to
Cuban immigrant parents, Alonso was able to bring some of his personal background into
the character. The sacrifices made by his parents to create a better life in this country for
him echo the sacrifices made by the many black men and women who fought on behalf of
the U.S. It's a great honor for Alonso to show the valor of these "unsung heroes" and
share a piece of history that is sometimes overlooked or not highlighted.
"I want to play memorable characters," says Laz about choosing quality roles that
have a direct impact on the story over quantity of roles. "I try to bring some humanity to
the characters. Time, experience and working with good directors teach you how to do
that, so you're not just playing a type; you're actually playing a real human being."
In his early days of doing theater in New York, Laz Alonso's handsome looks and
leading man swagger typically got him typecast as the good guy, the one that always gets
the girl. However, his years of experience have taught him how to not just play the roles
that people expect him to play. Alonso's past acting credits cross all genres, from music
videos and commercials, the latter garnering him an Emmy Award for his appearance in
Budweiser's forever-to-be-quoted "Wassup" campaign, to television and films such as
2005's "Jarhead" starring opposite Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx.
Laz Alonso continues to explore new acting boundaries in two very different films
dropping in 2009--"Fast & Furious" in June 2009 (a continuation of the first actionpacked
"Fast & Furious" film, featuring Vin Diesel) and the James Cameron sci-fi flick,
In the meantime, Laz is writing as much as possible, developing a new script and
believe it or not, a self-help book. "I'm kinda like the Dr. Phil of my group," he jokes. The
self-described motivator knows what it means to pursue dreams in the face of obstacles
and has more than enough practical advice to share. After graduating from the prestigious
Howard University with a BBA in Marketing, he landed a lucrative job on Wall Street as
an investment banker with Merrill Lynch. It was a dream job. Just not his dream. Laz
describes his corporate path to acting as "just a means to an end," and eventually he left it
all behind to pursue acting full time. The rest is history in the making.
"I just want to somehow be able to share that knowledge with as many people as possible
and motivate people that they can achieve anything that they want as long as they put
their all behind it." The book will chronicle his growth to success and the growth of the
people around him and the qualities needed to achieve success.
He remembers hanging out at Jamie Foxx's home and a poster of Ray Charles
hanging in his studio. All Foxx could talk about was how much he wanted to do Ray
Charles' story and Laz remembers the passion Jamie Foxx had for that project. Fast
forward a few years and that passion manifested into critical acclaim for Foxx's award-winning
role in "Ray."
He also remembers "this little dude [that] came there with some beats and he wasn't
really popular at the time." Everyone in L.A. has an album or some kind of hook, but
there was a fire in this guy that made him memorable. His name? Kanye West. "Later on
when he and Jamie dropped "Goldigger" and his song "Jesus Walks" happened to be the
main song from "Jarhead"...it was no surprise to me," Alonso shares. "I saw very similar
qualities [in Kanye] that I'd seen in so many other successful people."
Perhaps Mr. West will remember those times vibing in the studio and assist with
Laz's second passion--music. "Just as my acting is growing, so is my music
production," he says. As a child of the hip-hop era, his music is heavily hip-hop
influenced, but with a Latin flavor to it. "It's a style that I don't think I hear very much
right now and I'm drawing from a different set of inspiration that a lot of the cats are." In
addition to Kanye, Laz would love to get pioneers like Jay-Z and Nas in the studio.
From birthing dreams in D.C. to chasing them in N.Y. and living them in L.A., Laz
Alonso's acting career has taken him all over the world, but the city that holds a special
place in his heart is none other than ChiCity. "Chicago is probably my favorite city of all
time spring and summer. It's one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. in my opinion. It
looks like Europe, actually. To me, it looks like Sweden." Laz Alonso sounds almost like a
native Chicagoan when he talks about what he loves about the city.
"You don't have to do anything in Chicago to do something. You can just leave the hotel
and go for a walk and hit up Michigan Avenue or hit up Navy Pier or wherever. You just
feel the energy."
Sure it gets pretty cold in the Chi after October, but Laz Alonso has nothing to worry
about as long as he keeps blazing trails and giving audiences hot cinematic performances.
For more on Laz Alonso, visit http://www.myspace.com/lazalonso.