I Love NY Actors
Spotlights Curtiss I. Cook this week
Veteran actor Curtiss Cook is definitely one of the funniest, driven, and personable men I've known in my 32
years of living. This brother brings such a commanding presence to the big screen while embracing all his creative gifts, as well as embracing his gifts that transcends beyond his impeccable creativity such as the gift of undying love for his family, loyalty and trust with his colleagues, and the gift of pure humbleness.
On the dawn of a new movie, Shutter Island, to open in theaters across America this Friday and the recent release of the new HBO television series, How To Make It In America, which he's featured, Curtiss and I managed to find time to catch up and talk about life and his career.
Where are you from and how did you get your start in the entertainment
CC: I'm from Dayton, Ohio. I’m the oldest of five children, all of my family for the most part are still in Dayton... I’ve always been a ham of course ... but I went the normal route. I used to sing and do plays in the third grade which led to me joining DCDC Dance Company (really because of all the girls there), but I learned some things which pushed me to an organization called the Muse Machine ... which introduced me to my college which was in London, England
and that brought me to New York City ...(if I can make it here...) and you know how the rest goes...
Your first Broadway show and the character you portrayed?
CC: My first Broadway show I don't really talk so much about ... but the one where I started to feel a shift in my
career was Miss Saigon. I was in the ensemble and covered the role of John ... one of the reasons I feel that this made a shift in my career is because it was the first time I realized nothing is really FAIR in this business…it's a business... Something had happened to our John and I, being the First Cover, literally went on for a good two to three months straight doing a good damn job I might add. Now my voice isn't the best Broadway voice you've ever heard but it's not the worst either ... anyway long story short (or is it too late) everyone from the dresser to assistant stage managers to some cast members, were telling me that I could damn near bank on this job being mine ... my first white contract on Broadway.... It didn't happen... I was heart broken… I never really got an answer to why... and I don't know if I would have heard it if I did get it, but it taught me a very good lesson....a very valuable and sad one, but a good one none the less...
Your first movie and the character you portrayed
CC: My first movie ever, is that what you mean ... or the first one that I got paid? My first movie was a play that I had written and one of my company members, who is now a damn near house hold name, decided to make it into a short ... we shot it in an apartment in mid- town ... don't know what became of that ... I’ve got to ask him if he still has that footage…
My first time seeing you on the big screen was in the movie The Interpreter starring Nicole Kidman. How was working on that film?
CC: This was my first real Hollywood Film.... I remember when we found out that I had gotten the role, my wife Angelica, my oldest three children, and I were out coat shopping. Angelica was pregnant and just really needed to get out of the apartment ... needless to say the car was loud with the children
in the back arguing over nothing ... Angelica wasn't feeling well so in turn that made me on edge... but as soon as that call came from, my then Manager, saying "how would you like to
play Nicole Kidman's love interest ... " Man ... shiiiiiit!!! Everyone was happy! We started spending money we didn't have, went to a restaurant for dinner ... that was a good feeling. Working on the film was great as well. I had never been to the mother land before and this film took me to Mozambique... I was there for three weeks and what I saw and learned there I’ll never forget. The other thing about that was ... all of my scenes with Nicole were taken out... I’ve got my reasons for why that happened ... but hey ... once again it's called " Show Business ..."
The role had minimal camera time, however, it played an important part in the plot. As we know in this business small roles lead to larger roles, and I'm sure you've heard of the saying, "No role is a small role” What has your experience been working on small roles and moving on to larger roles?
CC: Let's keep it real Cornelius... Like Sir Laurence Olivier said to a beginning actor "Yes there are many small roles and you will play a lot of them over the course of your career ..." I paraphrased that a bit. I look at it like this ... I was invited to the party. With everything, dues have to be paid and you can't really bypass them. Even when you think you have, they come back around some how or some way, you know what I mean? I'm in this game because I love to act first and foremost... the perks and all that, I love them as well... but in my heart of hearts I know that I (Curtiss Cook) have to put in the work. There are no real loop holes for me. I remember when all of my friends were getting their first Broadway shows. I was doing regional gig after national tour after regional gig and I said to a very close friend, " Well I guess I’m just paying my dues," she looked at me and said "Damn I think you’re paying everybody’s dues!" In a way that’s how it goes for me... I ain't mad at it. I can be impatient at times but I do know I’m going to get mine and I'm closer and closer with every outing.
Your new film Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring
Leonardo DiCaprio opens February 19th, tell us more about the film and your role.
CC: The movie is based on the book by the same name by Dennis Lehane ... I play Trey Washington the head orderly of this hospital for the criminally insane ... I act as sort of the liaison between the hospital and the marshals (played by Leo and Mark Ruffalo).
You also have a recurring role on HBO's new series "How to Make It in America." Tell us more about this project.
CC: This is from the creators of the Entourage series on HBO so it has that kind of feel to it, very organic and very New York. I play the lead character’s (Bryan Greenberg) boss who's always busting his chops. I’ve shot three episodes, let’s see if they bring me back next season.
How did you land that role? or better, share with us "How to Make it in America" the Curtiss Cook way.
CC: Man... you know how we do ... my agent calls and says you have an appointment at such and such a time at such and such a place.... here is the script and the sides.... I read it, look it over, and make sure my ass is there on time and ready to put the work down ... you know what I mean. It's funny though, because with How to Make it...I only had one scene and about two lines to read... that was all for the pilot... I thought that was it ... and low and behold they just kept calling me back to shoot more episodes. I was like Damn ...you never know... what if I had said "nah... I’m not going in for this little shit..." See... it all works out in the wash.
What city do you prefer? New York or LA? Why?
CC: I haven’t spent more than a month or two in LA consistently ... but I have to say it never really felt like I could live there ... work there oh yeah without a doubt... but it's New York for me... the grind, the in your face... the closeness... it makes me feel like I’m doing something even when I’m just walking down the street to the train.
On a more personal note, you're quite the family man, how do balance such a busy and successful career with your home life?
CC: I have an incredible partner, My wife Angelica, she keeps me honest and strokes my ego when I need it as well. I just try and wake up and do it... try not to think to much about it ... just get it done... and what I don't get done today if the Creator grants me with tomorrow I’ll tackle it then. Business wise, my executive assistant Gina really helps me more than I ever thought I needed it ... it’s good to have honest people around you who will tell you when you’re acting out ... and when you’re acting right... so I have help ... and lots of it…
Angels included ... I'm blessed...I really am.
Do your kids aspire to become a success like Daddy?
CC: I don't know how much of a success I am ... but I hope they want to be ten times more than what I am ... especially my sons ... black men from my opinion get a bad rap... I don't want them to fall victim to being victims... all of my children are good people... I’m very proud of them all... they are already more of a success than I am in many ways.
Specifically speaking about Curtiss Cook. What inspires you on a daily basis? And what is your Vision, for your life, in the next 5 years?
CC: Inspiration comes to me in all different ways... at any given time ... I do have one and it's personal ... I’ll share it with you on a one on one situation. What I will say is... I’m getting closer to my goal. Each day I have to remember what has brought me here and where I am now to keep going forward... I believe there is a destination for it all and I know I’m going to get there.
This a Future favorite...name one guilty pleasure....
CC: A snifter of Oban and a Natural Padron cigar...
CC: Thanks Catt! Take care of yourself! See you at the movies....
CJ: Curtis, I'm dying to know who this company member, who is now a household name, is? Ummm...Tyler Perry? Lee Daniels? HA! And I look forward to speaking one on one about your more personal inspiration...a brotha sure would love to be enlightened.
A.A+W and Future Fans make sure to check out Curtiss's film
Shutter Island opening in theaters February 19
and tune in immediately to the new HBO series
How To Make It In America.