Hard work truly does pay off! FORGIVENESS the movie wrapped up its film festival tour this past Saturday, January 30, at the San Diego Black Film Festival. What a treat for the cast, crew, and director Hakim “HAK” Khalfani, taking home five awards for the film.
The awards won were Best Actor (Richard T. Jones), Best Supporting Actress (Robinne Lee), Best Supporting Actor (Adam Lazarre-White), Best Director (HAK), and Best Film of the festival.
For those that are unfamiliar with the film, FORGIVENESS is about a beloved Pastor (Richard T. Jones) who works to serve his “flock” and save his 100 year old church. In his dedication and desire to do so, he went beyond boundaries that are not be crossed, pays dire consequences, and returns changed, wiser, and hoping for forgiveness. The film stars Richard T. Jones, Adam Lazarre-White, Maya Gilbert, Robinne Lee, Inny Clemons, Charles Malik Whitfield and Kelly Pendygrapht.
Now that the film is done with the film festival circuit, it is awaiting distribution. Details on that can be found by following the film on Facebook or Twitter. The cast members are definitely excited on what’s to come with the film. Read below on a few questions that I asked them about their experience working on the film and with HAK.
Lately you have been busy working on several projects, how do you find the time to balance each project?
A lot of sleepless nights. But seriously I love what I do. I’m at peace when I work so I find myself always working. I wouldn’t won’t to be doing nothing else.
What’s your history with HAK? He said you’re one of his favorite actors.
He cast me in a film called 4Life and we’ve been great friends since. I’m totally flattered and honored to be one of his favorite actors. I’ll continue to work hard and make him proud.
How was it working with the cast, crew, and Hakim in the film FORGIVENESS?
We had a great time. I was only there for a short period of time but I’m happy for everyone involved and that the film has been received so well.
FORGIVENESS is in its last leg of film festivals with the San Diego Black Film Fest being this weekend. Are you attending and if so what are looking forward to?
I always look forward to seeing how different audiences view the film and also catching up with cast is always a good thing.
How did you like your performance in the film?
I leave everything on the floor with ever performance I’m blessed with. So I’ll leave that to the audience to determine. I’m appreciative to be able to do what I love and people love it as well. So it’s all a win.
How was it working alongside Hakim in FORGIVENESS?
It was great working alongside Hakim on this film, we’ve been friends for quite some time and it was really cool to be able to collaborate with him. You don’t always get to work with people you like and respect, so this was a cool experience.
How did the casting for this film come about?
The casting for Forgiveness came about when Hakim called me to produce this film, I immediately thought of a good friend of mine named Richard T. Jones. I thought he might respond to the material, as he was active in the church and I believe at the time was studying to be an ordained minister.
Are you and HAK working on any new upcoming projects?
HAK and I are currently working on a scripted project with Vice. We’re still in the early stages of development so we can talk much about it, but it’s going to pretty groundbreaking and right in stride with the gritty style that Vice is know for.
What are looking forward to during the wrap up season of FORGIVENESS in the film festival circuit?
As we wrap up the festival circuit on Forgiveness, I’m looking forward to getting distribution for the film. That’s it. We put a ton of work into this film and we’re looking forward to sharing it with the world.
When can we purchase the film?
The purchase date is yet to be determined. Stay tuned to our social media pages for more info.
What inspired you to get involved with the film?
I was studying with Adam Lazarre White. He has been my acting coach for years. He had found out about [the film] and had the script. He had said that there was apart in there that I would be perfect for. I then had a meeting with Inny Clemons, who is one of the producers and also one of the stars. From there we just hit it off. He was really passionate about it and excited about getting it done. He had heard about me and my work through Don Cheadleand he came to me and we just clicked and it was an interesting role and at that point I hadn’t done anything like it before, so I thought “Why not, let’s give it a shot!” and when I found out that Richard had signed on for the lead, I was really excited to work with him because I have admired his work for some years now, so it was good and it all came together.
You said this role was a new experience for you, so how did you connect with you character?
She is a wife, a new mom..at that point I was also a new mom as well. I kind of connected with the idea of having your life shifting from just about you to having these other people in your life that you have to kind of control everything and the pressure of that and transition that you go through in redefining yourself as a woman and how that affects your relationship with your husband and from it being just the two of you to it being a family, and seeing where your priorities are. In that way I was able to connect with my character.
How was it working with Hakim?
Hakim was interesting, It was the first time I have met him on the set, I never worked with him before. He was very mellow, he’s a real mellow guy. He’s very calm and collected. He’s not one of those excitable directors. He has an idea of what he wants and then he lets his actors kind of play and that is always good when a director kind of trusts that you can do the work and that you are up for the role that he hired you for, and it’s kind of nice when a director can step back and let you explore and try things in different ways. And he was very much like that. He was a team player in that way in figuring out what worked for the two of us.
What’s next for you?
I just finished shooting a film called “Nine Rides” with Matthew Cherry. It’s an indie that we shot on the iPhone 6s. It follows an Uber driver on New Years Eve. It was kind of fun because it was mainly improv and it was very different. It pretty much all took place in the car. That’s next. After that I have a film called “The Bounce Back” which was shot last year with Bill Bellamy and Shemar Moore. That is coming out later on this year. It’s an indie, romantic comedy.
Your character was pretty intense in FORGIVENESS. How did you prepare for your role?
Yes, the character of Detective Herb Lewis was intense as you say. Some of my prep was already done in that having played several detectives over my career, I’ve done what I believe is perhaps the most important part which is talk to detectives and do ‘ride alongs’ with real cops to get a feel for the reality of ‘the life’. I also spent a lot of time studying both cops and other guys ‘on the street’ in Mississippi. Lucky for me, in this day and age I could do a lot of that through Youtube, and online studying live arrests and incidents caught on video. I picked certain guys and worked on creating my character with them in mind, including how I wanted to dress my character to how he talked and what I felt about them when watching them. As for the deep family losses of his children and wife, for me as an actor those are very personal things that sometimes aren’t exact parallels, but feed me in my work when on camera. Of course the main job of every actor is to tell the story. So much of my work was working the role by figuring out what I was playing, what was important to Detective Lewis in each and every scene to get what he wants out of every imaginary situation that the writer [envisioned].
What did you enjoy most about working on this project?
I enjoyed the colorfulness of Det Lewis and stepping into his shoes, and most of all I enjoyed working with my long time friends Inny Clemons, Richard T Jones, Charles Malik Whitfield and Robinne Lee, as well as making a new long time artistic colleague and friend in Hak Khalfani. Hak and I really worked well together. Richard T Jones starred in the short film that I directed, called “200 Years” seen on FEELN.com with Patrick St. Esprit, which went the 3rd round of Oscar Voting a few years ago. Inny, Richard and I go way back. We were actually introduced by Charles Malik Whitfield who played my partner in the film. Malik and I were in The Temptations together.
How was it working with HAK and the rest of the cast and crew?
As I said working with HAK was fantastic. We will work together again in our lives, I’m sure. The crew became a family and worked through a typically challenging lower budget indie shoot together to come up with a great product in the end. Keith Smith, our DP deserves a lot of credit for doing more than just directing the photography. He was an incredibly creative artist on set in many ways and used his long time working working career to help improve many elements of the shoot for everybody. He is a pro’s pro.
What’s next for you?
I had a nice year last year, appearing in the hit film “The Gift” with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall. It is Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut playing a bad guy in the first season of the new FOX show, Rosewood, and I’ll be on Criminal Minds next week, Episode #14 as a good guy this time – a doctor.
I have a wonderful new literary manager for my own writing an directing an hope that I’ll have something to report about that side of my career as well pretty soon. I run my own acting school, ALW Acting Studios (find on Facebook, andActingTruth.com on Facebook too – @ALWActingTruth on twitter and Instagram) and am starting two new classes there this spring, so that is another passion of mine too.
What was the overall purpose of doing the film festival circuit?
The purpose of the film festivals was to get out and meet the audience. I needed to attach my face with my work by meeting people like you and doing interviews like this. I am branding myself; HAK #ALLCAPS
Nice! Branding is VERY important. So, how was the experience shooting FORGIVENESS?
It was magical. I was dealing with a lot at the time that I wrote the script and I wanted to share it. Then seeing how people respond to the material is magical.
I see. So sometimes while working on any project, people often learn something new about themselves. What did you learn about yourself during this production?
That I can do anything.
Right, and you definitely proved that by this film winning 10 awards! That is amazing for an indie film to do. What is the most exciting thing about winning 10 awards?
The greatest thing about winning 10 awards was hearing my love tell me how proud she is, how much she loves me, then bringing them home to my mother to take pictures.
Awwww, that’s sweet! Inny mentioned that the two of you are working on something with Vice. Are there any other projects that you are currently working on for this year?
I am working on a three picture deal with a distributor that I can’t mention until the ink is dry. Secondly, I’m positioning myself for television directing and of course whatever comes after this movie is released, I will be very excited to accept.
Aside from directing, will we catch you in front of the camera sometime?
Not unless I’m directing or someone gives me a role. I don’t audition.
What’s next for you?
Finding a literary agent or manager that loves my work and will keep me working.