Forest Whitaker On Bumpy Johnson Portrayal In Godfather Of Harlem Malcolm X Relationship More

morning everybody is DJ envy Angela Yee Charlemagne to God we are The Breakfast Club we got a special guest in the building yes sir Forest Whitaker good to be here welcome now are we actually talking to Forrester this his brother Ken you know that's not really big people talking about that on the net but really it's two pictures of me that is okay all right so y'all really don't look that much alike not really no we look we look like brothers but we don't guide you well moving right on yeah that tell us about this flick well we followed bumpy Johnson who comes out of prison goes back into Harlem to be able to try to reclaim his territories he's been in way for about 11 years mmm-hmm we get a chance to see him and his family you know is with ill finish Darryl plays my wife and you know just him like rebuilding his life rebuilding the structure fighting against the Italian mob which is done by Vincent D'Onofrio and Chaz Palmer Terry and Paul Sorvino those are the guys were against and but I think what's interesting about it is it deals with like crime and the civil rights movement because it talks about the relationship between bumpy and Malcolm X which is I think it's a little-known relationship I had no idea that's awesome as I know I know it's based on real characters but it's actually based on a real story because I never heard of Malcolm and bumpy teaming up to fight white supremacy yeah they do I mean you know bumpy was always trying to like other than the things he did the notorious things that in crime he did he was also trying to help the community and stuff I think that uh Malcolm you know obviously when he was Malcolm little when he was Detroit Detroit Ray crime you know so I think they cross paths there and then we get to see later how how they worked together in different areas to be able to move the community forward and stuff like that Malcolm was always pushing bump either like you know get a conscience to see what he's doing see I saw him in the community and see what he could do to help the community instead and get a chance to to watch those maneuvers is a when you play the character of bumpy Johnson do you look at him as a good guy or as a bad guy because you see him doing things giving money to people who need it and helping people out but then you see him doing some really you know negative things and like you said harming the community in your head what do you look at bumpy Johnson as well I mean when I play a character I don't really judge him like his negative I mean it's a negative character I just try to figure out the reasons why they do what they do you know I mean I think it's it's it's a weird thing because some of the things that he did was so detrimental to the community and stuff and so harmful but you can't overlook like those those things that he did is as a mobsters as a godfather Harlem but um you know you also get a chance to look at some of I guess it's kind of educational for Johnson as he starts to learn what he could do to really be a good cop father for the community and stuff and how he can help the community and you see a balance or a strange movement of that I don't think it makes him a good guy I don't think he's a I think he's taking avenues he's taking roads that are open to him to be able to succeed in life it's like how he pursued the American Dream you know yes and that's what he's trying to do he's a product of an environment yeah exactly cuz I mean just like Malcolm X was a product of his environment he was the prison you got introduced to something else mm-hmm and he became what different product yeah yeah we could we we get to see that I mean they he wanted to be a lawyer initially and I think we got to see him like it's sort of businessman behavior and stuff from balling him as he's trying to run this run his empire and stuff like that and he's still trying to run it in the way that he like thought it was gonna be mm-hmm before and and that's what we think about him and laugh and we talk about that being by any means necessary the American Dream by any means just what do you gotta do when you don't have opportunities and you're trying to make opportunities so you can like reach that dream and that's what he was trying to do I had to be such a struggle from Malcolm to dough because Malcolm you're fighting against white supremacy but then you look at your own brother that's also calling damage to your community - yeah I mean there was a lot of things I mean there's a story about I think a couple of weeks before Malcolm died cuz bumpy Johnson like put it his team around him to protect him as a security force Wow in a Malcolm mom asked for it to be removed in him because he needed to not be associated in a couple of weeks later he was a how did you do your homework and prepare for this movie here you know I started reading stuff first just to try to understand what the time was understanding history then I started interviewing guys to like it was a couple of guys in Harlem they would hold the guys that was working with bumping when they were in the mob mm-hmm you know guy named Chism and junebug and I had black mob gotta have a gentle but he was a great guy you really helped me out you know been the guy that him professor smalls was like he took over the mosque after Malcolm he was like explaining to me a lot of different things and and then just trying to understand the political climate of the day because you know how them Clayton is in there too you know Nigel thatch is amazing I want to say Nigel attaches Malcolm X is like crazy good but uh Giancarlo Esposito plays uh I don't Clayton Powell and he doesn't amazing how do you relate to the story of bumpy Johnson like you personally when you look at that particular struggle how do you relate to it well I can relate to like trying to to excel and trying to succeed and and the things that block you in your way and what you need to do it I think that when we watched we watch the show itself I mean it doesn't feel like dated because he's dealing with a lot of issues that we're having right now and you know with like the opiate crisis you know I mean what's going on with how what's happening in the community skillett is dealing with a lot of like polarization of black white or you know this happening in the country is dealing with like you'll see like as a protest going but the human rights issues and stuff with the police what they're doing with the community into the brothers in the community and profiling all these different things for me I relate to its immediate it's real these are the me to movement also right yeah so how does that deal with the meeting movement cuz I haven't seen I only saw the first episode well I mean I think it's dealing a lot with uh with right you know I mean and I think the women in this show are really powerful and and we get we get a chance to like see them pushing things forward you know when they've been treated badly and treated wrongly how they like who they're there for justice in there to sort of movement you get to see that with Dara you get to see here with Internet Internet legacy who plays also my daughter mm-hmm and so you you it touches on all those things I what intrigued you about this like like what made you seriously I want to do Godfather Paulo just this whole question of like of the cross you know like the civil rights moving in in in the in crime in the political system and be able to explore those issues like with a mirror so that you can like look at him and really take him in you know I started in the beginning so I started with this project from idea so when they came to me and asked me if I wanted to do something about bumpy Johnson I thought it was interesting then I then when we started to talk about Malcolm X and the involvement in different things we were gonna get to explore I said I would like to go ahead and produce this I may not act in it but I'll produce it and then as we worked on the scripts and this gets got better and and uh Chris Chris Brancato and Paul they like start to hurry to craft something that really seemed interesting for me as an actor and his size I stepped into it you know it was actually started I mean things started eighteen years ago with like a guy named Mark Juan Smith that long ago yeah he was trying to get it going he's been pushing it trying to make it happen and then finally I met with him and uh and I said okay let's let's try to make this happen and I feel like when it comes to civil rights leaders Malcolm probably was know would be the only person I would embrace a bumpy Johnson only cuz Malcolm comes from that lifestyle know if a Martin Luther King jr. would have embraced bumpy Johnson I think that Malcolm X like felt that if the criminals who do a run in the community were able to like become legit and like start to like work towards the community yeah they would be the salvation of the community they could say the community they were the leaders they were the people that were like able to organize and and he thought that there was something it was an unused potential that that was there that I think he was trying to push forward with with I think it's interesting that you say there's been something that's in the works for 18 years because sometimes people think that you know this is an idea that just happens and then two years later bang we're on a mix but what people have to realize is that sometimes it does take eighteen years for something like this to happen were you originally going to produce it or were you where you tap to act as bumpy Johnson just just a producer first cuz I said it was I thought was interesting I want to see what we could go with it I know my clown must have been excited when you said I actually want to play bumpy Johnson now yeah yeah yeah I think he wanted that to happen all from the beginning and any work talk is it there this there were great team to work with it was I was lucky you are asking everybody you seem like such a gentle giant I would like how did you get into the role of a gangster and you know I've played a lot of me I've played a few yeah Eddie I mean forget it yeah yeah I just you know you just kind of like try to figure out the hurry with the per what motivates the person how they behave things that's happened in their lives and then slowly something starts to happen and it comes a lot the character starts to come alive what are you tapping into though like you got some old trauma or something that makes you dark I don't you know I use that I use my own stuff from my past and I'll use my imagination mmm you know and then something happens in the universe where they start to force all that information inside of you and then the transformation starts to happen on its own I get that out you know how do you get it out once you do it I'm not sure you get it all out you know you gets parts of it stay which is if you like living a new life again like you reincarnating again rather you remember some things you know like now you've said this phrase a certain way for a long time and then from the you know for your life you start saying the phrase a different way start seeing something differently what about the people around you but I got enough dad alright dad like let's get home you're not bumpy today then I had that when I was working on a last king when I would talk to them from Africa and I would be on the phone it would be but it's better to stay in the road oh when you're when you're actually shooting it's better just to always stay in a zone happy not to your kids yeah it if you playing like certain kind of characters that require it everybody every character doesn't require you to do that kind of work you know you always said party is always sort of in that space but you know not necessarily fully consumed in the case of like the last king of something I was something where even when I was dream you know it's sort of dreaming as the person Wow it was kind of 24/7 that part hardest one to get it get out of you how was a tough one wasn't it hard you know was it hard it like when I did a movie a long time ago called bird about Charlie Parker was harder for me actually it was more it was difficult to get the emotional feelings he was a heroin addict and I like went to like some really dark places to try to understand like how I was feeling and it stay with me for a minute mmm and you know like and the other one they stay with me for a minute too is like when you play characters with have mental health issues schizophrenia bipolar issues those kind of things are really difficult as they are in real life but you start playing around with your neurology in your mind and you sometimes takes a while to get it to like realign itself how do you balance with family and the movies and being gone for so long at times and you have four kids how do you balance that um I just try to be there you know for them as best I can't kill him give them the love I can and they're growing up too you know they're they're adults you know and they're doing their thing and we see each other one of them's here my you work in it's the going to school and stuff other ones are musicians and we have a really tight relationship do things like Oscar is matter to you like when you're playing a role do you and people are like this is gonna earn him an Oscar why do you think about those things no that's mistake you know I think you have to figure out what you want to doing what and why you want to say it how much you wanna give and that's it and try them to do something special and those things happen that's a bonus of some sort but if you if you just strive for it a lot of times you missed it you missed the story on the way so after you did Last King of Scotland you didn't watch it and say man that might be Oscar words what people were saying that you know we were working on the part so but did you personally feel like they I gotta be honest that's that those are not drivers for me I just bots and I Travis for me I've been I mean it's easy to say I guess I mean I've been fortunate like been acknowledged for my work yeah you got one different things but uh but that's that it's not driving for me my thing was like you know every time I play a character I get to explore like the human condition I get to understand another person and understand how they connect to me and that that was what I was doing all along I've been doing that since I started it's the reason why I started doing it and I've been and whenever I step aside from not doing that then something goes wrong but what about when you take a step back and you look at you just stand it that I scared the house me like well I'm a black man who won an Oscar for Best Actor not a lot of those ask us so wait uh yeah I guess you know I started you know I didn't I did when I did bird when I was at cons that gave me the Palm D'Or I was young I was a kid to know those toes Awards her we're more unique in the international marketplace in the world is and stuff and so I had I had a different kind of I don't sit around thinking okay I wanted this and I'm I I gotta be honest I really don't think about it at all Wow any roles that you pass them but like I should have took that role it is it was it was you know what actually not too much no it was a movie where this director was one I can't really name of the movie okay so it wasn't that great day I remember that I remember thinking about the guy but this character he wanted me to play the father and I was like and it was it was a it was a stepfather and I thought it was an interesting idea the character I can't even describe he's boring because I'm not saying anything specific any roles that you are embarrassed you took well I learned even like when I was doing like stuff like martial arts movies I did it did a bloodsport this stuff bloodsport was great I like I like martial arts and and it was a great experience I'll grew a lot being in China and stuff and so my experience is oh I think I'm taking the right steps guys look what are some stories that you feel like haven't been told yet that needs to be told I think you know human stories about just human stories about condition conditions and stuff or you know trying to overcome particularly I think I think it should be some more films to try to make you understand issues with mental health and stuff you know and how it affects us the community and how it affects us you know as a people itself you know I would like to see more with somebody who has an understanding of what that means we ought to put that out well I think people are just getting comfortable telling their stories when it comes to their mental health issues you know saying I think that's why so much of a stigma around because people haven't been telling their stories especially in all community now that people are talking about it more I think you'll start to see that art probably later on yeah and hopefully like some of the filmmakers will have a deeper deep understanding of what it's like to be inside of that I guess saying you know having experienced you who are struggling with that in life and it's really hard and and having tried to understand it you know as an artist it's uh it can be torturous what is levels to it though like you mentioned bipolar schizophrenia but then is anxiety there's depression PTSD I got anxiety you know so from like depression but I know that those are those are the things people look at and don't consider a mental health issues but they are yeah I mean some of those issues can you know be dealt with with different types of systems and you know medication they're different types of things some of them require like some medication issues and stuff at all it all depends what do you do to stay mentally healthy I do meditate I do do some movement you know sometimes I'm not having been doing more / / a couple years normally I do hmm you know you directed two classic films ladies exhale waiting exhale and you craft was the other Oh stretch what do you enjoy more directing acting mm-hmm I love directing yeah I just it just takes like a long time takes like a few years out of your life and I just haven't haven't had to desire to do it in a while mm-hmm probably in a couple of years I'll step up again did you know waiting say I said I was gonna be the classic it was or had the impact that it had from the soundtrack to the people that was starring in the movie and to the impact that even today like Waiting to Exhale they're still happy right now I believed in it from the top you know wanted to like show the sort of power his power you know what I mean show people overcoming to like be fully themselves you know his woman so the beauty of them you know but uh yeah it was all for me it was I knew that something was special was happening when a babyface signed on you know it was unusual because I wanted to start the music from the beginning you know and have them songs written for the show so it was all the songs were pretty much written for the movie I still cry every time I see that movie what do you think was the best scene in Waiting to Exhale um different depends like I think Angela did some amazing work when she was she was excising her exercise she lit everything on fire mmm no I think Loretta when she first meet Gregory Hines and he's watching from behind it's like really yeah caster direct no I loved working with them they were amazing they were amazing women and Lily was shy when she decided to keep the baby and she said we don't need you in our lives yeah that was great her in Oh Michael Michael T and it seems he did with a in the bedroom with her which you may love there's some beautiful scenes were yeah and I think this there's a scene between Wesley and Angela where they're at a bar there's a special scene for me were they just talking like from 9 minutes yes you know if she needed a yeah how did you get Swizz Beatz onboard yalom did you reach out to him I did I did reach out to him and speak to him and see if he would be if he would be willing to commit to something like this he said he usually doesn't do this he said it takes too much time yeah he really stepped up big time I mean there's so many amazing songs he put together this Writing Lab and had everybody together and bring in different artists in so this you know most great portion of the songs were written for the film itself oh you know I did get a chance to go up and watch a lot I was up there quite a bit who did you get to check out me that's wise I did see really you know buddy you know to dinner yeah number of people yeah it was great there was some amazing artists that worked on the soundtrack they really helped make the show I mean I think every week on the show probably two new songs that come out that are used and it was it was important for me like as a producer like that the show got to keep making be authentic and true but that the music itself like there was exterior that was surrounding it would allow you to realize those feelings today you know so it has like it has three levels of music and it's got the got the score you know what I mean it's got the music from the time the the needle jaws from the time that are playing inside the scenes and then yeah this this commentary in a way of how that relates to our lives and that's done by the artist that the Swiss was able to pull together to be able to do an amazing soundtrack you know as a director you taught my week next a but when you look back on scrapped when you look back on that how do you feel about that project that was made I love doing that shutdown in New York it was it was really it was a lot of new most of the actors were new was like 90 something percent of them and never have i Fredro Starr yeah yeah and then there was a lot of like busting a lot of different artists to music artists that were playing different parts in the show you know I had a house amazing growth time for me as an artist mm-hm you know to learn how to shoot that film and try to capture the power of it and understand I mean with Frasier I was trying I was doing the group onyx and so he'd already had a voice that was really you know rebellious voice and so that voice became part of the system in the show itself it worked out really good how did you feel back then as an actor when all the rappers started to get all of the roles I mean I think that get through if the right person it doesn't matter where they're from rap artists I think some of the rap artists isn't that we're coming into this to the show they had a sense of self that allowed them to shine and in this film itself because they have this power you know that projects itself on screen and that's part of part of it it was an easy coaching them at the director yeah I had a great time working with them yeah mmm I mean yo-yo and everybody is so many different people that were working on that and in a Gemini CJ was working on the music for me and stuff so yeah like a hip-hop head I feel two verses in it for you guys group of all time of all time oh because it depends because when I remember the first time I remember you pop was way way back with Grandmaster Flash it's fine you know I guess Tupac did some really great stuff okay you know there's a lot of great artists there's a lot of great hip-hop artists rap artists and it's your territory I mean hip-hop is black culture yeah yeah but I'm just saying I mean never mind I have worked with a lot of a lot of artists and I've been really fortunate they did some amazing work and why epics so tell me how that deal happen for Godfather Harlem we've been looking around for a deal for it and actually everybody was thinking it wasn't gonna happen and I went in with a Chris to meet with the Michael Ryan epics and he like we talked about the music we talked about what we're gonna do and he like signed on right in the room that's what happened I think it's been it's been a great partnership I mean they've been really just completely supportive of what we're doing and how we do it and you couldn't ask for more do you consider your personal values when it comes to accepting a role I always considered you know what I'm doing what I'm saying it's that what I'm playing a part mmm you know even not just the part with what the project is saying itself I think it's important to like stay true to yourself and to what your to your ideals and stuff and realize that did you know you have an impact you know um impacting different people's lives and stuff and gotta have some conscious around that is there anything you've ever turned down because of your personal beliefs values you know yeah I'm just not good at like pulling out of the Hat like yeah I did sing I started I started music now that seems like a surprise see now that's why I wanted to make sure that wasn't fake news like the story about your brother he did football and opera at the same time I see football opera I was still a classical voice and actually I got my first Asian as an actor from an opera light opera I just did a musical you know yeah in London with a with a Dave talbert's called the jingle jangle and I played jarana keys jangle who's a inventor creates magical things and because all his inventions get stolen and his granddaughter comes back into his life Wow I can believe again now you're so soft-spoken I can't see yeah but right when I when I when I was when I had to do this show them the musical I was nervous that wouldn't be other still saying but it worked out it yeah a little bit low one note right we want you to do a song for the soundtrack Godfather more features now maybe they young we get Forest Whitaker and a hook yeah I think when no one comes in with a I honestly I feel like jingo times gonna be one of the best movies I've done okay also it's a musical and they're making it into a movie also it's a movie musical moving in shot as a movie okay so it's uh we'll see what happens now black panther you saw how much that movie meant to the coaches easy to get emotionally attached to it with that said were you upset that they killed you often yeah I mean III think that you know he's the spiritual for the leader of the community so it's kind of always like there's major loss not just with me as an actor but uh you know you want you want to keep that figure alive for the community itself but um and I don't know I don't know where I am and talk to Ryan about what he's planning on doing exactly maybe I mean you're not getting resurrected yeah I don't know yeah I don't know they do have a resurrection out I mean I'm a comic book guy so they have a resurrection altar in Wakanda so possible I mean no you saw already like that he was a visiting his father and stuff you know I mean being a spirit and stuff like that it's like I don't know you know no but uh I loved this an amazing obviously amazing movie an amazing project this is happy that I was involved with it I got a chance to be involved with like a lot of those kind of moments like the waiting to excels or the you know checked scrap scrap to the classic Brown what nobody say mmm-hmm I see wolvesmouth playing Nikki born what is it about these old crime bosses from Harlan I know he's doing it yeah oh but Netflix is afoot a Netflix show but what is this show yeah I forgot the name of it maybe it is a movie but I just know he's playing playing Nikki bond but it's like what about these old crime bosses is so intriguing especially one from Harlem I mean they get to real power and like you get to see you know these kind of kind of figures you know they have control of their own destiny in their own communities and stuff and when things they have their own moral codes and if you break that code they act immediately and I think people want to some part of themselves feel like they could do that back they can control their lives and live by what they and live by what they believe and die by what they believe these characters are figures that do that yeah it's hard to know you know to get tested you know people walk up to that thing where you say you would you would die by this moment but it's belief but would you really hmm and we get to watch them do that a lot what was your childhood like how did you even get into the acting world um I was born in Texas I was raised in South Central tell us about 11 and then in the yard in California then we moved out to Carson on the Carson copter line and I was studying you know just just like normal living during the whole period of time where there's a birthday the gangs in birth to the Crips and bloods and and that was that was kind of shaping myself because that sent me across town I had some problems with some of the gangs there so I had to be sent to another part of town and that changed my life cuz I went over to the west side of town and then I started to like get into music and stuff and the music led me into acting and then the gangs like why did the gangs have a problem with you because you didn't want to join or um they they like did something sort of violent and I like was protesting and like fighting back and so then it was a question of like meeting them after you know the meet me after school in that case was like more like bug gank guns and stuff like that mmm so in order to be safe my mom was a teacher so she decided to move me out I was going to school in Compton and she sent me across to another part of town did you ever feel pressured to join us that no never mmm no I knew lots of guys who wasn't gonna be me I mean no even even that event that happened was a part of that you know like they were mistreating people around me and then try to mistreat me and who wouldn't stand it for it and I turned into a question of my life not yeah I took a lot of balls in the middle of Compton he's a Compton right mmm whoa this ain't up to the gangs yeah I guess yeah mom was a teacher so she you know yeah did you get you a lot of for your name Forrest when Forrest Gump came out people people that said that deaf joke a lot to me but I'm like the third one my mom my father and my grandfather named Forrest mm-hmm it's it's a family name did you feel the way when you saw the movie title like wait pours gum yeah not really yeah and but I definitely people definitely made mean on the whole joke about run Forrest run and I like what do you watch on television when you're at home like do you watch anything trashy or you don't much like 90 day fiancé anything trashy reality would be like I just love it I can't believe far as Whitaker watches this what do you I watch a lot of like sci-fi shows things like that you know things that'll make me I don't have to think I'll be surprised D what do you thing about all these reboots that are happening they're rebooting a lot of things they rebooted The Twilight Zone I know you like I didn't want to do it mm-hmm you got that kind of voice I think it's always you're gonna redo something it's better to redo something that wasn't good do something that was great yeah but then if it were okay why would people want to go see it again you can make it you can make it in this you can make sometimes you know if you look at the structure you can make something great out of something that wasn't that good but you know you got an amazing film and then you like try to redo it mm-hmm that for me like it's a mistake so you said you watch things that make you not want to think so you look for you to try to steal your mind basically yeah I'm really yeah I guess so so you pay attention to social media and cuz you saw the mean with your brother yeah I knew what that yeah yeah no I don't have like I don't have a I can't say I do completely because I don't have Instagram hmm as a butcher counselor say it's me but it's not me and then uh but I have Twitter and I you know Oh school do that do you see the memes about yourself because they always come for your eye and your eye creates a lot of content on social media have you seen any nettles I've seen I see some of them yeah I mean that's gonna happen you know yeah I remember you said once that you were contemplating having cosmetic surgery on yeah because it's because it there's a not cosmetic surgery because it limits my vision like when I look up you know what I mean and there was a way to fix it then I would have had a better vision I'll be able to see more fully so there's no way to fix it I you know those gotta told me that there was but then I just eyes are risky too you don't do something and then it doesn't go the way you intimated and then now it's worse yeah that's what I was worried about mm-hmm now is it the condition because after eleven o'clock my eye does the same thing and I always say it whenever when it happens I'd be like I'm looking a little far as winter curry right now so there's like a condition uh this is called ptosis it's like a yeah I mean I guess I guess it's fine you know if that's what you you know you think you think about it I mean if I come into your mind because you said that you were done that you would like to do a reboot of yeah not really yeah okay well Forest Whitaker development initiative wish it were to Caprice and development initiative so our organization that trains using complication and development hmm and basically in peace building and in community building or social entrepreneurship we're like five countries we're in the South Sudan Uganda mmm South Africa we are in Mexico and we're in like now we have a program in the Los Angeles City School District schools are you gonna raise a million dollars in five years that people people know we're gonna we're gonna be you know the dis girl to work with them we work with about 400,000 people like so far since we started the organization and stuff and we've started about 50 businesses will start about 150 businesses by the end of next year so how can people get involved if they want to follow you and help and follow your mission they can look up a belly PDI org you know see what we're doing this stuff and step in and try to do it like that all right well Godfather of Harlem this Sunday there's one thing you're supposed to appreciate you for joining us thanks all right as far as Whitaker's the breakfast local morning [Music]