Actor Bokeem Woodbine talks about his latest project and his greatest fear

[A supernatural thriller directed by John Erick Dowdle, Woodbine plays a security guard, who becomes trapped in an elevator with four other people]

It’s a running joke in Hollywood, that the black actor is usually the first to die in any horror movie, but try asking Bokeem Woodbine, if he’s the first to be killed in his latest movie, and he understandably has a bout of amnesia.

“I have to tell you,” he supplies with an impish grin, “I shot the movie last year, and I have had so much on my mind, that I can’t remember how it turns out.”

In “Devil”, a supernatural thriller directed by John Erick Dowdle (“Quarantine”), Woodbine plays a security guard, who becomes trapped in an elevator with four other people – and as it turns out, one of them is the devil.

“After living in Los Angeles for almost 20 years, and seeing how people are so socially different, I like the fact that you have five people from different walks of life, different genders and different age groups, all being confined in an elevator,” explains Woodbine of his attraction to the project. “Five people, who would normally never interact or necessarily even say good morning to each other, are forced into this situation, and that drew me to it.”
Despite a successful 18-year acting career staring in hits such as “Ray”, “Jason’s Lyric”, “Dead Presidents” and “The Big Hit”, Woodbine, who sings vocals and plays the guitar for his rock ‘n’ roll  band, 13 Purple Dragons, never had any aspirations to become an actor.

“I am into music and I am a musician by nature,” continues Woodbine, who enjoys listening to artists such as Burning Spear and Black Uhuru. “I love reggae and soul, although rock ‘n’ roll means more to me than any other type of music,” he adds, “I got the audition for my first movie “Strapped” because of a wonderful woman named Jaki Brown-Karman, but I had no aspirations to be an actor,” says the 37-year old New York native, who credits Forest Whitaker as a mentor. “There are moments that bring me such contentment, and joy that I think I can only get from acting, but it’s a very lonely and physically exhausting way to make a living.”

With an impressive list of credits in a variety of films from the Spike Lee directed “Crooklyn”, to the award-winning television show “The Sopranos”, this exhausting journey rang true for Woodbine whilst shooting several scenes in “Devil”.

“Everyday we were picking up where the previous scene ended. That was a great thing as that would help you stay in the moment, but it was physically exhausting and your life and the movie starts to overlap. I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep on this film so I started to feel like it was one long day,” he explains. “We were doing the same scene as the day before, so I never got any separation in my mind in-between work and leisure. I think it helped everyone’s performance, but at the same time, it was exhausting. That’s what they pay us for to be in that moment and in that frame of mind.”
Produced by M. Night Shyamalan, whose career has been on a bit of a downward spiral for the past few years, it’s a movie Woodbine hopes will; “Scare the pants off you. We want you hiding under your sheets”, he continues, “we want you terrified — that is our objective”.

The first installment of “The Night Chronicles”, a series of scary stories conceived by Shyamalan, who hasn’t had much box office thrills since “The Sixth Sense”, the concept for the film was to explore what would happen if the devil manipulated and trapped a group of people into the same location, and then individually punished them for their misdeeds.

“There are some mysterious aspects to it as well,” Woodbine adds. “The elevator represents something other than an elevator to me in my mind,” continues the actor, who will admit to only having one fear. “Deep water with great white sharks. If there is a name for that phobia, I have it. The thought of being in deep water with a bunch of great white sharks terrifies me, but other than that, I am from Harlem, I don’t really have too many other phobias”.
With an instrumental music major, earned at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York, Woodbine is looking forward to an opportunity to hopefully merge his music and movie careers. “I am never going to put my guitar down and I am always going to make strides in that direction musically. I have just found myself in a position where I could do just that. I am courted to play a role that will start shooting early next year and one of the things that I am throwing in the pot to sweeten it is a couple of songs on the soundtrack, and that is what I need to get my feet wet. I am just waiting to see where that is going to go, and hopefully that will be the perfect marriage in my mind of the two things that I love the most – music and film.”

With several other movies slated to be released later this year, “Woodbine, who plays a guard called Ben in “Devil” will also star in “Exodus of Charlie Wright,” with Aidan Quinn and Andy Garcia, and in “Little Murder,” with Josh Lucas and Terrence Howard.

Little Murder is a very hip project and I play a cop in that. In the Exodus of Charlie Ray staring Mario Van Peebles, I play one of a team of mercenaries sent into Mexico by the Russian mob to capture, and kill somebody named Charlie Ray, who has absconded with millions of their dollars.
An action movie, which is a genre the actor prefers, Woodbine hopes to star in more action movies in the future. “I would love to do more action for I really have a great time with it and think I could have some legs in this industry as an action guy. I am always looking for the opportunity to do that. It’s my favorite style of movie to watch.”

For now, fans will have to watch the genial actor in the horror “Devil” which he assures will deliver in the scary division.  And if he’s worried Shyamalan’s involvement might deter fans, he’s certainly not showing it.

“People get good reviews and people get bad reviews,” continues Woodbine, “he [Shyamalan] is a dynamite storyteller, and a gifted director. Regardless of what people might say today, you never know what they are going to say tomorrow. You can’t go with the crowd; you have to stand your ground. I think he is a gifted director and for me working on this project and him being involved was a definite plus.”

“Devil” is currently playing in theatres

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