Exclusive interview with Carl Lumbly, Jamaican - American Actor

By Jean-Paul Eliard

The September  18  2019


Jean-Paul:  Hi Carl, I'm very glad to do this interview.

What did you like about the storyline and your role in Doctor Sleep?

Carl:  Bonjour Jean-Paul, I am happy to do this interview with you. 
Before I begin, I would beg your indulgence on one detail of introduction. 
I am a Jamaican-American actor. 
As the son of Jamaican immigrant parents, my identity and development has everything to do with their heroic navigation
of the immigrant experience in America. 
I credit them for any success I have, or ever will, achieve.  Okay!


Now, regards the storyline of Dr. Sleep, I am an avid reader. 
I love Stephen King’s work, having read several of his novels,
but I had not read Dr. Sleep until I was cast in the film. 
What I most appreciate about the storyline of the film is the degree to which it remains true to the storyline of the novel. 


The popularity of Stanley Kubrick’s reimagining of The Shining cannot be assailed, but the film did not hue as faithfully to the novel as
Mike Flanagan has in Dr. Sleep. 
If you recall, at the end of The Shining, a little boy with a special gift, and his loving and courageous mother have survived massive physical and psychological trauma and destruction. 
The explosion that takes Jack and the foul spirits of The Overlook Hotel into that hellish inferno marks the end of one long nightmare. 
But for Wendy and Danny Torrance, their lives have been marked by a tragedy with long arms, always reaching. 
Sometimes survival is just the beginning of another nightmare.  And, special gifts can be a burden or a bounty. 


Dr Sleep, the novel, delves more deeply into the phenomenon of ‘the shining’, and the way in which childhood trauma begins a battle that can be won or lost in adulthood.  We always have an opportunity to be heroes in our own, or someone else’s life. 
But it requires facing, not turning a blind eye, to the evil in the world or our personal demons.  


Stephen King recently gave Doctor Sleep a major endorsement when he tweeted "This movie is going to blow your mind."  Dick Hallorann had ‘the shining,’ recognized Danny’s capability and put himself at risk to help save Wendy and Danny. 
I loved the idea of ‘spiritual connectedness’ operating between people with, otherwise, very little in common.  Playing Dick in Doctor Sleep was a real joy.  I may have a bit of ‘the shining’ myself! 


Jean-Paul:  How was the filming with Ewan McGregor and the director Mike Flanagan?

Carl:  Working with Ewan was as pleasurable as I imagined it would be from watching his work.  Genuine connection makes the work feel much easier.  And, I can’t say enough about Mike Flanagan as a director and an artist.  From our first conversation before shooting, it was evident that he had a very clear and exciting set of ideas for bringing the novel to the screen, honoring Stephen King’s vision.  Mike is very calm, inventive and prodigiously gifted as a filmmaker.  I can’t wait to experience the table he has laid.


Jean-Paul: Did you know your co-stars before?

Carl:  I didn’t know any of my cast-mates before filming, though I was familiar with some of their work.


Jean-Paul: You currently appear in “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” in which you voice the iconic jazz musician. Could you tell us about your role and storyline?

Carl:  Miles Davis, iconoclast extraordinaire, has been a musical and cultural hero of mine for most of my life. 
His insistence on aggressively challenging, if not attacking, cherished beliefs, time-worn traditions and institutions in music, art, culture and politics raises him beyond the level of trumpet virtuoso and one of the most consequential and influential composers of the 20th century, to the rare air of international artist and cultural icon. 
Voicing him, in his own words, in this beautifully composed documentary by Stanley Nelson, was like getting the best Christmas present imaginable.  Even knowing his story as well as I do, this film presents a portrait of Miles that captures the size, humanity and complexity of this mythic cultural outlaw. Probably as close as I’ll get to the birth of my ‘cool’! 
I would like to add that France was a special place for Miles Davis. 
On his first visit to Paris, he fell in love with the people. 
He was embraced by French intellectuals, a knowledgeable jazz audience and Juliette Greco, with whom he began a love affair that profoundly effected him.  Notably, Miles composed and performed the soundtrack to Louis Malle’s early film, “Ascenseur pour l’echafaud,” actually playing to the screen in real time recording. 
Revolutionary.  Miles spoke often of his love for traveling to, and performing in France.  I understand and share that love!


Jean-Paul: When and why did you choose to be an actor? You perform in NCIS: Los Angeles, Criminal Minds, Chuck...I saw these television series in France.  Could you tell us what it is like filming these series? What advice would you give to young actors/actresses?

Carl:  Jean-Paul, I have had a long and varied career and, quite frankly, the experience of working on the shows you mentioned is pretty similar to me. The work is the work, no matter the medium.  My foundation in this business is acting for the stage. 
I have been fortunate to have opportunities to work in all areas of this industry, but to me, it all goes back to the creation of character.  Not personality.  Character.  Being alive in the moment. 
I enjoy doing guest work on television shows because of the variety.  I am always interested in stretching the fabric of any tight sweater I encounter. 
That is how I tend to think. 
I am not like most of the characters I play.  That is the joy of this craft of acting.  I guess that is what I would encourage in young actors and actresses. 
The sense that you sharpen your skills by seeking that which is unfamiliar over that which suits you to a tea.  “I don’t know” can be a great starting point for breakthroughs.  Musicians who played with Miles Davis credited Miles as saying, “Don’t give me what you know.  I’m interested in what you don’t know!” 
I subscribe to this thinking.  It’s not reaching if it’s within your arm’s length...


Jean-Paul: What is your next challenge?

Carl:  My next challenge is to listen to my own advice and keep reaching. 


Jean-Paul: Thank you very much for your interview Carl, and I wish you the best.


Carl:  Thanks for wanting to talk to me, Jean-Paul.  All the best, Carl


Thank you very much for your interview Carl and I wish you the best.

More information about Carl on Facebook,  on Twitter and on IMDb

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