Celebrity interview: LA-based Lennie talks his way into a tough new role

Lennie James.
Lennie James.
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Nottingham-born actor and writer Lennie James, 47, has starred in some of the most acclaimed film and TV projects of the past 25 years, including Civvies, The Walking Dead, and The Next Three Days. Now based in LA, he talks about new DVD Run.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER

Richard is a heroin addict who’s homeless and desperately trying to recover. Once upon a time he co-owned a mechanic’s garage with his dad, but he’s lost his wife; contact with his daughter; his livelihood; his home, and a few of his teeth. He’s basically lost himself to his drug addiction.

He hits rock bottom in a fleeting interaction with his now 13/14-year-old daughter, and he’s trying to fight his way back. The first step is he wants to give his daughter a birthday present, and the story of the episode is just how hard it is to do that when you’re living the life he’s now living.

YOUR AMERICAN ACCENT IN SHOWS SUCH AS THE WALKING DEAD IS IMPRESSIVE. IS THAT A NATURAL GIFT OR THE RESULT OF HARD WORK?

It’s something I’ve had to work at. I have friends out here (in America), for whom it comes a lot easier. Jason Isaacs is a very dear friend of mine, and he’s been in and out of America both on films and on television for a number of years, and he has a capacity for taking on other accents, not just specific American accents, but British accents, and he’s just got a rare skill at being able to do it.

I work as hard as I possibly can to make it seem it’s as easy for me as it is for him, but it’s really not. I just have to put the work in. The accent I use for Morgan in The Walking Dead is not the accent I’m using playing the Detroit cop that I’m playing out here now. I don’t think about it as my character is ‘Lennie with a different accent’.

I ENJOYED LUC BESSON’S SCI-FI THRILLER LOCKOUT. ARE THERE ANY MORE COLLABORATIONS IN THE PIPELINE?

No, not at the moment, though I really enjoyed that; he’s a very smart man who has carved out a very interesting and productive niche for himself. I have done two films that he has written and produced (Lockout and Colombiana). I’ve never met him personally, but as long as he thinks of me and gives me jobs... I’ve certainly enjoyed the two I’ve done so far.

FINALLY, TELL US ABOUT THE AMERICAN VERSION OF CHANNEL 4 DRAMA, LOW WINTER SUN

It’s a new series, hopefully, that AMC are doing; we’re doing the first 10 episodes at the moment. It’s a reworking of a two-parter that Mark Strong and Brian McCardie and a few other guys did back in Britain, set in Edinburgh.

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