way. I, personally, feel like I can play anything. I just think it’s the perception, the way people feel about me, and the way they want me as part of a show. Like I said, in the first part of my career, I was predominantly [cast] on wrong side of law. I guess now I’m on the right side.
EBONY: From the NYPD to LAPD and every department in between, the Black American community has a very complex history with police and officers of the law. As a Black actor and a Black male does this history effect and impact how you approach these roles? If so how?
SH: I think being a Black male impacts all of the roles I take and all the roles I’m a part of. The history that Black Americans have had with the police force, of course it has a bearing and a place. But I must add that if a character isn’t specifically required to embark upon that, then there’s no place for it. Right now, there’s no reason for my character in “Awake” to have to deal with that. He’s dealing with something totally different.
Clearly [race] has a place, though. We have taken high standing roles in the police force. There’s the feeling that you don’t really want them around unless there’s trouble or you need to be saved, and that’s a difficult position to be in.
EBONY: How do you prepare for each of your authority figure roles? Do you speak to real cops? Watch old cop shows?
SH: No, I do none of that. I take what I have to do in the moment, and then I do it. I don’t study in that fashion for characters. However, when I played the role of Sonny Liston, I did a lot of research because he’s a real person, a real being with multiple motives and that sort of the thing. I do speak to police officers about technicalities and we have one on set. They show us how you draw your gun, holding, shooting that sort of thing. But as far as being the character, no there isn’t too much consultation.The requirement is knowing the work I have to do and performing it.
EBONY: Who are some of your favorite black cop characters?
SH: I don’t actually have a favorite black cop character. There are black actors who I respect that have really performed well, but I can’t recall too many who have done just that [role.] Actually, Sidney Poitier playing Mr. Tibbs would be one. That role has a priceless history and significance, specifically because of the times. Clearly his performance of the character was also great. Morgan Freeman in “Seven,” also. There really aren’t too many African-American characters that have been police officers that I’ve really taken to in terms of my own acting.
EBONY: How would you advise viewers to keep up with the many twists and turns on “Awake?” What’s the best way to keep track of everything?
SH: [Laughs] Watch every week! I would really love that. I think if you watch it, it becomes easier. I’ve been in it for so long, so it’s not very difficult for me. They’ve created different worlds and given them different colors and different partners, it’s not very linear. You bounce back and forth, but it’s a format you get used to as you watch and you get comfortable. You start to figure out which reality is which because as you’re watching you notice, for instance, that Freeman is his partner in this one or because Wilmer is his partner in that one. People won’t necessarily be talking about that as much as the intricacies of what’s going on in show. Hopefully they’ll be talking about how good the show is. You know, we want people to go, “Wow! I didn’t see that coming.” So while we have the two different storylines happening, the show still stays true to that aspect.
EBONY: Can you reveal anything, like a sneak peek, about Det. Freeman in upcoming episodes of “Awake?”
SH: The next episode is actually airing this week. This Thursday, it’s a world with two ‘Kate’s. It’s very interesting because for me, in the world that I’m in, the Kate that I’m with is a drug addict and my partner has had issues with her in the past. The Kate in both worlds is the same person so you can see her as she is very clearly in the two different worlds. Michael's relationship with her and the fact that she was someone once close to his family brings both worlds together, in a sense. My character believes that whoever she was back in the day has nothing to do with her being the addict that she is now. A lot of times, we get emotionally attached to a person and remember