Larenz Tate hit a milestone over the Memorial Day weekend: May 26 marked the 30th anniversary of his feature film debut in his breakthrough starring role as O-Dog in the Hughes Brothers’ gritty 1993 film Menace II Society. But it was also the finale of the third season of the Starz hit series Power Book II: Ghost where he holds his own as cop-turned-shady politician Rashad Tate.
As O-Dog, Tate became a symbol of the rage and hopelessness that afflicted far too many young Black men in such violent cesspools as Watts where the American dream played as more fantasy and pipe dream than anything attainable. In Menace II Society, the Hughes Brothers’ painted a far less hopeful picture of 1990s Los Angeles than John Singleton’s Oscar-nominated Boyz-n-the-Hood preceding it.
Decades later, Tate’s Rashad might arguably share O-Dog’s missing moral compass, but he now does it in fancy suits in a completely different tax bracket on the opposite coast, in New York City. Tate’s ability to flesh out a character is also evident in Rashad and this season he was pleased to bring greater complexity to this character, particularly through his rekindled relationship with Keesha Sharp’s Harper Bone, who showed up in the cast as a professor in main character Tariq St. Patrick’s (Michael Rainey) most important college class.
“I just feel it's important to see that Rashad is not one-sided or one-dimensional,” says the Chicago native. “He’s not some complete monster. There are elements when it reflects love or romance that allow someone to sort of be vulnerable and sort of peel back the layers.”
Still what amazes fans and even Tate himself most is how Rashad manages to stay in the land of the living since being introduced to the franchise in season four of the anchor show Power. “He’s the type of person that has nine lives maybe. You know main characters get killed off this show,” he marvels.
That show ended two seasons later with the main character Ghost portrayed by Tate’s real-life friend Omari Hardwick being killed off and spawning the current Power Book II: Ghost. “I think part of the reason why he’s been in the show for so long is because he’s always in the mix,” he offers. “He’s the type of person that can make the impossible possible. He can find ways to get things done. And you kind of need those kinds of characters, someone like him who can have influence and have power and can be sort of the magician behind the curtain.”
And perhaps that also explains Tate’s own longevity. Because when it comes to Black Hollywood royalty, he seems to always be in the mix, making his presence felt in many other ‘for the culture’ films and TV shows that include Dead Presidents, the game-changing Love Jones, Biker Boyz, Ray, House of Lies, and Girls Trip. That he made most of these strides during a time when the industry was far different than now and offered much fewer opportunities is even more impressive.
It’s a movement he’s been fortunate to watch grow and evolve into his current situation which is heading into a highly anticipated fourth season. “I’m grateful that we, as a people, [are] telling our own stories now and we are sharing our narrative and the narrative that includes other people and other cultures,” he says. “It’s something that coming up early on I didn’t get a chance to see a lot. So now that we’re here and we’re making a franchise and there’s a whole universe that has different properties behind that concept, it’s extraordinary.”
Yet Tate says that he’s not super surprised by the outcome. “I certainly didn’t see this specifically, but I knew the more that we upheld the integrity of what we do in this industry, the more that we try to open up doors for those coming behind us, the more we continue to knock down most doors, recognize all the people that made the pathway, that this would be something,” he explains. “I didn't know exactly how but I felt like we were always making steps in the right direction.”
Having longevity in the industry while also maintaining his boyish good looks has only enhanced his legendary status. When urged to reveal his fountain of youth secrets, the husband and father of three says “the surface answer is genetics and moms and pops and all that good stuff. But I really say it’s the quality of life. I like to believe I have balance and I try to look at life as understanding it’s truly a marathon and not a sprint.”
He achieves this, he continues, by “being grateful for the work that I do, being a person of service but also caring about my body and caring about my wellbeing and just being in tune with how I live my life. It’s always okay to indulge, but as long as you do it in moderation, whatever it may be.”
Avoiding drama is also key. “I've found myself never wanting to really get caught up in any of the pitfalls and hit the self-destruction button. And in that, I feel good and if you feel good, you look good. And when you have that energy, people are attracted to that. People can kind of tap in and say ‘oh, okay this person is doing something.’ And I've been intentional about that, that balance, and making sure I'm the best version of myself as much as I possibly can.”