Dennis Haysbert has a voice and presence that can undeniably be recognized anywhere. From his work on 24 and Love and Basketball to his infamous AllState commercials, he has definitely solidified his presence as being an actor to remember. Now, the veteran actor is hitting the screen once more in Hulu’s No Exit, a mystery thriller in which the heroine is an addict who is trapped in a snowstorm with a group of individuals, including a kidnapped girl.
EBONY caught up with Haysbert, who plays a former marine with a gambling problem in the movie, to discuss his thoughts on the new generation of Hollywood, his latest film adventure and his upcoming roles.
EBONY: Reflecting on your career in Hollywood, you’ve covered so many bases throughout that time. Have you surpass the goals and dreams that you had for yourself when you started out?
Dennis Haysbert: Let me tell you, I just knew it was a calling. I knew what I wanted to do when I was 10 years old. I loved movies, all kinds of movies, regardless of who was in it. Some of my favorites were In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? with the late Sidney Poitier. He was such an inspiration being a Black actor. It’s hard to think of yourself as anything other than great as being a Black man is who I am when I walk in a room. That’s not going to change. That’s a constant. But through acting, I approach the role as a man with a specific, strong foundation.
As for my goals, they have always been ever-evolving. One goal that has always remained is my desire to entertain audiences thorough the work that I do. To provide a brief escape or release, especially during these strange times, is more important now than ever. So that is still one of my greatest career goals.
What attracted you to the role of Ed in No Exit?
It was a thriller, a mystery thriller specifically, and I had never done one before. I really enjoyed the complexity of the character. He was a complex, troubled and flawed man, as is every character in the film. However, I appreciated how he strived to emerge and grow wiser from his flaws. Additionally, I’d never been to New Zealand before and thought it would be a cool place to feel relatively free as an actor.
What was your experience like working with this cast as a Black Hollywood veteran?
They are brilliant. I have to give special kudos to one of the youngest actresses, Mila, who gave such a powerful performance. She became my little surrogate daughter in the in the film. The whole cast clicked beautifully and I know we will be friends for life. I was in such great company. We had a foundation of love and respect. It was wonderful to shoot. I feel that the future of Hollywood is bright after working with these young actors and actresses as well.
How was this film different than other ones that you’ve done during the pandemic?
Working on Flaming Hot, the biopic about Richard Montañez, a Mexican American janitor who created the “Flamin’ Hot Cheeto” flavor, has been a pleasure. I’ve enjoyed getting to collaborate with my Latino brothers and sisters. There’s a unity in that film that’s pretty incredible.
I’m also excited for the world to see another film that’s a mixture of action, crime and thriller called Traffic Control. I play a CIA station chief who is super involved in all of the action. So each film I’ve been able to do recently, taps into a different part of my artistic toolset.
Lastly, do you feel that this is the greatest time to be an actor?
We’re still dealing with a great deal of adversity, racism, classism and everything else. But it’s getting better. I hope that through my work I am able to make it better for Black actors coming after me in some way, just like the great Black actors who came before me. These collective contributions make it great to be an actor for each generation.
“No Exit” is out now on Hulu.