Bokeem Woodbine felt too out there. If someone called him up for a role, he said yes—or so it felt. So he pumped the brakes, slowed things down, and he’s hoping his deliberate career move has paid off. On Friday he co-stars in the much-anticipated sci-fi remake, Total Recall, which also stars Colin Ferrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale.
EBONY.com talks with the 39-year-old Woodbine about his career, working with Ferrell and why he secretly fantasizes about being a secret agent.
EBONY: The remake of Total Recall – like the original – is a total head-trip. What made you say yes to this film?
Bokeem Woodbine: Well, first of all, sci-fis are something I’m a huge fan of. I love the genre and I’ve always wanted to be a part of a sci-fi picture. And I love the first Total Recall and we had such a good screenplay to work with.
EBONY: Now since you’re a fan of the original and you’re a part of this remake, are you walking away from the way filmgoers will be? Trying to separate fact from fiction with questions? Or do you kind of have your own theory what’s real and what isn’t since you were part of the production? I have questions!
BW: Oh, it does have that effect on one! It has that lingering kind of thing and that’s what I think we’re shooting for. But because I’m part of the film, I’m able to separate myself a little bit more than if I were just purely an audience member. So just have a good time with it and take it for what it is, which is truly a great time at the movie.
EBONY: What’s your picking process like? Your projects over the years have been all over the place – which isn’t a bad thing.
BW: I like stuff that’s not necessarily pretty. You know, I like things that forces me to step outside of myself and do away with whatever kind of ego or inhibitions I might have in my normal life. In life, we never want anybody to see us with crumbs on our face or to stumble when we fall or any of that type of thing. We always like to be very, very together once we leave our house, because people are watching. Acting is an opportunity for me to try to explore and examine and expose humanity’s weaknesses that are intrinsic to our nature as humans and learn from them thereby it’s like a sociological expose. And if the character is too put together or too uniformly patterned, then it’s challenging for me to get into 100 percent. Like, I always like a character that has something that might be aesthetically unsound about him. You know what I mean? I think it’s just not as much of a challenge to play this kind of cookie-cutter, Ken doll, you know, captain of the football team kind of thing. I like to get underneath the surface and found out what really is going on.
EBONY: What was it like working with Colin Ferrell?
BW: He’s a super cool cat. We hit it off right away, he’s easy, peezy, one, two, threezy — very focused, very detail oriented. One thing I will say about him that is … he has this really great ability to be in mid conversation with you about anything else, like we talked a lot about boxing and things like that and then boom, snap right into his zone. And I really admired that about him. I only know a few people who could do that. Me, I’m not one of those people. I need a second like, ‘Pardon me, man. I’ve just gotta get my thing together!’ It ain’t like that. But he’s one of the few people I’ve met that can literally turn it on and off and be on point every time and very, very detail orientated and, yeah, he’s just a great guy. Anybody who works with him will probably tell you the same thing. He’s a great guy, a lot of fun to work with.
EBONY: We haven’t seen you in a big production in a while. Last big film was Ray. Why was that?
BW: I have been a little bit more discerning. Right around 2004 when Ray came out, I made a conscious decision to be more discerning because I thought to myself, ‘After something like this I really have to try to be strong enough to turn stuff down.’ And that‘s the hardest challenge, because I had enough momentum and enough of a reputation. I was kind of a go-to guy for certain things. I distinctly remember saying, ‘I’m gonna start saying no to a lot of stuff.’ Looking back, it was the right thing to do, because eight years later, I’m in Total Recall, and I think it’s going to be big.
EBONY: So this was deliberate?
BW: Yeah. I had to just man up to a degree … and that meant saying no to money basically.
EBONY: Last question will be a totally cheesy one: if you could go to a place like Total Recall, what would the fantasy that you’d want to live in that sub-reality?
BW: It would definitely be along the lines of a secret agent type scenario. I grew up watching Bond films, I love Aston Martins, I look pretty cool in those suits that have, like, the 1960s, almost modern-cut suits. You know? And even though you don’t really see those nowadays, you know, they’ve got a few similar to that at John Varvatos that I’ve tried that look sharp on a brother!