Toblerone deliciousness. That’s how Wesley Snipes describes his role on the brand new NBC thriller, The Player. Maybe this is the new hybrid version of “sexual chocolate,” we’re not sure. But one thing we are sure of: Snipes is definitely ready to step into his character as the menacing Mr. Johnson.
The role seems to have all the stuff Snipes has come to be known for: Johnson is a swaggerific, smooth-talking, martial artist badass. According to NBC, The Player—set in Las Vegas—costars Snipes as the pit boss for a high-stakes game, where an organization of wealthy individuals gamble on the ability of a former military operative turned security expert to stop some of the biggest crimes imaginable from playing out.
This will be Wesley Snipes’s first television role since 1990’s H.E.L.P., which only lasted one season. So why’d he decide to take a chance on TV again? We spoke with him at NBC’s recent summer press tour where he answered that question as well as why he turned down the Lucious Lyon role on Empire, if he’ll do another romantic film, if dark-skinned brothers are on the comeback and more.
EBONY: Were you offered Empire first?
Wesley Snipes: Yeah, the Empire thing did come across my desk and it just… the combination of things and the time demands didn’t make it viable for me.
EBONY: What about the character himself? Did you see anything that interested you to play?
WS: In Empire? Oh, I could have walked through that no problem. (laughs) Nino could have done that. It’s like a refined Nino [Brown, of New Jack City]. It’s like if Nino didn’t die, he could have been Lucious.
EBONY: Do you watch Terrence Howard?
WS: I watch the show and I watch other shows with good performers and good acting.
EBONY: Like what? What are you watching?
WS: I love the Black List. I love Ray Donovan. I love Boardwalk Empire. I think Orphan Black is phenomenal. Even Banshee is a beast of a show.
EBONY: Do you have any film projects in the works?
WS: Quite a couple. We’re doing things that are cross-genres, things for the young people and also things more suited for adults. We have PG, we have PG-13 and we have some hard R type of projects. Some of them are ready to go now and one of them is a project we have titled Arsons, which is a story based on firefighters who set fires to cover up robberies of corrupt people. Based on a true story, so it’s kind of like Ocean’s Eleven and The Town meets Backdraft.
EBONY: What was it about this in particular that you said, I need time to do this?
WS: They articulated it very well. I mean, the premise of the show is quite intriguing. It captivates my imagination. I’ve always wanted to know how the super, super rich really live. What goes on in the underworld of the lifestyle of the rich and famous. As an actor, it gives me an opportunity to do a lot of things. I can be physical. But also I can bring comedy and explore my comedy chops. I can explore my accents and my disguises and create other characters that way. And also a character that’s contained, refined, maybe like that Morgan Freeman type of a guy. Terrence Stamp and Morgan Freeman, that’s Mr. Johnson.
EBONY: I guess that’s what’s inherently creepy about that dehumanizing of people, right? Like treating them as objects in a game. I think we all fear that.
WS: And probably wonder if it’s actually going on. Because we’ve seen some strange things happen over the last couple of years. Could be some people manipulating the affairs.
EBONY: Like what? What do you mean, in fiction or in real life?
WS: In real life. Where’s the plane? Where’s the plane?
EBONY: With you being one of the original sex symbols—
WS: Yeah, we coming after them again right now! All you light-skinned boys!
EBONY: So are you bringing it back?
WS: You wait until they see Mr. Johnson.
EBONY: Describe him to us.
WS: Toblerone deliciousness. (laughs)
EBONY: You’re loved for your action career. But people have also fallen in love with you for your romantic films as well, like Waiting to Exhale and Disappearing Acts. Do you feel like there’s more work to be done in that area for you?
WS: Oh, absolutely. That’s part of the reason why this fits well for me, because it gives me an opportunity to still do those projects. Whether we’re producing them or someone else brings them to the table. That still has to be a part of the repertoire and part of the legacy. And we need to have those stories out there! We need some love in the world.
The Player, co-starring Wesley Snipes, premieres on Thursday September 24 on NBC.