Veteran actor Harry Lennix sat down with EBONY to discuss his extensive career, influences and his Chi-town upbringing.

Lennix shares he was raised in South Shore, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Because his father passed away before the actor reached the age of 2, his mother worked hard to enroll him and his siblings in Catholic schools.

“I was an alter boy. When I was in high school, I went to the seminary. Met the pope, John Paul II, when he was first installed.

He went on to say he grew up in a “rough and tumble” environment.

“My neighborhood was a kind of smash-up of gangsters and preachers and Muslims from the Nation of Islam. We had everybody from every walk of life in that neighborhood.”

Lennix recalls having to “dodge” being affiliated with the gangs in close proximity to his home. Fortunately, he had a whole community looking out for him.

“The gangsters, the winos, the Muslims, my brothers, my sister all looked out for me, so I kind of lived a charmed life in this very heady time.”

The Blacklist actor also revealed that he wanted to become a priest as a young man, but became fascinated with acting soon after.

“I did a play while I was in the seminary, and people responded to it – I was rather precocious at the time, I guess – and thought that I had a potential career. So, I decided to give it a shot and study at Northwestern.”

While studying at the university, Lennix became the head of the Black Student Union, led the Black Student Theater group and picked up key elements to becoming a true thespian.

When it comes to influences, he recalls Muhammad Ali, Jesse Jackson and others making waves in his community.

Check out the clip above.