Driving, punching and kicking through action film set pieces is nothing new for actor and singer Tyrese Gibson. Producing them is. He’s not only starring in the new film Rogue Hostage, but also taking great pride in helping craft the story. The movie revolves around Tyrese's character, a single father and former Marine suffering from PTSD. As he struggles to put war behind him, he’s thrown into a new one with much higher stakes, trapped with his daughter and several hostages in a grocery store. It’s a fight for survival against an armed militia that eerily feels like it could play out in real life. Gibson dished to EBONY on why the "powers that be" never wanted his latest movie to be made, his advice for staying top of mind in Hollywood, and how his venture Voltron Travels is acting as an education conduit for people of color.
EBONY: Congratulations on the new flick. How are you feeling?
Tyrese: Good man. I'm just excited about this. I got a lot of anxiety around this one because “a movie is a movie, is a movie.” But when you deal with films that have such a real and harsh reality in and around the topic, it's a crazy torch to carry, you know?
I feel you. The plot of this movie plays out like something out of the headlines.
We all know that we're living in a world right now where the powers that be don't really want these types of movies to be made. They want to turn a blind eye on mass shootings and mass killings. And white people [are the ones doing] most of the mass killing when it comes to just shooting up random schools and stores and grocery stores and elementary schools. And, we just don't understand why it just continues to happen. It’s a very touchy and controversial topic with guns. So there were certain powers that be that never wanted this movie to be made.
That’s a lot to consider. Did filming during a pandemic add more to the anxiety you’re feeling?
It can make you say, if you got a couple million in the bank, you can stay your ass at home until more people get vaccinated, for sure. The Covid vaccines weren't out yet when we were shooting. So it was a lot of anxiety in and around how to do this movie; how to keep everybody safe.
You probably felt that pressure ten-fold since you are a co-producer.
Right! Coming on as a producer, doing about 60 pages of rewrites with the writer, going above and beyond just to make sure that, independent of the moment, that things are set when it's time to film this stuff. I'm constantly in the trailers and meeting up with actors on weekends, going over the dialogue scenes and making sure that they feel like, “This dude is going above and beyond to make sure our voices are heard.” And if something doesn't make sense, we get rid of it. If you would much rather say this than that, and then we add it. It was a real situation, and the director, John Keeyes, was patient. But yeah, it was a lot of work, and a lot of pressure to pull something like this during the circumstances that we are living in.
With all those pressures and the anxiety, seeing the finished product must be somewhat gratifying, right?
It definitely is. At the same time, my brain says, “Can we finish what we started?” No one ever knows what the outcome is going to be. But you put your best foot forward. You get in there, you stay anchored in Christ and say, “Man, how blessed are we that we were able to do it again?” Because there are a lot of people praying for what we already have. And after 20 years making movies, I'm one of the lucky ones.
Yeah, you've had a great career. 20 years! I know time flies for you. What would you say is the biggest lesson you've learned in Hollywood?
You can't let talent alone create your legacy. You’ve got to network; you’ve got to hustle; you’ve got to socialize; and you’ve got to develop your people skills, your connectivity. No one cares if you’re talented, like, shut up. Go sit down somewhere in a corner. You’ve got to get out; you’ve got to be in the mix. It's like "I never had you in mind for anything, until I had you in mind.” And, it took for you to be at that event, at that restaurant, or at that pre-Oscar party, and then all of a sudden when they meet you the wheels will start turning and they suddenly have you in mind. I've been the beneficiary of networking. I was in that room and in that moment, and ended up passing that torch off to my agents and managers. And obviously, they're going to get all the credit because they actually did the deal. But there are only a few movies that came into their office first. Most of the time, it is me going out and doing what it is that I do.
Did networking help you pull in John Malkovich to play your father-in-law?
Yup! It was definitely crazy. John has this intensity about him, which I call the sanctuary. I've worked with certain actors where, when they're on set, and they're in their zone, you don't walk up with the small talk about the Lakers. They just look at you like, “Does that have anything to do with what we're doing right now?” He's one of those guys. You got to respect the seriousness. As a producer on this film, we were very, very lucky to land him.
Before we go, I wanted to hit on your company Voltron Travel. You’ve mentioned in other interviews how you want to make an impact through it. What does that impact look like?
Priceline has partnered up with my company and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. We’re raising funds to put Black and Brown people to school. And I have the only website in the travel space where if you book hotels, flights card, or car rentals through Voltron, we're shaving off a percentage of every booking to that fund. We’ve got to be able to take these bookings and make a difference, so this is our way of doing that.