We first fell in love with Nate Parker when he appeared on-screen as Neil in The Secret Life of Bees. Charming, witty and pretty easy on the eyes, we couldn’t wait to see more. Thankfully, the wait, as it were, is over. In Blood Done Sign My Name, Parker takes on a much more serious role in a mystery based on the true story of the 1970 murder of Henry Marrow by a racist father and his sons. We caught up with the 30-year-old to learn more about the film, how he broke into the biz and his tie to our gorgeous cover star, Alicia Keys.
GOTHAM: How did you first get started in the business?
NATE PARKER: Divine intervention. I had just graduated from the University of Oklahoma finishing up a scholarship I’d received for wrestling, and had a friend that wanted to go to a modeling convention in Dallas. I agreed to ride along for support. On the first day of the event, a man approached me and asked if I was an actor. He was insistent on me reading a monologue “just for fun.” After I read it in front of him and other agents, he asked me to move to LA to pursue a career in the craft. Without hesitation, I moved just days later. That was six years ago.
G: What is it about acting that has made you stick with it?
NP: Once I began to work and realized I could use acting as a tool to effect change in my community, I began to pursue my progression with reckless abandon.
G: Talk about Blood Done Sign My Name. How did you get involved with the project?
NP:Blood Done Sign My Name for me is a journey of self-analysis, sacrifice and, ultimately, community empowerment. In the film, I portray Dr. Benjamin Chavis, a man who has just graduated from UNC Charlotte and has returned home to teach while considering graduate school. Following his arrival, a brutal murder occurs in his community. The injustice of this event compels him to step into a position of leadership, an action that provokes the racial progress in his community.
G: You’re involved with charity work yourself. What sorts of organizations are you currently working with?
NP: I work with a program called 100 Men of Excellence, an initiative I started with the president of Wiley College that offers scholarships to men of color (through corporate sponsorship) while developing and mentoring them to be of service to their schools and communities. I also work with a program in Brooklyn—Bed-Stuy—called Leadership & Literacy Though Debate. It’s a program that uses lessons from the The Great Debaters to inspire youth to become better readers, thinkers and leaders in their communities.
G: Your Secret Life of Bees costar, Alicia Keys, is on our March cover. What was it like working with her?
NP: It was incredible to work with Alicia. Her preparation, focus and attention to detail surprised and inspired me throughout production. I appreciate her talent as well as her humility.