A hero can come in many forms. Some can be individuals that have directly impacted our lives or decisions made. Some can be aspirational and have goals of living a fulfilled life. Whether, it’s a close family member, friend or role model, heroes are needed to fuel dreams and push boundaries, in hopes of a better tomorrow. Actor Chris Chalk, known for playing Lucius Fox, in the hit series Gotham, and his epic roles in films that unapologetically speak of the tales of Black folks in America, gives us an insight on why telling stories of unconventional heroes lead to growth.
What type of superhero is needed in today’s world and why?
I feel we have so many superheroes in today’s world already. The people that wake up daily and in spite of their circumstances they make sacrifices for the greater good of their families and their communities inspire me the most. I consider them super because it is uncommon to be so sacrificial in this day and age and they are heroes because they use whatever privilege they have in order to serve someone with less privilege. Counselors, Teachers, Fire folks, Activists, Police officers, Husbands, Wives, father, Mothers – all Superheroes when done with love and kindness. It’s important that we honor and love these people because they make our lives better and easier. They are Super.
You’ve been apart of 2 monumental films that impacted the Black community, 12 years A Slave and Detroit. How important was it for you to emphasize the story of each character in your performance so that the audience was able to relate to what was happening in each film?
When our story, the African American narrative, is told honestly and with the intention of inviting people to truly learn from the past, that is where the potential for great growth lives. I believe I can serve this world by honoring the many amazing narratives of blackness in the world. I see the strength of African Americans of every generation and I am in awe. We are made up of survivors. We should all be proud of these stories yet we have been taught to be ashamed. I am so honored to share blood with people who survive in spite of the insurmountable odds. We have to honor and share these stories because one, we should have a part in these narratives to fact check and two, what my ancestors have survived is absolutely amazing. If we can see our true strength in these stories then perhaps we can inspire a mindset shift that can lead us to the next level. I think these stories never sleep. These things happened to humans not so long ago and if we forget them they are bound to come back. Therefore, it is important for me to take part in these narratives. It is a service.
Tell us your thoughts on having a backup plan as a creative or do you think one should commit to the original goal and take the obstacles as they are?
It’s all individual. If a person needs the security of a traditional job as they pursue artistic job then good for them. Have at it. It is not for me to say what one’s individual journey requires. It is smart to set a plan and do whatever is required to make your life as happy as possible. If that means having multiple skill sets then have at it. It’s funny that we would shame someone for having more education than less. Artists should consider many more business courses or even minor or double major in business. As long as a person is checking in with themselves and living a life based on their goals, they are killing the game.
As a black actor have you been met with any challenges in the industry and how did you overcome them?
Everything in the industry can be challenging if that is the mindset that we carry around. I believe that everything that I survive has a purpose. I enjoy discomfort. I embrace opposition. I love the game of the industry. And, yes, it is frustrating sometimes and hella unfair and often loads and loads of BS…. And I LOVE IT. I do my best to focus on the opportunities of the day.
Can you tell us a little about your role in The Central Park Five miniseries?
I represent the older Dr. Yusef Salaam. This man is amazing. He was one of the young victims of CP5. He was jailed for a crime he didn’t commit and somehow had the strength and support to come out stronger. We know that is rarely the case for anyone who goes into the system. It is far from a rehabilitation facility. Yet, Dr. Salaam has become better for it. That is the mindset I often talk about. He wears his oppression and uses it to inform educate and serve and I am so honored to tell a tiny piece of his amazing story.
Lucius Fox has a personal relationship with Bruce Wayne and you see how he’s helping young Bruce to become the Dark Knight aka Batman. Tell us about the dynamic between the two and what should we expect to transpire as the season comes to an end.
This final season of Gotham, we will see more of Lucius’ determination to be of service to the city of Gotham and more importantly be of service to Bruce. He has a much more active role in crime fighting this season due to the low number of good guys. We are all hands on deck. We also see Lucius transition to less of a father figure and more of a peer. They both have grown so much.
Why should young African American take part in the comic book craze, as we see a rise in Black superheroes?
I found superheroes while growing up in a town that needed more inclusivity and diversity. Comics represent this. And if we are talking about right now in this present moment, comics have never been more diverse with a young Asian Hulk and a young black female as Iron (Man) Heart. It is good to see that we can be super too. It also helps us to find what is super about us and to apply it for the greater good. I grew up embracing the comic, graphic novel and now manga culture and it has fueled my creativity and inspired me more and more to take my skills, aka special powers, and use them to help others.
What are Chris Chalk’s current aspirations?
I have so many things that I want to do in this industry for myself and for others. Maintaining a happy loving and grounded marriage with my awesome wife KD Chalk. Being supported by a dynamic circle of dope friends who are honest, successful and inspiring. To have a creative team that has incredible reach and is effective in spreading my message to the world which is one of Love, Authenticity, Service, Responsibility, and Love. There are some awards out there with my name on them. There are folks who I am so pumped to work within my future, the likes of Jordan Peele, Darren Aronofsky, Anthony Hemingway, and Don Cheadle. Creating scholarships and a summer program for young people from underserved communities from all over the states so that they can get great training as artists and also know that they are not alone. I love helping. So, as long as I can speak, I will be of service to someone. My mama taught me that and I listen to Celeste.
Make sure to follow Chris Chalk on Instagram. Check out the trailer for When They See Us, the Central Park 5 series on Netflix below.