2016 has been a solid year for 20-year-old Jacob Latimore. In addition to a thriving music career, he's starred in three films this year, the biggest of which is the upcoming Collateral Beauty in which he co-stars alongside Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, and Helen Mirren. Talk about an ensemble cast. Shakefire sat down with Latimore to discuss his role as the abstration Time in the film and what it was like working with such big name stars. We also get an update on an upcoming project of his, the much talked about Kathryn Bigelow film on the 1967 Detroit riots.
Shakefire (SF): How quickly did you say yes after reading the script?
Jacob Latimore (JL): I actually auditioned for the film a year before they regrouped with the new director and everything. They had a totally different director and a totally different actor was going to play Will [Smith]’s character. That’s when I went in for the audition. They didn’t really know what they were going to do with the film yet, but once they regrouped and figured it out I was the first person David Frankel saw for the role of Raffi. I just went in like I do every audition and just try to be prepared as much as I could. Luckily I just came out with this one. This audition process can be very discouraging. You go out for so many things and you may be a good actor, but you may not be right for that role. So you may get a lot of nos. That can be very, very frustrating in this industry. This has been a year I’ve been waiting to have. I’ve booked two more films after this one; the Kathryn Bigelow project and an independent film called Krystal with Bill Macy and his wife and Kathy Bates. So I’m excited about that. That’s down the pipeline! I’m working!
SF: What was your reaction when you heard you were going to be working with Will Smith and Kate Winslet?
JL: It was incredible. I was actually in Utah at Sundance, and I got that call from my agent. I was just like, “What!?” I think for me it was a shock for me to be the only sorta newcomer in this cast. We know these guys but who is this kid? Who is that little guy? I think that was the most exciting part and being in that position where I was able to prove myself.
SF: Between Time, Love, and Death, you’re is probably the most abstract of the three. How did you approach the role?
JL: Yeah, I thought about it a lot. What does Time wear? How does Time talk? Does he have swag? I don’t know. For me I just tried to focus on the concept of time and the importance of time. I think that’s what we see Raffi try to explain to Howard, that what we do in this bridge where love is the creation and death is destruction. That’s one of my favorite quotes in the movie. Love is creation, death is destruction, time is the terrain in between. What we do on that road from the beginning to the end is so important and how we use our time is so important. That impact we make and how long we deal with things. We gotta keep living; we gotta keep pushing forward to the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what I tried to focus on as much as I could rather than like being Time.
SF: The theme of loss and grief is so profound in this film. Did it pull on your own experiences or emotions at all?
JL: I think if anything I related to my character the most as far as time. I’ve never really dealt with a close family member death. The closest was my uncle, but that was more so like, “Okay, it’s getting close to home.” I started looking at my grandparents like they’re not going to be here forever. Looking at my mom; she’s not going to be here forever. You start thinking about those things. So it wasn’t really hard to go there, but as far as me relating to the film I related to Time the most. What am I doing with my time? Am I being productive? Am I focused on this one thing too long? Stuff like that.
SF: What was your favorite scene to shoot?
JL: Probably between the scene where I ride the skateboard onto Will’s bicycle. I think that’s just a really cool and unique scene. And then the scene with me and Kate where she hands me the money. It’s actually funny. I kept messing up on those lines. The lines were changing like every other day. It took five or six times to finally get it right. They say cut and she’s just jumping up and down saying, “Oh my God! Oh my God! That was so good! You’re perfect! Let’s look at playback. You want to look at playback?” I was like “Yeah, let’s look at playback!” It was like,”Yo, this is Rose from Titanic.”
SF: Now that your acting career is taking off, what kind of advice did you get on set from Will Smith, Kate Winslet, and everyone else.
JL: What Will told me was he said, “If we can make them cry and laugh in one scene, we’re killing it.” I looked at the film and I thought to myself, “We’re definitely making them laugh and cry.” This one, it touched me. It gets me every time.
SF: You’re juggling an acting career with music. Did you ever talk to Will about that since he’s done that very successfully?
JL: Yeah, you know we never got a chance to talk about that. Honestly, I didn’t even really think about it at the time. And we have so much time to see each other coming up and that’s probably something I’ll ask him. We always just talked about certain scenes, and I asked him advice on what my next film should be and whether I should be picky about my next project. I’ve been on a really cool pedigree working with really creative people on the film side so I want to make sure it keeps going up. He had some really good words for me about that.
SF: You’re working with such big stars on this film and in your other work. Did you have any expectation going in with any of these people?
JL: Yeah, absolutely. It’s one thing to work with A-list actors but it’s another thing to work with great people. You may not be working with the most solid people all the time. It was really cool to feel welcomed and loved on set. I think I probably got the closest with Kate just because of our scenes; the whole Time and her character dealing with the baby and all that. She was just so genuine. I met her husband. She was really, really dope. She was really amazing for me.
SF: What can you tell us about the upcoming Kathryn Bigelow project. John Boyega has been cast, and it’s been getting a lot of buzz.
JL: Will Poulter’s also in it, who I did Maze Runner with. Anthony Mackie. It’s a really, really dope script. Algee Smith, who’s playing in the New Edition biopic. He’s playing Ralph Tresvant. Really amazing cast. The film revolves around the 1967 Detroit riots. I can’t really say say, but that’s what the film revolves around. We get an insight on how certain things went down and a certain situation on the last days of the riots with the cops and a group of teens that passed away.
SF: What does this movie mean to you?
JL: Collateral beauty means to me that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. In the movie we don’t even see Howard talk for like half of the movie. I think that says a lot meaning that when we go through things we have to get those things out. We have to communicate. We have to express ourselves in a way where we have to get those things out of our mind whether we write it down on paper. We see Howard go through this very unique way of healing. He’s writing letters to the universe. Who does that? That’s what helps him get through this tough time in his life. I think that’s what the main message is in this film.
Collateral Beauty opens in theaters nationwide on December 16, 2016.