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Wood Harris (Dredd 3D)

Wood Harris: The Interview (Dredd 3D)

Actor Wood Harris (The Wire, Remember the Titans) plays drug dealer Kay in the upcoming Judge Dredd reboot, Dredd 3D. We sat down with Harris to discuss the creation of his character and working on the film, which comes out in theaters this Friday, September 21. 

Shakefire: Were you familiar with any of the original source material such as the comics or the Stallone film?

Wood Harris: I am familiar with it but I wasn't too much before I got involved with the film. I knew of Dredd but I was a Marvel comic kinda kid.

SF: So did you actually read the comics for reference?

WH: I did. I looked at just a couple of comics and mores o got into the history of Dredd and the writers of the comics than I did the comic books. That's how I got my perspective on what they intended by the character.

SF: Well your character Kay is new and not based in the comics. Where did you draw inspiration for him?

WH: I didn't use very many references that would be sources that would make a difference, really. I did it for personal self; my personal idea. There are elements that I'm doing in the film that remind me of my brother and how he might behave, but that's not something that's necessary to portray Kay.

My preparation for Kay was simple acting preparation. It wasn't like we were doing a bio character or anything like that.

SF: Did you feel that the character was easier to do since there wasn't some preconceived notion of who Kay is unlike the Judges?

WH: I probably did have an easier time because of that because I know that Karl [Urban] who plays Dredd has that weight on him. There's a big fan fare behind Dredd. Dredd is not a small comic hero. He's one of the biggest superheroes in the world as far as comics go.

SF: In the film you're kinda caught in the middle between the Judges and Ma-Ma.

WH: Well, he doesn't have any choices, really. I'm caught between a rock and a hard place in a sense. Once I can't fight anymore, he's just under the whim of them. Once he's arrested by the Judges and he's not executed and they're going to take him and try to serve justice so he just has to go along.

SF: Do you think that changes perspective for him?

WH: Well I think he's influenced in a sense where he's glad to be alive. The whole idea of a judge, jury, and executioner all in one, and a cop, all kinda in one, is where Kay has his defense. He's able to say, "You're the good guy? You kill people."

SF: There's no real clear distinction...

WH: Yeah, you're an antihero so you're calling me a bad guy? People want what I give them. I didn't put a gun to their head and have them use it, the Slo-Mo, the drug that they sell. And so, that's one of the questions about the character, the comic in general. I think it raises moral issues of somebody who can be a judge, jury, and executioner all in one. It's a pretty scary thing cause it's possible actually too. That would suck [laughs].

SF: There's a prequel comic for Ma-Ma that explores her origins. If Kay had a prequel comic what would be in it?

WH: Oh man, you mean besides the girls and stuff? It's like I'm seeing a rap video in my head. Those people tend to be satiated by material things. That's the one thing about the bad guys is there fatal flaw is that they're never Robin Hood taking from the rich and giving to the poor. They're always taking from the rich and giving the money back to them essentially when they go buy something expensive. He would be that way; the bling, the women. He would be rather shallow minded about that I believe.

SF: You're most known for your portrayal of Avon in The Wire. In a way, there are similarities between Avon and Kay in that you're both drug dealers. Did your work in The Wire influence you at all for Dredd?

WH: I don't know if it influenced the work in Dredd but I think that people may see Kay, and I doubt they associate them with Avon, but seeing me who with Avon was a bad guy with drugs and seeing Kay as a bad guy with drugs. The similarity is there so I think it's unavoidable to have some people associate the two based on that. I never think about Avon. Everyone else does.

SF: So what is it you look at when you look at roles? What is it that attracts you to them?

WH: When I'm reading a script or when I'm reading something people have for me, if it's not a real person, then I don't know what grabs me in the script. But if I know I'm going to play Jimi Hendrix, well, there's so much actual research that I can go look at him that I get inspired and enthused to be that character because I feel it's a blessing to be able to express like him. It all just depends on the role for how I'm touched by the character, but I don't go in with any anticipation.

SF: You've been Jimi Hendrix and all these other real people. Is there any specific role that you haven't done yet but would like to?

WH: Well I'm leaving for Montreal on Friday and I'm Malcolm X in a movie with Angie Bassett and I'm very excited about that. Aside from that I have projects that I'm a producer on that I'm very amped up to get done. That's kind of the angle I take. You don't have a job, you make a job. So I'm basically always doing something along that line.

SF: Ever thought about directing?

WH: Of course! I just actually got a second script to consider directing so I might do so. I haven't read it yet. I just have to read it and see what the budget is and if I'm attracted and enthusiastic about it. I think when you're being a filmmaker as far as directing it you have to really love the piece. As a character in a movie you might love your character. As a director you must love the entire piece.

SF: That must give you a whole different view of everything.

WH: Yes. You have to lead the cavalry, sort to speak. The director's in charge of every department, so sound, the camera village, etc. If it were a cake, the actor would be one ingredient that makes it but the director is the entire cake and the baker too. Because of that I have to read the script and see if it’s something I want to do.

SF: What is the one aspect that audiences should get out of Dredd and your character Kay?

WH: Well, being that my character is a villain, I think the aspect that they ought to get out of seeing Kay is that somebody like him cannot just run things. The bad guys can't run things. But also I want people to consider the Judges, Judge Dredd, and that comic hero. He's kind of an antihero. He's not all good, either. I think if you put them on a scale, I think the villains weight more on the scale because at least the Judges have a heart to let regular people go where a villain might just take you and dismember you for money or whatever. But they're closely related, the Judges and the bad guys they go to arrest, because in their duty to arrest them they really commit heinous acts. Whether they're crimes or not, they're still gigantic heinous acts. 

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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