Q: You're quite a performer in there, with the moves. Did that take some doing, or was did that all come natural for you?
BK: It wasn't natural. [laughs] Well, the moving part, you do what you can. But I had to really educate myself. I had to really go and watch tape, talk to people, see performances. I had to go out, check out gospel concerts, and just hang around with Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda [Adams] and see what they do, how they do it, and where it all came from because gospel is its own culture. It's like the Southern Baptist churches. It's a whole culture; it's a whole way of life. It's an institution; it's something that you can't just adopt. Me, growing up on the other end of the planet, coming from my world, it's like you're going to China and performing in like a traditional Chinese theater, you know what I mean? I had no idea about any of it, so I had to really learn. I studied about where it came from, slavery times and the workers in the field communicating through gospel for the masters not to understand and all that stuff, that the gospel artists now view themselves as vessels rather than performers as opposed to secular singers who are more presentational. It's a whole different thing, and I had to learn it all because I had no idea about it.
Q: Are you now more spiritual than you were before the film?
BK: Yes, I am--not just because of the subject matter but also because the time of my life. We were respecting our first child, and I was away. That was very tough, the anxiety I had about making it to the birth and talking to my wife. A whole lot of stuff went on; my father and stuff that had nothing to do with the film contributed to the whole experience of the film. It was very deep, and I think it was meant to be.
Q: So in a sense you became closer to God.
BK: Yes. Absolutely. I don't believe in coincidence. It was meant to be, the way it came about: the script came into my hands; me not reading it for the longest time because of where it came from; my wife reading ten pages and telling me I need to do this; me saying, "No, you're crazy; you're pregnant; I'm not going to leave you"; and her pushing me out the door to do the film. It was way too weird for it to be a coincidence, and I appreciate it for what it was because it's made me just a better person.
Q: So are you now a churchgoer?
BK: You know what, I was a churchgoer before. When I first came to this country, I sort of dipped and dabbed and went, and I was really interested in different cultures and different churches. I'm always interested in different points of view. My mom, when I was three years old, I asked her what religion was, and she told me it was like my pediatrician. I was like, OK. And then she said, "Yeah, everybody has one, and they all do the same thing. It all has the same purpose."
Q: And that's to...
BK: And that's to supply you with refuge, with support, with health, with encouragement, with empowerment, and with whatever else you're looking for. So I was always very open to experience different religions and different beliefs and learn about them, so I was always a churchgoer. I was never specifically one; I was never narrowed down--
Q: Baptist, Catholic...
BK: Exactly. No. My grandmother's Jewish. My mom is. Which would make me Jewish. So I'm a Black German Jew, if you wanted to say. [laughs] Talk about being persecuted; that's pretty deep. [laughs] So, yes, I'm still a churchgoer. Right now we go to Agape, and it's very interesting as well. I think I'll always be that way; I think a better way to describe myself is being very spiritual because sometimes religion causes a lot of mayhem.
Q: Too structured.
BK: Yes. There's a lot of religious extremists. I believe in the part of religion that's more connected rather than separating. I like to say "spiritual."
Q: Your exposure to Black church, the Black experience in church, and Black church culture I'm sure was a revelation of sorts. What was probably the most interesting revelation that you found in this Black "mega-church" experience from what you saw and from the people that you interacted with?
BK: One of the most interesting facts was pride. Where I come from, religion is often treated as something that is very private. You don't really talk about it. You don't see people at awards shows or at sports competitions thanking God. You don't see that at home. You don't see people talk about God, about their beliefs, and saying words like "Well, the other day I woke up, I think God spoke to me"--you don't hear that, you know? And to me it was very impressive and very astounding that it's a matter of pride. It's very open, and it's very conscious, and it's very present, and it's very prideful, and I was very impressed by that. I love that. And I've taken that on too in the way I communicate now and speak because the truth is I don't believe in coincidences. The truth is I believe, and I believe in God. I believe in your own personal destiny, and I believe in your path and your journey and that He has a plan for you. There's nothing wrong with talking about it. There's nothing wrong with laughing about it and sharing it with people. That was the biggest thing that I learned and saw right away that impressed me.
Q: Who first approached you for the movie, and what was your reaction once you read the script?
BK: Clint Culpepper sent me the script. He's the head of Sony Screen Gems, and we've had a relationship for a couple of years. Clint is an extraordinary person. He's a Hollywood executive, first of all, which doesn't mean a lot of good things usually. [laughs] But he is so not the regular executive. He's very outspoken. He calls it how sees it--that's the kind of guy he is, so I really appreciate that about him. And that's how I talk to him as well; I let him know when something stinks in my opinion, and he's the same way. He's sent me a lot of scripts, and I've told him when stuff stinks in my opinion, and then he says, "Well, I think you're right. But we're still going to do it." That's how he speaks, and he's had a lot of success. So he sent me the script, and I didn't read it for a long time. My wife actually read it before me, and after page ten, she told me I needed to do this movie. And then I read it, I was like, "Wow, OK." So I gathered all the information around the film: the director, the production, the budget, and where it was going to be shot. And I said, "Are you crazy? I'm not going to go shoot this movie. Come on; your belly is out to here; you're about to pop, and I'm not going to be here. What are you talking about?" And she said, "You have to do this movie." And she's right because after Brown Sugar all the offers I got were the hunky athlete guy who gets the girl and then rides off into the sunset. After a while it was very frustrating because I needed to play; I needed to show that I could act. [laughs] That was an opportunity, and she saw it before I did. That's how it happened. They had offered me the film a couple of times and their condition was that I had to come in and perform for them. They wanted someone who could sing. So I went in, and they all sat there, and I sang.
BK: Yeah. "So what are you gonna sing for us?" I'm like, "I'm going to sing... something." And I sang "Summertime" for them. So that's how it came about.
Q: After this movie, what's your next progression as an actor?
BK: My wife and I have one thing in common: that we always try to think out of the box and always try to stretch and do stuff we haven't done before. I think it is our responsibility as actors to play characters that are diverse and show us as African-Americans, African-Germans, whatever--Africans--in all our diverse glory, and stay away from the stereotypical stories that have been served to the underserved consumer. All the ghetto stuff and all that stuff that we've seen a million times, another Black pimp--it's very redundant, and I think it's insulting. So we always try to take on roles and develop roles and come about roles that show a different side. So the next thing for me is going to be just that again. It's going to be something different. We tried with the TV comedy show [Second Time Around]; we always try different stuff. And it's going to make us better every time. So the next thing I'm going to do, it's going to be something like that. I want to do action. I want to do a romantic comedy where I actually get the girl. [laughs] I just want to do different stuff, and that's exactly what's going to happen after this.
Q: Coming from a home where your parents were both professionals, one psychologist, one a physician, were they happy with the fact that you chose--well, you were a model first and...
BK: What are you trying to say?
Q: Did they have simpler expectations about you being a professional?
BK: Actually, my mother is supportive regardless. As long as I'm happy, as long as she picks up the phone and I'm happy, she doesn't care. I studied medicine in college, and my father was the one who talked me out of it. He had an eight-hour conversation with me over the phone and told me about the state of medicine, the state of the pharmaceutical companies there, their whole deal and their whole influence on health care, how health care's changing and how horrible health care in the United States is compared to home, the impact it has on doctors and what they do. Basically you're going to be a public servant for the rest of your life--and that's not a bad thing if you choose to do so. But he knows me; he knows I have so many interests and the kind of person I am, and he thought it was completely wrong for me. I thought about it, and I changed my mind. I switched, andI now have a degree in marketing instead, and I went on to do what I do now. I'm very happy about it, and he's very happy. They're both supportive. My dad actually came here. I came here ten years ago; he had never visited me. That was one of the emotional things I was talking about during the film; three days after my daughter was born, he came over. And I took him back to Atlanta to the set, and he came the day that I was shooting the scene at the graveyard. And I rewrote the scene with the director to make it more personal. So the stuff that I was saying I hadn't had the guts to tell my father at the time. So it was very personal. So the whole process, the whole experience was very personal.
Q: I'm sure you visited him; what was his reason for not visiting you?
BK: Good question. My parents divorced when I was six and lived apart, so our relationship wasn't as close as me and my mother's. So it was the whole, "I'll be there on Sunday" and never show up and that kind of thing. So after years went on, I sort of dealt with it and accepted it. I looked for communication again with him and sort of arranged myself in a place where I felt comfortable with him and the fact that I respect and love him as my father, but I don't have any expectations. So that's where we were, and he just--I don't know. He never came to see us until she was born. He all of a sudden appeared. That's why I was talking about how I don't believe in coincidences.
Q: Do you have any preference between television or film?
BK: I like good writing. I like good scripts. TV is nowadays better than films in terms of writing. TV has come a long way, especially cable--like Six Feet Under.
BK:The Wire, absolutely. So right now I'm focused on film because I'm blessed that a lot of opportunities are coming my way. I'm also very active in developing my own stuff and producing.
Q: Do you have anything coming down the pike?
BK: Yes. So I don't have a preference generally, but right now I'm with film until I see something that I want to do or see something that I want to develop. I think there's a lot of TV characters that still have to be played. There are Black alpha male characters that I want to play on TV. It needs to be done because we've skipped 20 years of Black leading men ever since Shaft. There hasn't been somebody who's been so commanding and sexual--not necessarily just for Black audiences, but I somebody that could speak to everybody.
Q: So can you share some of the things that you're working on that you have coming up?
BK: I have a couple of properties and scripts that I'm shopping around with Sony Screen Gems and Lions Gate. I just did another film with Tyler Perry for Lions Gate that's coming out in February. My relationships with the studios have changed. It's supply and demand. It's a business. So now you're hot, and now everybody's calling.
Q: What's the one with Tyler Perry?
BK: It's called Madea's Family Reunion. It's his second film. It was a whole other incredible experience. So I'm starring in that film; it comes out in February.
Q: Being a father now, that's probably your most rewarding experience. How has it transformed you as a man, as an individual?
BK: Completely. Totally. Upside down. In and out. [laughs] Ever since she was born, I'm a different person. This is what I've been waiting for. This is what I've been put here to do. That's my purpose. Perpective has changed. My heart is just opened up; there are places in my heart that I didn't even know existed, you know? So it's made me a better actor, a better man, a better person, a bigger man--I feel like I'm a superhero now. It's incredible. When you come home to these two women--that's my motivation, and I feel I can do anything. It's really incredible.