Successful actors are, by definition, a determined lot. But that seems to be only a modest description of Anthony Anderson. In his 11-year career the 37-year-old cherub-faced actor has beaten back the demons of Hollywood typecasting and covered everything from wicked comedy to weighty drama, cutting up as a miscalculating thief in Barbershop and stalking cagey gangsters with A-listers Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio in the Oscar-winning crime thriller The Departed. His latest coup is a starring role in K-Ville, the brooding new TV cop series from Fox set in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Many would describe Anderson’s rise as swift, if not meteoric, though none of it came too soon for the actor. “I’ve been wanting to act since I was 9 years old,” he says cheerfully over lunch at a Beverly Hills hotel. “And I wanted to do it all. I feel as if I’m only now beginning to scratch the surface.”
Anderson is quick-witted and engaging in real life, exactly what you would expect from a performer whose most familiar screen persona is the go-to funny guy in films like Two Can Play That Game and Kangaroo Jack. But just beneath the wit is a seriousness of purpose that has kept Anderson on the path he set for himself early as a kid in blue-collar Compton, California. Twenty years later, when Martin Scorsese wanted to audition him for The Departed, Anderson was hell-bent on keeping the appointment—even though he was shooting an episode of The Shield and his director wouldn’t release him from the set.
“I had no idea when I would get to meet with Marty on a project again. I had to go,” says the actor, who made the interview and got the role on the spot. For Anderson, it was resounding proof that his efforts to mold his own image had paid off. “I know how myopic Hollywood can be,” he says. “After I did Hustle & Flow and then The Shield, people said, ‘Oh, he’s not just a funny guy. He can act.’ ”
K-Ville features Anderson as Marlin Boulet, a New Orleans cop haunted by his beloved city’s recent past and troubled by its uncertain future. Wavering between anger and despair, resolve and fatigue, Boulet is a metaphor for much of Black America that is still coming to terms with how this hurricane-ravaged and neglected city, in spite of everything, has not changed two years after the storm. (K-Ville uses current shots of the Ninth Ward and other damaged parts of town.) Anderson sees the show as a timely and innovative way to keep New Orleans in the public consciousness. “It’s disheartening to see whole communities gone, cars still on roofs, water lines everywhere,” he says of the month he spent there shooting. “I tip my hat to Fox for having the courage to do this show. New Orleans is a story that needs to be told.” With Anderson telling the tale, we’re listening.
Our favorite Anthony Anderson movie lines:
“I’m not worth $10,000! You kidnapped Malcolm King not Bobby Brown!”
—as Malcolm King in King’s Ransom (2005)
“Just because you got the bacon, lettuce and tomato don’t mean I’m gonna give you my toast.”
—as Key in Hustle & Flow (2005)
“If you jacked it, how come you got a receipt?”
—as P.J. in Malibu’s Most Wanted (2003)
“I don’t need to know nothin’ ’bout women when I got a mama, a cat, nine sisters and a gay uncle.” —as Tony in Two Can Play That Game (2001)
“You gotta look at this philosophical. Some you win... and dim sum, you lose.”
—as Maurice in Romeo Must Die (2000)
Did you catch the premiere of K-Ville? Have a favorite Anthony Anderson line of your own? Share your thoughts below.
Credit: Courtesy of FOX