Whatever you think about Lamman Rucker, chances are it's true. Is he eye candy? Absolutely. Is he as intelligent and humble as some of the characters he plays? No doubt. But what you might be surprised to learn is that this Washington, D.C. native has a masters, can sing, speak Japanese and before becoming a full-time thespian had plans to attend law school. Fortunately, his book smarts didn't compromise his creative spirit or keep him away from the big screen. Rucker's credits include All My Children, Half & Half, Why Did I Get Married?, just to name a few. This month, he plays Will, a successful doctor, in Meet the Browns, a romantic comedy about one hilarious, dysfunctional southern family who proves love truly does conquer all. Essence.com caught up with Rucker to talk about his role, Jill Scott and why he'll always give back.
Essence.com: How did your Why Did I Get Married role come about?
Lamman Rucker: The initial project I worked on with Tyler was the television pilot for Meet the Browns in Fall 06. He told me he was working on something else that he thought I would be good for and it was Why Did I Get Married?
Essence.com: So Tyler created a part just for you?
L.R.: Well, I would say I think he kept me in mind. It's one of the reasons I think the role ended up fitting so well because he had an opportunity to get to know me. He did a great job of piecing together a great cast with great chemistry.
Essence.com: Tyler Perry's film always provides great eye candy for his female audience. Would you say that you've been cast as "the hunk" often?
L.R.: (Laughs) Throughout my career, I wouldn't say my roles have been based on my being considered eye candy. What I will say is that my ability to bring different characters to life is what has helped me advance in my career. As far as looks are concerned, well, I suppose that would be the icing on the cake, but acting comes first and foremost. No one likes to be typecast, but I would like to believe that the attention I get is for my acting but at the same time darn it, if I get to keep playing the handsome, smart guy then that's also a blessing and it's the last thing I would complain about.
Essence.com: So how selective are you when it comes to accepting roles?
L.R.: I'm trying to be careful about my choices and take advantage of the specific appeal I do have. I hope that in some way my appeal helps to add some depth to the characters I choose. I play real men that I can identify with. I have a lot of guys tell me that they relate to me because I represent the real everyday dudes.
Essence.com: You play Will in Meet the Browns. What's his story?
L.R.: Well, I'm Mr. Brown's (David Mann) nephew, his sister Vera's (Jenifer Lewis) son. But Uncle Brown is more like a dad to me. I'm a gynecologist and my family is country, but I love them dearly. Rick Fox plays Harry Beltin, my boy from back in the day and I introduce him to my cousin Brenda (Angela Basset).
Essence.com: Ah so you're playing Cupid.
L.R.: (Laughs) Well, I guess you could say I sort of play Cupid with Harry and Brenda.
Essence.com: And pray tell how Cupid has struck you. Rumor has it that you are currently dating your Why Did I Get Married? co-star Jill Scott?
L.R.: Ms. Scott-Jill-and I are just very good friends, nothing more.
Essence.com: So you're telling all the ladies that you're single? L.R.: (Laughs) Yes, I'm single.
Essence.com: Recently, footage of you and Toccara walking hand-in-hand surfaced on the web. Are you two an item?
L.R.: No, we're just friends. I know exactly what you're talking about. We were leaving an event that we both attended and I was being a gentleman and walking her and her friend to her car. Naturally, there are always going to be people waiting outside to try and see if they can make something out of nothing. Again, we're just friends.
Essence.com: Well, I'm sure the ladies are happy to hear that you're a free agent.
L.R.: (Laughs) Well, I'm not saying that I sit at home twiddling my thumbs. The legit answer is I'm dating. I'm working and open, which means I'm filling out applications and taking applications.
Essence.com: There's nothing wrong with that. What's the one thing a woman can do to send you running for the hills?
L.R.: A woman who is self-centered, can never see the positive and is selfish. Don't get me wrong everyone has a right to self-preservation, but it really bugs me when a person is so self-consumed that they don't care how it affects other people as long as her wants and needs are met. And please, I'm a patient man, but please don't ever try to give me an attitude and run a guilt trip on me.
Essence.com: Yeah, that's not sexy at all. Well, your character in Married really proved that chivalry wasn't dead. What are your thoughts about the portrayal of Black women in the media and hip-hop?
L.R.: Well right now hip-hop artists are such huge commodities so the film industry integrates them into film because of their draw. It allows studios to cross-promote an artist from the big screen to the soundtrack. Honestly, I have mixed feelings because hip-hop artists should have the right to pursue their interests as an actor. However, I don't think they should be rewarded musically and given other opportunities if they are all about promoting poor examples of Black women across the globe. The images they portray of Black women severely misinform other cultures who listen to hip-hop and watch those videos about our women. It's disappointing because of the respect and honor our Black women deserve. As a people, we have to be more accountable in our everyday language but especially artists who have a forum such as videos, radios and albums.
Essence.com: Perhaps, such progress will happen in another lifetime. Tell me about Ball Don't Lie.
L.R.: I play Trey and I'm on the street basketball team. The film is based on a book by Matt de La Pena and is about this young White kid who is placed in foster care after his mother tragically dies. He is an orphan and poor, which drives home the point that at-risk youth don't just exist in the Black community. At the end of the day, it's more a matter of economics than race. In the end, basketball becomes his saving grace when he discovers the recreation center in the hood, where some serious street ball is played by much older and more experienced players. So not only must this young guy adapt to an older generation but to their athletic prowess.
Essence.com: Sounds interesting and right up your alley because you're not only a former basketball player but a huge youth advocate.
L.R.: Yes, I am. I use my position as an actor to teach and work with young people. Now what I do is more along the lines of teaching HIV/AIDS prevention as well as Rap It Up campaigns to educate these young people how to protect themselves.
Essence.com: Growing up in D.C. what adversities did you face?
L.R.: Nothing that I would say was too crazy. I mean I hung out in the streets, but I didn't become a victim of the streets because I had too much going on in high school to distract me. But I lost my little brother to the streets in '92. It's a shame because he was truly gifted and talented. Although he and I faced some of the same things in our community, his choices made it difficult for him to remove himself from those experiences. But I thank God for the arts, which I can say saved me from the same fate because I traveled so far from my school, The Duke Ellington School of the Arts ,and spent nearly the entire day there. My brother is the reason that I'll always give back to the community because we have to help or young Black men and young people. It's my obligation to my brother and his legacy.
Essence.com: Sorry to hear of your loss, but so happy that you channeled that negative into a positive to help others. In addition to studying the arts in high school I understand you played some semi-pro ball overseas?
L.R.: Well, I wasn't really semi-pro. I played in some leagues and tournaments. In fact, I still play ball competitively because it helps keep me stay in shape. I even had an NFL bid, but I was trying to be more creative than athletic.
Essence.com: Well it's nice to know you have brawn and brains with a Masters in Education too. Who knew? So was a career in academia too stifling for your creative spirit?
L.R.: (Laughs) Not really once I made the decision to go to grad school, I asked myself the infamous question, What would I do for free? So I volunteered to coach high school basketball but I also helped them build life skills and not just their sportsmanship. But as far as acting, I was always nurturing my artistic side when I was in college and grad school. I modeled, booked commercials, appeared in plays, sang. I even know how to put up stage lights because I had to learn that in my high school.
Essence.com: As a well-rounded actor you are have you considered doing any of the traveling plays?
L.R.: Actually, I'm in a play call Webeime, which is "We, Be, I, Me." I'm one of eight Black men who make up this one man who's on death row. You witness his life through each of the eight Black men. It's like Ntzoke Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf. And we'll be coming to the Harlem School of the Arts from March 28 through May 4. I won't join the cast until the last couple of weeks.
Essence.com: Well, we'll look out for that. Before you leave what's the one thing you recently learned about your capabilities?
L.R.: A teacher taught me this lesson and I've used this ever since in my life and career. I learned to listen to the silence and hear the rhythm in-between. For me the lesson is to be in rhythm with the present and live in the moment so you always know where you're coming from and what you're trying to accomplish. I know applying this will only strengthen my integrity as an artist and person. When all is said and done I want to die exhausted and empty because I gave everthing that was in me. I believe that's why we're all here to give of ourselves to one another to help create a better world because you can't take it with you.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Underwood Multimedia Associates Worldwide