We caught up with Luke to get the inside scoop on his new role and find out what it's like to work with the mega-talented Jada Pinkett Smith.
ESSENCE.com: Tell us a little bit about the character, Dr. Miles Bourdet, that you'll be playing on "Hawthorne."
DEREK LUKE: Dr. Miles Bourdet is a young surgeon from Chicago who is on his way to Hawthorne, Virginia in pursuit of the healing process. He's looking to get work in Hawthorne because where he's from, he had not gotten that opportunity. As he heads to Hawthorne, he and his wife are going through a divorce which brings a major conflict in his life because he attracts the attention of Christina's young daughter, Camille. Here's one woman who finds Miles attractive and he is attracted to her innocence and lack of baggage. He has to ask himself although it may look like less baggage, is it right to be with Camille, especially since he has a family and children.
ESSENCE.com: Did you see any similarities in Miles compared to your own life?
LUKE: In the entertainment business, you are always taught that the greater sacrifice is for your art, but I was taught as a person and as an actor that acting does not necessarily fulfill your joy. Setting the right priorities in your life will bring joy. Some of the ways that I can relate to Miles is that he conflicted with his purpose and career versus staying and working out a marriage. I think this is a conflict for many people.
ESSENCE.com: What do you love most about your character Miles and the other characters on the show?
LUKE: What I love about Miles is that even though his skill is as a surgeon, his emotions are very human. I believe that many people are able to relate. As far as Camille, I like the fact that she explores how to make a decision with finding a mate. Is it ok to date someone who is going through a divorce? This is a very opinionated topic but I believe it will help people that are watching.
ESSENCE.com: What did you do to prepare for your role in "Hawthorne"?
LUKE: In playing Miles, there wasn't much time to prepare. I was cast on a Friday and started work the following Monday. They were in the process of shooting already, so my preparation had to happen in my discussion of the character with the executives. We discussed the palette and the tones of the show and who Miles is, but again, there was no script to go by. What's going to be interesting about this character is that he's very organic. Miles is developing moment by moment. That's why people will be able to relate to him.
ESSENCE.com: What was it like working with Jada Pinkett Smith?
LUKE: Jada is a gangsta! (Laughs) I like her because she's not afraid of hard work. There are a lot of crowns that she is wearing, and it was inspiring to see her do her thing. As an actor, sometimes it's challenging to switch from executive to actor, and not just any actor, but the lead actor on the show. I commend her for being one of the only African-American leads on TV. I really enjoy working with her. She's very collaborative which made her very easy to work with.
We'll definitely be tuning in on Tuesday, June 14, when the season premiere of "Hawthorne" kicks off on TNT.