For over three decades Harry Lennix has had a successful career as an actor on television and film.
The Chicago native may look familiar from his roles on Living Single, Mo’ Money, Spike Lee’s Get On the Bus, Diagnosis Murder, Love & Basketball, Ray and dozens of other projects. But admittedly, when people of color approach him, they revert to his most known role as Dresser in The Five Heartbeats.
“I get known for The Five Heartbeats probably more than any other project,” Lennix told ESSENCE.
“My dear friend Michael Wright from The Five Heartbeats is one of my very best friends. I see Leon on Sundays, we watch football games together. We’re all pals.”
Surprisingly, when asked what his favorite role was, the 52-year-old didn’t mention TV or film.
“I would say with theater, my favorite role that I ever played was Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.”
Adding, “To my knowledge it was the first and only [Black Gatsby]. And then I would say my favorite film role that I ever did was in Titus, where I played Aaron the Moor, opposite Anthony Hopkins’ Titus. That was a great gig, we got to do it in Rome.”
Now, Lennix can been seen every week on NBC’s The Blacklist, a crime show about a former U.S. Navy officer named Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) turned high-profile criminal who turns himself in to help find criminals on a blacklist he’s compiled. Similar to some of his work in the past, Lennix plays the assistant director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division who had a working relationship with Reddington before he became a criminal.
“For every villain you need a hero. For every yin, you need a yang,” Lennix said. “It is a co-dependent relationship between law enforcement and crime. It’s an interesting relationship with this lead character.”
As a seasoned actor who’s worked consistently since 1983, Lennix gave us one piece of practical advice to make it in Hollywood.
“The most practical advice I would give is to be honest with yourself. Do you want to be a star? ‘Cause nobody can promise you that. Or do you want to be an actor? If you want to be an actor, start at the bottom just like the rest of us and work your way up to becoming proficient and hireable and a working actor. You may not be a household name, but you can do this if it’s truly in you. You have to be willing to pay the price for it, it’s no free ride.”
“The Blacklist” comes on NBC every Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST