Ready to create some magic in theaters this weekend is J.D. Dillard’s Sleight, which premiered last year during the Sundance Film Festival, and arrives on the big screen now courtesy of BH Tilt and WWE Studios. A genre mash-up that brings together the worlds of magic and science fiction, Sleight follows a street magician named Bo (Jacob Latimore), who, after getting mixed up in a dangerous world of crime, realizes that his only way out is to utilize his unique abilities.
Daily Dead had the opportunity to recently speak with Dulé Hill, who portrays Angelo, Bo’s drug-dealing boss who is not the man you want to disrespect, especially when it comes to matters of business. During our interview, Hill discussed working with Dillard, their collaborative process, and getting the chance to play a villain in Sleight.
Congratulations on the film—you're really phenomenal in this. There are a few moments where I was kind of holding my breath with your character, just because he is so charismatic, but you could tell bad things were coming. And I would love to hear about what you saw in this project coming into it, particularly with Angelo and his character arc in Sleight.
Dulé Hill: First of all, I really enjoyed connecting with J.D. I thought he was a brilliant mind. He had a great take on the project as a whole, but also, he was a great collaborative partner in terms of developing Angelo. For myself, I was attracted to Angelo because I haven't often had a chance to play the "bad guy" or the villain. I thought that this would be a fun character to play. That is what I'm always trying to do for myself. I'm always trying to expand my breadth and find different characters to approach, because that is what keeps it fun and interesting for myself, and I think for the audience, too.
And with Angelo, I thought he would be somebody that would be interesting to play. I loved the idea with Angelo, and that is something that J.D. and I connected on, that all Angelo wants to do is be respected. He is not asking for anything beyond what we all desire. I just ask you to respect what's mine. If we had an agreement, honor it. If I come to you as a nice guy, as a gentleman, let's have a very nice conversation.
Now, what Angelo does not have is that thing called a "proportional response." I think Angelo may even be what sometimes we, in our minds, in certain situations, might have that little light bulb, quick daydreams, really, of what we want to do to somebody. But we really know we never would, because we would end up locked up and in jail. And Angelo is like, "Well, if you cross this line, I'm going to go full throttle at the line, and hopefully you will never do it again. And if you cross the line again, I am going to go even further." He doesn't know how to respond in a proportional way.
But, for me, that was a fun journey to go on with the character, and I thought that would be interesting. As with any character that you play, you have to be able to understand why they do what they do, and that was the thing that I tapped into with Angelo that made sense to me.
You mentioned working with J.D. When you came into this, was everything with Angelo right there in the script, or did you guys talk a little bit more before you headed into production in terms of really making him a character that belonged to you?
Dulé Hill: Well, we definitely talked about it. We had a few different conversations, some rehearsals, just to kind of find out, "How do I play this guy?" You see what is there on the script and then add yourself to the character. "Now, how do we want to play him?" I think that's where a lot of the charm came in throughout the collaboration with J.D. "This is what will make this guy." Angelo is very personable. He is a very nice guy, overall.
There are only one or two things that I tried to connect with that make the character tick and, for myself, I could understand and feel like, "Okay, this will be fun." And through our conversations, that is what we tapped into. He really is both sides of the equation. He can charm it up with the best of them, but if you cross him, then what happens is what happens.
And that is what came from J.D. and I, from our initial conversations, and even throughout the project itself. He would be great. Even while we were filming, he would come in and say, "Let's just do it one more time, but add more of this to it real quick." You try it, and there it is. With a character like this, it's very easy to go in and get played in one note or in one dimension as being bad or hard—a mean tough guy who wouldn't take any shit from no one. And I figured that, for me, it probably would not be believable, and it's not interesting to me, either. It's like, "Let's add some layers to the guy," and J.D. was great about collaborating with me to develop it.
Speaking to that a little bit, you mentioned earlier that this was your chance to play a villain, which you hadn't really done before. Was it cool to explore that side of yourself as a performer and really do something and give fans something that they hadn't seen from you before?
Dulé Hill: It was. I have had a chance to explore that side of my character on a theatre stage before, but never on film, and that is one thing that was very exciting to me. I had a blast doing it, and I think for the fans, the people who enjoy my work, they will enjoy seeing me do something outside of what they already know. That is what we should be doing as artists and entertainers, is to keep bringing up different characters that are interesting. Why do you want to keep seeing me do the same thing over and over again? I think that would be boring for you and boring for me. Changing it up keeps it challenging and enjoyable for audiences.
In case you missed it, check out Heather's interview with Sleight co-writer/director J.D. Dillard.