86 Melrose Avenue is an exciting new movie about an ex-marine with PTSD who storms into a gallery, taking hostages and forcing them to confront their complex pasts and looming mortality. One of the cast members, Langston Fishburne (son of Hollywood superstar Lawrence Fishburne), plays Dwayne, who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We spent some time chatting with Fishburne about the movie, his heritage and his rising career.
Your new movie 86 Melrose Avenue comes out this month. Tell me about it?
Well, it is the story of an army veteran who is in the middle of a mental breakdown, and he stumbles into this art gallery and, you know, everybody’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m a delivery man, and you get to see all of all of that play out over the course of about 95 minutes.
What drew you to that movie?
Well, when I was approached for the role, they mentioned that I would be the only black character in an otherwise white situation. And while the gallery is dealing with this broken man, the cops do get called. I thought it was a great chance to explore the relationship that a black person would have in this situation, you know, there are no safe people for him in this.
Tell me a bit about your character, Dwayne, what do you bring to the character?
Dwayne is a courier who is going about his day and he tries to live that side hustle life that so many of us do. What I tried to bring to it was my experience in dealing or being a sort of fish out of water. Nobody there expects him to be around and in every interaction, he’s being pushed to the side until he isn’t and suddenly, it’s expected that he had something to do with this. Even though he didn’t and it’s very clear that his skin color is the reason any suspicion is thrown at him.
The movie is all about facing your inner demons. Tell me about Dwayne’s demons
Dwayne doesn’t have inner demons. Dwayne’s demons are the world. He is doing his best. He’s delivering a package, suddenly and Travis emerges as a threat. The cops emerge as a threat. Even the detectives at the very end when he gets interviewed are, for most of the movie, a threat. He is, reacting to external conflict more so than anything internal.
American’s love their military men and women, so to see one of them in turmoil like Travis is quite alarming. PTSD is a pretty serious struggle. What is Dwayne’s opinion of Travis?
Dwayne’s opinion of Travis is that he can see another man suffering? He feels for him, of course – this other person who’s been cast aside by society. But in the moment, while he may have an understanding of where this guy is coming from, he realizes that he is still a danger.
Do you know anyone personally that has served or suffered PTSD?
I’ve had a few friends who’ve served in the military and they’ve been fortunate in that their experiences, while difficult, have been a subject that they can talk about, not just with me, but with mental health professionals – and they do what they can to make sure that something like what happens to Travis doesn’t get to them. It’s important that these veterans are welcomed back into society and not just cast out, as we’ve seen time and time again.
The movie is mentally intense. Is this the most intense show you’ve been involved in?
So far it is. And that is that is part of the drawn for me – wanting to be a part of it. It is reassuring to know that the art that we’re part of is actually shining a light on society and showing things that are difficult. And that needs to be seen, talked about, and exposed.
With the movie being so mentally intense, how did you deal with that?
I was able to get through, thanks to the rest of the cast. We very quickly developed a friendship between all the members of it and we, spend a day being held hostage. We were able to help each other not get into a dark place that we couldn’t escape from.
I’m so glad you were able to do that, it’s important to separate.
Yeah, it was really helpful. And Dade, the actor who plays Travis, he was there with us. And it really helps to have him as well, because, he’s there holding gunpoint for hours and hours and having that break. They say cut and you could go over and hug him and realize we’re still in this together.
You’ve only been involved in the movie biz for about 10 years. I would think your dad (Lawrence Fishburne) is probably one of your acting influences.
He very much is. When I was younger, he made it a point not to push me towards acting. He was never shy about it, but he said if it’s if it’s a thing that I want to do, it’s a decision that I had to make on my own. Before I got to acting, I was a dancer and tried all sorts of other things. And once I discovered performance, it drew me in.
So how old were you when you got that first performance bug?
I would say I was about 17 when I started dancing. And it just really spoke to me. I started off as a classical ballet dancer and did that well into college. About 10 years ago, there was an audition for something and I was healing from an injury that I’d gotten at the time – but I could still walk and I could still move – so I figured why not try it? Why not give acting a go?
I’m sure your mom and stepmom also played parts in you getting into the business.
They did. My mother happened to be a dancer when she was young as well. I didn’t find that out until I’ve been in it for 5 or 6 years. She later went to casting and fitness. And my stepmother is also an actress and has really been a big fan and supported me as I’ve progressed down this road.
A lot of people would kill to be in a movie like Ant-Man and the Wasp. Tell me about working on that film.
My part was fairly brief, so I only had a few days on set and it being a Marvel movie, they don’t tell you too much. It was one of those situations where it’s like okay, you’re going to be here on this day and we’ll tell you what you’re going to do just before you do it. It was a lot of fun getting to play the younger version of my father – that was very interesting. I’d always been told how much I look and sound like him, but, it’s one of those things you don’t really think about until you see it like that.
Did that movie create a new fan base for you?
It did. It led to the first time I was actually recognized out in public. I was connecting through a flight in Atlanta and there was this “Oh, I recognize you. You’re in that movie!” Well, yes, thank you.
Is the comic genre something you’d like to be part of more?
Absolutely, I am a very big comic book fan and have been for quite some time. If there were a character out there, I would love to have chance at it.
Since you’re a comic fan, if you could pick any comic or comic book character, who would that be?
Oh, there’s so many, but The Blue Marvel would be amazing. Adam Brashear is relatively new comic book character written in the last 10-15 years, but he’s a super powered 1960s hero. His issue isn’t what to do with all this power, it’s whether or not people are worth saving. The Blue Marvel is awesome.
You don’t post much on your Instagram account, but you did take the time to post a black box for Black Lives Matter and there’s also a picture of Kamala Harris when she became the first black Vice-President. You must be proud of your heritage.
I am very proud and beyond overjoyed being black and having a connection to my heritage. My family is from the Bahamas, so there’s not only a whole Black America that I can relate to, but I also have 700 Islands and keys of the Bahamas that speak to me in a really powerful way.
There’s still much to do about racism and hatred. Going back to Travis’ PTSD in 86 Melrose, it’s a syndrome many suffer from because of racism. Do you see things changing as we move forward?
I think things are changing. It is at times a frustratingly slow process, but I think things are improving little by little every day. I remember with Obama’s election, it was a huge step. Following that there has been some regression, but you can’t give up just because there are difficulties like this. So, I see progress and progress is good no matter how slow it is.
There’s another picture I’ve seen on your Instagram account – you as a ballet dancer. Is ballet one of your favorite dances?
It is it is my favorite. It’s what I started with. I’ve tried others and they all have their time and place. Tap can be fun, ballroom was a joy, but I always come back to ballet.
Do you think that you’ll get a chance to exercise those dance skills in a movie sometime?
When I had started, one of one of the first projects that I worked on was a web series directed by Jon Avnet, and he actually had me dance. I don’t know that it’s going to come up again, but that was a lot fun. I’m happy to whenever I can. And it has proved useful in acting – to have an awareness of my body in a way that some other folks just don’t when they haven’t trained like this.
Let’s go back to your very first time on set. You mentioned a little bit about it. But what was it? What do you remember about it?
The first time I worked on a set goes back about 10 years. It was in Detroit and I was shooting a Hallmark TV movie called “Have a Little Faith”, also directed by Jon Avnet. I was nervous about lines. I performed before, I’m comfortable in front of an audience or in front of a camera, but never had a chance to say things. Once I wrapped my head around that, it was fine. But the rest of it felt really comfortable and it made me feel like an adult. I really felt grown up because it was one of those things that I hadn’t acknowledged before. Having seen what my father did for work and having gone to work with him a few days over the years, it’s like, “Oh, right. This is an adult job”. This is what a grown person can do to earn a living. And it rushed in and hit me in that moment.
How have you changed since that first production?
I’m less nervous about my lines. It is still something I stress over. But outside of that I’ve grown more used to being called Mr. Fishburne and actually realizing that it’s me people are talking to. Hey, excuse me Mr. Fishburne is there anything you need? Yes. Thank you. That’s me. Right. Got it.
Since you’ve worked in Detroit, have you ever been to Windsor?
I have not made the trip over. And oddly enough, I’ve worked in Detroit a fair amount. I think I’ve shot four or five different projects there and I had no idea how close you guys were the first time I went. I was like, I know Canada’s close and everone was saying “No, no, it’s there. Just over there”.
Last question for you. What’s ahead for you in 2021 and beyond?
Whoo, that is a great question. I am excited to find out as well. I’ve got a recurring role on a show that I’m not at liberty to discuss right now, but I’m looking forward to when I can talk about it. And you know, back at the grind now that things are starting to open up . I’m looking forward to auditioning more and getting back on set.
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