KAT (from Kreyolicious) interviews Jimmy Jean-Louis, focusing on his work in Hollywood and in world film. I have chosen excerpts related to his role in the epic film Toussaint L’Ouverture. As KAT explains, Jean-Louis—who immigrated to France while still a young boy and worked first as a model in Europe—has become one the most prominent black actors in Hollywood and one of the most successful Haitian actors in Hollywood and beyond. KAT writes:
From roles in Phat Girls to Diary of a Tired Black Man to his iconic role in the television hit series, Jean-Louis practically typifies the Hollywood Dream. But he’s also spread his wings, having flirted with Nollywood, having starred in Relentless and the award-winning Sinking Sands, two African-produced dramas. One of the biggest highlights of his career thus far, is playing the Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture in the Philippe Niang biopic of the legendary 19th Century leader. Next up is a role as a priest alongside 50 Cent, Meg Ryan, John Lithgow, and Anthony Anderson in the film The Lives of Saints. For Jean-Louis, life is good.
Would you tell us about the mini-series that you’re in, that’s about Toussaint L’ouverture? As it is now, it’s two movies of 90 minutes. Part 1 and part 2. It’s a total of 3 hours. It was shot entirely in French, [with] a little bit of Kreyol as well. Shot in France and Martinique, which replaced Haiti as a location. It’s ready now. I believe between February or March, it will be available. It was financed by French television…France 2. It will be on their station first and then [it will be available] for the international market. I’m not sure yet how it’s going to be distributed, whether it’s going to be in theaters or broadcasted on an [American] television station.
How did you get involved? The producers contacted me. You have to understand they have tried to make this movie for the past 20 years. And Danny Glover tried to make this movie for the past 15 years. And many other names have tried to make it. It was a long overdue movie. I was called by the producers to play the role, because they felt I fit the character. I had to do a lot of exercises. I had to learn how to ride a horse. I took lessons for a couple of months. [I had to learn how to] do sword-fighting. I took lessons in California and France.
Did you read any books to give you a sense of the time period? Yeah, of course. I read a few books. I watched a few documentaries that were made about him. I had information coming from him from historians in America and France. Had a lot of conversations. So, I had to do a lot of research to portray him as well. I’m very, very proud of the end results.
Why was the movie filmed in Martinique and not in Haiti? A lot of people feel it would have brought a lot of publicity to Haiti, and it only seemed natural that it should be filmed in Haiti and not another island. Haiti falls short on some requirements. I think the production tried, but it’s difficult to get insurance to insure a place like Haiti right now. From what I’ve been told, that’s one of the reasons why we couldn’t go there and shoot. The structure in Haiti is not the best either. Electricity. The roads are still pretty bad. As a Haitian, I would love to have shot it there. [. . .]
Also see previous posts Jean McGianni Celestin Interviews Actor Jimmy Jean-Louis and New Film: Philippe Niang’s Forthcoming “Toussaint L’Ouverture”]
For full article and interview, see http://kreyolicious.com/jimmy-jean-louis-talks-about-the-toussaint-louverture-movie-family-life-and-hollywood/1106/