From rock star Jimi Hendrix, to drug kingpin Ace Boogie, actor Wood Harris has played numerous flawed characters on stage and screen, but there is one role the actor will draw the line at playing.
“I can tell you that I won’t want to play a rapist, and I am highly unlikely to accept anything like that,” says Harris who can be seen in the futuristic film “Dredd 3D.”
A film based on the British graphic novel series 2000 A.D, “Dredd 3D” is directed by Pete Travis and follows a cop called Dredd (Karl Urban), who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner.
“It’s a superhero movie which is wonderfully done and wonderfully cinematic and it’s set in the future,” shares Harris, who is well known to many as Avon Barksdale from the long running HBO drama “The Wire.” “I play a captured clansman called Kay who is a member of the Ma-Ma clan, a group of notorious villains who run the nefarious Peach Trees mega-block. They are really bad guys who make a lot of money selling a new designer drug called Slo-Mo.”
Although Harris has had a streak of playing bad guys, portraying a murderous clansman offered a new set of challenges for 6′ 3″ tall actor who has performed in many films and various stage productions.
“I am captured in the movie and end up being with Dredd and his partner in their custody. I have never been in this capacity before where I am just in a situation,” Harris explains. “So it took some acting, as it’s not full of talk, and is a very visual and oddly beautiful film. Kay is definitely a villain, but he sees himself as no worse than the Judges. Judge Dredd goes around literally judging and killing people if they do wrong, and what is right or wrong is dictated by the system. Anyone who goes against the system might end up the bad guy. So I think Kay has justified fighting that in his mind. A lot of bad guys are that way. You meet them and they are villains in our world, but they are brilliant and smart in their own world.”
The Chicago native whose real name is Sherwin Harris (Wood is a nickname), credits a childhood spent watching movies and television shows for his decision to become an actor, and although he’s had his fair share of career highs and lows, he won’t trade acting for anything else.
“I have never stopped thinking and pursing it since I imagined myself being an actor. My dad was a big Marlon Brando, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart and Paul Newman fan. When I was a kid, that was all I watched and rather than looking at it and following the story, I was more interested in what they were doing onscreen. That became a part of me as an artist.”
Harris’ acting credits also include “Above the Rim,” opposite the late Tupac Shakur, “House,” “Not Easily Broken,” “Next Day Air,” “Hawaii Five-0” and the portrayal of the football player Julius Campbell in the inspirational sports drama “Remember the Titans,” although he is mostly remembered for his villainous roles.
“I do like playing the bad guy because they are fun to play, but I don’t necessarily gravitate towards playing it,” shares Harris. “In Hollywood they gravitate towards trying to make you play the same sort of role, but I probably won’t play anymore bad guys unless it’s a true story or a juicy role. What works for an actor is to diversify his portfolio as it’s about having a diverse quality and not about playing one type of role.”
“Dredd 3D” opens in theaters September 21