Jacob Latimore on working with Will Smith and evolving as an actor

Words by Jonell Whitt; Images by DeWayne Rogers; Styled by Renaldo Nehemiah

Jacob Latimore has grown up right before our eyes. The “One Tree Hill” actor had his television debut in 2009 and here we are seven years, 10 television and film projects later and Latimore is now pegged as one of the most talented and versatile actors of his generation. With the success of his role in the film Sleight from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, we are not surprised that he was tapped by Hollywood directors for the role of Raffi in the thought-provoking movie Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena and Helen Mirren. Rolling out caught up with Latimore at the W Hotel in Atlanta to learn more about his role in the movie and the amazing time he had on set with the A-list cast.

Your acting has really evolved to a new level. Talk about that.
This role sort of challenged me and pushed me in a way where I had to elevate and I had to be better than my last film. Because of the star-studded, A-list cast for sure and I was playing the role of the concept of Time. Most people would be like, “Well, how do you do that?”

This definitely was a different type of role for you, playing Time. How did you prepare?
I was like OK, how am I supposed to play Time? Like what kind of clothes does he wear? Is he a he or she? So then I thought, OK, I need to focus on how to represent the concept of Time, elaborate on how Time is so important and what we do with our time is so precious. I love the quote in the movie that says, “Love is creation, death is destruction and Time is the terrain in between, it’s the bridge that connects the beginning and the end. So whatever we do between that time is important.”

I think people will be very surprised by my performance. I’m really, really excited about the film. It’s a really cool film about healing and trying to get over that hump in life and how to keep living until there is the end. It’s a touching film and I’m proud to be a part of it.

When you first got the script, how far did you have to read until you knew you wanted the role?
Well, I actually read the script for the role of Raffi maybe a year before we started shooting and I thought it was a pretty amazing script. Then a lot of changes happened with the film. The first change was a different director attached to the project and then a totally different team. So, by the time they were ready to start shooting after they regrouped, I had to re-audition. I was the first one David [Frankel, the director] saw for the role. He loved my audition. I try to take every audition seriously. You can walk into a room like that and you can do really good and still not book the job because maybe you didn’t look the part. But I just feel really blessed to be part of the film.

The director said something to the effect that everyone who read the script cried.
No, I didn’t cry when I read the script. It’s very touching, though. When I saw the film on screen, for the first time, then I actually cried a little bit because it’s a sad movie and it’s a very, very deep film and still has those moments where you can laugh a little bit, too.

You and Will Smith had a lot of scenes together. What was that like?
We had a couple scenes together, so yeah I think he’s incredible. He has a great heart. He’s awesome.

Will Smith is such a versatile actor, like he was in his zone during the film.
He was in it; he was all in it. That was amazing to see as well because when the director said cut, he snapped in and out and turned back into his normal Will Smith self. He’s amazing. We were filming in NY in the middle of the street and there were about 100 people behind the camera. We’re in the middle of the streets shooting our scene, and he just was able to jump in and out of character during the process.

Let’s talk about Raffi, your character. He was about the cash.
Yeah, Raffi was definitely about his bread. He was about getting his paper.

I believe Will referred to Raffi, who played the role of Time, as a thug. How did Will describe Time?
He said Time was a thug! He was arrogant and mean. You know when I saw the movie for the first time, I didn’t even remember reading that part. Will was super funny and when he said things like that, it definitely brought light to some serious scenes.

The movie was an exercise in soul searching. I found myself comparing my Time and the role that Time plays in my daily life.
It really makes you ask yourself, “OK, if Time could talk back to you, what would he say to you?” In that one scene, Raffi says, “A day is long. What are you doing in that day? Why are you building dominoes?” Then later in the film, we find out why he was building the dominoes. We see the depth in why it was important.

Do you think this movie has made an impact on your life, besides just being a role that you played?
Absolutely, because Time was the one thing I could relate to. I haven’t experienced a close family member passing away, so it wasn’t that I wasn’t sensitive to it, but I couldn’t personally relate to it. I definitely examine closer how I am using my time each day. I ask, am I being productive and am I making the best use of my time each day?

Who’s next for you to work with after Will Smith?
Denzel Washington has got to be next. Denzel, Jacob Latimore is in the marketplace if you are out there listening. I’m waiting. [I’d also like to work with], Jamie Foxx and Shia LaBeouf.

What about Will Ferrell?
It would have to be the right role, and he’s quick. I definitely would be intimidated. He’s so sharp. That would be different.

It sounds like you learned a lot on this project.
Absolutely. I’m definitely learning every day. I definitely feel blessed for the experience and opportunity. I’m excited about the film, [which comes out] December 16. Collateral Beauty will be in the theater and I encourage everyone to check it out. One more thing: Connection, my album, the reel and the video are out right now.

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