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Writer, director Eric Haywood swings with ‘Four of Hearts’

Eric Haywood  Headshot

Photo credit: Brooks Ayola

Television writer Eric Haywood (Private Practice, Soul Food) had promised himself many years ago he would make a feature-length film once he moved to Hollywood, but time passed and other writing assignments took priority.  Now, his first cinematic debut, “Four of Hearts”, starring Darrin Dewitt Henson and Nadine Ellis will be screened at the 19th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival.  Haywood looks at what happens when being together becomes routine and what it takes to put a “little spice” back into a relationship.

You were able to bring a notable cast.  How did that happen?
I wrote the script’s lead character with Darrin Henson in mind because we had worked together on “Soul Food” some years ago.  I didn’t think I’d be able to get him because he is very busy and frankly, I didn’t have financing for an actor of Darrin’s ability and notoriety. But Darrin read the script and loved it. And much to my surprise, he not only agreed to play Derrick, but he was looking to get into feature film producing at the time.  So he came on board as my producer as well as my star.  And with Darrin being involved, the profile of the project was raised long before we ever started shooting. People were looking at the movie much more seriously and during the casting process, and he was able to directly get in touch with a few actors who had previously been inaccessible to us.

What about the remaining cast members?
One of my other producers had a relationship with a great casting director Kevin Scott, who is very well known in the LA acting community.  He read the script and helped us find Michelle (Krusiec) and Gabriel (Olds), who are talented, experienced actors who immediately understood the project and came and rolled their sleeves up and made it happen. I must say I couldn’t have asked for a better cast.

You have an impressive resume’ of television credits. Would you say the opportunities for African American writers have increased or stayed about the same in Hollywood?
It depends on who you talk to.  From my perspective, things haven’t changed that drastically in the last several years.  I personally know a lot of black writers, some working, some not, but that’s because we move within the same circles. But across the industry, in general things could be much better.

Has doing this movie made you some sort of a relationship expert?

(He laughs) I could never pretend to be an expert.   All I can say is number one, I did have to dig deep personally, in terms of making the story and relationship feel authentic, both as writer and director.  Number two, people who have seen the film say it really speaks to them and it feels real and three dimensional not like a “Hollywood” version of relationships.  To me that is more important and more gratifying for me creatively than having someone look at me as an expert.

Show dates August 23 and 24, Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State Street.  For more information www.siskelfilmcenter.org.  The Black Harvest Film Festival runs August 2 through 29.