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Hill Harper dishes on Jennifer Lopez, the incarceration crisis, and his hope for Black America


The lights in Times Square can be mesmerizing. But after a while, it’s common to become numb to the hundreds of ads, PSAs, and random videos that are vying to grab at least 15 seconds of your attention.

The glamour overrides meaning and can often take away from the actual experience.

The film industry can have the same numbing effect. As a result, it’s enlightening when a person within the industry can take part in the allure of Hollywood while also representing values that are significant from a social aspect.

When our production crew met Hill Harper at a location in Times Square, it was obvious that we were meeting a star who knew his purpose.
Harper is a community leader who happens to be an exceptional actor. His desire to motivate young Blacks and his knack for speaking on social issues allows him to standout in a celebrity-driven industry that often focuses on flash over substance.

But when taking a closer look at Harper’s life, it’s easy to understand why he’s an aberration in Hollywood.

Acting was somewhat of a hobby for Harper, who concentratedon academics during his youth. An Ivy League graduate, Harper received degrees from Brown University and Harvard Law School. Early in life, Harper knew that there wasn’t a goal that he couldn’t accomplish if he put forth the effort.

Similar to how Harper committed himself to academia, he used that same dedication to establish himself as a respected actor.

In his latest film, Harper stars alongside Jennifer Lopez in the Rob Cohen thriller, The Boy Next Door.

During our time together, Harper discussed his latest film, witnessing the growth of Lopez, his work as a writer, and why he believes it’s his duty to inspire Black youth.

Here is Harper’s take on “edutainment.”

Let’s start off by discussing The Boy Next Door. How were you introduced to this film?
Rob Cohen directed me in a movie called The Skull years ago. He’s a great director. He also did the first Fast and Furious film and he’s also done Triple X. He called and said, “there is a role in this movie with Jennifer Lopez. We’re shooting this movie quick. Do you want to come down and knock it out?” I was like, “absolutely.” It’s a fun movie and it’s great to be back on the big screen.

How was it working with Jennifer Lopez?
It was wonderful working with Jennifer. She’s a professional. I think she’s super talented. Obviously, she’s beautiful. I think people are really going to enjoy this film. You get to see her in a light that maybe you haven’t seen in a while. She takes some risks and I think it’s going to be pretty special.

Along with promoting your books, you have been active with the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation. What are some of the issues that your organization is tackling?
Manifest Your Destiny is my foundation that I founded after my first book, Letters to a Young Brother. I [named] it after the subtitle of that book. We have a summer empowerment academy that we’ve been working on in Los Angeles for the past six years. Now, we’re finally expanding it nationally. We’re going to also bring it to D.C., then we hope to scale it out as we build capacity in Chicago, Charlotte, [North Carolina], and other cities. We’re happy to be of service. We really want to deal with the drop out crisis. There’s an inextricable link between dropout rates and incarceration rates. We want kids to stay in school. We want to encourage them and give them the tools to do that. So many people say “stay in school,” but no one ever tells the young person why. Our program is the why. We talk about the reasons they should stay in school and the benefits for staying in school. Not only staying in school, but excelling in school.

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1 Comment

  1. ChattyCathy on January 22, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    This is a very refreshing and uplifting interview. I really enjoyed it. Thank you Rolling Out.