Actor/Director/Author/Activist HILL HARPER covers the new issue of ROLLING OUT!!!
Here are some interview highlights:
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.
What inspired you to write your latest book, Letters to an Incarcerated Brother?
When my first book, Letters to a Young Brother, was released, a lot of juvenile judges were assigning my book to inmates and having them write book reports. The judges began to send me the reports and I began receiving letters from young inmates. When I dug deeper, I realized how much incarceration is affecting our community. If you come out of jail with a felony on your record, it’s almost impossible to get a job. There are so many hurdles. I felt this was an area where we can have an impact. It’s the most important book that I have written to date.
What do you tell the young person who is struggling in school or if they are looking for motivation for the future?
I’ve recently been talking about C words. Words that begin with C. Character is number one. If you live your life with a measure of character, you can almost think about every decision you make. “What would a high character person do?” So if you model your life after that, it becomes a huge deal. The other C that I’ve been talking about is creativity. We live in a world today that if you want to be dynamic and want to make a difference, you have to be creative. That means having a creative use of technology; creative use of ideas or design; a creative use of putting together different ideas. Being creative and bringing something new to the table is critical. Then the third C word is courage. It’s one of my favorite words. The etymology or the root of that word is coeur. In French, that means heart. The idea is to bring your heart to the table, bring your courage to the table.