Larenz Tate embodies longevity that spans three decades where we’ve seen him grow through timeless roles that continue to entertain nostalgia-fueled generations obsessed with his classic cinematic universe.
At 45, he’s one of a few actors with iconic roles in multiple movies in the same decade that paved the way for his latest (and most hated) character: slithery-slimeball ‘Councilman Tate’ on “Power” who showed Tate’s impressive range as an actor.
With an enviable legacy and millions to be made, the ageless actor-turned-actor/producer/entrepreneur made a bold power move into the streaming space with new Dark Comedy “Business Ethics” where he plays an ambitious and unethical financial tycoon who will stop at nothing to climb the ladder of success.
We caught up with the living legend who talked about everything from his new film to being dragged by “Power” fans for years in an essential interview.
Larenz, you’ve had an amazing career and been famous for most of my life —
I appreciate you staying engaged and keeping up with what I’ve been doing over, you know, 30+ years I’ve been in the industry. That’s crazy.
And it’s not often that people can start off their career very early on doing work as a child actor to maintain it for three decades–three, four decades. It’s rare. And I am absolutely grateful. I’m thankful now more than I can express to be able to do the things that I love to do as an actor and now as a producer–to do the things that make people feel something. It’s really a blessing and I’m really grateful. I’m really grateful.
And with longevity comes a time when you have to evolve and move forward so tell me about your new movie “Business Ethics?”
This was something that my brothers–my brothers Larran and Lahmard–we have a company called TateMen Entertainment Production Company, and we produce movies. We connect with other production companies or producers or like minds to create content and to get it to the people. And this is a film that we’re really proud of.
I’m starring in the film. We’ve been part of the production, we’re executive producers on the movie, we’re marketing and pushing the movie out there from an independent standpoint. And it’s the entrepreneurial spirit that I have because I don’t want to wait–this is a great time. Unfortunately, a lot of people are faced with a pandemic and being forced to stay at home and be indoors.
And, you know, for us as content creators and people who are producers, this is an opportune time to get our movie to audiences who need and want something new to watch and enjoy and kind of forget about their circumstances.
“Business Ethics” is a movie about a guy who is incredibly smart, incredibly intelligent, smartest brother in the room, and he works for a top money management firm that goes under. Some shady business happens and it collapses, which means his career is now off track. He loses everything–everything you could imagine. And the only way he can get back on top is to create a scheme.
Now, keep in mind, the character that I play is not some small-time nickel and dime cat on the street corner hustling people in a card game. He’s going to real live people who got the money. People who have ancillary cash, wealthy people who are liquid, people who, in his mind, are doing absurd things with their money.
And he’s like ‘I’m gon’ scheme them out their bread. I’m gon’ take a lil bit of that. In fact, Imma take a lot of that’ and he begins to scheme people out of millions of dollars.
It’s some craaaazy stuff that goes on that he’s doing–all the things that when people watch this movie, you begin to question your own morality, would you, if you could, try to scheme really wealthy people. And they’re so disconnected, these wealthy people, some of these wealthy people are so disconnected.
You always wonder if you had their money what you would do with it but how do you get to their money? He uses his intellect. He uses his wisdom. He uses his charisma and, that alone, attracted me to the character because we don’t get a chance to see a lot of Black men or Black folks represented in a very white collar corporate high level position.
You know, we don’t really get a chance to see those–we’re used to seeing some of the stereotypical things but this is a guy who is super smart and becomes very wealthy.
It looks good and has a blockbuster look —
Yea, that’s the quality of filmmaking we want to do! And, fortunately, we had the resources and access to the money to do the film we wanted to do–our partners, Richard and Nick Wernham wrote and directed the film and were able to create a quality Hollywood-level film.
We want to show people that you don’t necessarily have to use the traditional Hollywood model in making quality films. It’s great to do it. And we are very much so Hollywood-friendly but it’s nice to be able to take the business into your own hands.
You know, it’s funny you talk about this shady character in your new movie–I thought I knew you over the years, but lately, the last couple of years, you’ve been playing some shady characters.
There’s one in particular that gets the people going and, you know, a lot of people can’t differentiate between characters and real people. A lot of the time.
And Councilman Tate–I don’t know what it is about Councilman Tate but how you deal with perception vs. reality as a great actor? How do you, as an actor, deal with that?
It’s interesting–I got to take it back a little bit–let’s just point this out: “Power” fans, who we see as “Power” family, are very unique. The “Power” family and the “Power” fanS take “Power” very seriously. They do not separate the actual people who are playing these characters from the world that they’re in. So people really believe Ghost is a real person *laughs*
They really believe Tariq is a real person. They really believe that Dre and Tasha and LaKeisha and Kanaan are real. They really believe that Tommy is real because those characters represent people that they know.
Councilman Tate represents a figure of what people know or have seen or come in contact with so it becomes very real to them and, for me, I think it’s great because we keep people engaged. I think it’s great because we’re able to continue to give the audiences what they want. Sometimes things are unpopular but we still are engaged with them.
It’s become a phenomenon in itself because we are now talking about GOATS and what Tariq is doing and Mary J. Blige and Method Man are involved, you know, the “Power” universe just doesn’t stop.
But getting back to what you were saying in terms of people not separating the characters from the actors, I think it’s funny, I saw what was happening before I got on the show because I came to the show Season four. I could see on social media how people related to the actors and the characters so by the time I got to play Councilman and starting hearing the feedback, I was like, ‘Oh, man! So now it’s my turn’ *laughs* either they love you or they hate you.
So, I saw what they were doing with Rotimi’s character, Dre. I saw what they were doing with various characters so I was like ‘OK, it’s my turn’ and I’ve been in the business for a long time and we’ve discussed this so people know that it’s just a character because they have a reference for me.
They could talk about O-Dog, they could talk about “Love Jones” in terms of Darius Lovehall, they can talk about Anthony Curry, they could talk about Frankie Lymon. I think when you have new faces that people aren’t accustomed to seeing and now they have a character that’s larger than life then they begin to not be able to separate them.
And, to me, if people can talk about Councilman Tate and not Larenz tate…it’s crazy, I got the same last name but they’re talking about Rashad… so many people say ‘you know what, I love you Larenz but I can’t stand that damn Rashad’ and it takes me out. It. Takes. Me. Out. I think it’s the funniest thing ever *laughs*
And that’s a testament to you and your range, to be able to be Larenz one day and then people see you as your Tether–the dark version of yourself–That’s great.
*laughs* I appreciate it–I embrace it! —
At this point, you have to because it’s constant
It’s constant, I embrace it, I’m with it!
Because, every week, when your (Twitter) mentions start blowing up that means the episode aired.
Can you talk about being on the producers side–the business side–and being in a movie vs. streaming and residuals?
So when you structure a deal you’re talking about the longevity of your involvement in receiving residuals or royalties. People in the music industry receive royalties and people in the movie or TV industry receive residuals that are very important because our work is cyclical. It’s like a cycle.
Sometimes you’re working a lot and then there’s a lot of down time and if you’re not on a TV show and you’re not in movies–you might be doing some theater work or you might just be doing nothing at all–so residuals will keep you afloat.
And it’s important to try to have that. The bigger the star or the bigger your value is, the more you will get in your residuals and so many people live off residuals. Think about all of the hit TV shows that were in the 1980s and 1990s, and you may not see these actors or actresses anymore or these directors are producers but those residuals are the things that will allow them to stay afloat.
Certain platforms today will honor those residuals and some won’t. It all depends on the deal that is structured.
So you have to pick and choose, you know, how you structure your deals because if you’re not going to get any residuals later you want to try to load more money on top if that’s the case.
And if you’re not going to get any residuals later and sometimes people decide to take a little upfront and take more on the back end because that means that their residuals will be bigger and long lasting.
So each deal is a little different but I will say people keep in mind: if you’re not going to get big residuals from a platform, a streaming service or a company, then make sure whatever your participation, financial participation up front, is strong.
And if you do get residuals, then you may decide to take a little less upfront and put more on the back so you can stretch the money.
See, this is what we came here for, the education, because people don’t really talk about the business of movies, in the entertainment industry, and in general.
It’s great to see you merge into production and being behind the scenes as one of the most known actors of your generation as far as body of work. I appreciated the conversation.
And likewise, man. Thank you. I appreciate BOSSIP always looking out and showing love. It’s great to see yall continuously growing and pushing the culture because it’s a great outlet and, again, “Business Ethics” is available on itunes, GooglePlay, Amazon and On Demand October 23rd–I’m starring in it as well as executive producing it with my team.
Yea, no fire sticks! No piracy. We want streams.
*laughs* go ‘head and stream that, man. Try to do yall best. I know some people are gonna do what they do but I’m just sayin’ this is a brotha out here –Black entrepreneur–trying to do his thing and I appreciate the support.
For more information about “Business Ethics” and TateMen Entertainment, click here.