#INTERVIEW: COURTNEY B. VANCE ON “BEN IS BACK”
By Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
Peter Hedges’ latest film, Ben is Back, premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and we were lucky enough to sit down with one of the Film’s stars, Courtney B. Vance. The Film explores the many ways drug use effects not just the addict but also their family which prompted Mr. Vance to open-up about not only his preparation for the Film but also his views on parenting and family.
SIOBHÁN: You’ve worked on Stage, Television, Film. How does your preparation differ depending on the medium?
VANCE: It does. I remember for Lucky Guy I tried to do a lot of research but there was nothing to be found on him so I had to back into him by listening to everything the Director, George C. Wolfe, was saying about him. With Johnny Cochrane and OJ Simpson – I could have looked at all the footage but I thought that would put me in my head too much. So I chose to read the book a couple times and I found a kernel in there and I said “I’m going to trust that that’s enough to propel me in.” So really it depends – a play is different than film and film is slower, and you have more time than with television. It depends but ultimately it really comes down to knowing just enough we we can get in there and play and see what the other actor or actors and the director and the production designer and what everybody’s bringing. Then to be able to be – that’s where potentially the magic – you have to leave room for the magic to happen. But with a play you actually have the play to take you through every night and then to see what happens to people. With Film [and Television] you have to depend on the directors,“Ok where am I now and what’s happening here and what’s coming up? Okay got it! Let’s go.” So it’s a little different.
SIOBHÁN: In the Film, your character is the hard nosed realist whereas Julia’s character is very much about the unconditional love – tough love – but still unconditional love. Where do you fall on that and which do you think is more realistic?
VANCE: I think they both have to be there. I think there are instances – and my wife [Angela Bassett) and I deal with this in our lives with our children – sometimes you have to be there as a soft cushion for them to fall into and sometimes… “You fall in here but let’s look after we’ve done this […] let’s talk it through. “You did this. What are some other options you could have done so that the next time it comes up – and it will come up again – a different colour, a different height, a different depth.” To be able to be discerning because eventually you need to be able to do this yourself. You have to be able navigate and that’s what we are really about raising children and young people to be fully functioning – to eventually be able to take over.
My mother passed away last year of ALS and they saw me take over for her because she couldn’t anymore. I had to make decisions for my mother with my sister and they saw that as children. They saw daddy, they saw Grandma is not as… She used to talk and now she’s not talking but you still had to go in. They still had to say good morning to Grandma, tell her what your day was like. And so that process, that circle of life, everything goes around in a circle and some days it may not be your best day you’ve had but it is a day and we’ll get through this to the other side. Knowing that with help – with the village – we can push through this and get through just about anything. It’s really about children knowing at base core they’re loved and based on that we gotta deal with this issue. If they know it’s done in a loving situation then we can ride through any storm.
Elevation Pictures release BEN IS BACK Friday, December 14, 2018.