Derek Luke: 'I was molested, and I have my own personal fight'
(CNN) -- The following is a transcript from a CNN.com interview with actor Derek Luke, who stars in Denzel Washington's directorial debut, "Antwone Fisher." Luke plays Fisher, a young man who must overcome his troubled past, namely emotional and sexual abuse. Like his character, Luke says he, too, was abused:
CNN.com: How did you get the leading role in "Antwone Fisher?"
DEREK LUKE: I was discovered on the Sony lot through an audition by Denzel Washington.
CNN.com: I heard that the audition was back in 1998. Was it a case where you kept (it) in the back of your mind, or did they keep you in the back of their mind?
LUKE: Actually it was a little bit of both. In 1998 I auditioned twice. And then the film went down for hiatus for three years because, whatever, production. Then they started casting again back in 2001. I always dreamt of doing it, but when I would think about it ... but when I heard it ... I saw it through the trades that they were auditioning – usually I will hear about a film through the trades and they would say cast call.
But my manager at the time called me and says, 'Guess what, "Antwone Fisher." It's back up.' She knew I was really interested in the film. She set up the audition. That was in 2001. I found out I got the role magically through Mr. Washington himself. I was on the Sony set outside of the store where I worked and sold clothes faithfully, and Denzel Washington comes up and he says, 'Antwone,' [replies] I'm like 'That's me, I can do it, I can do it, I can do it ...' while I hugged him violently. I couldn't believe it. My life had changed. It changed.
CNN.com: The movie hasn't come out yet, but there's been so much buzz already, did you expect it to become this big?
LUKE: My expectation was to get through it. Many times you're working really hard, you don't know where you are sometimes day-to-day. I was having fun. Sometimes it was like a lot of work. My expectation was to give a good performance to Antwone because it's about him. It's not just about an acting performance; it's about this man's human life. I said, 'I gotta serve this dude right.' Then everything else falls into place.
CNN.com: How did you relate to the character? Do you share any similarities?
LUKE: Yeah, I would say. I was molested. I try not to emphasize on me because I feel Antwone had a harder life. I think sometimes people feel it may be selfish as an actor to use what you drew on to subtract from the real story. My whole thing was I felt free when I read the script. I felt like maybe I get to hide behind the script and tell my story. I was molested, and I have my own personal fight. That was a challenge for me, even now talking about it. But my whole thing was to bring justice to the Antwones of the world.
CNN.com: One thing that struck me about the film was the fact that Antwone was molested by a women. That to me is unheard of. Do you worry about any misconceptions in that respect, with the audience?
CNN.com: I wish I could check statistics, but it seems like it's safe to say that's pretty rare.
LUKE: It may be safe to say rare ... it may be rare mentioning it. I don't know statistically if it's true. I think (any) molester period needs to be dealt with. I think that's the whole point of the story. If you are a molester, molestee, seeing the film ... healing starts. You're able to relate, period. I never thought, that's a woman. I just thought, man, I know how painful that can be.
CNN.com: What's the moral of the Antwone Fisher story?
LUKE: That I have to ask the public. It depends on what you get out of it. Healing, hope, conflict and victory. I've been hearing so much, and it has not been one of the same comment all over the states.
CNN.com: What are your thoughts on Denzel.
LUKE: Awesome. People I think look forward to him bringing to life his directorial skills because this is like just a touch, this is almost like him re-creating his acting career. And how blessed were we to be fortunate for him to bring everything he's done. Now imagine double times over as a director (because) that's what he's about to do.
CNN.com: What about all of the Oscar buzz on this film. How does that make you feel?
LUKE: I think it's a real blessing. My real reward is when people get to (have a) reward. I watch many Oscars, but I make an emphasis not to really dwell on it if I don't have to, but it's a major applaud and I thank people for their support.
CNN.com: Who do you emulate as an actor?
LUKE: Antwone and Denzel. Truth and honesty. Learning about Antwone. Even though he's not an actor. Denzel Washington is a person I will always emulate. I emulate him because he focuses on real life. Because of that he has made me a better person.
CNN.com: What do you bring to the acting game?
LUKE: I hope the Sidney Poitiers, Denzel Washingtons, the Al Pacinos. I hope a revelation to my generation. Tell some untold stories with passion.
I've been married for close to four years. I'm 28. I grew up all over Jersey actually.
CNN.com: Your thoughts about Antwone Fisher, the man.
LUKE: I can't put it into words. I commend him for stepping forward. He was a better man than I was because he inspired me to not be closed. Antwone is a wonderful guy. He's straight comedy. He's unbelievably rich in character. That's the only way I can describe him.
CNN.com: Do you feel you had already come to terms with what had happened in your past when you started making the film?
LUKE: I'm healing now. I think (by) tapping into what I overcame and by hearing other people's stories (helped me heal). That's what I wanted to do. It's happening now.
It's such a sensitive subject (that) I try to make Antwone the subject.