Born on Dec. 10, 1957, in Chicago where he and his sister were raised by a single mom, Michael Clarke Duncan is a survivor who went from being homeless to a bodyguard to aspiring actor and now, a Hollywood star with an Oscar nomination on his résumé. And his career has continued to flourish since that critically acclaimed performance in the pivotal role of gentle giant John Coffey in The Green Mile.
The towering, 6-foot-5-inch thespian has enjoyed a long list of credits, and is set to star in his first full-time TV role in the new drama series, “The Finder,” on FOX. He also has several movies upcoming, including the independent horror thriller The Sibling, with Mischa Barton, and the sports drama From the Rough, starring Taraji P. Henson.
His recent film work includes Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, The Last Mimzy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Big Mike has also lent his distinctive, deep voice to such animated projects as Kung Fu Panda, Racing Stripes and Brother Bear.
Here, he talks about his latest outing as the voice of Kilowog in the Green Lantern.
Kam Williams: I have a lot of questions for you from fans, so why don’t I jump right into them. Editor/legist Patricia Turnier says: I think you’re a great actor and you should have won the Academy Award when you were nominated for “The Green Mile.
Michael Clarke Duncan: Thank you, Patricia. I have to admit that I agree with her. I think I should have won the Oscar and I believe The Green Mile should’ve won for Best Picture. It was the best movie made by anybody that year, hands down.
KW: Patricia asks: Is there a movie genre or type of role that you haven’t had the opportunity to do that you would like to?
MCD: Yes, what I have not done is play the lead in a romantic comedy. I have a comedic side and I bet people would enjoy seeing me get the beautiful woman in the end. Something like that would definitely work.
KW: Patricia also asks: What advice can you give to young people who to follow in your footsteps?
MCD: First off, have a plan. Know what you want to do, because if you don’t know what you want to do, you’ll get stuck. It’s not as easy as people think. A lot of kids think they can just go to Hollywood and become an actor or actress. It’s not that easy. There are millions of kids who come out here wanting to act. So, you have to have a plan, and you have to stick with that plan, because it’s not going to be easy by any means. You’re aware of that, Kam, because of all the degrees you have. You had to go to school and study. And aspiring actors need to take acting classes… know your craft inside and out… and get a job when you arrive in L.A. Don’t depend on acting as your sole source of income. Work nights, so you can have your days off to attend auditions. Have something to fall back on. That’s what my mother taught me, and it’s critical in Hollywood.
KW: You play voice of Kilowog in “Green Lantern.” Did you ever have to be on the set for this role?
MCD: No, I was never on the set, Kam. Martin had me in a studio in Burbank. He knew what he wanted and was very specific. He’s an excellent director who really drives you and pushes you hard.
KW: Teresa Emerson wants to know whether you enjoy doing voiceover work.
MCD: Oh, of course you have to love it any time you can go to the studio in pajamas, and the only preparation you have to do is take a shower and brush your teeth. You don’t even have to memorize your lines. The script is right there in front of you. So, yeah, I love voiceover work. It’s right up there with acting.
KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: Because of your size, you are often cast in a role of “The Heavy.” Since that is not the real you, how difficult is it to assume that role?
MCD: It’s kind of difficult, because once people enjoy you as “The Heavy,” they want to see you as that all the time. And if you become pigeonholed, then there are only certain limited roles you can play. To help, I’ve trimmed my weight down to a solid 275 instead of being over 300 pounds.
KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What is the most important lesson that you have learned working in Hollywood?
MCD: Save your money. Save your money, because you could be very busy for a year, but then have the next one off. That’s happened to me, but I put my money in the bank, Kam. I don’t splurge. So, my best advice about working in Hollywood is: Save your money!