Born in New Orleans on Sept. 23, 1979, Anthony Mackie attended the Julliard School of Drama. He was discovered after receiving rave reviews for playing Tupac Shakur in the off-Broadway play Up Against the Wind.

His film debut was as Eminem’s nemesis, Papa Doc, in 8 Mile. His performance caught the attention of Spike Lee, who subsequently cast him in Sucker Free City and She Hate Me. He also appeared Million Dollar Baby and The Manchurian Candidate.

Mackie has performed both on and off Broadway. His Broadway debut was in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He was in Regina King’s modern retelling of Chekov’s The Seagull, McReele and in the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier’s Play.

His most recent films include Night Catches Us, The Adjustment Bureau, Real Steel, Man on a Ledge, 10 Years and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Here, he talks about his new movie, Pain & Gain, a fact-based crime comedy co-starring Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg.

Kam Williams: Hi Anthony, thanks for another interview.
Anthony Mackie: What’s going on, my man?

KW: How much time did you devote to the exercise regimen to get yourself in such great shape?
AM: About four months. I worked out for six weeks before we started shooting, and then every day on location. To get in shape like that involves a whole lifestyle change. It’s not just going to the gym. It’s also eating and sleeping differently, and spending your time differently.

KW: It seems to me like the film actually has a message about the growing distance between classes in America. Or am I asking too much from a spring blockbuster?
AM: I think the movie deals more with The American Dream, and the skewed perception of it in our generation. The idea used to be that you worked hard to achieve more. Now, it’s “Do as little as you can to achieve as much as you can.”

KW: There are people who do not give themselves permission to pursue their dreams. What advice do you have for them?
AM: I still meet naysayers every day. This business is funny. It’s all about your journey and the road that you’re on. There are so many people who like to comment on my career and on what I am or am not doing. But I know that it’s my path, and I’m going to decide for myself which direction I want to go. When I meet naysayers, I just thank them politely for acknowledging my career and I wish them many blessings on the success of their own careers.

KW: Are you attached to any post-Katrina rehabilitation project in New Orleans?
AM: No, I’ve been staying away from the revitalization of New Orleans, because it’s not New Orleanians who are behind it. And that’s the problem. Every time a New Orleanian tries to get behind a project, it gets shot down. But you have all these folks from outside the state trying to change the culture. That’s what the backlash is all about right now. We want to keep the city the way it was. New Orleans is not New York, L.A. or Las Vegas, and we want to push all the outsiders out in order to get back to where we were before Hurricane Katrina.

KW: What was your wisest career move?
AM: Not doing a TV show.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
AM: Success.

KW: Who do you really believe you are when you go home as opposed to the person you pretend to be on the red carpet?
AM: At home, I’m a very, deliberate, opinionated and outspoken person. You have to soften yourself on the red carpet, because no one wants to think you have an opinion anymore.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Anthony, and best of luck with the film.
AM: Thanks a lot, Kam, I really appreciate it.

To see a trailer for Pain & Gain, visit:

Kam Williams

Special to the AFRO