Starring alongside Ben Affleck, Charles Lott Jr. appears in the film THE WAY BACK in theaters March 6. The film is about an ex-basketball star’s struggle with his past alcoholism as he coaches his alma mater’s basketball team. It is a classic in the making. The film allowed Lott to gain wisdom both from his experience on the film and his relationship with Affleck. Check out our exclusive interview with the up and coming actor who measures how hard he works based upon the recent Kevin Hart docu-series on Netflix, and names Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angela Bassett, and Denzel Washington as other big name actors he would love to work with.
You star with Ben Affleck in the drama-sports film THE WAY BACK. It premieres today, March 6th, how did you find out you got the role and what was it like working with Ben?
So this is crazy? My manager got me the audition. I got a call late one night, and it was so funny because it was ironic that I was watching the Accountant on TV, and so he had called me and said, “Hey, you have an audition,” and I was like, Oh! And he said, “It’s with Ben Affleck,” and I was like OH! It all happened so fast it didn’t even feel real.
Charles, whose character is Chubbs, plays basketball in the film. The actor says he was sent the script and was scared because he never really played the sport before. I played football. I’ve always been athletic, but basketball was never really my thing, so that night (getting the part), I got up and took my basketball and went to the rec center and practiced, and I also practiced the script. I woke up the next day of the audition, which was on a Friday. When I went in, there was a dog in the lobby. I got so distracted with the dog that when the casting lady called me five times, I didn’t hear her. When I ran inside the room, I forgot my script, and everything that was supposed to go right, I thought went wrong. Luckily, the audition went well, and they had called me back to audition again because they wanted to see a clip of me doing basketball stuff, training in front of coaches, but I ended up injured. I rolled my ankle practicing because they had actual basketball players there. I was in a wheelchair, and one of the casting ladies came up to me and told me I could leave because I got hurt, and I was rolled out because I couldn’t walk. I am literally on the verge of crying because I was so close after having the directors call back after my first audition went well. My thought: It’s so ridiculous, man life throws crazy things at you.
Charles shared he was stopped before he got to the car to come back inside. The director, Gavin O’Connor, was there. He walked up to me, and hugged me and said, I know you’re injured, but we like your character so much, we will just have to work around it and get you into rehab to work on your leg. I was asked, how would you feel if we made you part of the role? I told him, I think you’ve made the right choice, and we started shooting from there.
Working with Ben, Man! It was really one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my life. It’s funny because he’s a big and statuesque guy, so he’s kind of intimating to be around, but once you really talk to him, he’s very approachable and one of the nicest person and easiest people to work with. He made it fun and comfortable to work with him.
You have a role in the comedy-drama war show “68 Whiskey.” It aired January 15th. Tell us about the show and what inspired you to do the project?
When I first heard about the project, I thought it was about drinking whiskey in 1968 (laughs). I was excited and thought, it will be dope! But the people in charge were like, no, it’s a military show— a naval base camp in Iraq. I thought, Wow! Basically, in late 2018 going into to 2019, I auditioned for the role of Petrocelli one of the series regulars on the show. They wanted to use me, but it ended up not working out because the name Petrocelli is Italian and I’m black, but they liked me. The casting director, Wendy O’Brien, who also cast me in The Way Back told me (at that point) I was on her short list of things she like to send people out on (auditions). I received a text from her and she says, there is this show 68 Whiskey and I remember you, and I am going to do whatever it takes to get you on this show because I think they’re really going to like you (they liked you in the beginning). I was so happy they had several different roles even though they cut some of the roles that did not work, plus the fires kept happening around LA, so that kind of prevented them from shooting a lot. They kept calling saying they wanted me, but they never made it official, so I thought they were playing games, and I didn’t know what was going on. Eventually the fires cleared and they wrote a role for this kid named Private Blankenship. I was asked to audition for it, and I got the part immediately. The show is great! And when I found out Ron Howard was the one producing it, I was more motivated to join the cast.
We read acting was not your first choice. You had dreams of playing professional football, and if that didn’t work out, your backup plan was to become a business owner? Do you still have plans to do something in the athletic and business field along with your acting career?
Absolutely! I think with business, I want to be able to build and create and it all be in the realms of acting still. My goal in life is to be able to own my own production company and to develop my own content. In anything I do, no matter what it is, I always want to be in control of my own destiny and create my own narrative, and material. I predominantly want it to be around film when creating businesses, but there definitely are other things that interest me. It’s crazy because I play football and you see these guys— they have the mentality of football life. Grind everyday and don’t do anything besides football until they get to the NFL and make a lot of money. And they go to different places and expand their horizons and find other interest besides football. That’s why you see some of these guys, especially smart players retire because they find other interests and other things, and when you have that type of money and time to be able to explore outside of the career you have, you never know, so I would not rule out the idea of starting other businesses and working on other stuff whether it’s in sports, film, cinema, music, culinary, or anything. I don’t have anything set in stone that I would want to do differently besides the film industry. I love being able to own my own stuff.
Was it easy to go from playing football to basketball in The Way Back? Name the similarities and differences being they’re both competitive sports.
Football versus basketball. The camaraderie, the fellowship, brotherhood and the unity of all sports is always going to be similar. When you play football and you’re going out to prepare for a game, it’s a completely different mindset compared to basketball. Kobe Bryant played basketball and has this whole Mamba mentality (killer mentality) and football has what Kobe has. A 15-year-old kid playing football has what Kobe has—that Mamba mentality because it’s a barbaric game. Basketball is a little more relaxed, but I think if you have that competitive nature it’s always going to be easy to translate it into different sports. I can go without playing football for months and as long as I’m still being aggressive can jump right back in. If I take three days from shooting basketball and come back, I’m air balling (laughs).
*At the time of the interview, Charles spoke about Kobe Bryant being a great athlete, little did anyone know that just days later, Bryant would perish in a helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi) Bryant and seven others on January 26 in Calabasas, CA.
The actor ended the interview discussing his attitude on goals for a New Year. You can always create a method or formula throughout the year what you would like to do better. Tomorrow is not promised so why wait. Charles then recalled advice his father gave him and that is, if you want to play football (insert your goal) no one should have to remind you to do so, if you want to do it you will.
Follow Charles Lott @charleslottofficial