Cover Story: Laz Alonso

By Teryl Warren

Check out this month’s cover story – a Mr. Right exclusive on one of the hottest actors in Hollywood!

On any given night in Los Angeles, you can find something fascinating and sexy to do.  One night, it’s a splashy movie premiere, the next, an inspiring exhibit at a world-renowned gallery.  New York may be the city that never sleeps; but L.A. – a place bursting with stars and star gazers – is a city that never stops dreaming.

It was on one of those typical L.A. nights that I met Jumping the Broom star Laz Alonso at a posh Hollywood event.  To say that Laz Alonso is sexy is like saying the ocean is blue: with even half a glance that’s obvious.  But what I found fascinating is that there’s so much more to him than what you see on the surface.  He’s intelligent, introspective, and, for one of Tinsel Town’s brightest stars, he’s remarkably unassuming.

He is so unassuming, in fact, that I almost walked right past him without noticing him.  I had heard from a fellow partygoer that he was in attendance that night, so I was on the lookout for some of the fan frenzy that typically surrounds a hot actor. It was shortly after the release of Jumping the Broom; and between the film’s acclaim and the success of his hit A&E series “Breakout Kings,” there were few actors in Hollywood who were hotter.  To my surprise, I spotted Laz comfortably leaning up against a pillar and quietly conversing one-on-one. Later that night, I decided to introduce myself to him before leaving the event.  He greeted me with a warm smile and chatted with me as though he’d known me for fifteen years instead of fifteen minutes.

When we sat down to interview a few weeks later, I had a million questions I wanted to ask him:  about his heritage, his career, and how he stays so incredibly grounded.  He spoke candidly about the journey he’s taken to leading man status, and shared some of the invaluable lessons he’s learned along the way.

“When I first started out, I used to get impatient. I knew I was ready for bigger, leading man roles,” he said.  “But now, when I look back on it, I’m grateful for every experience and the lessons that came with them.  I’m blessed and I don’t take anything for granted.”

The son of Afro-Cuban immigrants, Laz Alonso graduated from prestigious Howard University in his native Washington, D.C. where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. Upon graduating, he moved to New York City to embark on his career.

“No move is easy – whether you’re moving within a city, into a new relationship or into a new career,” he noted. “You have to redefine and reinvent yourself.  You’re starting at the bottom and you have to earn your stripes.”

But unlike most young thespians, his first destination in the City wasn’t Broadway – it was Wall Street – where he worked at an investment banking firm.

“I always knew I wanted to be an actor.  Investment banking was a means to end – it allowed my degree to pay for itself.  I heard the stories about [aspiring actors] sleeping in their cars.  I’m not knocking the ones who did that, I just didn’t think that was the path I had to take.”

While in New York, Laz began studying acting, and casting directors quickly took notice.  Unlike many of his peers, he has remained highly visible from the onset of his career- beginning with the unforgettable Emmy Award-winning Budweiser “Whassup” commercials.  A decade later, he’s established himself as one of the most versatile working actors in Hollywood.  From his standout performances in films like Stomp the Yard and Fast and Furious, to his starring roles in Miracle at St. Anna and Avatar, it’s evident that Laz Alonso is committed to his craft and constantly challenges himself to grow and take risks.

In 2009, he was voted one of Variety Magazine’s “Top 10 Actors to Watch.”  He divulged that, interestingly, while others are watching him, he, in turn, is likely watching them.

“I study people – their actions, their movements,” he said. “In Miracle at St. Anna, I played an old man.  [To prepare for the role] I studied my 80 year-old grandmother – how she moved, how she rested.”

This method of preparation continues to serve him well, as he approaches every role with the objective of being as truthful and authentic as possible. “There’s tremendous power in truth.  To me, good acting isn’t ‘acting,’ at all. It’s being.”

Like any goal-oriented achiever, Laz studies and learns from successful people, as well.  From multiple Academy Award-winning writer/producer/director, James Cameron, he learned the importance of paying attention to detail. “For him, no actor and no element is too small.  Greatness is in the details, not the broad strokes.”

And what did he learn from iconic hyphenate Spike Lee? “Efficiency.  Spike can get done in 8 hours what it would take others days to accomplish.  He taught me how to work smarter, not harder.”

I asked Laz what he’s learned about himself throughout his journey and he humbly credited his on-screen roles – not just for his professional achievements – but for some of his personal growth, as well.

“Characters will teach you about yourself.  [My character in] Miracle at St. Anna taught me about loss and to appreciate the people in my life.  Jumping the Broom taught me to raise my expectations for myself and for my mate when I’m in a relationship.”

In addition to his red-hot career, Laz is also generating a great deal of buzz regarding one of his latest philanthropic endeavors. He’s currently appearing alongside fellow celebrities Keri Hilson and Jessica White in the F.O.C.U.S. 4 LIFE campaign – a collaboration between Zone 4, Inc. and rapper/producer Polow Da Don’s Foundation F.O.C.U.S.-  to raise funds and awareness for cancer research, treatment and a cure. Laz is featured in the campaign wearing one of the symbolic F.O.C.U.S. 4 LIFE t-shirts – the proceeds from which will benefit the American Cancer Society.

Unfortunately, I only made it through about half of my million questions before a waitress set a beautiful chicken breast in front of Laz – bringing our interview to an immediate and delicious conclusion.  I have to admit that, for a moment, I felt like I was sitting in the stands at the end of a fabulous concert – selfishly hoping for an encore, even though the artist had already given me my money’s worth.  But as I silently reviewed the notes from our conversation in my mind, I contented myself with the realization that, when it comes to Laz Alonso, there will be many more performances and encores.  After all, this leading man has only begun to take the stage.

Be sure to check out Laz Alonso as he returns next season as US Marshal “Charlie Duchamp “ on the A&E series “Breakout Kings,”  and in theaters everywhere this September in the Rod Lurie-directed thriller Straw Dogs.


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