It’s being kind to say that Laurence Fishburne’s role in “John Wick: Chapter 2” is small. He’s in one short sequence playing The Bowery King, a New York crime lord who Wick looks to for help.
Such a rule would traditionally be insulting for an actor of Fishburne’s status. Along with a lengthy career of credits, Fishburne has Tony and Emmy wins plus an Oscar nomination for his work in the 1993 feature film “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” For heaven’s sake, the man played Morpheus in the “Matrix” movies.
The size of the role didn’t matter to Fishburne. He just wanted to make sure he was part of the sequel to the action film starring Keanu Reeves (his “Matrix” co-star).
Fishburne jokes that he wanted to be in the movie because all of his friends were in the first movie. His serious answer is that he thought the original “John Wick” was “wicked cool.”
I told Keanu how much I enjoyed the first picture and that I’d love to come play with him if the opportunity presented itself in the second movie.
“I thought the action was really cool and it had dark comic overtones. I told Keanu how much I enjoyed the first picture and that I’d love to come play with him if the opportunity presented itself in the second movie,” Fishburne says. “They sent me the script and immediately when I read it I thought, ‘OK, this is going to be great.’ ”
The role is small, but Fishburne didn’t let that stop him from bringing a lot of levels to the Bowery King. He plays him as a man who believes in honor among thieves, carries himself with a demeanor befitting his name and has a sense of humor.
It was almost a good thing the role was not large because Fishburne is involved with so many projects. Along with filming “John Wick,” he was working on his role in “Passengers” plus he’s part of the cast and executive producer of “black-ish.”
Along with filming “John Wick,” Fishburne has been working on his role in “Passengers” plus he’s part of the cast and executive producer of “black-ish” – an ABC comedy getting attention for its unabashed willingness to take on any topic.
The ABC comedy is getting attention for its unabashed willingness to take on any topic. Fishburne says the intention of the show has always been to be brave and to take on anything in the news.
Although the series focuses on a black family, the show is getting responses from all races.
“I am most inspired by the reactions that I’ve been getting from people everywhere. I spent a lot of time in Canada going back and forth during the first and second season working on another show, but everywhere I go, when I encounter people, they’re always like, ‘We really love ‘black-ish.’ And they’re black people and they’re white people and they’re Asian people and they’re people of every color,” Fishburne says. “And they absolutely just adore the show. I find that, for me, that’s where I get inspired, and it makes me happy to be on the show. It makes me want to continue to do it.”
Fishburne is certain the show has such a broad appeal because the entire country is black-ish, meaning that every culture has taken from other cultures for centuries.
“John Wick: Chapter 2” and “black-ish” are just the latest credits for an acting career that started for Fishburne when he was 10. Since then he’s appeared in flims such as “Boyz n the Hood,” “The Color Purple,” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” along with TV series “Hannibal” and “CSI.” His other recent work is “Madiba,” a BET miniseries where Fishburne portrays Nelson Mandela.
It is a gift to do so many types of roles.
Fishburne enjoys being part of “black-ish” both because of the issues it faces but also because the man who played Cowboy Curtis on “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” doesn’t often get asked to do comedy.
“It is a gift to do so many types of roles. I am known for this bad-ass thing and can always pull out, but I am fortunate to be able to mix it up,” Fishburne says.
And his days of mixing it up with “John Wick” may not be ending as there’s a possibility of seeing a lot more of him should there be a Chapter 3.