Casey Affleck Reveals His First Acting Role: Roaring Like a Lion for Rosa Parks

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Casey Affleck

The director and Oscar-winning actor opened up about his kindergarten acting debut in front of the iconic civil rights activist.

Director and Oscar-winning actor Casey Affleck has revealed that his first ever stage role — as a kid in kindergarten — was playing a lion in front of revered civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

Affleck, who on Sunday presented a screening of his new film Light of My Life at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, recalled playing a lion at his school, which was named after Parks. "She came to the school and we put on a play for her and I was playing a lion," Affleck, 43, said during a post-screening talk.

"I don’t remember what I was doing there, but I do recall that the lion's mane fell off, and so I just went up without a costume and did a lion's roar. After the performance, the cast was introduced to Rosa and she came down the line, patted me on the head and said, 'I liked the roar.'"

It was an experience that he's never forgotten, he said, adding, "I've been chasing that feeling ever since, roaring for Rosa Parks."

Parks, who died at age 92 in 2005, played a pivotal role in the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott when she was ordered off a bus after taking a seat in the "whites only" section. Her action, and the subsequent court case, became the spark for the launch of the civil rights movement in the U.S. 

Affleck, who was in Karlovy Vary with Anna Pniowsky — who in Light of My Life plays the daughter of a man struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where disease has killed virtually all women — said he had drawn on his own experience in writing and acting in the film.

"So much of the film is based on my experience as a parent," he said, although he added that objections by his two sons made him change the child character from a boy to a girl.

A noted vegan who supports current environmental and social issues, Affleck added that although the film was not designed to raise awareness of current ecological concerns, he "certainly hoped" it would. "I am not quite that ambitious, but I do really believe in the power of art in times like this," he said. "People keep making things and telling stories, whether they are political or not. It provokes, helping conversations and brings people together."

Asked how the movie would differ if the plot was based on a world where most of the men had died, he remarked: "It would be less violent. Violence in the movie is always something [the main character] is trying to keep at bay."