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Cory Hardrict, most recently seen in American Sniper, plays the lead — or rather, both leads — in Destined, a new indie film that had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The film, directed by Qasim Basir, explores destiny and choices by following one man’s story, as it splits into two directions. In one, Rasheed becomes an architect who is hired to work on a project that would gentrify his old neighborhood. In the other, Sheed is a drug lord who rules his empire but may also regret some of his choices.
The film is a strong showcase for Hardrict, who received the best actor award for his work in it at the American Black Film Festival in June. Destined will screen again in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 25, at BET’s Experience. Hardrict sat down with THR recently to talk about the process of becoming two men.
How did you prepare to play two different characters?
I did some research on the architect world. I saw their mannerisms, how they conduct themselves in an office setting because that was something I’ve never tackled before. I try to ground every character and put it on its feet and make it real and find the humanity and the simplicity of it. And I said to the director, Qasim Basir, I said, “just throw me in Detroit, put me in the office, and let me just find it,” and I did the best I could do in that world. And then the drug character, I’m used to playing those menacing guys. I’m from Southside Chicago, and they have a lot of brooding men in movies, so I tapped into that world naturally. But he wasn’t just a drug lord, he also had a heart. He wanted to get out of that game, and he also wanted to take care of his family and save his son from going down the path he chose. So I see the love story.
Did you shoot the roles at the same time, or did you shoot one first, and then switch to the other?
We shot Rasheed’s world for 11 days or 12 days, and then we did Sheed’s for 11 or 12 days. So I shot one then the other. But it was a challenge. When I read the script, it felt scary, and if something scares me on the page, I have to do it.
And you shot in Detroit. What did it feel like to be in the city where the film was actually set?
Detroit felt like a ghost town in a beautiful way. It’s like I Am Legend. But Detroit has those different layers of a city that bought to life the cinematic world that we were trying to capture. And it’s very important to what’s current. In Rasheed’s world, he’s saving his people and his city, which is going through gentrification, and that’s what’s going on in every urban city in America right now — even where I’m from, Chicago. That’s why it’s so important.
This film touches on the choices you make and destiny. What’s your take on what the film is saying about those subjects?
It’s never too late to decide or to make a decision to change your life. Even if you’re going down the wrong path, you always can correct it. Always. It’s never too late as long as you have breath in your body, and just never give up on your dreams. I come from nothing. I could’ve been a statistic, but I chose to move here.
Tell me about that moment when you made that choice to pursue acting.
My mom took me to an open casting call in Chicago for Oprah Winfrey’s movie There Are No Children Here. I was 14. That was just to be an extra or get one line, but I went in line with thousands of kids. And I loved it. And I got one word in the movie — it was just like, “hey!” And I said that so many times and I just perfected that. But my mom was very pivotal in getting me in the business here. I do this for her, and this is both of our dreams. She lives through me.
Since this movie touches on choices, have you ever made a choice that made you wonder, “what if I had done something else? What if I had done something differently? What would’ve happened?”
Yeah. I was in high school, and I was a basketball player. I hurt my leg, and it was because I did something that I knew I couldn’t do. And I felt like if I didn’t, I could’ve gone to college to pursue it, but I guess that wasn’t my destiny.
So, you have a bunch of other stuff coming up, including All Eyez On Me, playing Haitian Jack. Did you get to interact with him at all?
I spoke to Jack, he lives across the water. He doesn’t live in the States anymore for reasons I can’t really get into, but I spoke to him a lot while I was filming just to get his language down and what was his real relationship with Tupac. So he helped me out a lot, and hopefully I do him justice.
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