Interview with J. Mallory-McCree
(September 2017)

Actor J. Mallory-McCree appeared as "Cole" in Marvel's The Defenders, and here we discuss his background, auditioning for the show, and working with Mike Colter. Many thanks to him for his time and I hope you enjoy the interview!


Kuljit Mithra: Nice to meet you. I was doing some research on some of your past work, and it's a very impressive resume you've got with film, theatre and TV. Can you talk briefly about your career so far, being from Detroit and your journey to so many different places?

J. Mallory-McCree: I've known I wanted to act since I was 3. Had very supportive parents that put me in school and church plays. I went to a unique high school (Cass Tech - Diana Ross, Big Sean) that had majors. Of course I majored in Performing Arts. I learned the importance of theatre and how it perfects your craft for all mediums, thus I went to study more theatre at Rutgers which took me overseas to London to classically train. From there I went right to New York and immersed myself in Off-Broadway/Broadway. Finally landed my first tv gig, which of course was Law & Order, and haven't looked back since.

Mithra: The whole audition process has always fascinated me, especially with these Netflix shows, as it seems it's shrouded in mystery. How was it for you? Did you know it was for Defenders?

Mallory-McCree: The Defenders was definitely a process shrouded in mystery. The audition is under a code name, so you kind of know what you're auditioning for, but not quite certain. When I learned I booked the role, I still had no idea who or how my character contributed to the story. It was hard for me to do any of my "homework". It wasn't until I went to the costume fitting, that I began to get a little insight as to who my character might be. That's where I learned who I was in the scene with. I was so excited! You should have seen my face!! My audition material was different from the actual script, so I really had no idea. When it came time to shoot I still had not read an entire script. Still not completely sure who "Cole" was, I resorted to my training and made choices off the page and made the material make sense to me and said, "F it! Let's play!"

Mithra: What was Netflix looking for in the initial "casting call" for the Cole character? What do you think ultimately got you the role?

Mallory-McCree: I'm not quite sure what casting was look for. I try not to ever get wrapped up in what casting may want. I tend to let the material affect me however it does and bring my interpretation. You'll drive yourself crazy as an actor trying to do what you think they want. All you can do is bring your best self and the choices you've made. I think what landed me the role was my confidence in who I thought Cole was in that moment and making strong choices to support it.

Mithra: One of the things I was really impressed with was the scene with you and Mike Colter, where Luke Cage wants to help, but Cole acts like he wants nothing to do with him. Underneath all that bravado, there was a kid asking for help but he couldn't say it out loud. How did you prepare for the scene and how do you think it turned out?

Mallory-McCree: Yeah! That's a lovely scene. By this point I have more insight as to what's happening, and we were led by fantastic director S.J. Clarkson. Now that I'm able to ask questions and fill in so many blanks, it all starts to make sense. From that point, I just tried to forget everything, focus on my intention and remain in the moment with Mike Colter /Luke Cage, letting my circumstance affect me.

Mithra: You've had a chance to work with a lot of talented actors, so what was it like working with Colter?

Mallory-McCree: Haha! Mike is a great actor. We both trained at the same school - Rutgers/Mason Gross School of the Arts. So he is extremely giving and open. Wonderful actor that allows you to just listen and respond, listen and respond.

Mithra: Cole has a tragic end to his story (that phone call to Cole's mother about his death was heartbreaking to watch but that was superb acting by Debbi Morgan). Do you think he could have done anything differently, or do you think he thought he had no choice but to follow that path, like he had given up?

Mallory-McCree:I think Cole did the best he could in his situation. Sometimes when we are in the thick of it, we can't really see our way out. Despite his sister and brother both being killed, I think the pressure Cole had to take care of his mother led him to believe this was the best and quickest option. By the time Luke Cage enters his life, it really is "too late for superheroes". Cole has made his decision and no one can help him.

Mithra: I see you've got a movie premiering at TIFF (my hometown!) this month. Can you talk a little about that, and what else you've got coming up? Thank you for your time, I really appreciate getting the chance to speak with you.

Mallory-McCree: Yes! I'm in this fantastic film, Who We Are Now, starring Julianne Nicholson, who plays an ex-convict trying to regain custody of her child. I play a small supporting role, but a grand moment for the story. Matt Newton directs this film who also directed me in From Nowhere. I always jump at the chance to work with Matt!

I am currently shooting Michael Bay's The Last Ship. And I have a few things that I am producing. Please follow me on Instagram @callmejmallory to learn about all the exciting projects I am working on!!

(c) 2017 Kuljit Mithra & J. Mallory-McCree
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