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Interview with Rockmond Dunbar, who plays Eli on "Sons
of Anarchy" on FX 10/18/12
I was all ready for this call, phoned in, and then they
had to cacncel it. They reschedueld for the next day, but
then something came up so I couldn't go. Bummer! This is a
great show and Dunbar is one of the many fine actors in the
cast. Also, I learned he was in one of my favorite shows, "Earth
2"! I don't remember him in it, but that was another
show with a huge cast, and I probably saw it 20 years ago...
FX NETWORK: Sons of Anarchy
October 18, 2012/10:00 a.m. PDT
Rockmond Dunbar – ‘Eli Roosevelt’
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by.
Welcome to the Sons of Anarchy call with Rockmond Dunbar. At
this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode.
Later, we will conduct a question and answer session.
Instructions will be given at that time. As a reminder, this
conference is being recorded.
I would like to now turn the call over to your host, Ms.
Stephanie Kelly. Ma’am, you may begin.
S. Kelly Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for logging on and
having a conference call this morning with Rockmond Dunbar,
who plays ‘Eli Roosevelt’ on the hit FX show Sons of
Anarchy, which airs Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. only on FX.
For now, we will turn the call over to you and begin the
question and answer session with Rockmond. So, we will
begin. Thank you very much again for participating.
Moderator Our first question comes from Earl Dittman of
Wireless Digital. Please proceed.
E. Dittman Rockmond, how are you this morning?
R. Dunbar What’s up, Earl? How are you feeling, man? Where
are you right now?
E. Dittman Great. Doing great. What a great episode, a
really great turn for your character. I guess without giving
too much away, tell us a little bit about where you think
your character is going?
R. Dunbar I have no idea.
E. Dittman Really?
R. Dunbar Yes. I really don’t. This is one of those
shows–let me give you an example. Last night, we were
shooting a scene; we just wrapped up the finale–we were
shooting a scene, and I was in the scene with Jax and also
Tara. We were having a lot of dialogue about the scene, and
Tara looked at Kurt and said, “Hey man, I wish we (break in
audio)…” what’s going to happen, and Kurt didn’t even know
what was going to happen. He was like, “Look; I’m leaving
the doors open on this.” Alright, so there’s four different
options of–and different directions of where he could go and
take this moment that played out last night.
So, I never know what’s going to happen until I get to the
read-through and sit down with Kurt and the rest of the cast
members and go through the script; I don’t know. I didn’t
know last year. I thought I was going to die after 10
episodes; a horrible death. That was it, but I’m here, and I
signed on to do six episodes and ended up doing about eight.
My character is finding a nice little arch.
E. Dittman That’s great. As an actor though, do you like
that kind of element of surprise to where you don’t have
to–that you find out when you’re getting ready to do it?
R. Dunbar There’s not that many surprises that you get in
life, so it kind of doesn’t work if you’re an actor who
really loves to put in the work and create a character, but
if you’re really good on your feet and you love doing the
work and if you have a full life, then it really doesn’t
matter. I have so many different little projects going on
right now where I just got into the groove of the S.O.A.
crew, and you pull together what you can at the last minute
and you make it happen.
E. Dittman Before I let you go, did Kurt call you to come to
audition or did you audition on your own or how did you
become involved with Sons?
R. Dunbar I originally–I was shooting a film, an independent
film, and I just finished Terriers; I’m not sure if you
remember that show with Shawn Ryan. Alright?
E. Dittman Yes.
R. Dunbar Then I get a call from my agent saying, “Hey, Kurt
Sutter wants to talk to you about a role on Sons of
Anarchy.” I went to go see him, sat in his office and he was
like, “Hey look, I called Shawn Ryan; what about this kid
Rockmond Dunbar, do you think he’d do a job?” Shawn gave me
the stamp of approval. Kurt and I sat in his office, and
talked a little bit and he was like, “Hey, got to wardrobe.”
It was a straight offer; meet and greet type of situation. I
didn’t have to audition, which was great; most actors love
to get to that… where they’re not auditioning. So, it was a
great meeting of the minds, and we made it work.
E. Dittman That’s fantastic. Well, I’ll let you go and let
someone else have you, but thanks again, and I’ll probably
be talking to you in a bit. Thanks a lot.
R. Dunbar I appreciate you, brother. Thank you, sir.
Moderator Our next question comes from Michael Gallagher of
StayFamous.net. Please proceed.
M. Gallagher What do you think sets this show apart from
other television dramas?
R. Dunbar The average–that we probably kill about six people
every time the show comes on. I don’t know any other show
that does that unless a plane crashed or something, but it’s
just so intense. I remember the writing on Prison Break
during the first and second season was so good because they
painted characters in a corner, and you never knew if they
were going to be able to get out.
I didn’t know if there was another show that could basically
be like that and keep its intensity, but in the fifth
season, Sons is continuing to do that. These writers are
really incredible. They paint characters in a corner, and
you think, oh my God, they’re gonna either kill this
character or lose this character. How can you do this to
your lead character, the hero or the heroine? They do it,
and you wait to see what’s gonna happen the next week, and
if they’ll be able to get out of this–the trouble, the
danger or the death box.
M. Gallagher You’ve had a chance to play some pretty cool
characters throughout your career. What’s been the most
rewarding part about being an actor for you?
R. Dunbar The most rewarding part I think to me is just to
see my mom and my dad’s face and them expressing that
they’re proud of me, that I did something that they approve
of in my life. That makes me very happy, very, very happy. I
think out of everything, out of the money, out of the gift
bags, so I think that’s the most important thing to me; that
it’s just my mother and father being happy.
M. Gallagher Thank you.
R. Dunbar You got it, man.
Moderator Our next question comes from Earl Dittman of
Wireless Digital. Please proceed.
E. Dittman Boy, I got ya quicker that I thought. Talk to me
a little bit about your career before Sons of Anarchy. I
mean obviously I’ve looked over your bio, but tell me a
little bit about–did you–I know you’ve done a lot of
films–did you intend on getting on a series or did you–how
did you start; let’s go to the beginning, did you always
want to be an actor?
R. Dunbar Yes. I’m going to turn this a little bit
backwards. In high school I wanted to be a commodities
executive, and then I started hanging around guys who wanted
to be litigators; they wanted to be attorneys in high
school, so we would all do …court together.
Then I stepped on stage my senior year, and I had the
pleasure of creating six characters on stage in a play
called “… poet” and that was only because a friend of mine,
Wesley Ballard made me audition for this school play. I
wanted to go and have lunch; he was like, “No, dude, you
gotta audition for this play; you’re taking this acting
class, you gotta go for the play.” And I was like, “Well,
you know, I’m only taking acting classes because I don’t
want to take gym anymore.” I ended up doing those roles and
decided I wanted to go to Morehouse College to study
theatre, which at that time–I mean not study theatre, I
studied poli-sci and was going to become a litigator.
In my first year, I booked the lead role in a play over at
Spelman College called The Blue Vein Society. I called some
of my friends back home and said, “Hey, look man; I got this
play it’s awesome I beat out all these upperclassmen, and I
get to kiss two girls.” This is awesome. This is great. My
friend Terrell who I was telling this story to, he said,
“Rock, let me ask you a question, man. Is it the law that
you love and that’s why you want to be a lawyer or is it
acting like a lawyer?” That question changed my life. I knew
instantly within my heart that it was acting like a lawyer.
I got off the phone, and I called my mom and I said, “Mom,
I’m gonna change my major.” She was like, “Well you’re just
a freshman, don’t worry about it; you change your major a
number of times.” Then I was like, “Mom, I’m gonna change my
major to acting.” The very first line that came out of her
mouth was, “You didn’t go to school to become an actor;
period.” My retort was, “Mom, when you first saw me on
stage, what did you think?” The longest pause ever, with the
most beautiful thing she ever said to me was, “You know; I
knew that was what you were going to do for the rest of your
life, when you stepped on stage; I knew it.” I’m sorry?
E. Dittman Isn’t it amazing how mothers are so perceptive,
and they see those things and we don’t?
R. Dunbar Yes, definitely. My mother is very intuitive and
such a great woman. After that, I just attacked it. I
started studying as much as I possibly could, and doing more
plays and transferred to the College of Santa Fe where I got
my butt kicked. I booked my first television role my
sophomore year with Steven Spielberg, it was a show called
Earth 2; Clancy Brown, Deborah Farentino, Antonio Sabato,
Jr., Rebecca Gayheart and Jessica Steen were all on the show
at it was a great show. I did that show for a full season.
I had a little bit of a problem because I broke a
scholarship to study at the Royal Academy the same year, so
I had to make a decision if I was going to go study at the
Royal Academy, or if I was going to take this television
series. For me, I worked really hard to get that scholarship
and I really wanted to study theatre, so I chose to go to
London, but I had two guys who literally changed my life and
gave me some really good advice.
Walter Beakel and Ted Flicker pulled me aside my sophomore
year, and they were like, “Hey, you know; we want to have
lunch with you. Sit down.” They said, “Look, kid, this
opportunity of a television series –yeah I know you don’t
see it yet, but it is something that you shouldn’t take
lightly. If you really want to go to the Royal Academy and
study, I’m sure the scholarship will still be there. Do the
television series, even if it’s not there, you’ll be able to
pay your way into that program.” That was pretty much it. I
stayed with that show for about a year.
I learned a hard lesson of coming to LA thinking that the
show was supposed to move or it was supposed to move to Los
Angeles so everyone came back here to LA. It’s my first time
in LA; moved everything. I heard on Entertainment Tonight
that the show got cancelled and … so I went back to New
Mexico and enrolled in the University of New Mexico and
started taking some more acting classes. I decided to come
back to LA a little bit later and nickel and dime my way
into a pretty decent career.
E. Dittman Well, that’s fantastic. Before I let you go,
we’ve heard how Kurt Sutter runs–you mentioned, too, about
how Kurt Sutter runs a set, which is a lot different than a
lot of producers and creators. For you, how does he inspire
you, Kurt, in the way he works on set?
R. Dunbar I’ll tell you this, one of the best directors I’ve
ever worked with. He’s multi-talented. Not only does he play
Otto, which he kills that role, by the way, on Sons of
Anarchy, he’s created the show. His wife is on the show, and
he directed the finale.
There was a scene just last Friday with Ron Perlman, Katey
Sagal, myself and Theo, which was one of –I would have to
say, I could’ve shot that scene all night, and it was
because the way Kurt organized the scene, choreographed the
scene and wrote the scene. He’s an incredible dude and my
hats off to him. I hope to have half the career he has when
I start getting more and more into producing and creating.
E. Dittman That’s great. Well, thank you again, Rockmond, I
R. Dunbar No problem, man, definitely. Thank you.
Moderator Our next question comes from Terri Schwartz from
Spinoff Online. Please proceed.
T. Schwartz Hi, Rock, and thanks so much for speaking with
R. Dunbar Hey, no problem.
T. Schwartz I guess Tuesday’s episode, we already have seen
like a major change in Eli’s behavior after his wife got
killed, and I was just wondering if you can tease how that
major event will change the direction of the character is
headed in for the rest of the season–if it changes it?
R. Dunbar This dude is spiraling out of control, and he’s
literally taking no prisoners. He’s lost everything that he
built his life for. He took a job close to home where he
thought that would bring his relationship to his wife a
little bit closer. They’re trying to have a baby. She
finally gets pregnant and then she’s killed. He has nothing.
He has absolutely nothing. So, what do you do when you’re
stripped away and who are you when you’re stripped away with
all those things that you think created your life. So a lot
of characters really need to be careful and to look out for
this guy because he’s on the edge.
T. Schwartz Does he go over the edge at all? Are we going to
see him maybe going beyond the law to try and right this
R. Dunbar I can tell you, he definitely invites evil into
T. Schwartz Okay. Last question, is he going to realize
–don’t answer if you can’t, but is he going to realize that
he has a common enemy with the Sons or is that just set him
more against them?
R. Dunbar Ooh, yeah, Kurt would like literally jump into my
trailer tonight and scare me if I told you that one. You
don’t want to blink. You don’t want to blink on this one.
The way that they position the character, the suspense that
they have with the storytelling is going to pay off and
really worth wait; definitely.
T. Schwartz Okay, great; can’t wait to see it.
R. Dunbar Okay, cool–cool.
T. Schwartz Thanks.
R. Dunbar You got it.
Moderator Our next question comes from Lance Carter of the
Daily Actor. Please proceed.
L. Carter Nice talking to you.
R. Dunbar You, too. How’s it going?
L. Carter It’s going alright, not too bad. You said besides
Sons, you have a bunch of other stuff in the works. What do
you have going on?
R. Dunbar I’m shopping around two pilots right now, which
are near and dear to my heart. I’m also getting on a plane
tomorrow to go and finish another series that I helped put
together called For Richer, For Poorer on the Gospel Channel
Network. Right after that, I go back to The Game, so I’ll
finish out the year with them. The Game is on BET. It’s been
a series that has been out for a little while; doing pretty
January, I’ll do another feature with Russ Parr called
Definitely Divorcing. It looks like I’ll go back, sit back
in the director’s chair for a script that my girlfriend
penned, which is absolutely hilarious called Tying the Knot.
We’ll see what the season brings for Sons of Anarchy next
year. If I can get these two pilots up and running, we’ll
So far, we’re having some good traction and there’s a movie
that I directed called Pastor Brown several years ago, which
we have gone through some litigation, cleared out all of the
legal aspects after I shot the film which was my directorial
debut. That’s having distribution next year, I think it’s
going to be like April. So, we’re sitting down at the table,
doing the finishing touches on the distribution deal today
actually. That’s it.
L. Carter Man, so when do you sleep?
R. Dunbar When my girlfriend knocks me over the head. I just
try to get it in where I can.
L. Carter What’s your advice to actors?
R. Dunbar My most important advice and I’ve said this for a
long time; if you’re creative, if you love doing it, then
act like it. Do it because you love it. Don’t do it for the
money. Don’t do it for the fame. Don’t do it outside of
anything for creating and giving back and being the best.
Tenacity is everything. Of course, we know the ratios and
the statistics of how many people make it in Hollywood and
create a lifestyle and a career with acting, creating,
writing, producing and all that stuff, but just don’t give
up if you really believe in it; don’t give up. If you have
to have it as a hobby, just make sure you don’t put yourself
in harm’s way trying to live off of …and bash in your
kidneys. Just do it in a safe and healthy way and just do it
for the right reasons.
L. Carter Cool. Hey, thanks, man. I appreciate it.
R. Dunbar You got it, brother.
Moderator We have a followup question for Earl Dittman of
Wireless Digital. Please proceed.
E. Dittman I can’t leave ya alone, man.
R. Dunbar It’s all good.
E. Dittman You also completed a couple of films Highland
Park and Cheaters’ Club. Are those scheduled for release
pretty soon and can you give us a little capsule of what
R. Dunbar Highland Park, we finished that a little while
ago. I’m not sure where it’s at right now. It surfaces and
then it kind of goes away. Hopefully there’s some type of
distribution deal on the table. It’s a great movie.
E. Dittman That’s with Billy Burke; right and Parker Posey?
R. Dunbar Yeah, Yeah. Super talented. Great talent. Danny
Glover was in it; Kimberly Elise. It has some decent talent.
It had a lot of … in it. I’m not sure where it is, but we’ll
I’m not sure where Cheaters’ Club is. It’s a small
independent film, which I actually met my girlfriend on.
E. Dittman I was going to ask you, if mind me asking, is
your girlfriend in the business; do we know her?
R. Dunbar Yes. Her name is Maya Gilbert. She was the lead
actress of Cheaters’ Club.
E. Dittman Oh great.
R. Dunbar Yeah, yeah. We’re working together now, which is
really great. She’s a much more talented actress–I mean
writer than she is an actress. She’s over here looking at me
right now, like how dare you. She’s super talented and
really nice and kicks my ass just because. I love the way
she’s looking at me right now; I wish you guys could see
this. Anyway, I’m not sure what’s happening with that movie.
Hey, do you know what’s happening with it? It’ll be out in
2013; okay. There ya go; it’ll be out in 2013.
E. Dittman When is it now?
R. Dunbar Cheater’s Club 2013, I’m not sure which month; I
have no idea. It’s hard for me to track things if I’m not
working on it.
E. Dittman That’s great. Before I let you go, obviously,
you’ve had a great career before Sons of Anarchy, have you
noticed that your appearance on Sons of Anarchy has raised
your profile even more?
R. Dunbar I hope so. You hope that you choose jobs that will
get you some more star power so you can continue to work.
That’s pretty much how it works. I’m happy to be on the
show, man. Even though I’m only recurring; I’m not a series
regular on it or anything like that, but I’ve had some great
opportunities and worked with some really great people, and
we’ll see how long that goes.
E. Dittman I hope they don’t kill you off anytime soon. We
love seeing you on there; you’re great.
R. Dunbar Thank you. Keep your fingers crossed. You got it.
E. Dittman Thanks.
Moderator I’m showing no further questions.
S. Kelly Okay, we can wrap it up then. I want to thank
everyone again for calling in to speak with Rockmond this
morning, and if there are no further questions–just make
sure to tune into Sons of Anarchy ever Tuesday night at
10:00 p.m. only on FX. Thanks again and thank you to
Rockmond for your time this morning.
R. Dunbar No problem. Thank you so much. Have a good day.
S. Kelly Thank you. Take care everyone. Bye, Bye.
Moderator That does conclude our conference for today. Thank
you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive
Teleconference. You may now disconnect.
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