The Actor Opens Up About His Love of Comic Books, What to Expect From His Hit TV Show and the Shifting Entertainment Industry
Chris Chalk is a self-proclaimed geek—an interesting label given his anything-but-geeky role on FOX’s adaptation of the Batman comic books, Gotham (which returns to a television near you on April 24).
Playing Lucius Fox, “The smartest guy in the room”, Chalk joins a show that is part of a seemingly never-ending roster of comic book screen adaptations—a fact that isn’t lost on the actor: “I think other [themes] register, [they] might just not register to as many people.”
While gearing up for his biggest role yet,—engagement—, Chalk spends some time on the phone discussing the status of the entertainment industry, his life as a New Yorker and what superhero he hopes to one day be able to play.
“I like comic books and it’s fun to get to do something that is a little lighter, a little more fun, a little less beholden to history and so there is a lot of enjoyment in that.”
What can we expect from the upcoming episodes of Gotham?
I think the writers [are] looking to bring [the story] back to the characters and bring it back to the drama of these people in Gotham and their relationships. Specifically, Lucius, how he is going to get back towards that main objective of his, which is to protect Bruce Wayne at all costs. I think that’s where he starts to learn more about the crime in Gotham and what his role is to be from now until the end.
It seems to be a departure from your usual roles.
Early in my career I realized by doing this play in Europe where we [cast] kids from refugee camps that our performance can be a form of activism or service. So, I became a big fan of [trying to understand] what is the service of this role? How does it serve me? How does it serve the world?
When Gotham came up, I [realized it was] a service to young black kids who are like, ‘Hey! The smartest person in the room on this comic book show is a black dude.’ Also, I like comic books and it’s fun to get to do something that is a little lighter, a little more fun, a little less beholden to history and so there is a lot of enjoyment in that.
Who was your favorite superhero growing up?
I was a big Marvel guy so my favorites growing up were Wolverine and the Hulk—probably because I have rage issues.
If you could portray any superhero, who would you like to play?
I would love to play the Green Lantern. I think that that would be awesome.
It sounds like you’re a big comic book fan.
I am. I’m a fan of comic books and graphic novels. I’m a bit of a geek. I used to think that I was a nerd but I learned that there is a distinct difference between nerds and geeks. Nerds have a shyness tendency whereas I am an introvert but I wouldn’t call myself shy.
You’ve been in films, TV shows, and theater productions. Which is your preferred medium?
I would say that it’s all the same to me. It’s just using different parts of your skillset. I like the immediacy of theater but I love the intimacy of film and the challenges that come with shooting on an urgent TV set are also exciting to me.
You came to New York to pursue a career in acting right after 9/11. How has the city and the industry changed since then?
The city was super depressed and work was moving away and they weren’t starting any new pilots. They were going everywhere but New York and now it seems like they have gotten their groove back.
As an African American, do you find that the industry has changed at all in recent years?
I will always say, because it’s true, that there is always room for more. Some of it is because of the consciousness of the country and some of it is because there are more channels and they need to fill their slate but, either way, I don’t care. I’m glad there is more stuff.
What are some of your favorite spots in New York?
We love Fort Greene Park [and] Central Park. I used to bike around Prospect Park back in the day, I loved that a lot. I love it a lot too because it’s less crowded than Central Park. My jujitsu studio is my absolute favorite space in New York, it’s where I spend most of my non-acting time, I’ve really fallen in love with it. But, more importantly, Blue Hill is our favorite restaurant in New York City by far.
Photo Credit: Jenny Tunberg