I spoke with Marcus Paulk, who stars in the new George Lucas film, Red Tails. Red Tails is about the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II. Marcus portrays David ‘Deke’ Watkins, one of the lead fighter pilots, in this spectacularly cast film. Not only do we get to watch Marcus go through this journey but he stars in it with Bryan Cranston, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ne-Yo, Method Man, Terrence Howard and so many others. It was such a pleasure speaking to Marcus about Red Tails, 3rd Rock from the Sun, his stomach of steel and so much more. Go and see Red Tails in theaters this weekend.
Lena: What can you tell me about David and what we have to look forward to from him in Red Tails?
Marcus Paulk: David ‘Deke’ Watkins is the spiritual leader of the Tuskegee Airmen. Red Tails is a high flying action film about the Tuskegee Airmen and it takes place in 1944 during World War II. It’s an awesome film. It’s going to be pretty amazing. I’m playing one of the lead fighter pilots and it’s pretty amazing.
Lena: That is fantastic, and what a cast.
Marcus Paulk: The cast is crazy; Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ne-Yo, Tristan Wilds, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo.
Lena: I love Bryan Cranston and Terrence Howard.
Marcus Paulk: Yes, Bryan is an amazing actor.
Lena: What was it like working with them (Bryan and Terrence)?
Marcus Paulk: Bryan and I didn’t have any scenes together because he’s playing one of the generals that are against us fighting. Terrence and Cuba have the most scenes with him where they are talking about us flying. They are assuming that we are incapable of doing what they need us to do in the war. That is the big issue in the film.
Lena: What was it like working with the rest of the cast?
Marcus Paulk: Amazing. We got along so well. We went to boot camp together, and there was an amazing team comradery that came from us doing boot camp together every day. We would work together every day before we started shooting. It shows on camera.
Lena: So they sent everyone to boot camp?
Marcus Paulk: All of the fighter pilots, all of the young guys, we all went to boot camp. Method Man came in a little bit later and he was working out with us one day and he was passed out on the side of the road trying to keep up with us (laughing).
Lena: That must have been intense (laughing)?
Marcus Paulk: Yes, it was very intense.
Lena: You look like you work out enough as it is, so I don’t think it was that hard for you.
Marcus Paulk: (laughing) Thank you! I try to keep my body up.
Lena: I know right, what do you do? (If you haven’t noticed, Marcus is in spectacular shape.)
Marcus Paulk: I just do a lot of weight lifting, sit-ups and stuff like that. I’ve always had a pretty good physique because I play sports, dance and stuff like that.
Lena: Can you talk about making Red Tails and working with the legendary George Lucas?
Marcus Paulk: Meeting George was amazing. We actually got to meet him first at the Skywalker Ranch. We also got to meet some of the Tuskegee Airmen, to pick their brains and talk to them. We shot the film in Prague, Czech Republic for about three and a half months. George came in while we did a lot of our green screen work to assist the director, Anthony Hemingway, and make sure all of that stuff came across nice. He also directed some of the reshoots that we did. Working with him was amazing. He is such a cool and humble guy with such a creative mind and passion for his work. He definitely believes in the film and he has wanted to do it for about eighteen years; it’s twenty years in the making now. He was very excited and he told us actually what he wanted and how he wanted it to come across. We are all excited about the release of this.
Lena: Obviously, there was a ton of green screen work, so what was that experience like for you?
Marcus Paulk: That was my first time doing any green screen work and it was a great experience. It definitely made me tap into my skills. I had to really step it up to the next level. It just really tests your ability to the max.
Lena: I can only imagine how difficult that is.
Marcus Paulk: We actually got to go up in a P-51. They took us in the air and we got to experience what it really felt like to be in the sky. We even did some barrel rolls.
Lena: Did you get sick?
Marcus Paulk: No, I didn’t get sick. I love roller coasters, and it was just like a roller coaster times ten (laughing).
Lena: The film is inspired by true events, were you familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen prior to your role?
Marcus Paulk: I had actually seen the HBO movie on the Tuskegee Airmen. There isn’t any information on the Tuskegee Airmen in history books and stuff like that. They were such a huge part of winning World War II. They were pretty much the reason because they were escorting the bombers. The bombers jobs were to destroy factories and stuff like that and it was very important. They were a huge part of winning the war so I was surprised that there is such a small amount of information about the Tuskegee Airmen. Once I heard about the film, I did a lot of research and found out more and more stuff about them. Then I got to pick their brains and find out the things that they have been through and how they used to talk to each other. One of the units, to this day, still interacts with each other and these older guys have such young spirits. It made it easier to get it straight from the source.
Lena: That’s great that you got to experience that.
Marcus Paulk: Yes, it was amazing. Such huge historical figures and they were the original rock stars of their time. Before there was Jay Z, Lil Wayne and Obama, there were the Tuskegee Airmen. All the papers were writing about them at the time. They were huge.
Lena: I love how you put Obama with Jay-Z and Lil Wayne (laughing).
Marcus Paulk: (laughing) It’s amazing that through all of the adversity that they had that they still wanted to go out and fight for a country that, at that time, didn’t fully appreciate them as a people. They still overcame that and just wanted to fight for their country.
Lena: They definitely had to overcome a lot.
Lena: What did you take away from your experience on the set and working on the film in general?
Marcus Paulk: Basically, anything that you want to do if you put your mind to it you can definitely accomplish it. Just the boot camp itself, we were building tents blindfolded and doing things that are not something that we would do on a regular basis and taking it to the next level. If I put my mind to it, anything I want to achieve, I have to go for something if I want to be a part of it and make it bigger than life, I can do that, anybody can.
Lena: Now you are ready for anything.
Marcus Paulk: Yeah (laughing).
Lena: You were in 3rd Rock from the Sun.
Marcus Paulk: Yes, a long time ago I did a guest spot on 3rd Rock from the Sun.
Lena: That was one of my favorite shows, and I love John Lithgow and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Everyone seems to have a huge career that was involved in that show.
Marcus Paulk: Yeah, that was a huge show. Doing a guest spot on that was great. John was a great guy, and his work ethic was amazing. I’ve been blessed to have a career where I’ve come across and have gotten to work with all of these great actors like Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, John and so many other amazing people.
Lena: That’s right you got to work with Will Smith, too.
Marcus Paulk: Yeah, I did a guest spot on The Fresh Price of Bel-Air. It has just recently aired on TV because people have been asking me about it. It’s the episode where Will Smith’s father comes back and then he leaves again. Ben Vereen plays his dad, and it is actually a really big episode.
Lena: Will and Jada have always seemed like really nice people.
Marcus Paulk: Yeah, it’s sad that they are going through what they are going through at this time. Hopefully they make it through that. They are an elite couple that are going through hard times but everybody does I guess.
Lena: Oh yes, and due to their status they are forced to go through it in front of everyone. That can’t be easy.
Marcus Paulk: Yeah, it makes everything harder.
Lena: Did you watch John Lithgow in Dexter? He was fantastic and very creepy.
Marcus Paulk: Yes, I like that show. I like how that show is put together. I saw a few episodes from that season.
Lena: I love when John plays bad guys like in Ricochet with Denzel Washington.
Marcus Paulk: Denzel is amazing and I got to work with Nate (Parker), who is Denzel’s protégé, and he taught me some things. It’s good to have those little things passed on to you.
Lena: What else do you have coming up in your various artistic ventures in music, acting and dance?
Marcus Paulk: I’m doing some music stuff right now. There is a lot of paperwork going on with that right now. 2012 should be a huge year for me so I’m excited. I’m producing some stuff this year. I have a lot of things coming up with films, television and music.
Lena: Are you still going to do some dancing?
Marcus Paulk: I’m always a dancer, so that will probably be incorporated in the music.
Lena: That’s great that you are a triple threat and are so talented in music, dance and acting. You can star in your own videos and do an amazing job. Sometimes when musicians try to act in their own videos it is painful.
Marcus Paulk: Yes, I see that often (laughing). Thank you. That is one aspect that I want to bring, a theatrical feel to the videos and make the sound of the music very big.
Lena: Any good movies that you can recommend to your fans?
Marcus Paulk: I recently saw Immortals and that was a great film. There have been a couple of great films…Red Tails, Red Tails, Red Tails (laughing); that is what I would say to go and see. That is one of my favorites, for sure. Inception is a great film. We always have a few classics that we like to watch like Coming to America and Harlem Nights. Those are a couple of my favorites.
Lena: Oh, Coming to America, that movie is quote central. I love that movie.
Marcus Paulk: Yes.
(If fans want to get in touch with Marcus, they can hit him up on twitter @MarcusPaulk)
Lena: Is Red Tails going to be in IMAX?
Marcus Paulk: Definitely!