It’s been 12 years since Jamie Hector landed his first major motion picture job in Spike Lee’s He Got Game, although most people know the young actor best as the haunting villain Marlo Stansfield on HBO’s The Wire. From 2004-2006, Hector portrayed the conniving, power-thirsty drug dealer with such believability that Hollywood took note.
Since The Wire wrapped, Hector had a recurring role on NBC’s popular show Heroes, and is starring in several upcoming movies including Night Catches Us with Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie. When he’s not earning a paycheck, Hector actively gives back to good causes, mentoring young people age 12-21 via his Moving Mountains organization and raising money to help the 2010 Haiti earthquake victims.
UrbLife.com grabbed some time with the busy actor to discuss his upcoming roles, dedication to his community and opinions on what’s happening in the world right now.
You have a nonprofit working with young people, and you recently had a pretty big event. What was that about?
The nonprofit is an organization called Moving Mountains, I started it when I was younger in a theater company called Tomorrow’s Future. I wanted to extend the experiences I had from television, film and theater to young ones that never had that experience. We put that into position to have kids funneled through the organization to meet people in the industry, and know that they’re still close to home and that they can accomplish whatever they want to.
We had a fundraiser, but we put the ‘fun’ in fundraiser with the cast of The Wire and a paintball competition just to bring awareness to the organization. Also, it’s to assist with promoting with the organization, a book club and other things we want to provide to the kids if their family members may not be able to.
Now that you’re in your 30’s and you’re thinking of life beyond acting, where do you want to see yourself by the time you’re 40?
Being that I’m still young, my primary thing is focusing on my career and my craft, but at the same time I’m not gonna wait until I reach a certain level to give back. I feel like it’s in the process, and in the eye of the storm, that is the time to start designing and developing everything necessary to pull everybody up with you. While you’re moving forward you pull everybody up with you, but my primary focus is the craft because I love it.
If there’s nothing going on [in the U.S.], you can find me on stage in Africa somewhere doing it. Later on in life I could possibly see myself doing the same thing, but you never know how things will turn out. All of these things have been a blessing, because after The Wire and Heroes there’s still been a push and a progression.
You’re Haitian-American, and when the earthquake happened earlier this year you were one of the first people to step up and start raising money to do whatever you could. Where are you with helping Haiti now?
Being that it’s an ongoing situation in Haiti, it’s never something that you can stop doing. I was assisting Haiti before that tragedy, and as that came along it was just a part of the process. I’m still working with organizations like Karma, I’ve been working with my church CCC [Christian Cultural Center] and we’ve donated $12,000 to Haiti. More than anything, I plan to go over there. The last two times I was supposed to go over there to lend a hand I was working, so unfortunately that was impossible. But my plan is to go over there and make my presence felt, to do what I possibly can on the ground.
My strengths are basically from the position I stand, which is to build awareness and try to get some capital funded down there. Hopefully I can help things move in the right direction, instead of all that money being down there now and people wondering where it went.
What do you think right now are the biggest needs for Haiti?
The biggest need right now for Haiti is infrastructure, there are so many necessary components. It’s like a pyramid, all of these needs are necessary and we have to start from the bottom up. Primarily you have to feed the people, but you have to educate the people so that they know how to feed themselves and you have to make sure the politics are taken care of. Personally, if I can just throw a pebble in the water to make people aware. Even though President Bush is a different kind of guy, when he said to send money to Haiti I understood it because it was real.
What is your take on the BP oil spill happening right now?
They need to address that situation, I’m just trying to figure out how on earth it got this far. So many things I’m questioning, it’s not Obama’s fault and it’s not his Katrina. People are saying this is going to be his Katrina, he addressed it immediately and held the people accountable right away. I just feel that with the amount of money these people take in, it’s something that should have been addressed a long time ago.
I think I just read the other day that this might take until the Fall to be addressed. I don’t eat meat, and I don’t want to eat fish with oil in it. I respect that they put it out there for the public to send their ideas in about what should be done. That’s the great thing about social networking, now we’re all involved in the problem and we have to be proactive. Whatever I can do, I’m down for the fight.
What do you have coming up in the future?
We got Just Another Day with myself and Wood Harris, we went to Orlando and shot that project. It’s a fun piece, a Hip Hop film about one artist that’s already reached his success, and me who’s trying to climb up the charts, not realizing the other artist’s trials and tribulations. All I see is the glitz, glamour, glitter and gold, not understanding the beautiful process that is the journey of making it to that peak where the other artist is. When I reach it to where he is, I realize he’s miserable having to make a hot album, hope that the public loves it and that he doesn’t go wood.
The struggle he goes through with his record label makes me realize that it’s still a fight even when you reach that level. Pretty much a true story about the behind the scenes struggle of a Hip Hop artist… People think they should just go ahead and get signed, but they don’t know that Nas was going hard to get signed. LL Cool J was sending in demos to get signed. The ugly part of that process is people don’t realize you gotta put in that legwork that my character put in, and the legwork of the character who was already in position, what he has to do now and what people are telling him is right.
Another one that I’m proud of is Night Catches Us, that’s a Black Panther film and it takes place in Germantown, Philadelphia in 1978. Kerry Washington, Wendell Pierce, Anthony Mackie and a newcomer that I just did a stage play with as well named Amari [Cheatom], he’s a great young talent.
My character’s name is Do Right Miller, a soldier in the Black Panther party in a fight against the FBI. One guy I felt was a snitch, and when he left, I wasn’t gonna make it too easy for him to come back into town. I felt like it was his fault that there was the demise of The Black Panther party and a best friend of mine was killed, so I made it very uneasy for him to be comfortable. I let everyone know he was a problem and that it was him that snitched us out. It’s a beautiful story.
You’re working with Wendell Pierce again, who’s starring in HBO’s Treme, which some have called The Wire of New Orleans. Have you been watching Treme, and did you want to try out for it?
I love it, and to be honest I don’t think there’s anything that the creators would do that I wouldn’t want to work on. I’d love to work on all of their projects, just because I love to speak the words that they write and live into the character, they’re gifted at what they do.
As far as people calling it The Wire of New Orleans, it’s different, it’s a tempo. You have Marcy Projects and most people coming from there have something from Jay-Z, you have Queensbridge where most people have something from Nas. In Jamaica Queens you’ll have something from 50 Cent. They write the project, and just like when they did The Wire, you see the realness and authenticity. The camerawork is almost like a documentary, where you’re asking if this is really happening. That’s impressive to the audience even though they saw it already [with The Wire], but this time it’s about jazz in New Orleans. I love it, the writing is amazing.
Were there any moments in this show that made you want to revisit the Katrina tragedy and see what’s going on down there?
When they’re looking for the young man that was in prison, and they bring Anwan Glover out assuming it was him, that right there speaks to the fact that so many people were missing [after the storm]and not even considered. Reading and hearing about all of the people who were displaced. I never had an opportunity to go out there, but I heard it’s still upside down and topsy-turvy.
What else do you have coming up?
Right now I’m working on a film [in Philadelphia] with Charles S. Dutton called The Gift. He’s an amazing talent, I just want to be surrounded by the best of the best.