African Cinema: Ladybrille’s Jimmy Jean-Louis Speaks on his Lead Role in Toussaint L’Ouverture, a Film Depicting the Historical Haitian Slave Revolution

Hollywood Actor Jimmy Jean-Louis, Ladybrille Man of the Month November 2010, has been creating a lot of buzz in the media and among fans for his lead role in the film Toussaint L’Overture, a film about Haiti’s historical and successful revolution. The film set to be released in 2013, is a story about the only successful slave revolution in history and the man at the forefront of the rebellion,  General Toussaint Louverture, an ex-slave who was highly revered.

Jean-Louis granted an interview to Shadow & Act, the go to destination for comprehensive coverage of Black and African films in the diaspora, on the dynamic role he played in the film. Enjoy an excerpt from his interview below.

Shadow & Act Interview Excerpt:

” .  .  .In our interview below, Jean-Louis talks about the challenges and pressure of embodying the revered Haitian leader on screen for the first time.

S&A: How did you become involved in the Toussaint L’Ouverture film?

JJL: I was simply contacted by the producer Angelou Moncheau and we organized a meeting in Martinique for the first time. Then we met again at the Cannes Film Festival and they offered me the part.

S&A: Did you audition?

JJL: No, I didn’t. They knew about my work and because of the character. he’s very, I should say, close to me in the sense of being Haitian, and the Toussaint L’Ouverture was a story that I knew very well. When the producers were looking for an actor to play the part, they spoke to a number of actors, but I think they also wanted an actor with a Haitian accent if possible. I speak the language.. French, Creole. They made me their obvious choice.

S&A: Did you feel any pressure to make sure you did a good job in the part?

JJL: I have to say it was very difficult because this is a movie that people have been trying to make for many, many years. I knew Danny Glover has been trying to do it for 15-20 years. I knew this movie would be the reference for years to come, so yes, there was some pressure.

S&A: How did you manage the pressure?

JJL: I think I was sort of ready for that you know? I’ve been dealing with pressure all life long. Coming from a very poor family in Haiti, moving to Paris, a new place, a new culture, a new language. I used that pressure to adapt, to do better than everyone else, and I moved around quite a bit as well.

S&A: How did you research L’Ouverture in order to embody the character on screen..look, mannerisms, etc.?

JJL: First of all, I had to do a lot of physical research and activities. I didn’t know how to ride a horse before. It took me a couple of months to become a good horse rider and then I needed to learn how to sword fight, and all those physical activities I had to be very precise with. So, that was on element of his personality. Then we’re dealing with someone that was first a slave, then free, then he became a governor. So with the different stages of life, is like playing four different characters. I just tried to be as precise as I could with every single character. In life, I also had many changes from growing up in a place where there’s no electricity and running water to doing what I’m doing now. I was pretty much forced to deal with many social classes. My own experience helped me to understand what his character was going through. I tried to use my life experiences to inject life into his character. At the same time, I had to make it his, because I had to forget about myself and try to understand his state of mind. .  .”

Read the Full Interview on Shadow & Act

Ladybrille Magazine

Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.

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