Imagine having to choose between your life-long passion and the love of your life. Probably wouldn’t be able to make such a tough call, right? Well, Lance Gross was forced into the decision in his most recent independent feature The Last Fall. In the Matthew Cherry-directed film, Gross plays a 25-year-old retired NFL player whose financial slump finds him moving back home with his mother (Vanessa Bell Calloway) and falling back in love with his ex-girlfriend (Nicole Beharie). But when a call comes in from his agent to revive his dream again, he weighs healing his broken family and rebuilding with his first love or finding fame (and money) back on the turf.
Gross delves into one of his most honest roles to date. On the surface, the love storyline intertwined with life’s hardship is a heard-it-all-before tale of a down-and-out character finding the silver lining in life but this particular version has a healthy amount of vulnerability and a dose of humor for a clap-clap-bravo moment at the credits.
Vixen caught up with the chocolate cutie for a chat about his most respected role, the athletes who he admires and why he salutes (one of our faves!) Kerry Washington. — Niki McGloster
VIBE Vixen: Tell me what kind of feedback you were getting about the movie when it first aired.
Lance Gross: Aw, man it was great feedback. I was actually surprised that people liked it as much as they did. Out of all of my movies, this is probably the most respected one, so I was happy with the response. The fans seem to love it
Why do you think fans had such a great reaction to this role compared to your others?
Because I feel like it just showed me in a different light. This was my realest project as an actor. I just feel like I dived all the way into this one and just went balls to the wall.
How do you get prepared for a role like this?
I spent a lot of time talking to the director, Matt Cherry. Basically this is his story; this is kind of his life. So I just spent a lot of time talking to him, picking his brain, picking anybody’s brain that I knew was involved in the NFL, from coaches to players. I actually worked out with Ellis Hobbs; he gave me his workout regimen. I wanted it to be as authentic as possible, if anybody from the NFL went to see this movie or saw this movie, I wanted them to be able to relate to the character I was playing.
If you had to make a decision between career and love, which would you chose and why?
It’s a hard question because you have to have a balance. I don’t think I could live without either of them. I have to work it out where I can have a balance between the two.
Definitely. How closely did you relate to this character?
It’s very relatable because the careers are kinda the same. Nothing is promised to you as far as I’m concerned when it comes to my career as an actor or a career as an NFL star. It can all be taken away from you like that. We have to bust our heads with auditions and hope that we get the job, it’s not promised. We have to go out there and work hard to the best of our abilities.
Spoken like a true athlete, so tell me the top 3 athletes whose drive you admire.
Of course, Michael Jordan, he’s the hardest worker I know and everybody respects him. To this day he’s number 1. Also, Kobe Bryant. He has that same drive. I really respect Bo Jackson, too, because he did football and baseball. He’s a hard worker. I look up to hard workers, anybody that has the drive to do what they do to make it happen.
VV: What was it like working with Nicole Beharie?
LG: Nicole is a beast. I respect her so much; I was really very excited to work with her. I think she upped my game. You can’t half ass it when you’re working with greats and I definitely consider her great.
What was one of the specific lessons you would learn from her, whether on set or off camera?
Just hanging with her and picking her brain and researching with her during the character work, she carries herself like a lady and you don’t see that every day. It’s a breathe of fresh air to see. She just has a way about her and it’s very respectable. I love her like a friend.
So more projects with you two in the future, hopefully?
Yeah, of course.
The chemistry seems pretty effortless on screen, and even you playing Kyle. What was one of the most difficult things for you to learn or to grasp about the role?
I had to be an actor and producer [on this project] and sometimes I had to turn off the producer side and just focus on the actor side because they can definitely take away from each other. As far as the character, it was just being open and vulnerable. Even though I was acting, these were moments that nobody was supposed to be watching, personal moments, so I had to keep it real with myself and be open to show that vulnerability.
Laz Alonzo and he discussed the same thing about his role in Deception with us recently, so it’s interesting that you say that.
Yeah, a lot of guys don’t want to show that side. We try to act like it doesn’t exist when it really does.
What are some dream projects you’d like to work on as a producer?
Any project that’s good is a dream for me. This is something I want to do more of as I grow. I just love good projects, so I would want to be apart of anything that’s bomb. It doesn’t have to be a feature film; sometimes the independent films are better. I just saw Common’s LUV and I’ve noticed that the independent films are beating out the big budget films because they happen to be realer films. There’s more passion involved. I’m not going to limit myself saying that I’d only do features, I’ll only do independents, I won’t do documentaries. I’ll do whatever’s good.
What else can we expect this year for you?
Next is Confessions of a Marriage Counselor on March 29.
Cool, and lastly, tell me someone that you would like to salute in black Hollywood right now?
Definitely, Kerry Washington. I just saw Django. I just heard that the scene with Leonardo DiCaprio, when he wiped the blood on her face, that was actually his blood. He’s getting a lot of praise for that but that takes a lot of praise from Kerry to not break character. So definitely want to tip my hat to Kerry, she’s also doing her thing in Scandal.