“It took all of me,” reveals Russell Hornsby in our exclusive webcam interview (watch the video above) about his role as a grieving father in the Netflix limited series “Seven Seconds.” “It was the most challenging role I have ever taken, and it effected me immensely,” he admits. “But as an actor, you really do have to dive right in and give it everything you have.”
In “Seven Seconds,” Hornsby plays Isaiah Butler, alongside Regina King as his wife Latrice, a heartbroken father whose life is spiraling out of control. His teenage son has been critically injured in a hit and run, which has been covered up by police in an effort to protect the officer who thought he had left the boy for dead. The boy ultimately dies in hospital, and the Butler family are left to pick up the pieces. Hornsby is open about how much this show affected him personally.
“I didn’t realize how much it would until I was on set and shooting it,” he reveals. “At the time I had an 18 month old son and my wife was pregnant with our second child. And my family is in Los Angeles and I am in New York, and I am missing them immensely. And while you’re on set dealing with such heart wrenching material, every moment when I get home, I’m alone and all I’m doing is thinking about my family. And there would be nights where I would literally weep because of the pain of the work and the pain of missing my family,” he shares. “And so the best I could do was to take all of that hurt, all of that pain and put it into the character and put it into the work.”
“Seven Seconds” is a dark portrait of a cold and unforgiving city in which law enforcement covers up a brutal crime in the face of a family’s pain and loss. It gave Hornsby the opportunity to be vulnerable, and to also explore themes of social justice, family, racism and class. “Every week you have to ask yourself, who am I today and what part of me am I going to expose? Because you really have to go deep inside yourself and your humanity and open yourself up and just be naked and say this is what hurts and this is what I’m suffering from but I want to help you understand,” he explains. “It’s a parent thing, it’s a father thing, it’s a man thing, and instead of saying, which is what we do in our culture, is we say to people ‘you wouldn’t understand,’ I think the best thing to say is, ‘it’s all of those things, let me help you understand’,” he says.
The moments that stayed with the actor most during filming of the series were those where his character spars with his brother, played by Zachary Momoh. “There’s a saying,” he declares. “‘A minute is a measure of time but a moment is a measure of meaning,’ and there’s a moment between those two men and those two brothers where for the first time I think in their lives where they really see each other for who they are and I think that was an emotional and devastatingly beautiful for me as an actor.”
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