OF LIGHT + LEGACY: THE LEGENDARY LARENZ TATE, FOREVER!
EDITOR IN CHIEF + PHOTOGRAPHY: COREY GUEVARRA
WARDROBE: MICKEY FREEMAN @ THE ONLY AGENCY
GROOMING: CHERYL BERGAMY @ EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS
WARDOBE ASSISTANT: LISA STAPLETON
PHOTO ASSISTANT: DESHAWN JENKINS
It’s a partly sunny Sunday in East Williamsburg Brooklyn & megastar-legend Larenz Tate is on his way to join us for his 1st 26 Men’s Luxury Magazine cover shoot. After a small location amendment we’d finally settled logistically & all was indeed a go. Upon his arrival the very first thing the iconic actor tended to, was making sure he personally greeted each & every single member of our team! One by one, with genuine eye contact, he offered an unassumingly named introduction & equally endearing handshake. “Larenz, nice to meet you” orating repeatedly as he authentically made his way through the troop. In that moment I unequivocally understood that all the rumors were true; Larenz Tate is in fact one of the VERY (very) good guys! Instant levels of integrity & class, hoped for but still surprising from a star of his magnitude, appreciated however, in ways he may [or may not] ever truly know. “When you're working in an environment, everybody is there for a reason & participating in their purpose” he offered, -replying to my post praise of his kindness days later during our interview call. “We're doing this as a team, when I meet people, I never assume, I just like to introduce myself & find a way to connect, even if it's for a brief moment”. “We’re all creatives & artists & storytellers, we’re all important”!
-And just like that, he affirmed what we all felt that day on set, we were in the presence of a specific type of greatness. Larenz Tate didn't pursue acting just to be famous. The life that he’s manifested works in tandem with his light & all that we’ve witnessed is his dharma, used in a sum of parts to leave a path where others could also feel SEEN & also feel inspired.
It’s no surprise that Larenz has become who he is, especially if you're aware of his supportive, very close knit familial upbringing. Even as the Chicago native (West side to be exact) straddled worlds, leaping into Los Angeles entertainment at just 10 years old. Though the move west was initially brought about by his Educator father’s academic pursuits at USC, it was of deep importance to both his parents that all 3 Tate boys Larenz, Laron & Lahmard never forgot where they came from! “Our entire summer vacations & other holiday breaks from school were spent back in Chicago, so we really grew up in both cities”. “In hindsight, I'm happy that my parents did that. Because as we were getting deeper into Hollywood & I’m now 12, 13, 15, getting parts & guest starring on different shows, they wanted to make sure that we weren't getting caught up in that make-believe world. That we had a balance of what real life was like for the people we really knew, our friends & family in Chicago. Back then it wasn’t like it is now with filming taking place, Chicago was a very blue-collar town, very salt of the Earth. What you had was real, hard working people that we could see our refections in, our aunts, uncles, cousins & we were all very close”. “Chicago gave us a hustle & drive that we took with us everywhere. it was very useful because it taught us that so much in life was about the long game & longevity. We felt like people in Chicago, they were going to tough it out no matter what. Having those exampled elements be a part of our journey, that ‘don't give up, believe in yourself, run the marathon & not the sprint’ mindset, was due to our parents making sure that we stayed connected to Chicago! -& in turn Chicago made sure we repped them fully!
SUIT: GARÇON COUTURE, SHIRT: VERSACE, SHOES: MAGNANNI, SUNGLASSES: DITA, JEWELRY + WATCH: DAVID YURMAN
YOU STARTED ACTING AT AGE 10 & HAVE BEEN IN THE GAME EVER SINCE…. WHAT HAS YOUR JOURNEY BOTH ON & OFF SCREEN TAUGHT YOU MOST ABOUT LIFE?
I think my journey in the industry has taught me that, sure there may be some hurdles, maybe even some landmines. Obstacles may arise & some unforeseen elements may try to distract you or get you off course. But no matter what, you have to be able to believe in YOURSELF & that unique bit of 'whatever' that only YOU can bring to the world! No matter what hurdles you have to jump or what landmines you have to avoid, if you believe in what you love & you believe in yourself (more than anything) believe in what you’re doing, you’ll never be stopped! Quitting is not an option! As long as I ALWAYS understand my value THAT’s what’s really important! -In Hollywood people in the industry can be unkind to the point that you can end up second guessing who you are & what your purpose is. You MUST believe in who you are both on & off screen & never question your value as a human being. Everything in this business is about other people's opinions. Who is willing to validate you, who is willing to say that you are welcome to sit at this table or be in that room or with this group. But you can’t allow those external energies to be your barometer of the lens in which you view yourself, of who you really are or of your actual self worth. In reality everything about you is priceless, divine even. So you cannot allow them to control how you feel about you, you have to know, remember & live in your pricelessness -no matter what.
DO YOU STILL GET EXCITED TO ACT? DOES IT STILL INSPIRE & IGNITE YOU THE WAY IT DID WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED?
Absolutely, I still get both extremely inspired & excited, because to me, there’s no ceiling, I'm always a student. I'm still evolving as an artist, I’m still looking for new things & finding ways to stretch, grow & challenge myself in the artistry. The ongoing excitement usually comes from doing characters & roles I’ve not done before. Ever the better if it creates a challenge for me, because I'm still willing to get up & study, I want to learn about that character. I want to know about their backstory & if there isn’t one, I want to challenge myself to create it & really fill the character with life! -So I'm always excited about acting. I'm not bored. I'm not done. I feel like there's so much more for me to do. So many people I’ve still yet to be.
TAKE US BACK LARENZ, WHAT LED YOU TO ACTING & HOW DID IT FIRST SHOW UP IN YOUR LIFE?
My parents!!! When we first moved to LA it was during the 80’s & a lot of neighborhoods were taking a turn due to the drug epidemic of that era. Fresh from Chicago, my parents were really aware of what was going on & knew that if left unoccupied that the effects of that could eventually trickle down to the youth. So it was like, nah no free time, you all have to be actively pursuing things & activities that both occupy & enrich. We played sports & stuff, but it was a performing arts program on the weekends at place called the ‘Inner City Cultural Center’ that lit a spark none of us saw coming. We would spend hours & hours there having the times of our lives. They would drop us off in the daytime & pick us up at night & we genuinely did not want to leave! It was the best thing culturally, being able to be introduced & immersed into specific parts of African rooted cultural experiences via the arts. They’d have African drummers & musicians come in with all kinds of instruments that came directly from the Motherland. We’d see people in their authentic African garbs at this place, teaching & explaining customs & culture. It was amazing. So that's how we sort of got started, because our parents cared so much & did not want us putting our energy in the wrong places. That center was an outlet for us & it began our love affair with the arts.
WHAT MAKES LARENZ TATE LAUGH? WHAT’S YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR LIKE? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE COMEDIAN? ARE YOU A LIGHT FUNNY GUY OR A DARK HUMOR TYPE OF GUY?
That’s interesting! What makes me laugh…lol hmmm….. IDK if it’s light or dark, but I’d definitely say it’s blue! The humor that spoke to me early on were the Eddie Murphys, the Red Foxxs & Richard Pryors of the world. A lot of that old school, blue comedy. We used to listen to those tapes because my dad's brothers always had them around. It was that REALLY blue, really dirty humor, but above all, it was unapologetic, it was honest! What they were saying back then couldn't be said today without public discord. But that type of honesty speaks to me. When I look at Martin Lawrence or Chris Rock, I can definitely say that my sense of humor does lean towards some of their more edgy styles as opposed to the safer stuff. Two of my closest friends are comedians, Chris Tucker & Bill Bellamy. Bill is one of my best friends so I’m always asking him his take on how he feels censorship in comedy is leaning these days. And there are so many more greats, Kevin Hart is also a friend of mine & we all know how hilarious he is. So I think that's where my sense of humor lands, that old school, real -I’m talking about Bernie Mac & Kings of Comedy -that's my vibe! Those guys, they say the things that a lot people think but don’t express out loud. To me, that's the beauty of comedy, that you're able to speak on some of the real culture shifting topics with the stage & microphone as both a sounding board & safe space.
IF YOU COULD, WHAT’S 1 PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D GO BACK & GIVE TO YOUR 26 YEAR OLD SELF?
I would tell my 26 year old self to learn & acquire the knowledge on how to make his money work for him & once he has a solid understanding of the science of it, invest! invest! invest!
COVER LOOK: SUIT: ISSEY MIYAKE, SHIRT: SANDRO, WATCH: DAVID YURMAN, SNEAKERS: NIKE
LARENZ YOU HAVE HITS! LIKE LEGITIMATE VOICE OF GENERATIONS, CULT-CLASSIC HITS! WHO IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTER YOU’VE PLAYED & IF DIFFERENT, WHO HAS BEEN YOUR MOST FAVORITE ROLE TO DATE?
The most memorable? Whew that’s tough lol. Can I pick more that 1? Uhh, I’m going to say 'O-Dog' from Menace II Society, 'Darius Lovehall' from Love Jones & 'Frankie Lymon' from Why Do Fools Fall in Love -I genuinely love them all!
Now one of my FAVORITE characters was definitely Anthony Curtis from Dead Presidents. I really connected with that brother in his experience as a young man coming of age & trying to figure out life in a real way. Learning how the world really sees black men & black people no matter what we do. That was a near & dear project for me, Anthony is definitely one of my favorites ever!
FAST FORWARDING TO TODAY! -PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THIS NEW SEASON OF POWER BOOK II: GHOST! YOUR CHARACTER, THE MORE SINISTER ‘SMILE IN YOUR FACE, GET YOU BEHIND YOUR BACK’ COUNCILMAN TATE HAS BECOME A SHOW FAVE VIA HIS LOVE TO STIR THE POTS OF CONTROVERSY. WE’RE ALREADY SEVERAL EPISODES IN, WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM HIS STORYLINE FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON?
First I gotta say that I'm truly grateful for all of the Power family & the supporters who have carried this entire series. The fact that a character like mine who started out as just a guest star became a prominent role & character in that ‘Power’ universe is just, you know, amazing to me, primarily because the show has made such an impact on the culture! Like the movies I've mentioned in my past [like Love Jones, Menace II Society, Dead Presidents], Power is a project that both my generation & the newer generations are really connecting with & it's been really amazing to be a part of it & to portray this character.
Councilman Tate is going to continue to stir the pot this season. He's going to continue to do things that in his mind, will allow him to continue to climb the political ladder -that is his agenda! He has a ‘no quit’ attitude & he's going to be making decisions that are unpopular. He's going to do things that may not sit well, but his goal is to get to a very specific place. His goal is to achieve a level of POWER! Everybody is about trying to get this power & Rashad is not going to stop until he does. This season, he will get a little bit more in depth with his backstory in terms of his love life & hopefully it’ll show that he's not just this completely sinister person, that he is an actual human being. I think through relationships & love, viewers will be able to see that. So there's a bit of a love interest that's going to come in & we'll get to see a little bit of how that resonates to who he is & how he makes decisions & navigates from there.
ARE THERE ANY ELEMENTS OF RASHAD TATE THAT ARE ALSO LARENZ TATE? DO YOU DRAW FROM ANY REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES TO ADD TO HIS DEPTH?
I think a little bit of that ‘no quit’ dynamic, that ‘never give up, no matter what’. I think that's a little bit of myself that I also bring to the Councilman.
FULL : GARÇON COUTURE, SNEAKERS: VINCE, JEWELRY + WATCH: DAVID YURMAN, SUNGLASSES: DITA, BEADED NECKLACE: FOYI
YOU KNOW, REPRESENTATION MATTERS IN IMMEASURABLE WAYS. WE LIVE IN AN AGE NOW WHERE MORE & MORE PEOPLE ARE JUSTLY BOLDLY GOING AFTER THEIR DREAMS! WE’VE GOT BOTH 6 & 60 YEAR OLDS CHARTING OUT ON THEIR ACTING CAREERS FOR THE FIRST TIME THESE DAYS! YOU’VE SEEN THE INDUSTRY CHANGE PROBABLY A MILLION TIMES, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ALL THE BLACK MALES PARTICULARLY, WHO ARE COMING UP BEHIND YOU, HOPING TO WALK IN FOOTSTEPS SIMILAR TO YOURS?
-That there is space for us! There's space for them. There's a space for black men & that we need & deserve that space. We need representation of black men on all levels & facets & it’s really important. I would also say, do whatever we can to tell our own stories. Let’s also be the narrators of our stories & our journeys & how we want to be seen! We don't need other people to decide who & what we are as black men. We should decide what that is, from our lens, from our prism -that's important. -Also, connect with each other. Find ways to connect with your brothers. It can be competitive & there's nothing wrong with friendly competition, but we are NOT each other's enemies!!!
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE SECRET TO LONGEVITY IN HOLLYWOOD LARENZ?
Running the marathon! -The secret is understanding what your assignment is -why are you here? Is it just for fame & the money? Or is there something that you really want to contribute? Personally, I want to contribute something. I want to leave a legacy of art that people can be proud of & feel connected to. But also you know, I want to leave a legacy that showed I cared about telling stories that reflected a community of people that have been marginalized but still rose up to achieve black excellence, THAT is of paramount importance to me!
"I WANT TO LEAVE A LEGACY OF ART THAT PEOPLE CAN BE PROUD OF + FEEL CONNECTED TO"!
DO YOU PRESENTLY STILL OR HAVE YOU EVER HAD A DREAM ROLE/CHARACTER YOU’VE WANTED TO PLAY?
Yeah, there are still a lot of roles I still want to play. One of the characters I HAVE been able to at least audibly bring to life is in a podcast my brothers & I produced recently called Bronzeville! It’s the story of a community where black people are completely self-sufficient. During a time we didn't know that we could have the American Dream materialize, we actually did it! We had our own communities. Much like Tulsa, Oklahoma we had our own banks, schools, churches, department stores, hospitals, grocery stores. All of those things that we don't necessarily control or operate today. The story is set in the 1930s, right out of the Jim Crow era & the great migration for many from the South to the North. We wanted to tell that story in a real way. So bringing that to life so far has been a dream actualized.
Our production company Tateman Entertainment was able to produce it & it's sort of theater of the mind. So you can listen to it as if you're watching a TV show & the way it pulls you in is really phenomenal. We teamed up with Laurence Fishburne & his team & a cast of incredible actors & actresses. The thing that I would love to do now is allow what we’ve done to materialize either into an actual TV series or a movie. Bronzeville is one of my total dream projects to bring to screen! It’s an incredible story. We made our own, supported our own & we did a lot of stuff that everybody else in the world who came to America [willingly] were able to do without other people's permission, or people governing over us, we had our own. I just want to remind us of that spirit!
JACKET: TIM HAMILTON, SHIRT: DOLCE & GABBANA SHOES: JIMMY CHOO, JEWELRY: DAVID YURMAN, SUNGLASSES: DITA
IF YOU WEREN’T ACTING, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’D BE DOING?
If I wasn't acting, i think I’d be a full time entrepreneur, businessman. Both of my grandfathers ran storefronts & so a bit of that entrepreneurial spirit resides within me as well. I’m constantly reading books on business & financial literacy & as a matter of fact I'm currently looking into investing right now & fully exploring what it looks like to invest back into the communities that I came from to create business opportunities for us there. So if I’d never come across acting, I think ownership & entrepreneurship in business would’ve been my destiny for sure.
I THINK YOU & PHARRELL MAY BE THE GATEKEEPERS OF THE ‘FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH’ SOMEWHERE. FIT, HEALTHY, HAVEN’T AGED A DAY, SERIOUSLY, WHAT’S THE SECRET?
The secret as I tell people, is that I drink water & mind my business Ha! That’s what I do [lol]. You know genetics definitely plays a part (mom & pop have great genes) but honestly just taking care of myself really. I never wanted to get caught up in any sort of substance abuse because all of that stuff steals life from you! I was always like, “Nah, man, I want to have longevity”. I care about my body. I care about having a balanced life. It’s like, enjoy life but also a level of discipline goes a long way! For me, that's what the real secret is man, that & just the fact that I want to, you know, be around. I want to remain in this sort of time capsule, if you will. So yes that means eating healthy, fresh fruit & veggies, & sure you can have the occasional “junk food” -but in moderation! Everything in balance & moderation. Staying in the gym, even if I just do a 20 minute workout, being active for a little time every day, it adds up! We can’t stop the time from continuing, but we can choose the experience we have within our bodies as the days pass. I’ve just always wanted to have the best experience I can within this 1 body that I got.
IS THERE ANY ONE TALENT THAT YOU WISH YOU HAD?
Man I wish I could play instruments!! I'm around artists all the time, around musicians & I honestly wish that I could just jump in & play along. When I look at a guy like Prince [God rest his soul] he was able to play any instrument, & he played them well. So for me, it'd be great if I could play drums the way I think people play drums or play the piano the way I’ve seen my dad play the piano. To have the time & dedication to hone that musical ability effortlessly, would be a dream.
I’M SURE YOU’VE HEARD THE TERM ‘BLACK BOY JOY’. YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN KNOWN TO ENCOMPASS WHAT WE’RE COINING AS “BLACK GUY BRILLIANCE” MEANING YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN KNOWN TO BRING A LIGHT IN, BEING BOTH INSPIRATIONAL & UNPROBLEMATIC & AN ACTUAL EXAMPLE OF TRUE BLACK EXCELLENCE. IS BEING SEEN IN THIS LIGHT SOMETHING YOU’RE ABLE TO EMBRACE & ARE YOU AT ALL INTENTIONAL ABOUT UPHOLDING THE LIGHT & LEGACY YOU’VE CREATED & ARE CONTINUING TO CREATE?
I guess I am intentional, because it's what my parents have instilled in me. “Don't be out there showing out” they’d say. My mother & father & family always sort of had a hand on my life, so I always felt it was necessary for me to also represent them the best way I knew how. I was always aware that I was carrying more than just my own name, I’m carrying our lineage & our community with me as well. There are enough people who are hitting the self-destruction button, I don't need to join that. So from that lens, yes, I am genuinely intentional about making sure that I represent myself in a way that hopefully keeps both my family & myself proud.
20 YEARS AGO, IT WAS ALMOST UNHEARD OF TO HEAR MEN TALK ABOUT SELF-CARE. LUCKILY TODAY OUR MENTAL HEALTH & I GUESS THE UNDERSTANDING THAT MEN AREN’T JUST “MEN” OR 1-DIMENSIONAL CHARACTERS, BUT WE’RE FULL SPECTRUM HUMAN-BEINGS FIRST IN FACT, IS FINALLY STARTING TO RESONATE & TAKE ROOT. WE TOO REQUIRE EASE, REST & REFLECTION, WE TOO HAVE COMPLEX EMOTIONS & IDEAS THAT FOR LITERAL CENTURIES WE WEREN’T SOCIALLY ALLOWED TO EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE. DO YOU PRACTICE SELF-CARE LARENZ? WHAT DOES IT MEAN OR LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I absolutely do. Self-care is of the utmost importance to me. I try to wake up every day, give thanks to what I believe is a higher power, a higher energy than myself. I find that meditation is extremely helpful & an important practice. Self care for me also looks like putting the right foods/fuels into my body, eating as naturally & as organically as possible. Some sort of daily workout as mentioned before, but even the workouts can be therapeutic depending on the day I’m having. Self care for me is also knowing that I have & can tap into the incredible group of people I have in my life for talks, perspectives, advice & not going at things alone. From my brothers, to my family, other industry/non-industry brothers who understand the business, all of whom I can talk to when we're dealing with the complexities of life. Self care is me surrounding myself with genuine people that I can share my authentic thoughts with, people that I can balance myself out with. I of course can not say this without mentioning the INCREDIBLE women that have been in my life you know, obviously my wife, my mother, my grandmother who's still with us, I have some REALLY great people. Additionally, self cafe is sometimes treating yourself you know? I like clothes, I like sneakers so sure, I’ll reward myself every now & again. Massages, spa steams or cold plunges -all of that! Also self care for me is a good book. I'm always reading, I love reading work written from a black or African diaspora perspective. Much of our world is not given through our lens, so works written by us also adds a sense of balance for me (an antithesis of constant Eurocentrism if you will) Self care is balance, mind, body & spirit.
IF YOU THINK ON YOUR ENTIRE LIFE, WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF LARENZ?
Oh man so much. Wow. I think I'm most proud maybe feeling like I've kept to a level of integrity in what I do in my life. I think I'm most proud of being a man of service. I’ve only ever wanted to serve my family & my community. I want to serve my children, my wife, mother, father, siblings & of course the people that support what I do as an artist. I think I’m most proud of doing my best to be a person of service.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU THE MOST?
Oh man, black excellence! Always! It is always going to come back to us for me man. I really love us. I love us unapologetically. I don't do it just because it’s a trendy thing to do. I've always been like this, always said this out loud, even back when I was 15, 16, my family would say you know, “you gotta be careful what you say”, but I’ve always felt this immense pride for us & didn’t care who heard. For me, my people, black folks inspire me. I'm motivated by what we’ve done knowing where we came from & how we got here. Out of all of that we still triumphed & persevered -how can you not be inspired by that? -So that's what inspires me, black excellence all the way!
YOU ARE UNDOUBTEDLY LEAVING A LEGACY, WHAT DO YOU ONE DAY, IDEALLY HOPE FOR IT TO BE?
I’d love to be remembered as someone who was intentional about representing & being a representation of our people! A man of service again, through my art. Showing up in the world as a solid representation of us. I hope that my work meant something to someone out there. That what I poured my life into continues to stand & that it most importantly can spark & help ignite or motivate or inspire others. I just want to be known as someone who inspired & motivated people, especially us, you know what I’m saying?
I want the people who are not born yet, that look like me & who have some of the same life experiences to know that I was thinking about them before they were even here. That every role, every production, idea, business, interview you name it was done with them in mind. That in my own way, through my art I was fighting the good fight, doing what I could do both on screen & off screen for them before they were even here. I hope they say & can feel that I did something lasting through my art, as an artist.
LASTLY LARENZ, OUR STAPLE QUESTION…WHAT’S YOUR DEFINITION OF LUXURY?
Again & always, it'll be black excellence for me!!