‘Apart’ part was Tate’s for the taking

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
April 4, 2003

Larenz Tate has the kind of smile that makes you believe anything he says. Sitting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton downtown, the 27-year-old actor flashes it often as he talks.

“Yeah, I think Vin [Diesel] loved my smile,” he says, jokingly. “That’s how I got the role.”

In “A Man Apart”–a buddy action film that opens today–the Chicago-born actor portrays a cop who has to decide whether he will toe the line or stand by his renegade partner, played by Diesel.

Actually, Tate had the part from the start. Diesel read the script and told Tate the part was his. Period.

“I knew Vin before this movie and we had been trying to find something to do together for a while,” Tate says. “He has always been one of my biggest supporters. Even with this movie when he’s dealing with the studio, he has been campaigning that I’m as much a part of this movie as he is. Now in reality, we all know it’s a Vin Diesel movie, but that’s just the kind of guy he is. He has no ego.”

Except sometimes when it comes to getting his way.

” ‘You have to do it,’ ” Tate says Diesel insisted. “He read the script and said, ‘We’ll play undercover cops who’re like brothers.’ ”

Tate, who portrayed the violent O-Dog in the 1993 hit “Menace II Society,” says he’d always wanted to play a police officer. And he found the role’s challenges were not only theatrical, but physical as well.

“When you do a movie with Vin, you’ve got to do your own stunts,” he says, laughing. “We like to believe we’re athletes and can handle anything, so it was a lot of fun to do. But I’m not stupid. I’m not going to get killed doing something ridiculous. I’m not like Jackie Chan jumping off those buildings. [Chan] is just amazing, but even he gets hurt. I’m pretty much into keeping all my bones intact.”

Raised on the West Side, Tate and his older brothers, Larron and Lahmard, were kept in line by parents who taught them self-respect. When the Tate family moved to Los Angeles in 1984, they were less impressed by movie stars than the talented kids they met in an after-school arts program.

“One of the most important things my parents drilled into our heads was the importance of unity,” Tate says. “You’ve always got to stay together when it comes to family. When you don’t have family, what do you have?”

In Tate’s case, perhaps Diesel.

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