In his films, Terrence Howard has portrayed the hierarchy of power’s incarnations: a hustler and pimp; a World War II colonel; Cassius Clay and Nelson Mandela. What people may not know about the Dead Man Down star, however, is that in real life he’s actually an influential scientist.
In fact, Howard’s passion for scientific exploration may soon overtake his interest in the movie business altogether.
“I have greater things I can contribute to the world of science than an actor,” the 43-year-old tells theGrio. “I had a conversation with Sidney Poitier. I asked him, ‘Why aren’t you going to do another movie?’ And he said, ‘I’m not going to do another impersonation of myself. I might have ten years left in my life, and I don’t want to waste it doing something I’ve already done before.’ If I can’t learn from a character, if I’m just going in and taking from a bag of tricks and choices for a character, I don’t want to do it. It’s pointless for me because I have to grow as a human being, and I don’t want the safe road.”
Howard’s interest in science sparked in his youth, and he went on to study chemical engineering at Pratt Institute in New York. The actor says he has since received his doctorate, and recently started a diamond-growing venture for which he has filed for about 23 patents over the past several years. Subsequently, he furthered the mark of a world icon along the way.
“I finished Einstein’s equation, which only works in infinite space. It does not work in confined space, which we live within in the physical factor,” Howard explains. “I found the connection between light and its colors; sight and its sounds; and matter and its shape.”
With real life so stimulating, Howard insists he has made it a point to keep his priorities in check by only taking on acting roles that offer him the chance to learn about humanity. In his new film Dead Man Down, in theaters this Friday, he portrays the role of Alphonse, a Corleone-esque mob boss caught in the crossfire of his own missteps. Early on in the movie, Alphonse finds himself the target of an assassination plot, and must retrace his dark past in order to safeguard his questionable future.
Though first impressions suggest Alphonse is inherently evil, Howard says he has a lot in common with his character, a biracial man simply trying to his place in society.
“He was part of a disenfranchised social group as a young black man,” the actor remarks. “Being a light-skinned black man growing up in the 70’s, black people didn’t appreciate him, white people didn’t appreciate him. When I was a kid I was called a ‘no nation motherf*****’ primarily because I couldn’t hang out with black people; I couldn’t hang out with white people. My character just wants to be accepted. He wants to respected.”
And, like his character, Howard says he faced the same scrutiny growing up in Cleveland that can lead one down an ominous path.