Lo­cal ac­tor in na­tional spot­light for ‘Luke Cage’ se­ries role

Dar­ius Kaleb talks about his road to fame and his role in ‘ Luke Cage’

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @ Tif­fIndyNews

The Net­flix se­ries “Luke Cage” has been trend­ing since its de­but on Sept. 28, and one of the ac­tors draw­ing at­ten­tion is Pom­fret’s Dar­ius Kaleb.

The se­ries, cre­ated by Cheo Ho­dari Coker, is based on the Marvel comic book char­ac­ter Luke Cage, orig­i­nally Carl Lu­cas, and takes place in Har­lem, New York. The most no­table stars in the se­ries — Mike Colter, Al­fre Woodard, Rosario Daw­son, Theo Rossi and Ma­her­shala Ali — have stunned au­di­ences with their in­tense roles.

But the show’s most con­tro­ver­sial role of Lon­nie Wil­son, played by Dar­ius, 13, has caused quite a stir among crit­ics and view­ers.

“Lon­nie Wil­son is one of the neigh­bor­hood kids in Har­lem that al­ways hangs around where Luke works and Luke watches out for Lon­nie,” Dar­ius said. “The po­lice are look­ing for Luke Cage and one of my friends rats on me and tells the po­lice that I know where he is. My char­ac­ter is fed up be­cause I don’t have any­thing to do with it and I know Luke didn’t do what they are ac­cus­ing him of.”

Luke Cage, played by Colter, is an ex- con­vict who was im­pris­oned for a crime he did not com­mit but gains the pow­ers of su­per­hu­man strength and un­break­able skin after he was sub­jected to an in­vol­un­tary ex­per­i­ment. Once freed, Cage be­comes a hero for hire. Lon­nie Wil­son is a well- be­haved kid that is brought to an in­ter­ro­ga­tion room for ques­tion­ing about Luke Cage’s where­abouts. Lon­nie tells the in­ter­ro­gat­ing of­fi­cer that he was taken with­out prob­a­ble cause and is then beaten by the cop. Soon after, a cor­rupt politi­cian be­gins to use Lon­nie’s beat­ing as a po­lit­i­cal chip.

Dar­ius is an award win­ning ac­tor who has starred on Broad­way in Lor­raine Hans­berry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” star­ring Den­zel Wash­ing­ton and LaTanya Richard­son Jack­son, “Thriller Live” where he played the young Michael Jack­son, and Berry Gordy Jr.’ s hit mu­si­cal, “Mo­town: The Mu­si­cal,” as the young Berry Gordy Jr., Michael Jack­son and Ste­vie Won­der. He said he had the most fun play­ing the role of Michael Jack­son in “Mo­town: The Mu­si­cal.”

“Many fa­mous peo­ple came to my per­for­mance like Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama,” he said. “Work­ing with Den­zel was a good learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. He gave me some good ad­vice, ran lines with me and I stud­ied what he did when he was per­form­ing.”

Dar­ius pre­vi­ously at­tended Dr. James Craik Ele­men­tary School. Both of his par­ents have lived in Pom­fret for more than 20 years. Cur­rently he is in the eighth grade and is being home­schooled be­cause of his hec­tic sched­ule. He is in­volved with a lot of com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties, specif­i­cally foot­ball and bas­ket­ball, and is cur­rently in a music group called “The Broth­ers Har­ris” with his two older broth­ers.

His mother and fa­ther, Denise and Robert Har­ris, are also his tal­ent man­agers. They said they loved see­ing Dar­ius grow into his char­ac­ter, Lon­nie Wil­son.

“It is ex­cit­ing for me to see where he came from as a kid to where he is now,” Robert said. “He started singing and danc­ing when he was 18 months old. He would re­cite the en­tire Lion King mu­si­cal on Broad­way while his older brother acted in the play. The roles he has done since he was about 9 years old were all fun, en­er­getic roles, live on Broad­way, and he’s al­ways the cutest kid on the set.”

“This being his first project with that kind of con­tent [ so­cial is­sues], I be­lieve he did an amaz­ing job and it just looked flaw­less,” Denise said. “His role is very per­ti­nent to what is hap­pen­ing to­day and I think that was done on pur­pose by the writer. Luke Cage is a re­spectable hero that is there to de­fend his com­mu­nity. I like see­ing that in a black man on the big screen be­cause they are typ­i­cally de­picted as an­gry. To see a black char­ac­ter get sort of top billing and it be a char­ac­ter of that cal­iber is some­thing that we do need to see more of to­day.”

As Dar­ius’ fame be­gan to rise, his par­ents said the long drives to and from New York for au­di­tions be­came stren­u­ous, but tal­ent made the ex­tra ef­fort to­tally worth it. His par­ents de­scribe him as hum­ble, and “a re­nais­sance man” who will be at Den­zel Wash­ing­ton’s sta­tus one day.

“For some­body his age to climb the lad­der and work with so many A- List celebri­ties, that typ­i­cally takes years to hap­pen,” Robert said.

Dar­ius said un­for­tu­nately there are many tal­ented youth that go un­rec­og­nized in Charles County, and he knows deal­ing with re­jec­tion isn’t easy. His ad­vice is to keep push­ing and don’t stop be­fore some­one hires you or rec­og­nizes you. Dar­ius said if he had given up, he would have never landed his big role in “Luke Cage.”

“I feel like ‘ Luke Cage’ is the hottest show out there right now,” Dar­ius said. “Not only is it pop­u­lar be­cause of Luke Cage but it also talks about so­cial is­sues, po­lice bru­tal­ity and im­por­tant top­ics. I didn’t even know he was a su­per­hero be­fore the show, but I think its great that it’s a mostly black cast be­cause there’s not a lot of roles for us, es­pe­cially kids my age. We mostly have to fight for one role but for the writer to cre­ate that many roles for us, it means we get our fair share.”

Dar­ius, aka “The Prince of Swag,” de­scribes him­self as re­lent­less. He has re­ceived the Black Essence Hall of Fame/ Youth Di­vi­sion recog­ni­tion and con­tin­ues to shock oth­ers with his many tal­ents. He is cur­rently writ­ing his own short film called “The Au­di­tion” and will be fea­tured in an in­de­pen­dent film called “STEPS.”

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

Dar­ius Kaleb, 13, plays the role of Lon­nie Wil­son in the Net­flix se­ries, “Luke Cage.”

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