Derek Luke is 28-years-old. Derek Luke is married. Derek Luke is nothing like his characters.

Todd Weiser
Courtesy of DreamWorks
Derek Luke: Not standing, just as strong.

Over the weekend, “Biker Boyz” gave audiences their second taste of Luke’s acting – following his cinematic debut in the critically lauded “Antwone Fisher” – and as in the latter, Luke’s role in the former seems wholly different from the man himself. That Luke can so credibly portray younger and more volatile characters is a validation of his acting talent.

The mild-mannered and polite New Jersey-born budding star has now played a series of youths who struggle to find themselves while carrying the burden of familial strife and insecurity. In “Antwone Fisher,” Luke starred in the title role, a gentleman who was forced to overcome an anger problem stemming from a childhood replete with neglect, abuse and molestation. “Biker Boyz” shows Luke as Kid, an angry 18-year-old who witnesses his father’s death, grows estranged from his mother and grapples with the revelation that his supposed biological dad was really just a surrogate.

It is, of course, nothing new for an actor to play a character significantly younger. However, Luke is able to convey a convincing depth and sincerity that few other actors – perhaps because they are better known, like Leonardo DiCaprio – can. The actor’s baby-face and laconic demeanor contribute to his acting ability, making him seem both younger and filled with more age-appropriate angst. In fact, Luke has acquitted himself so well thus far that it would seem easy to typecast him. But he said otherwise.

“I’m doing a porno next. Seriously, my mother told me something before I came to Hollywood. She said, ‘Derek, you have a purpose. Whatever you’re called to do, that has your name on it.’ I don’t believe that there will be a stereotype or anything like that. I don’t believe that I will be typecast,” said Luke in a recent interview with The Michigan Daily. “The next movie I’m in is ‘Pieces of April,’ and that movie, as Bobby, is all about a relationship with Katie Holmes. It’s not about a black-white thing; it’s just a relationship between two people who are in love. So I think that there will be bigger things for me.”

Those “bigger things” include, as Luke alluded to, the romantic comedy “Pieces of April” that has already been praised at the Sundance film festival. However, aside from his obvious talent and auspicious debut, Luke is also notable for the way in which he was discovered.

“I was selling clothes and organizing DVDs in (a Sony gift shop in Los Angeles). I had been working there for five years, and I actually met the real Antwone Fisher by happenstance about four years ago. A friend and I went to lunch and we happened to sit at the same table with a guy who happened to be Antwone Fisher. He said that he was a writer – you know, we talked – he’s a writer, I’m an actor. We talked about a script, I said ‘Cool,’ but then he said, ‘Denzel Washington’ and my eyes sparked because Denzel always brings quality to the screen, that’s what he’s known for.”

“So basically, I busted in on the audition; it didn’t go well but I got a callback and it went ok. Then (the project) was shut down for about three years. I found out about it again, I got a callback to meet Denzel Washington. After that, I read for him but didn’t hear anything.”

“Three weeks later, I’m talking to Antwone, who was in the store by happenstance – I’m still working in the store and going to auditions – and we walk out to take a five-minute break. Denzel Washington walks in and says (to me), ‘Antwone!’ I hugged him, I kissed him, I started crying.”

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