My idea is to paint paintings so that when you walk into a room, I'm pulling you in, or that makes you suddenly stop and wonder: 'What is this? There is something groovy, something else going on here.' Also, I want to give you what is obvious and what is not obvious to the eye.
I was in the National Academy of Fine Arts and Design, on a scholarship. I was - still am - an artist. They were looking for an actor for 'Take a Giant Step,' and a producer liked my look and asked if I could act. I said, 'Yep!' Then I got into acting more or less just to make money for paints and canvases.
Right before 'Brian's Song' there was a period when I was very despondent, broke, depressed; my first marriage was on the rocks. The role of Gale Sayers had been cast with Lou Gossett, and then he hurt himself playing basketball. I was called in to read for the role. I was their last choice, and I knew it.
I tend to approach characters not based on ethnicity but on some unique individual qualities, and I've set my whole life that way. I don't want any sort of limitations imposed on my work. If you truly want to be a creative person, you can't limit yourself.