Corey Hawkins: Acting with Willem Dafoe in ‘The Man in My Basement’ Was Like Being ‘Two Bulls in the Ring’

Liem Soeng

Corey Hawkins: Acting with Willem Dafoe in ‘The Man in My Basement’ Was Like Being ‘Two Bulls in the Ring’
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Corey Hawkins is following his acclaimed performance in “The Color Purple” with another prominent role that should further elevate his rapidly rising profile. He’s set to star alongside Willem Dafoe in “The Man in My Basement,” taking over a role vacated by Jonathan Majors.

The film, which hails from first time director Nadia Latif, is an adaptation of Walter Mosley’s 2004 novel of the same name. Hawkins plays Charles Blakey, a man struggling to avoid foreclosing on his ancestral home who enters into a dubious business arrangement with an investor (Dafoe) that quickly takes a dark turn.

Speaking to IndieWire on the SAG Awards red carpet, Hawkins talked replacing Majors at the last minute and the rich artistic experience that the film provided.

“He came off the role maybe a year ago, and then I got a call from the producers to read the script a few months later,” Hawkins said. “I talked to Willem about it — Willem Dafoe, who’s also in the film — and I was on the project.”

Hawkins had nothing but positive things to say about the film, noting that its nuanced portrayal of a Black experience gave him one of the meatiest roles of his career. He also heaped praise on Dafoe, explaining that the “Poor Things” star provided a cinematic sparring partner that helped him sharpen his own acting skills.

“It’s an incredible look at a Black man who is experiencing trauma, but also legacy and family and curiosity,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve seen a story like this. It gave me an opportunity as an actor to go deeper than I’ve ever gone before. To bounce off of somebody like Willem Dafoe day after day after day, it was just like two bulls in the ring. It’s a gift.”

Watch IndieWire’s SAG Awards red carpet interview with Hawkins below.

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