The star of the Sundance Film Festival entry “Sleight,” Atlanta-based singer-actor Jacob Latimore, 19, has been working professionally since he was a tween. Music runs in his family: his father and uncle were in the gospel quartet The Latimore Brothers and his cousin is R&B singer Kenny Latimore. As for the younger Latimore himself, he signed with RCA Records and has been on tour with Usher. That led to voiceover work and his first acting gig on “One Tree Hill.” Though he’s appeared in big-budget fare like “Ride Along” and “The Maze Runner” and it’s his second indie (he filmed his first, “Vanishing on Seventh Street,” with Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo, when he was 12), “Sleight” marks his first starring role. Over the weekend, he chatted with WWD about his Sundance debut, singing and Snapchat.
WWD: How did you know you wanted to act?
Jacob Latimore: I wasn’t expecting to have a film career when I was younger. After “One Tree Hill” I just kept auditioning and impressing people; I didn’t really know I could act, but I did it once and I couldn’t stop. It’s always challenging to dive into different emotions that you don’t tap into normally, like for example, being really angry, because I’m a pretty laid-back guy. You have those types of moments in a role or film and have fun with that and learn more about yourself.
WWD: What drew you to the film and the role of Bo, a street magician who must also deal drugs to support his family?
J.L.: It was one of those films I want to watch, and playing a street musician/drug dealer I thought was the coolest balance ever, just being a totally normal guy who wants to provide for his sister. Once his sister is kidnapped, he has to use his obsession with magic to get her back.
WWD: Tell us about your music.
J.L.: I’m releasing my first single called “Remember Me” on Feb. 12. Fans have been super supportive and it’s No. 35 on the iTunes R&B charts. I did this contest with an app called Triller where you can make your own music videos with different songs and we got 19,000 submissions.
WWD: What’s your approach to social media?
J.L.: Social media is pretty much how I stay relevant with my music, but you gotta be on it every day because the youth attention span is so short. You post something and two days later they are like, “It’s old” and you are like, “What? It just came out two days ago!” You know, it’s like work. I’m probably going to do a Snapchat coming back from here like, “Wrapped the interview! It’s snowing!”
WWD: What’s your next acting project?
J.L.: I just booked another film but I can’t say what it is right now because we just found out the day before yesterday. You will definitely hear about it in the press.
WWD: What has your first Sundance been like so far?
J.L.: When the film premiered that was super huge to see peoples’ reactions and them laughing at certain things. Some parts of the movie I didn’t expect them to laugh at but it was like, “Ooooh, they laughed at that? That’s good.” And I’m from Milwaukee, so I can take [the cold].
WWD: The film is part of the Next category, for young filmmakers working with limited budgets. What was it like working with first-time feature director JD Dillard?
J.L.: It was like a family atmosphere where you know every single person in the crew. We shot for 17 days in L.A. in August and made it in the festival. The first time I watched the movie was in JD’s living room. I put a chair right in front of his TV with a bag of chips.