Name: Asante Blackk
Notable past credits: Blackk earned an Emmy nomination for his onscreen debut, a supporting role in Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” and soon after he joined the ensemble cast of “This Is Us.” His first film, “Landscape with Invisible Hand,” debuted at Sundance earlier this year.
SXSW project: “Story Ave,” written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Aristotle Torres. Blackk leads the coming-of-age film as a young graffiti artist living in the Bronx who forms an unlikely connection with an MTA worker.
Taking in the audience’s reaction to the film: “I’ve never been to a film where people’s reactions were so visceral,” said Blackk, back at his hotel shortly after the SXSW premiere of “Story Ave.” “I was so anxious in [the theater] because you’re so invested in how everybody’s gonna perceive the movie. Obviously you can’t think about that type of stuff when you are in the process,” he added. “But of course you want your work to be great. More than just good; you want it to be great. So now that I was able to see people’s reaction and the fact that they were coming up and talking about how much it really impacted them — yeah, I’m taking off all the stress.”
Connecting with the project: Torres expanded his “proof of concept” short into a feature film with support from the Sundance Institute. Blackk credits his team at UTA for bringing him the script for the project, which was generating industry buzz.
“Honestly, I was just so enamored with the source material from the jump. I could feel the passion jumping off of the page,” said Blackk. “And that’s something that I 100 percent look for in any project that I do. As an actor you really want to make something that people can connect to and that will stay with them and hopefully change their lives.
“I didn’t realize at the time that my life was changed after reading [the script for ‘Story Ave’],” Blackk continued. “But once the [filming] process started and we really became a family, I understood exactly what those words on that page were making me feel. And it was connection, it was love, it was fear, guilt — it was all of these emotions that I wrestled with my whole life wrapped so beautifully into this portrayal of a young man.”
His “highly collaborative” experience working with Torres: “I think him being a first-time director and me still in the beginnings of my career, we were able to relate,” said Blackk. “He’s obviously done so much in his career, but shifting over to this new medium, it takes a lot of courage in order to be able to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. It also takes a lot of courage [as an actor] to cry on screen, to yell at somebody, to cuss them out. So working with Aristotle, it felt like we were meeting at a middle ground and we were really able to understand each other.”
Filming on location in New York during the summer: “You know how crazy it is filming a winter movie during the summer? We had these big-ass coats, furry-ass boots, beanies — and the whole time it’s like a hundred degrees outside,” he said. “Those work conditions were crazy, but honestly we were all going through it together. I think it made [everyone working on the film] closer.”
This is just the beginning: With his first two films and first two festivals behind him, 2023 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for the 21-year-old actor. Blackk stars in “Landscape with Invisible Hand” opposite Tiffany Haddish, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year and is slated for a theatrical release later in 2023. What’s next for the quickly emerging actor? “I’m very picky about what I do,” said Blackk. “So when it’s the right thing, I’ll know.”