You’ve just come from checking out the new Samuel L. Jackson flick Coach Carter and couldn’t help but notice Michael Ealy, the corn-rowed, hazel-eyed cutie from the Barbershop movies. But before you run off to tell your girls about Ealy’s latest role, you may want to take a second look. That’s not Ealy hooping it up in the flick. Instead, it’s newcomer Texas Battle.
Battle, who makes his big screen debut as Maddux in Coach Carter, has already grown accustomed to the frequent comparison. The easy-going Houston native takes it all with a grain of salt, however. Rather than waste his breath trying to convince those naysayers, he’s content to let his work speak for itself. Prior to making his big-screen debut, you may have seen him honing his acting skills on television shows such as The Bernie Mac Show or the The Parkers.
The 23-year-old model-turned-actor recently stepped away from Hollywood’s fast track to talk to AllHipHop.com Alternatives what is next for him, and gave us some insight about working with the legendary Sam Jackson.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Has anyone ever told you look Michael Ealy?
Texas: [laughing] All the time! Girls always come up and be like, ‘Are you Michael Ealy?’ When I tell them that I’m not, they always think I’m being modest. They’ll insist that I’m really him.
AHHA: Have you two ever met?
Texas: No, not yet. It’s all good though. Sometimes, I’ll just go with the flow. When they ask me if I’m him, sometimes I’ll just say, ‘Yeah, that’s my brother’.
AHHA: How was it growing up being named Texas?
Texas: It’s funny because back home, it’s no big thing. People call me T-Back or they call me Tex. But when I came to California, it was like, ‘Wait a minute…’ [laughs] I was like, ‘Do you want me to show I.D.? What do you need?’ Then I always have to tell the story of how I got my name, so I’ll tell you too.
I got my name when my mom was pregnant with me; I was one of those babies that was stubborn. So the doctor made a joke to try to ease my mom because I was giving my mom some pain. He’s like, ‘You know what? We’re just gonna leave this boy in there. We’re not gonna mess with Texas right now. We’re gonna wait ‘til he comes out.’ So then, that made my mom ease up or whatever. My name was going to be Christopher Quincy Battle – but when the doctor made that joke, everyone thought it was funny. Then when I finally came out 36 hours later, the doctor was like, ‘Oh! So Mr. Texas decided he wanted to come out. Well congratulations, you have a baby boy. What’s his name?’ My mom right then and there was like, ‘Texas! Why not? I mean, don’t mess with Texas! That’s a big state’.
AHHA: How long have you been out in L.A.?
Texas: Over two years now.
AHHA: Tell us about your role in Coach Carter.
Texas: I play a character named Maddux, and he’s one of the basketball players. At first, he agrees with everybody when the new coach comes in. He’s like, ‘Okay, who’s this new guy coming in? Who does this guy think he is trying to run us and make us do what he wants with contracts and all?’ But I’m one of the first kids, aside from his son, that realizes what he’s trying to do is make us young, successful Black men without thinking [that] basketball is the number one priority. So, I get teased for that. [laughs] The guys are like, ‘Shut up Maddux! You’re a kiss-up.’ You know, I’m that type of guy. I’m crazy though, I say what I want.
AHHA: How much of that character is close to the real Texas Battle?
Texas: Well, we’re kind of different. The only thing that I might say about Maddux that’s similar to Texas is that he’s spontaneous and very blunt, but he doesn’t get popped in the head and all that stuff that happened in the movie. You know, ain’t no punkin’ Texas!
AHHA: Now that you’ve gotten your first movie role out the way, what’s next? Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Texas: Right now, I did work on a TV series that’s just came out. It’s called Committed. You should check it out. I hope it lasts until the 8th or 9th episode because that’s what I’m on. It’s hilarious. It’s replacing Father of the Bride. They really think this is going to be a good one.
AHHA: What character do you play on those episodes?
Texas: I play a guy named Tony. I am the person on the side for one of the stars on the show. It’s kind of funny.
AHHA: How was it making the transition into acting? Was it hard getting adjusted to it?
Texas: Well, my personality and the way that I am anyway, when I get in a room and I have to read with someone, the nervousness doesn’t bother me. It’s not about me going in and freezing up or anything. My thing is, I like to do that anyway. I like getting in front the camera. I like meeting people; I like socializing, so it’s no problem for me. But when I get it in there, it is a different transition and it’s hard and people need to understand that because you don’t just go in there and read stuff of a paper, you know what I’m saying? You have to know what you’re reading. You have to understand the scene. You have to listen to the reader at the same time that’s presenting it. It’s all about being natural. Acting is natural. Ya know, Denzel Washington told me…
AHHA: Look at that! You have Denzel giving you advice, now?
Texas: [laughs] He was like, ‘Man look, if a casting director or producer knows that you’re acting, you’re not doing your job. The best actors just ‘do’. They just become; they make the character come to life. You want someone to look at you and be like, Damn! Is he acting right there? Then you gotta walk out and leave them stunned’.
AHHA: So what’s long term for you? Where would you like to be in the next five years?
Texas: I love film, but TV is definitely where it’s at, as well. I want to be on a good TV series that lasts long, like Friends. I want to have a family while I’m on the set, ya know? I want to have that environment of working with the same people everyday. We’re bonding; we’re making good work come to life. I love film too though. I wouldn’t mind having a few movies while I’m doing that or while I’m on hiatus from TV. I do like to travel and I do like the people that you meet while you’re on the set for three or four months at a time. I know I want to do both, but I want to focus on the TV first because I know that’s steady, and you never know when you’re next job is gonna be. One thing I’ve learned is to save your money. As soon as I get a check, half of it is gone. It goes right to a savings. I don’t touch it; I don’t see it because I know I’m gonna need it.
AHHA: That’s very smart, especially in L.A. where everybody’s trying to live that life.
Texas: 90% of these people that’s on the freeway are trying to do the same thing that I’m doing! And of course, you’ve got to have your certain connections, I understand that. It’s all about networking as well. But then again, once you’re in that room, it’s on you – you’ve got to step to the plate. You don’t have time to lay back and hold anything back. Sam Jackson told me, ‘Look, when you get in that room, go over the top because they can always tell you to bring it down. But if you go in there at one level, they’re bored’. They don’t want to adjust to you because you should’ve come in with that excitement and energy when you came in from the start.
AHHA: Well it definitely sounds like you’re getting some good advice from some very good people.
Texas: Yeah, it’s been awesome. I mean, working with Samuel Jackson for four months, I learned a lot from that man.
AHHA: What’s it like working with him? I heard he takes the craft very seriously. Is he very intense to be around or does he joke a lot?
Texas: I remember when I first met him at the table reading, I tried to be nonchalant, but in the back of my mind I was like, ‘Damn! This is Samuel L. Jackson. Ain’t this some s###!’ But then you meet him and you shake his hand, but you don’t show that. He’s one of those down-to-earth brothers; he’s cool. He jokes with us on the set. We have tons of bloopers from the movie that I hope they put on the DVD.
My first film, I’m blessed to be able to work with a superior actor as him. I had fun. There was no drama on the set. Everybody came to work; everybody was on time. We all got along. [Jackson] wasn’t all Hollywood-y. He didn’t come in with bodyguards or security guards. He cusses a lot too! But it’s good because you know when he cusses, he means well. It’s Samuel L. Jackson! If he doesn’t yell or cuss, you know something’s wrong. It bothers me if that man is quiet. He’s very on-point. You can tell that this is his job and this is his life. He always wants to work. He always wants to go to the next job; he never wants to stop. I admire that.