Q: What is THE RON CLARK STORY about?
A: THE RON CLARK STORY is about a small-town teacher who's a real guy, an inspirational character who gets a job teaching one of the toughest sixth grade classes at an elementary school in Harlem. He brings unconventional, small-town teaching methods to this school, and eventually these kids end up loving him.
Q: Since your character is based on a real person, did it alter how you developed the character?
A: I wanted to bring my own personality to the role and capture the spirit of Ron Clark, which is a really great one. I didn't want to do an impression of him.
Q: What did you think of the Essential 55 Rules Ron Clark created?
A: They are pretty intense rules. Ron was very strict, but that's one of the things I like about him. He was very hard on these kids, but it was because he cared for them. These kids didn't really have anyone in their lives that believed in them until Ron came along.
Q: What does your character see in these children?
A: My character sees potential more than anything else. I'm like the older brother to some of these kids on the set. Mike, Brandon and Hannah have all brought really interesting characters to this film, so I feel probably the way Ron would with his students.
Q: What kind of teacher is Ron Clark?
A: Ron is very strict and expects a lot of the kids, but he is also very supportive, loving and nurturing. He walks into a situation where his new class is going crazy and he tries his small-town methods in calming his kids down, but realizes that those methods don't work in Harlem, so he has to acclimate to the situation.
Q: What was one of your favorite scenes in the movie?
A: One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when I'm walking through the hall and see a little boy standing in a garbage can because the teacher didn't know what else to do with him. I take him out and begin to communicate with him. I think my character looks further than just the kids being a pain in the neck - he tries to figure out why.
Q: Why do you think Ron Clark has been so successful?
A: He sort of tricks the kids into learning. For example, during recess and their lunch break, the kids do this thing called double-dutch, which I wasn't familiar with at all before doing the film. It's jumping rope with two ropes, and it's one of my favorite sequences in the movie. I make a deal with Shameika Wallace, played by Hannah Hodson, that she has to learn algebra if I learn how to how to double-dutch, and it works.
Q: What are some of the hardest things about learning how to double-dutch?
A: It's exhausting. I like to go to the gym and play sports, but I double-dutched for 30 seconds and had to lie down. And, of course, I'm doing it with 14-year-old kids who are all ready to go. Double-dutch is all timing - you just stay on the ground as little time as possible.
Q: What makes THE RON CLARK STORY a movie that families can sit down and watch together?
A: I got emotional when I read the script. It's a classic against-the-odds story that I hope has some humor to it, but it's also very serious. It's about kids learning and having fun while doing it, so adults and children alike will enjoy this story.
Q: Where does the drama come from in THE RON CLARK STORY?
A: The drama comes from these kids who have all but given up on themselves and are destined for a life that unknowing people would expect of them: a life of trouble. But they get moved by this big-hearted teacher who comes into their lives and doesn't just teach them, but goes to their homes and bends over backward to help them. Watching the kids triumph is moving. That's why I'm here. I'm really proud of it.