Matt Damon and Jennifer Lewis in 'Hereafter'

*Jennifer Lewis is one actress you can never ignore. You’re not only struck by her talent but by her charisma. That being said, The Film Strip wanted to know if she knew she would only have a few moments in “Hereafter?” “Yes, I did,” she said, “and I knew what I could do with those words in a Clint Eastwood movie. Let’s get real. He’s of course is a legend and I was very honored and thrilled to work with him. He made the set very easy to work on because he’s a classic guy and he knows what he’s doing and trusts the work of his actors.”

QUESTION: Do you see this film as a stepping-stone?

JENNIFER LEWIS: Yes, most definitely. I think I will now go into dramatic roles in my career and it’s time. I’ve given you guys enough comedy. I trained in the classics at Webster University. Everything from Shakespeare to James Baldwin to Sophocles, Euripides and all of them. So now it’s time  for me now move on into that world of drama and I happily welcome it.

QUESTION: Is there a role you’re dying to do?

JL: Well, I’m actually writing a movie right now. Started writing my own material. Can’t sit and wait for the phone to ring in this business and I’ve never been that kind of artist. When I’m not doing theater, television or film, I’m doing a one-woman show. I go out and do fundraisers. I just raised money for the gay and lesbian center for the children that have been thrown out of their houses because they are gay. They needed computers at that shelter that they were in. so I get great pleasure giving back. I’m an advocate for a breast cancer cure and AIDS and HIV. I’ve just been very fortunate to have the time to give back. So that fills my life and it gives me the courage to keep going when you see the faces of children, foster children that I talk to, schoolchildren. I really, really love doing it because I’ve been given so much. I was given this gift at birth and I’ve tried to honor it all my life. Started singing in a Baptist church and it went on from there. Captain of the cheerleading squad, president of my class, college, all the plays, straight to Broadway and less than two weeks there and then I was on my way to Hollywood. I’m knocking on wood as I speak. It’s been a great ride. I got to do what I love to do with my life and make a living of it and I’m certainly one of the lucky ones. So there you have it.  I’m a happy girl. I don’t mean to sound like a goodie two-shoes because I’m not. It’s been a very difficult rode but I’ve come to this wonderful place of managing my life and having a good time in it.

QUESTION: What has been your biggest challenge?

JL: I’m bi-polar. I was in therapy for 17 years and I am now medicated and I live very comfortably. I’m  very happy that I went and faced the truth. So many of us don’t want to confront mental illness. You can live a good life if you take the time to take care of yourself. I mean people say oh I can’t afford it. Yes you can. There are facilities all over the United States where you can go and get treatment.

QUESTION: I never hear that much about you, whereas people like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton are always hogging headlines? Is it parenting  or what?

JL. Darling, those girls are untreated and that’s the end of that story. I’ve taken care of myself. It’s a chemical unbalance in the brain. It’s a disease. It’s like high blood pressure, you know. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Most people who are bi-polar are completely out of control. I was out of control in my 20s and early 30s until I decided to get help. This personality doesn’t come from anywhere, darling. This was a work in progress for 53 years. Say it loud, I’m, Black and I’m proud, you know. I’m telling you, girl, there’s no shame in my game. I brng it. If I don’t bring it in this interview, how could I bring it to the screen or television?

QUESTION: What are your thoughts about the upcoming Oscar season that seems to be minus major Black contenders for the awards?

JL: I think we have to write our own stories, which is what I’m doing right now.  I’m not waiting for the phone to ring.  There is no ‘they won’t let me in.’ You give yourself a job. Sit down; write a story, pitch it and if that person doesn’t take it, you go to the next one. It’s called knocking down doors.  It’s what I did. If the door was ajar, that was all I needed and if it was closed, I kicked it down.

Director Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon teams up again after “Invictus” for “Hereafter.” “Hereafter” deals with the paranormal, a subject Eastwood and the film’s star Matt Damon tackles for the first time. I asked Clint if he ever had qualms about doing a project that might not go over with audiences? “You just put it out there and let the audience make it’s decision,” he said. When Matt was asked the same question, he relied on Eastwood’s musing. “I find it interesting what Clint says about being a director,” he explained. “He [Clint] says ‘I’m a tour guide and I know why I’m giving you a tour and you’re invited to get off the tour if you want. I’ll invite you on the next one but I’m making the tour for me.’”

Morgan Freeman, who stars in “Red” with Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren made a pit stop to promote his latest film. Asked what film he is most proud of, he says “Glory.” He went on to say that “Glory” told the story of Black American who fought in the Civil War. “I want to make more movies like that,” he revealed. Like Jennifer Lewis, he is in the process of seeing this happen. “In World War II there was a Black tank battalion that did a lot of fighting. They were out in front for 183 days and never got rotated back…It’s not going to be soon, I have to write it first.” As Jennifer and Morgan say, there are so many Black stories that need to be told and we can’t wait around for someone to tell them. I’m still waiting for the Bessie Coleman story to hit the screen.