Dennis Haysbert as crime boss Mr. Fish in LUV

*Dennis Haysbert says he’s always made a point to play strong characters that are positive, whether it was the leader of a top secret military squad in the CBS drama “The Unit,” the President of the United States in FOX’s “24,” or leaving you in good hands with Allstate.

But in the nearly four years since “The Unit” has been cancelled, the 58-year-old Northern California native has been strategically moving toward characters who operate on the dark side.

In October, he’ll replace the late Michael Clarke Duncan as the brutish Manute in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” And beginning today, he can be seen on the big screen as Baltimore crime boss Mr. Fish in director Sheldon Candis’ debut, “LUV.”

“It was time for me to diversify my artistic endeavors,” Haysbert told us during roundtables for the film. “I read the script, I loved the script and it was an opportunity for me to play someone like my own brother and try to understand what he saw in that life.”

Dennis Haysbert appears at the premiere of LUV

In “LUV,” 11-year-old Woody (Michael Rainey, Jr.) gets exposed to street life in Baltimore while spending a day with his ex-con uncle Vincent, played by Common. Mr. Fish is the crime boss Vincent left behind when he decided to straighten out his life, only to return on this day with a hail Mary request for a loan. Fish agrees to help him, but only if Vincent carries out another job.

Below, Haysbert explains how his real life upbringing with one of his older brothers mirrors the relationship between young Woody and Vincent.

Danny Glover, Michael K. Williams, Meagan Good and Charles S. Dutton co-star in “LUV,” opening nationwide today (Jan 18). Watch the trailer below.