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Zombie Apocalypse Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Ving Rhames

This is an interview with Ving Rhames on October 19, 2011 about the television film Zombie Apocalypse.

Question:
Can you talk about your character and about the movie so we can learn a little bit more about it?

Ving Rhames:
I don't want to give away the whole story. But basically it's about eight people who really survive a catastrophe where zombies have basically taken over the Earth. And it's a story that deals with our survival, how we bond as friends. How we work together to survive.

Question:
How did you become you know connected to the project?

Ving Rhames:
I got an offer from Syfy. They called my agent and made an offer. I read the script. I liked it and said, "Yes, I'll do it."

Question:
What specifically attracted you to the part?

Ving Rhames:
I did a zombie movie called Dawn of the Dead some years ago with Zach Snyder, who directed The 300, and honestly it is just fantasy and fun. A little bit of fantasy-fiction, but fun.

Question:
What's the most enjoyable part about doing a movie like this, about filming a zombie thriller?

Ving Rhames:
I would really say the bond that the actors developed working with each other. Because even in the film, of course we have to work together to survive, and so we got a nice group of actors who had very good chemistry. So you know, making new friends, it was pretty cool.

Question:
What kind of preparation goes into this? Do you have to do training?

Ving Rhames:
Yes, I'm already a black belt so the most preparation is really just being in shape. So I work out like four to five times a week. So as long as you were in shape, a lot of running, some fight scenes. My character wields a huge sledge hammer. So I lift weights, I run, and I box so things went well.

Question:
Do you have an opinion for why zombies are kind of making a comeback?

Ving Rhames:
I didn't really think it really died honestly, maybe it wasn't called zombies. Let's just look at you know, a whole lot of these vampire-type TV shows or movies or what have you. I think things like Twilight and I'm not going to say they're zombies, but you kind of get my point. It's in the same realm. So, I think that honestly, there are probably going to be more zombie-ish films. And I think what Syfy has done with this for television, I don't think we've seen a film like this on television before.

Question:
How would you say that Zombie Apocalypse both fits in and stands apart from the other projects that are dealing with zombies and the supernatural right now?

Ving Rhames:
Honestly, I don't know what other projects are dealing with zombies, and I haven't seen them so I don't know how much it stands apart. But all I can really say is that I think especially this being a television original, I think that is one of the things that will really make it stand apart. Because to my knowledge, I don't really remember a zombie oriented film airing on television first. I've done Dawn of the Dead in theaters, and then months later or a year later it comes on television. But, I just think that this is really in your face a DP who did a great job. So, I think it's going to be a very different television experience.

Question:
Some of the pictures I saw from the movie, there was a terrifying zombie animal there. Can you tell us a bit about working with the special effects of the movie?

Ving Rhames:
Well I would really say that, the actors did a lot of kind of improv on that one. We did a lot of improv because the director would have to say, "The tiger jumps here." "The tiger jumps there." And then, you had to basically act and react. So I've seen some of it you know doing looping, but I'm interested in seeing it too. But I think forgot the guys name who designed a lot of that stuff, but I think for the actors, it worked well. All of the actors, we had a good chemistry together and we just went for it. So I'm looking forward to seeing it myself.

Question:
The Asylum is known for making films that sort of piggyback on major releases. Like for Snakes on a Plane, they did Snakes on a Train. Transformers became Transmorphers. What do you think about that film making strategy?

Ving Rhames:
Well honestly, this is my first time working with Asylum. I didn't even know they did that. Evidently, it's something that's working for them. Like I'm getting ready to do something for Universal in South Africa where let's say Death Race 1 was in movie theaters. I was in Death Race 2 and was in Death Race 3 and I'm going to be in Death Race 4 where you do piggyback off of something that already developed an audience, theatrically. So I think it's a very good business move, and I think it's much cheaper when you're doing something for television than having to shoot on film.

Question:
In May of this year the Center for Disease Control and Prevention actually came out with something called Preparedness 101, Zombie Apocalypse to explain how to avoid a zombie infection. Do you think that's all in good fun, or is the CDC trying to tell us something that we don't know?

Ving Rhames:
First of all, this is my first time hearing about it. I think it's all in good fun.

Question:
Do you think yourself, you could survive a zombie attack if it ever was to happen, and how would you do it?

Ving Rhames:
No. No, I don't think I could survive it. So no, I'd be gone.

Question:
What was kind of like your favorite scene that you filmed?

Ving Rhames:
I think that there's one scene where the group of about seven or eight of us are being attacked by zombies and we really had to do a lot of work strategically with each other and it was choreographed extremely well. So without giving away too much, that would probably be one of my favorites. But also I think from a real acting perspective, there's a scene between Lesley-Ann Brandt and I that shows a lot of compassion. So my character protects her a lot through the film. We're kind of paired up and I think we had a very good natural chemistry. And there's something very human about this film where we deal with a lot of intricacies of life and of being a human being and of building a relationship with a stranger. So we deal a lot with the human condition in this film, which was a bit different from quite a few of the other zombie movies.

Question:
Is there still a dream role or something that you still would really like to do in your career, or maybe somebody you'd want to work with that you haven't yet?

Ving Rhames:
Well a role I will do at some point in my career will be either a Martin Luther King and Paul Robeson.

Question:
You've battled zombies, sharks, and piranhas. Which is the scariest foe?

Ving Rhames:
I'd probably have to say piranhas, and I mean Piranhas 2 oddly enough that'll be coming out, because it's - they come more from you know ocean as the unknown. And I think the fact that something small could bite you once and you could kind of say, "Oh, that's nothing," and then you're attacked by thousands of them. So piranhas.

Question:
What can you tell us about Henry and his role in Zombie Apocalypse?

Ving Rhames:
I'm kind of the enforcer/major protector of the group. I'm probably the eldest of the group also, so my character has a lot of wisdom. They pair us up at times and I take on kind of the lead of the movie as far as protecting her and most of my scenes are with her when they're not with the group. So, I would basically say I'm the enforcer/protector.

Question:
You've been in Dawn of the Dead obviously, and now Zombie Apocalypse, and there are numerous other titles involving zombies. Why do you think that the zombie horror genre has been so popular for so many decades?

Ving Rhames:
Actually I think one really does the research on it and you deal with let's say voodoo or what have you, there has been some evidence of but of "zombies" existing, or "someone without a heartbeat walking or moving or talking or exiting." There's some question marks about it. But the fact that it is a little controversial as far as can a zombie really exist or not. It's just like ghosts. You know, the supernatural and whatever in these films Paranormal Activity and what have you. I think there is a sense in general where there's a possibility that a zombie could exist. So I think with that possibility becomes intrigue, and I think that's why this whole genre kind of exists, because there's a slim possibility that this could happen.

Question:
Do you think we'll ever see you in a director's role?

Ving Rhames:
No. I'm not interested in directing. I have produced, which I really enjoy, but directing I grew up in a generation of actors and even coming from a theatrical background where you really have to know how to act. I think now in Hollywood there are many actors who've never done a play, I graduated from The Julliard School. Not saying everyone has to do that, but they don't really have a trained background. They may have a nice look or a nice body or nice personality. So I think for me, I'm more old school as far as requirements of an actor, and it would probably be difficult for me with many people who call themselves actors today, directing them.

Question:
How would you say Henry differs from the character you played in Dawn of the Dead?

Ving Rhames:
I think there are similarities, but I think that was a police officer or something like that in Dawn of the Dead. I think with this character, he is a little more of a loner, and I don't want to say doesn't have as much to live for, but I think this really becomes something that my character, he loses whatever he had and he talks about his horse you see. And so I think now he's more alone on the planet if I remember correctly in Dawn of the Dead, that guy might have had a family and was still looking for his family.

Question:
Which type do you prefer fighting against? The fast ones or the slow ones?

Ving Rhames:
The fast ones are more interesting, which we have a combination in this movie. I probably would say the fast ones. The slow ones are easier, but the fast ones take more agility and I think their choreography is a bit more interesting.

Question:
What's your favorite method for taking out a zombie?

Ving Rhames:
As my character Henry would say, "a quick sledge hammer blow to the head solves a lot of problems." I walk around with a sledge hammer in the movie.

Question:
When the cameras aren't rolling, are you just kind of standing around chatting with the actors that are in full zombie makeup like at Craft Services? And how interesting is that?

Ving Rhames:
No. Actually I'm one of those actors who if I'm not working and being used I normally go to my trailer. I try to stay a bit focused and I just realize for me, I have to keep a certain professional distance from dealing with a lot of people when on a set. Because a lot of times people are as important as lead actors. You can't do a film without background or "extras". But what I've found is sometimes it could into wanting to take photos and what have you, and I don't take any photos until after the day is done. So I go back to my trailer and relax.

Question:
Ghost Protocol comes out at the end of the year. What can we expect from a combination of Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, and Brad Bird for this new one?

Ving Rhames:
I can put it this way, the team that the Mission Impossible team that starts off in that film is not as skilled and professional as the actors in Mission Impossible 3. That's kind of all I can say on that.

Question:
How do you choose what roles to take and what roles not to take?

Ving Rhames:
It depends on what one that I've done right before that, because I try not to do something too similar back-to-back. So that's one of the things. And then, it will depend on if the script you know touches me in any way. Or in this case with Zombie Apocalypse honestly, it just seemed like, "Wow. This would be cool and this'll be fun and a lot of action." So, that's what drew me to this one.

Question:
You had obviously done a lot of horror movies. Are you kind of a fan of you know horror, SciFi, all that?

Ving Rhames:
Actually, no. No. I do them but I'm not a big fan of them. I don't know if you want to call this horror really. Do you call something like Paranormal Activity horror or supernatural, I guess I'm a fan of the more supernatural films. I don't know if zombie movies fall into that category.

Question:
What was your biggest challenge with Zombie Apocalypse?

Ving Rhames:
Probably the heat and all of the physical activity, including running.

Question:
How did you get through it? What was your solution to dealing with those challenges?

Ving Rhames:
I'm one of those people where I just realize how I had to pace myself. And of course, there's quite a bit of downtime when doing a film. Thank God we had air conditioned trailers. A lot of liquids and pacing myself. But, we were filming out in some dessert-type places, so there was a couple of 90-something degree days. And with running and being physical in that type of weather, you know you have to be a little careful. I basically would pace myself. And when I wasn't on set working, I was back in an air conditioned trailer.

Question:
You had said before earlier that you didn't think that you would survive a zombie apocalypse if it hit. Why not?

Ving Rhames:
Well, why would I? I don't know. I would just say I think that dealing with something that's stronger than you, that's very difficult to kill, that's already dead, I just think that percentages are slim that human being could really beat a zombie. And we have a lot of fast ones in these too. No, we also have a lot of fast zombies, so they're stronger, faster, and they're already dead. So, how do you conquer that? You know, I don't know.

Question:
You said you went to Julliard earlier. So how has your preparation for roles changed from I guess the time you graduated to now? Is it a lot easier for you?

Ving Rhames:
No. My preparation is basically the same. It's even when I'm doing a play, which I haven't done in decades. But, I do kind of a character analysis. I do a scene analysis, a script analysis. I go over what are my character's intentions in the movie? What are his actions? What are my overall intentions? What are my character's goals in the film? How do I get from Point A to Point B? You know, just basically what we call a Stanislavski moment-to-moment reality, what have you. So I use the same process in every film really. In a film like this one where it's a lot of action and of course being in shape physically comes more into play.

Question:
You said you haven't done a play in years. Any chance you might want to try and do something on Broadway again?

Ving Rhames:
No. I was offered something that I don't think they thought Denzel would do it so they offered it to him after me. But Fences on Broadway with August Wilson. But I think one of the problems for a lot of actors, I'm from New York but I live in LA, is they wanted a minimum of six months, and you know that means total relocation and I have kids and they were asking for too much. And also you know financially a Broadway play it's a lot of work and they really don't pay what I'm making you know one day on a film I wouldn't really make that in a week on Broadway.

I really liked the role; however, I just looked at it as I couldn't like relocate for six months. That means my kids have to go to a new school, and they were asking a bit too much from me. Then with Denzel of course, he didn't do it for six months, but I would've had to have a contract for six months.

Question:
What's your advice to actors?

Ving Rhames:
Train. I think that with anything in life you need training, there are certain requirements. You want to be a doctor? Well, you have to go to you know college and then you know get your Masters and then medical school, an internship. And I look at basketball. You have to train if you want to be a professional athlete. You have to run. You have to practice your dribbling. Your shooting. Your footwork.

And I think so many times now actors just think that you can have a nice personality or have a certain look and that means you're an actor. So I think that the whole acting now is extremely watered down. I even think if you look at many of the actors who we call our "movie star actors", they're not necessarily trained, or not necessarily as good. Robert De Niro makes less money than guys who are, the "movie stars". And as Arnold Schwarzenegger said, he said, "I'm a movie star. I'm not an actor." I think that's prevalent in our system now.

Question:
What would attribute to your ongoing success?

Ving Rhames:
One of the things I tell people is I didn't choose acting; God chose me to act. Or I may say I didn't choose acting; acting chose me. So I know I've been blessed with a certain talent. I've been blessed with good acting teachers and classes and training to become "a relatively good actor." So, I was able to cultivate whatever gift God blessed me with as far as acting.

And I think a lot of times people have a natural ability, but they don't really cultivate it. So then I think I have to thank performing arts high school and the Julliard School for "giving me tools to allow me to be a versatile actor." So I feel if you're versatile, there's always going to be room for you in this industry versus actors who basically you know, play themselves in every role.

Question:
What scares a Ving Rhames?

Ving Rhames:
It's more in the reference to I think some things in life sometimes you can't protect your children from things. It could be you know something as simple as a child getting sick. You know what I'm saying? The mumps. The measles. The flu. You know what I'm saying? I don't want to say that's a fear, but I would say it's when something happens to a child and there's nothing you can do or nothing I can do except you know, just wait. I guess you know my fear is when I'm in a position where I can't help. You know like a kid gets the flu, you can take them to the doctor and plenty of liquids and whatever, but I can't necessarily "heal" them in a day or so. So I guess the fear of something happening to people I love and there's nothing I can do about it.

Question:
You mentioned the difference between a movie star and a actor. So if people refer to you as a movie star, is that something that you'd rather not them do, and you like the term actor a lot more?

Ving Rhames:
No. I'll put it this way. Not all movie stars are actors, you see. And of course, not all actors are movie stars, but every now and then you get someone like a - let me see, I'll use like Sean Penn. Someone who's an extremely good actor but is a "movie star." And now there are other people who are movie stars and no one looks at them as, "Wow, what an actor," you see? The guy that I grew up watching was De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino. All of those guys were movie stars but they were I think actors first you see.

I look at things now and I don't know if the quality of acting has changed, but I just named those three names off the top of my head. I don't know what three names I would name now that are comparable to those three. Then I put Sean Penn in there, but then maybe a Johnny Depp. You know now I really have to start thinking, whereas I just rattled those three off the top of my head. I think that also you had a lot of guys who were very good actors you know that I grew up watching that were just real strong actors and they weren't really the guys who were even you know the star of the movie. They just happened to be real solid actors.

And I think now things have changed. The economy has changed. The quality of films have changed. We do a lot of blockbusters now. We don't really do that many films dealing with the human spirit, the human condition, what have you. So I just think that it when you have better scripts, I think it raises the actor. And I think now you know the scripts are not as good and Hollywood is now more so run by business men. You look at their resume you know, Harvard Law degree or a Master's degree in Business in Yale or what have you, versus many decades ago there was something artistic in the background of heads of studios. And then I think that reflected what type of films were being made. Now, their resumes are more business related for the heads of studios.

Question:
Is there something that your fans would be surprised to know about you?

Ving Rhames:
Probably that I'm a Christian. I don't know if they would think that based on a lot of the projects that I've done, but I do try to keep God first in my life. I don't always succeed, but that's what I'm working on. I think they may know this, but I do gang intervention work with a group called Developing Options. And we basically just try and stop you know young adults from killing each other. It's headed by a guy named Big U. That's his street name, but it's Eugene Henley and they're like based in South Central. And, we cut down on the violent crime in South Central by 85% in the Crenshaw area. He got a citation by the way from the Mayor.

Question:
What book has influenced you the most to be the person that you are today?

Ving Rhames:
The Bible.

Question:
What role did you have or take on or consider that made you say, "This is why I'm doing this. This is why God decided to put me in the role of being an actor to entertain."

Ving Rhames:
I look at it this way, and a lot of people may not understand this. But I think there was something about Pulp Fiction where I played this mob boss, and then the character gets raped. That really kind of humanized him. That even the strongest person in the world can be brought down. And I think that how the audiences around the world reacted to that film and my performance I think that kind of just shook me on a different level. So I'm not going to say there's any one role that I would say, "That one stood out." I graduated college in 1983, so anytime you can be a "working actor" I knew God had his hand on me and I knew that this was one of the things I was put on this planet to do.

Question:
What is your belief about this saturation of reality TV in Hollywood as a form of talent?

Ving Rhames:
I think that what it does is it really just extends the belief that, "Oh, you can just be you," and reality TV in my opinion, it has nothing to do with talent. But if you can become you know a reality TV star, you can make millions. I'm looking at like Jersey Shore, Kim Kardashian, Basketball Wives. It's not really about any talent really.

So I don't quite understand the intrigue about it, but what is the talent level? Or, is it just about, "Okay. I'm going to be me and it'll be a little bit scripted and we'll do some improv conversations." And I think with the writer's strike, reality TV really started hitting and/or was possibly created. And I think it's so cheap to do that you know networks flock to that. And I think it really has hurt you know, a lot of good actors who there's no work because you know, there's no series because reality TV has you know, replaced them. But I think in due time, America will get tired of them and will go back to a different format as far as television.

Question:
Are you familiar with the new play Mountain Top? Would you have taken on that role? Would you have said yes to that?

Ving Rhames:
What I said earlier is that one of the roles I want to play is Martin Luther King. I know Sam Jackson. Honestly, I think even physically I'm more Martin Luther King type than Sam Jackson. Now I've known Sam Jackson for 20-some odd years. We used to live in Harlem together a couple of blocks away. So no, I definitely will you know check this out. And I've known Angela Bassett for many years. As a matter of fact when she went to Yale and I went to Julliard for my school, we dated each other for about a year. So no, I definitely would like to you know, see that.

Question:
Do you still study your craft? And if so, do you do it by running scenes with a class or private sessions? How do you still maintain?

Ving Rhames:
I do study my craft, but see I think at a certain point, as far as being a craft's been, if you're working constantly at your craft you should always growing, improving, learning, what have you. So now my study is more so "on the job training."

Question:
Are you familiar with the social commentator and writer Toure?

Ving Rhames:
No.

Question:
He just came out with a book called Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness. He talks a lot about black America, and since you are an African-American actor and he has a lot of criticism of somebody like a director like Tyler Perry. I'm just wondering if you would ever accept a role in a Tyler Perry movie?

Ving Rhames:
I don't know? What's his criticism?

Question:
He just thinks that the roles that he portrays of black characters or black people aren't very realistic and I know Spike Lee has the same kind of criticism that it's more buffoonery than anything.

Ving Rhames:
I'd have to read a script and look at the role and see if it's something I wanted to do. But I also feel that you know this is America and you know Tyler Perry has the right to do whatever type films or TV things that he wants to do. And just like you and I, and Spike Lee, and this other guy you mentioned. I think that if something is not your cup of tea, that's fine. But I think many times we criticize without actually talking to the person and getting to know their perspective of things.

I could possibly have a positive perspective or I can look at Tyler Perry and I can say, "Well, he's employed more African-American in general than any other director in the past seven years." Or Lionsgate they do produce Tyler Perry movies or even his TV shows. I don't watch them. They're not my cup of tea, but I have to say, "Well hey, he created his own studio in Atlanta and he is creating jobs for people, and you know probably mainly African-American people." So, I'm not ever quick to criticize, because many people didn't care for a lot of Spike Lee movies. You get my point? They're entitled to that like he's entitled to have his perspective on you know Tyler Perry.

But all I can say is someone could say something about me. I know where my heart is whether you know where it is or not. And all I do is basically I don't give in to nonsense or people's opinions because many years ago, I forgot the name of that movie that Spike Lee hired Damon Wayans to do, but whatever, but it was almost in there it was something where an actor gives away something. But it was almost doing it to gain something. So a lot of reporters asked me did I think that Spike Lee was doing that in reference to me? And I said, "You know what? I don't know, but God bless Spike Lee. I'm supportive of whatever a person is doing as long as it's not against the Lord and it's relatively positive."

And, people can have their opinions of me or others, but I'm not going to let someone divide and conquer where Lord knows we have many more problems in black America than the movie images, what have you. We got a homeless problem. We got teen pregnancy. We have AIDS. You get my point? So we have drugs. And so, my focus is more on that then focusing on the perception of whatever Tyler Perry is doing. If we focus on cleaning up our house, we may not have enough time to look into Tyler Perry's.

Question:
I saw the funny or die video where you accepted an Oscar for Piranha 3D and it seems like you really have a good sense of humor about yourself. Is it easy for you to sort of laugh at some of the roles that you've done in your career and kind of just play along with that?

Ving Rhames:
I do have a pretty good sense of humor, and Elizabeth Shue is a lot of fun and I think sometimes I tell people, "Look, it's just a movie." You know, it's not curing cancer. It's not curing AIDS. It's only a movie. So I take my work seriously, but at the same time I realize look; this is just a film. Now hopefully it's a film that can do something to enlighten, inspire, or effect the way one may think about whatever issue we're dealing with.

Question:
Could you please talk more a little bit about your work with gangs?

Ving Rhames:
This is what happened. A guy I met we call him Big U, and his real name is Eugene Henley. He started something called Developing Options and it was already started and let's call it fate the way we met. He manages recording artists and I was in South Africa and I was listening to this artist and I was like, "Whoa, this guy is pretty good." Never heard of him before.

So I get back in town and I say I'm going to produce a small film and I wanted to use this guy as one of the actors in it, and basically playing himself. So through gang intervention I had started out with Jim Brown briefly with his group American and I met this guy through that. But anyway through gang prevention.

What I found is sometimes you can be placed in a position to make change. I find you know, being a "known actor" kids may listen to me sometimes more than they listen to their parents. So I've just found that when he brought me in to Developing Options, it was mainly in the Crenshaw area with gang violence between Crips and Bloods and sometimes Crips and Crips. And what wound up happening is I'm very real, I'm very honest in that perspective in the streets, especially I did a film with John Singleton years ago called Baby Boy where I played a gang member. And you know, in a lot of black America, that film was a hit and they really thought I was a gang member for real.

They would ask me, "All those tattoos you had," and this was in LA. I'm from New York, and people would swear that, "Oh no, you know you're definitely from LA and you're a gang member," so they did identify with something in me, probably because I come from the streets, I grew up in a gang culture. I grew up under people like Mikey Barnes as far as major you know, drug dealers at Harlem at that time.

So I think sometimes God can place you in a position or bless you with something, but you're supposed to use it for something else. Like maybe I've been blessed with acting and getting notoriety to help change the lives of you know young Black, young Hispanic men, young Caucasian men who can relate to someone coming from the streets, because most actors don't come from the streets.

Question:
Do you ever return to your home community in Harlem in New York?

Ving Rhames:
Oh, yes. I have an apartment in Harlem. Yes, I still have an apartment in Harlem. I have an apartment in Harlem that I bought with a student loan in 1981. I bought it for $3000 with a student loan under something called the Teal grant. So I still have that place in Harlem.

Question:
When you go back, how does it feel to know that you've come full circle and there's so much you've done and yet so much you still have to do. How does that feel?

Ving Rhames:
I think full circle for me is going to eventually be living back in Harlem because Harlem has changed quite a bit. Most poor people can't really afford to live in Harlem unless you're in a project or something like that. So what I find is Harlem for me growing up was very culturally enriching. I grew up one block away from The Apollo Theater, 125th Street. So my mother used to take us there almost every weekend.

Harlem is also very political. Martin Luther King came through Harlem. Malcolm X. The Nation of Islam. Hebrew Israelite Movement in Harlem. So, you had a lot of political energy in Harlem and you had a lot of creative cultural energy in Harlem. Then the Harlem Renaissance if you go that far back with Langston Hughes and all of the poets and what have you that were there. So, I was kind of like an open nerve ending just responding to you know stimuli in that area.

And it really gave me something that money can't buy. I think when you grow up in poverty, we were very poor. My mother was a share cropper from South Carolina, but I was born in Harlem Hospital, so it taught me the value of how to appreciate things and how to work for something. And I think now sometimes too many things are just given and kids don't have to earn them. Even in our industry, we spoke of reality shows. Well, do you have to have any talent to do a reality show? I don't really think so. Maybe you have to have an interesting personality, maybe, but you can look at some and man the personalities are not that interesting. So I just I feel very blessed kind of every day I'm used as a "role model" of here's somebody who came from nothing and made something out of himself.

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