I recently got the chance to talk to Big Spence about his role in ‘Moneyball’. Here, Big talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and which three people he would invite to dinner…
(Big Spence (L) pictured with Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Hey Big. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Moneyball‘.
No problem. It’s great to be contacted. Let’s get it going.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s based on a true. story?
Yes, the film is based on a true story. The basic plot is about a team (The Oakland Athletics) having very little money for recruiting players and they come up with a method that is different from anything that has ever been tried. Instead of going after all the big time players, management decided to try a different approach and that is to find out what exactly is it that they need. Management understood that everyone in this league first off deserved to be here. Yes, some are more famous than others but they are all professionals. This game is not a friendship game it’s about business…and the business is to win games. They realized that in order to win games we must score points and in order to score points we must get on base. They decided to hire a team not full of power hitters, but a team full of players that get on base. They started to pick up players that were let go from other teams because other teams didn’t realize what they were.
This means a lot for me as well because this is how I run my business…I am not only an actor, I also write and produce. I have learned that I can’t operate like Hollywood in the way that I hire talent and crew due to the fact that I don’t have a Hollywood budget. I hire great and talented people based on the budget that I have.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play one of the trainers for the Oakland Athletics. After watching the film I noticed that my speaking scene was actually taken out for whatever reason but my lines were in fact with Brad Pitt.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I actually auditioned to be one of the baseball players. My audition was at a part in Oakland where Mike Fisher (films athletic coordinator) was. I had actually worked with Mike before on a Nike shoe commercial about two years prior with the San Diego Chargers. Michael Mann had directed it so I was very familiar. At this audition I had to go into the batting cages where a live person was pitching. After my audition I talked to Mike for a while then left. The next week I learned by production that I didn’t get the one day role of David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz but I got booked for a two-week role as one of the A’s trainers.
How would you say this film is different and unique to other sports films?
It’s a true story and it definitely had to stay true to that. There were such big set ups for the camera as well. This film to most was all about baseball but for me it was about the mentality of someone who set out to do something great.
The film stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brent Jennings, Chris Pratt and Stephen Bishop – with Bennett Miller onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes to tell?
Absolutely. First off, this set up at the A’s facility took two weeks and each day there were over 5000 extras. That was crazy in itself. The funny thing is we had to trick the fans because every time Brad would step on the film the crowd would go crazy, there was no way we could shoot. Production figured it out tho’. They would do a set up making everyone think we were filming something else but in actuality they would be filming Brad in the corner. That was funny.
Second, because I’m from Oakland I had a couple of people come out to be extras so that was cool. We had been filming for a couple of days and Chris, Stephen and myself had become cool friends. In between shoots we’d go to the batting cages and Stephen was very informative as well. That’s my guy, we actually knew some people in common as well. Anyway we go back out to the film and the people who had come as extras called my phone, “Is that Chris you’re with?” I said, “Yeah, but how do you know him?” They told me he had been in ‘Wanted’. That was funny to me because Chris was just a regular down to earth guy, I thought he was just another actor that was cast. Chris was a great guy as well.
Bennett was an amazing director with a great vision. He looks like he’s still in his twenties. I didn’t get a chance to really talk to Jonah but he would come out in between setups and start doing a little stand-up. Philip was an amazing guy, I soaked up a lot from him, as we ate lunch together a couple of the days.
Brad was an all around amazing guy and it was a pleasure working with the entire cast of this project and I look forward to what’s to come.
Let’s talk a bit about you Big. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I knew I loved acting before I ever tried it. I remember when I was in high school I was an office-aid and I had to take passes to different classes. I used to take the last passes to the Drama class because I knew once I was there I wasn’t leaving. The teacher used to always make me participate and I loved to do so. I learned that in acting the most important thing you can do is listen and I’ve always been a great listener.
You’ve been in a number of different TV series and films – which actors/actresses have been your favorite to work with so far? Any good stories?
When I’m on set it is definitely a beautiful thing and I’m always learning. I loved working with the brilliant Omari Hardwick who taught me how to talk to directors in a professional and respectful manner and also the beautiful Tessa Thompson who is just wonderful for no reason in the film, ‘Everyday Black Man’. I have never had a bad experience on set and everyone that I have worked with has been special and all for different reasons. Brandon T. Jackson and I met on the set of ‘Big Stan’ and that was the first time I stepped into a trailer. Brad Pitt was just an all around great guy and Will Smith was on the set of my first project - ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’. Orlando Jones gave me my first line on the show, ‘The Evidence’.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
First off I would choose my mother. I started acting in 2006 and my Mom passed away shortly after. My Mom was my biggest supporter no matter what I did. I just wish I could share the stories and the experiences with her now. She wasn’t always there for me but I wish I could tell her that I appreciate the times that she was. I miss her.
Secondly, I would have Mariah Johanna (my 5-year-old daughter). Mariah was born in 2006 and my Mom passed away months before she was born. Believe it or not, there are times when I don’t feel like smiling and Mariah definitely brings the smiles out. I do what I do for my kids that’s for sure.
Lastly I would have Jesus at my table, that’s right…Jesus Christ. I would have a lot of questions like; “Why do you have all these people acting crazy?” “Why is the Bible not written clear and we have all these interruptions?”
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
- Some sort of musically devise…I love music.
- A jet with a full tank of gas and a learning manual.
- My laptop…I have to get some work done. Tomorrow waits for no man.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
- “Butterfly Kisses” – Bob Carlisle
- “Hey Mama” – Kanye West
- “Greatest Love of All” – Whitney Houston
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I just finished working on a film called ‘Dollar Bill’ where I played a pimp named Dollar Bill. Dollar Bill is not just your neighbour pimp, he’s the pimp with a heart.
I’m also finishing up a film that I wrote and produced called ‘The American Dream’ where I play ‘Marvin’, a drug dealer with a conscious. After that film is wrapped I’ll be producing a currently untitled romantic comedy about a group of college kids.
Thanks for the interview!