For some actors, stardom comes either on their very first film, which may have been in a blockbuster, or in a lead role. For others, fame comes gradually, after some growing pains and paying their dues in the business.
After appearing in small roles on sitcoms and films, such as 'Jarhead,' 'Stomp The Yard,' and 'This Christmas,' actor Laz Alonso finally got his big break when Spike Lee cast him opposite Michael Ealy and Derek Luke in the war film, 'Miracle at St. Anna.'
While the film didn't do big numbers at the box office, it was enough for Alonso to be seen in a bigger spotlight than his previous gigs.
As opposed to actors who entered the field through comedy or sports, the 36 year-old came through the finance world, when he left his job as an investment banker to take on a new challenge.
"Acting was always a part of my long-term plan, but my short-term plan was to become an investment banker, make a couple million bucks, and then finance my acting career that way," he told BlackVoices.com yesterday. "I won't have to sleep in my car and do all kinds of odd jobs. Once I was in the workforce and I was actually working on Wall Street I realized I wasn't going to be a millionaire in my first two years on Wall Street. That's just a ridiculous way of thinking, but at the time it sounded like a brilliant plan."
"Once I realized that was not going to be the case, instead of going to grad school and getting my MBA, which is what most investment bankers have to do as part of their career path, I chose to pursue art," he continued.
Within two years, former BET host turned movie star's fame would reach farther than he thought when director James Cameron cast him in the 2009 Oscar nominated film 'Avatar,' which ended up being the biggest grossing film of all-time.
After briefly appearing with Queen Latifah in 2010's 'Just Wright,' Alonso's game has reached a new level with an upcoming lead role in 'Jumping the Broom,' co-starring Paula Patton and Angela Bassett.
If that wasn't enough, hej ust completed another lead role on A&E Network's original scripted drama series, 'Breakout Kings,' which premieres March 13 and follows an unconventional partnership between the U.S. Marshals' office and a group of convicts as they work to catch fugitives on the run.
Also cast in the show are Domenick Lombardozzi, Malcolm Goodwin, Jimmi Simpson, Serinda Swan, and Brooke Nevin.
While his roles in films are getting bigger with wider exposure, the Washington D. C native didn't want to let a good opportunity pass by him.
"First and foremost I love this character. When I met with Nick Santora, one of the creators of the show, he really wanted to write him as Clint Eastwood-ish. The one cop in a town full of bad people, but he can get the job done, and that attracted me a tremendous amount. The fact that in order to do good things this guy may have to break a few rules is appealing. This show explored that a little bit. It's not a picture-perfect world that we live in on this show, and we're not a picture-perfect team, we mess up. We don't necessarily like each other the majority of the time. I think it's a really true portrayal of real life, it's not cookie cutter, but we figured it out somehow."
After playing a criminal in 'Fast and Furious,' the role of veteran U.S. Marshals Charlie Duchamp gives Alonso the chance to work on the "right side of the law."
"I would describe my character as the moral core of the group. You've got these guys and girls that are criminals who now have the opportunity to do the right thing but we still encourage them to think like criminals, because it's that very thought process that helps us catch people that are even worse than they are. Then you've got my partner Ray, played by Domenick Lombardozzi, who has a pretty dark past of his own. Even though he's a member of the law, he isn't the most upstanding member of law enforcement. My job is to keep the wheels turning without things falling apart, and with each episode it becomes harder and harder for me to do."
Along with the TV series, Alonso's quite aware of the the balance he has to maintain when it comes time to not only promote this show, but his upcoming film projects.
"Balance is definitely the biggest challenge," he said. "You definitely wear a lot of hats. Now I'm wearing the promotion hat where I'm promoting everything I've been working on.
"You got 'Breakout Kings' that premieres this Sunday on A&E at 10pm. Just a month-and-a-half later, Mother's Day Weekend, I have 'Jumping the Broom,' which is going to be in theaters everywhere. The work doesn't end. This is probably as long hours as being on set shooting, but I love it. I don't consider acting work 'cause I love it so much. There's a saying, 'If you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life again.' I really believe that. Even this part of the business is fun. I get to interact with fans, and I really get to feel that support that's so necessary for actors to get from their fanbase. I get to give back, interact, be acceptable, hear their opinions and respond. We do that a lot with this particular show on A&E ... People who love cop shows and crime shows are going to get more than what they usually get from procedural dramas."