Interview: Russell Hornsby on ‘BMF’, Filming During Covid and Why Each Character Needs “Some Place to Go”

Russell Hornsby talks about his character, filming during a pandemic and how he's learned to add some life lessons to every role he's done.

Russell Hornsby stars in BMF, a new STARZ drama about a pair of brothers who went on to form the Black Mafia Family, a hugely influential crime family in the 1980’s. Hornsby plays their father, Charles Flenory, who “just wants to provide for his family,” he told me.

In this interview, Hornsby talks about his character, filming during a pandemic and how he’s learned to add some life lessons to every role he’s done.

BMF airs on STARZ, Sundays at 9pm.

I watched the first couple episodes and I thought it was really great. Can you tell us who you play and I’m also really eager to know where he goes by the end of the season.

Russell Hornsby: I would describe Charles Flenory as a blue-collar, hard-working everyday man, a throwback if you will. He is a musician and also a god-fearing man and just one who’s there to love and provide for his family and his community as best he can.

Did you film this during lockdown?

Russell Hornsby: Yeah, we started filming in January. We went from January to May, and we were all in covid protocols and getting tested three days a week.

Acting-wise, did that affect your performance and how you worked with the other actors?

Russell Hornsby: It presents a challenge, you know what I mean? The reality of it is, for me, fortunately, I’ve worked enough in and under different strenuous conditions and unfavorable conditions, that you just kind of… you got to suck it up essentially. Let’s be honest, Lance, nobody gives a f—, you know what I’m saying? They want the result, they don’t care how you get there.

And the other thing is, you have to be honest in the fact you’re fortunate to be working at that time, while we were under covid, while we were under lockdown, what have you.

So, there aren’t too many complaints from my standpoint because I’ve been unemployed, and I know how it is to not work. And so, you just come with a sense of purpose and a sense of duty of like, “Hey, this is my job. I have to do it; you’ve got to suck it up and let’s get to work.”

We talked back in 2018, the good old days of 2018, and since then, I honestly trying to catch most everything you do. And one thing I’ve noticed is that when you walk into a room or whatever you’re doing, you just command the whole scene. And you kind of talked about this the last time we talked, but I feel like it’s because you’re so detailed in your preparation.

Russell Hornsby: Yes, well you know, you learn these things going along. It’s like, everything starts with like silence, right? People don’t pay attention to the guy who comes in, you know, yelling and screaming. They pay attention to the guy who’s not saying much. And that’s the first person everybody looks at. “Who’s the guy who’s not saying anything?” So, as an actor, you absorb these life lessons, if you will.

And because the father, he doesn’t have much in the as far as his contribution to their world in its totality. So, it’s really about him being a father. It’s about his presence in their life. So, I have to really latch on to Charles’s presence.

And see, the other thing is, when you try to command the presence in the outset, you begin to lose it. And so, you have to have somewhere to go, you know what I mean? You’ve got to start somewhere to end somewhere. So again, when you see these aspects of a man being diminished and those qualities diminish slowly, whether it be because lack of money, whether it be because of lack of opportunity or whatever, the character has to have some place to go. So, he starts at this place and then we’ll see his authority diminished slowly.

Any chance you might do theater anytime soon?

Russell Hornsby: Probably not, to be honest with you. I mean, I want to. I want to get back to the theater.

Now I have younger kids and the family, so it’s hard to break away. Because the thing is, with theater, you know, once you get in it, you can’t leave. At least with film and television, it’s like, “Oh, I’m not working for the next few days, I can fly back home.” You know, those kind of things. With theater, you’re in there. Now I understand why a lot of the older actors stopped doing theater after a while. I get it now.

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