Laurence Fishburne is no stranger to the world of sci-fi and superheroes.
The star, who grew up in Brooklyn, had an iconic turn as Morpheus in the “Matrix” movies and has portrayed DC Comics’ Perry White in “Man of Steel” and voiced Marvel’s Silver Surfer in “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.”
On Friday, Fishburne, 56, will cement his place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Bill Foster in “Ant-Man and The Wasp.” For hard-core Marvel afficionados, the name Bill Foster should ring a bell — created in 1966, the character has a long history of involvement with Hank Pym as a fellow size-changing hero, known both as Giant-Man and Black Goliath.
amNewYork spoke with Fishburne, who also stars on the great ABC comedy “Black-ish,” about the film.
Bill has a long history in the Marvel Universe. What was your background with him?
I wasn’t that aware of him. I wasn’t an Ant-Man reader. I was a Spider-Man guy and an Avengers guy and Fantastic Four reader, a Hulk reader, a Thor reader, a bit of Daredevil. A lot of Iron Fist, a lot of Power Man. Yeah, so, I wasn’t really that familiar with Ant-Man’s world. And really it was [director] Peyton Reed who told me all about him. And really I thought it was a really good fit. It was a really, really smart call to cast me as Bill Foster. I thought, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense.” Particularly when you think about Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. I thought that was a good match.
So looking at the character on the big screen, tell me what Bill is all about.
He’s not unlike Hank. He’s a really, really smart guy who has great ideas and has hope that the technology that they’ve been working on is somehow going to be useful. And, you know, that intelligence, that kind of — the ego that comes along with the intelligence — sometimes blinds them to smaller things [laughs]. Or things that they consider to be smaller.
You’re rattling off the books you read … What does it mean for you to play this character?
It’s wonderful and it’s a dream come true for me as a reader to be in this world just like being in the DC world was a dream come true for me.
What was some of the trickery on set of having these people getting enlarged and smaller?
Well, you know, that’s all the stuff that gets done in post [production]. So it’s not like we ever present to be small. Well maybe Paul [Rudd, who plays Ant-Man], did. But it’s weird. I haven’t really had the experience. But I know most of it’s really done in post. So, we just have to … we just have to … what do we call it? Oh, yeah! Acting. That’s it. Act small, you!
So there were no giant ants? That’s what you’re telling me?
Not right there. You had to act like there were giant ants.
What can you tell us about what’s coming up with “Black-ish?”
I know we had a meeting a month and a half ago. And I know they’re actively breaking stories now. But I am not privy to what those are.
How do you relate to your character Pops?
I sort of have to reach a little further than my own experience sometimes with Pops. And so I think often of people who are about 10 years older than me who I’ve known over the years and think about their perspective. And that’s kind of how I arrive at it most of the time.
One of the things I love about the show is that it’s funny, but I feel like I’m learning. What to you is the importance of that aspect of the show?
Well, you know, here’s the thing. With “Black-ish,” what we’re doing is we’re talking about stuff that black people and people of color have been talking about in this country for at least 50 years. We’ve been talking about these things among ourselves for 50 years. And now we’ve reached a place, we’re at a place in our culture where everybody understands what we’re talking about. Everybody has an inkling of what we’re talking about. Nobody is, like, in the dark about the fact that racism existed and that there were things that were done and not done that just weren’t right. It’s cool. Now we can have this conversation and everybody is in on it.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Right now I’m just involved in the latest Clint Eastwood picture it’s called “The Mule.” And “John Wick 3.” The Bowery King returns in “John Wick 3.”
You’ve worked across a great variety of film genres. What’s your thought process with how you choose your roles?
I always just work from my intuition and allow things to come. I’m not somebody who does a whole lot of active seeking out for stuff. I mean, you know, I did ask to be in “John Wick,” the second one. That’s a case where I went and saw a movie and I just loved the world, and so I expressed to Keanu [Reeves] that I would love to come play if there was something for me to do. But mostly I work from intuition and, you know, you read a script and if it speaks to you, it speaks to you. Or if you look up and you realize, “You know what, the coffers need to be filled. Maybe I need to go do something and make some money.” It runs that gamut between all of that.
You’re a Tony Award-winning actor for “Two Trains Running” in 1992. Do you think you’ll return to Broadway?
Oh, I will eventually. Absolutely. I probably won’t be able to do that until my responsibilities with “Black-ish” are over. Because you know the schedule for “Black-ish” is full-time. You want to be free — 16 weeks is a lot of time to commit to being somewhere, at least to being in one place. Right now “Black-ish” is the priority.