Multiple murders, corporate greed, statutory rape, and, of course, lots of lies and scandal are the keystones on which NBC’s mystery series “Deception” is built.
The story began with the murder of socialite Vivian Bowers, a party girl who had been tabloid fodder for numerous years. Even so, FBI agent Will Moreno (Laz Alonso, ) feels that her killer should be brought to justice, so he enlists the aid of his former police partner, Detective Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good), who just happened to be childhood friends with Vivian, and sends her undercover to infiltrate the Bowers household and find the killer.
“The writing was set up so every episode could have a cliffhanger ending,” says Alonso, “When you have a 22-episode season, you have to stretch plot lines out. In an 11-episode season, which this is, it helps everybody’s character arc.”
At a lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel to promote “Deception,” Alonso talks to XfinityTV about how casting for “Deception” was color blind, how his inspiration comes from entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump, what inspires him and what advice he feels was the key to his success.
Was color an issue in landing this role? When I booked the role, my character’s name was Will Sackovich. They didn’t write it for me in mind. I don’t look like a Sackovich. Credit goes to NBC and to the writers and the creators and producers who didn’t allow anything else to become an issue other than who captured that role, who nailed that role and that is who we are going to put in the show.
“Deception” takes place among the upper echelons. Does it capture any reality? One of the things the writers have fun with is being able to inject this show with some real-life situations that are going on. Because the person who was murdered was a socialite, they will throw in Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton references here and there. Just to keep it current with what is going on.
Does that make your job easier? For me it does because I am aware of what is going on and sometimes I can add my own thing, especially with the improv. I can give you examples, but they haven’t aired yet. They are very open to current situations that can make this show feel like the show is real, not in some abstract place.
What are you doing now that “Deception” has wrapped its first season? I am taking time to relax and read scripts and see what is out there in the film world and, hopefully, squeeze in a film between now and what would be the beginning of Season 2.
Watch the latest episode of “Deception:”
Your character in “Fast & Furious” was so bad. In this you play the hero. Which one do you prefer? That is a tough question because when you get to be bad, you just go all out. There is nothing to lose. There is a certain level of risk you can take when you play a bad person. There is a freedom there because you don’t have to protect the messages you are sending out. In this show, my character very much is a moral compass because he is trying to find the murderer, he is trying to keep Joanna safe on the job and not allow her to get swayed by the family again. He is starting to see that they have a stronger impact on her than he thought. It will bring out a lot of emotions and weaknesses in his character, so I enjoy playing that as well. I think overall, you always want to play the guy who gets the girl, or fights for love.
What and/or who inspired you to do what you’re doing, and why? I am sometimes embarrassed to say what inspired me to become an actor, but as a kid, I grew up in D.C. and movies were my way out. I grew up during the crack era, during the very violent era in Washington, D.C. Being in the house and watching a movie was a lot safer than being out on the streets so my mother always made sure I had a lot of movies to watch. It became our thing.
Movies inspire so many of us. I remember watching movies like “Rocky” and “Indiana Jones.” They just took my mind to so many other places and I wanted to one day do that for other kids in my position. For me it was always an escape, it was always a way out of my current situation. It was a way of also, for me, being able to move and inspire others the way I was being inspired by these films. “Rocky” for me was a very inspirational story. I liked the whole idea of you don’t have to be the best at something to win. You just have to work hard, bust your butt and really believe in yourself, and when everybody tells you “no,” keep pushing. It was just that message. I really feel that I got that message. It inspired me to not let anything that at the time was considered a road block, that looked like a mountain, I thought I could overcome it. So, I wanted to do the same.
What was your break? I like to say I didn’t have one first big break, I have had a whole series of small breaks. It is like Legos. Each piece put together makes one big thing. BET is the first time I was on television consistently. I was a host on BET. I was on-air talent. I was hosting a video show. Although it wasn’t acting, it was still a lot of fun and it made me comfortable in front of the camera. From there, I started doing a bunch of commercials. I did a lot of theater before all of that — off, off, off-Broadway. I never got my MFA, but I worked with people who had MFAs from directors to other actors and I just absorbed and learned as much as I could. I kept my mouth shut and I just studied them and saw what they did.
You did get your B.A.? Absolutely. I got a BBA — Business Administration, Finance and Marketing. I worked on Wall Street when I first came out of school and my moonlighting was theater. I was moonlighting as an actor for free, but it was a way to creatively express myself. As soon as I realized I was loving my life more when I was acting on stage for free than when I was nailed to a desk for 90 hours a week making money, I knew that is what I had to do with my life.
Who gave you important advice both as a young person, personally – and who gave advice to your professionally – advice that helped shape who you are and what you’re doing? Harrison Boyd, a friend of my family’s and a close friend of mine, he said, “Up until the age of 25, you are judged on your potential; after the age of 25, you are judged on your results. And that really made me step on the gas because I always felt, “One day I am going to be an actor. One day I am going to be an actor.” When you live a life saying, “One day, one day, one day,” you are focusing on the now: How am I going to pay my bills, how am I going to get this car that I want or what have you, you push off your dreams to the side. The next thing you know, you wake up 5 years later and you wonder what happened with your time. When you put that into perspective — and I was 24 at the time that he told me that — I felt like I had only one more year where I was judged on my potential kind of get-out-of-jail card, and then I am going to be judged on my results. What do I want those results to be? I wanted those results to be in the field of acting. That is when I started pushing forward very, very strongly.
So that was professional advice, any personal advice? My mother always forced me to tell the truth. She always forced me to look her in the eyes, not look down when I was talking to her, make eye contact and tell the truth. There were always very severe consequences. You have a Cuban mother, first generation, she ain’t playing that. No lying in our home.
Acting is based on truth, so that must be a big help. Absolutely. That is what I have to explain to people who say, “Because you are an actor, you must be a good liar,” and it is completely the opposite. When you are showing emotion, you are telling the truth. Granted, I may be in a scene losing a lover and what I am experiencing is a different thought in my head — not the loss of that particular person but something else — but I am experiencing an emotion. I am telling the truth. I am not lying. I think that constant, constant, constant forcing me to tell the truth is what helps me tell the truth on film as well.
Who are your inspirations these days, and why? I am inspired by entrepreneurs — Mark Zuckerberg, the guy who founded Facebook, Mark Cuban, and even as ridiculous as he can be sometimes, I still enjoy seeing the success that Donald Trump has had real estate-wise. I don’t necessarily agree with him in a lot of other areas.
There’s a theme here. I am really inspired by success, I am really inspired by entrepreneurs and people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and in spite of the world saying, “no, you can’t do it,” they did it and accomplished something. I am inspired by people in our industry who do it: James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas. People who created technologies that help shift our industry. I am always inspired by not just artists, but an entrepreneur, as well. One that can help better the world, better technology, better life as we know it.
What have you learned from some of your previous projects? I have learned so much from my previous projects. It depends on the project. From James Cameron, I learned attention to detail. I learned that there is not one detail that should ever be spared. Everything requires detail. From Spike Lee, I learned hard work. I learned you can do something quickly and efficiently, if you have planned it out correctly. You can do it quickly and efficiently without 500 takes and 19 hours of work. Preparation.
Great stuff. I have learned so much on different sets and from different actors. I learned that relationships can work in our business. You just have to put the relationship on the same priority scale that you do the work. Work can’t become more important than your relationship. I have seen many actors have very successful marriages and families despite what you read in the tabloids sometimes. It exists. I have learned a lot of great things. I have been very blessed. Every project I have walked away from, I have walked away with a friend, a new person that I admire and respect and that I am glad that I have met.
What advice would you give others wanting to follow in your footsteps? My advice would be: Be 100 percent honest with yourself. If it is not something you absolutely, terribly love when you are doing it for free, don’t do it. You have to really love it. Finance cannot be a part of it. It has to be something you love doing for free. I knew I loved doing this when I was doing this for no money. If you truly love this, or anything you truly love in life, the success and the money will come. You have to do it because your heart tells you, “This is where I belong.” When you work from the heart, it is no longer work. I can say, “I love what I do. I love every second of it.”