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Getting Down To Business With Larenz Tate

The Business Ethics star talks acting, keeping his marriage spicy, and the power of friendship in a relationship's darkest days.

#xoMan

If there was anyone who could hold a master class in aging backwards it's Hollywood heartthrob Larenz Tate. Just one look at his timeless face is enough to have you scouring the internet for the secret of all secrets to his skincare routine. (By the way, it's: aloe vera, African Black soap, and Shea butter. You can thank me later.) The Chicago native has been making women everywhere swoon both on- and off-screen since the days of O-Dog and Darius Lovehall, and it doesn't seem like he has plans of letting up anytime soon.

And if you needed further proof of that, look no further than his latest indie film, Business Ethics. In it, Tate (who also doubles as Executive Producer) stars as Zachery Cranston--an ambitious and morally flawed hedge fund manager whose drive to be successful leaves him deaf and blind to the concept of ethics. Fresh out of business school, Cranston seems to have all the necessities to succeed in the finance world. That is, until his ambition lands him smack-dab in the middle of a dramatic, yet arguably illegal business opportunity that shapes up to shake the lives of everyone around him. "As we take the journey with this character, the main guy, he begins to find himself questioning, is this morally right?" Tate explains to xoNecole on a midweek afternoon. "It's something that I thought was kinda dope. Because rarely do I find scripts that come across my desk where you have a black man in the center of a predominantly white business that's dealing with financials."

He continues spiritedly, "I'm always looking for challenges. I see myself as a bit of a chameleon in terms of acting, [I want to do] a little bit of it all. And this speaks to the kinds of things that I want to do as a leading actor, as a leading male in a film."

We recently got the chance to catch up with the Power star about how he's been powering through the pandemic, the love legacy he hopes to leave behind, and how exactly he's been keeping things spicy in his marriage.

xoNecole: You've played a myriad of interesting characters over the course of your nearly 30-year career. So I’m curious: which character has been the closest to Larenz or has been your favorite?

Larenz Tate: For me, if I can just find or add a little bit of myself in each of the roles I play, in the character, then I've accomplished that. You got to put a personal touch on something, whether it's Menace [II Society], Dead Presidents, Love Jones, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, or currently the Power universe, in the spin-off show with Councilman Tate. I just try to find something that--whether you love or hate a character--I want to find human qualities that allow you to either relate to the person, or you don't want to take your eyes off the person and what they're doing. So if I can find ways to do that by bringing a little bit of my own personal touch to it or a lot of it, it's really good.

But, you mentioned what are some of my favorite characters. I think it's the movies themselves. I've been fortunate to have movies that become classics based off the fans and the quality. Take Love Jones, for instance. Such a great storyline, the characters are rich. It was refreshing to see something that we as Black folks hadn't seen before. And I think it was unique because Black people were telling the story. When we tell our stories, there's a level of authenticity that we bring to it if we are allowed to.

"When we tell our stories, there's a level of authenticity that we bring to it if we are allowed to."

I couldn’t agree more. You know Larenz, you always seem so joyful and full of good energy in almost everything I see concerning you. With the pandemic and everything going on, how have you been affected personally and mentally? If at all.

You know anytime I share interviews, my story or some of the things I want to talk about--obviously, I want to be able to inspire, to motivate through the conversations and the energy that I put out there. But by all means, I do find things to be challenging just as everyday folk that are dealing with this pandemic and a shutdown. And having to now alter what we're used to doing in our everyday lives, it's a bit of a challenge.

But for me, I always try to find my center and this is something that's always been instilled in me very early. Define your center [so that] anytime that you're thrown out of it, you can find ways to do it. Whether that's from a spiritual standpoint, whether it's from a conscious standpoint, just to be able to utilize the same tools that I've had growing up to kind of get through the tough times [is necessary]. Because these are moments where people are really being tested.

As we can see, the day-to-day routines of the pandemic can sometimes suck the magic right out of our daily lives. Especially as it relates to marriage. So, have you found any new or unconventional things that help keep you and Tomasina’s marriage spicy and exciting?

That's a very good question. You know, it's one of those things that, it's kind of like a roller coaster. There's times where things are super spicy and it's good. And it's like, all new--especially because you have the time, you know what I mean? But you have to understand when you're in a situation like mine: wife, four children, especially when they're little, trying to keep the spice can be a little challenging because there's ALWAYS children around. And it's not like we can leave them at home and go break away to a hotel or go away for days at a time because we don't really want to leave them with anyone. So you got to find different moments. For me, my wife is big on massages. So I'm giving back rubs, foot massages, you know. There's ways to kind of keep being intimate in that way. So you don't completely just go untouched, you don't want to stay disconnected.

I think massages are severely underrated. They’re definitely clutch.

Yeah, they are but we got to pick and choose our fun times. You know, I bought my wife this professional massage table, right? And all the things that a professional masseuse would have. I got the oils, I got the lavender candles and the smell-goods and all this stuff. I got all the sheets and the blankets. So we have that and I set up this really cool gazebo in the backyard that can close up. So every now and again, you know what I'm saying, I'm going to give my wife the little massage. It's happening and it's good. But my kids, man! They like, 'What's going on, what's going on behind the curtain?' (laughs).

Like, yo--y'all gotta let us live. I'm trying to break that massage table in, bruh.

How did you know Tomasina was the one? 

I think it was just over time. She and I just got along. It was one of those things [to where] we just balanced each other out. [We were] compatible. And as a friend--we were very good friends. And, of course, in our dating, she was just like a solid person through and through. And I felt like I found somebody that I truly can grow with and that I'm willing to really share a life-long experience with. It was a combination of different kinds of things. She just always was solid. I saw how she was and not only how she treated me, but how she treated people that weren't around me or people in my circle.

My wife and I dated for six years before we even got married and we were just working on our friendship and our relationship. There was a certain kind of normality that was present in our relationship that didn't feel like it was under a microscope of the media or Hollywood. It was like a normal relationship. And we don't have normal lives, so if you create normality--that was important.

"My wife and I dated for six years before we even got married and we were just working on our friendship and our relationship. There was a certain kind of normality that was present in our relationship that didn't feel like it was under a microscope of the media or Hollywood. It was like a normal relationship. And we don't have normal lives, so if you create normality--that was important."

You've spoken previously on the importance of maintaining and putting friendship first in your relationship. And you kind of just touched on it again a little bit ago. What advice would you give to married couples who've lost the foundation of friendship in their marriage?

Well, I'm certainly not one to give any advice but one of the things that I realized is that friendship is really important because friends are family that you choose, right? Usually what you want to have [in your relationship] is based on unconditional friendship. So no matter what, you accept their flaws, you accept their greatness, you accept their shortcomings and missteps, but also their victories. And I feel like when you are in a relationship and that friendship is tested, it's one of those things that you have to then look back on. And for me, that was something that I always kind of, we kind of had. Our relationship just gradually grew. When you have that friendship, you are usually dealing with the true essence of the person.

And I want to add this too. One thing that I also learned was that even though your lady is your friend, your wife is your friend--she can even be your homie. She AIN'T your boy. Like, at all. You know what I'm saying? That's not her. You're wiping that. She can be your homie, she can be all that, but she ain't your boy. And you gotta keep that in mind. She's wired differently.

"Usually what you want to have [in your relationship] is based on unconditional friendship. And I feel like when you are in a relationship and that friendship is tested, it's one of those things that you have to then look back on. And for me, that was something that I always kind of, we kind of had. When you have that friendship, you are usually dealing with the true essence of the person."

How important is it to showcase the positive and the realness of Black Love to your kids?

Oh, it's important. But I got to say that, our children need to see all of us--all of who we are. You know, they're gonna see the fun couple. They're going to see the responsible couple. They're gonna see the silly couple, but they're also gonna see the couple that's very strong in terms of being disciplinary. They're going to see us talk about spirituality, they're gonna hear us cuss every now and again. Just all the facets of us. But the one thing that we make sure our children do see is that real Black love. I think it's important for my sons to see black women as the standard of beauty, as queens, as the standard of real love and just the kind of connection you should have and the respect. And the uplifting, they see me trying to be uplifting, and saying positive things. And it's the same thing with their mother towards me. There's always hugs and kisses, there's always love in this house.

We made it very clear when we start having children, we're not dealing with the nonsense and we're not going to perpetuate the kinds of things that we saw. The negativity that's passed on from couples to couples, to generation after generation.

Thinking forward to another 20 years from now, when you look back at your marriage, what love legacy do you hope it leaves?

I would love for my children and their children's children to say that our father and mother, grandfather and grandmother--tried to set an example for us. To give us the tools, to give us the principles, to give us the standards and to give us the roadmap we needed to live up to our full potential. And so I hope that in 20 years, we could continue to build on that legacy of being the best versions of ourselves.

Business Ethics is available to stream now via Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and iTunes. And for more of Larenz, keep up with him on Instagram.

Featured image via Larenz Tate/Instagram

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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