Eamonn Walker’s name might not be too familiar here in the United States where he doesn’t have years of appearing on stage under his belt, but if you’re a long-time subscriber to HBO, it’ll be hard to forget him playing Kareem Said for all six seasons of Tom Fontana’s prison drama “Oz.”
Although Walker has been a regular presence on television (and stage) since that show went off the air, his film appearances have been few and far between, which is why one might not recognize him when he first appears on screen in his latest movie, Cadillac Records, which reunites him with former “Oz” director Darnell Martin. The movie’s a look at the early days of recorded blues at Chess Records, and Walker gives an amazing performance as legendary blues singer Howlin’ Wolf. The movie also stars Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess, the label’s co-founder, Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, and Beyoncé Knowles as singer Etta James.
ComingSoon.net had a chance to sit down with Walker to talk about what went into playing the role of Howlin’ Wolf, as well as to learn a bit about his new NBC show “Kings” which starts airing next year.
CS: When you first appeared in the studio performing it really took me a second to realize it was you, even though I’ve seen every episode of “Oz” a number of times.
Eamonn Walker: You didn’t recognize me.
CS: I don’t know if it was the just the beard or just the situation, and I was really curious, do you have any kind of musical background whatsoever?
Walker: I’m a frustrated musician, I would go there. I sing in the bath, I’ve done the odd piece of singing here and there, but nothing what I would turn around and call myself a singer. I knew for this that I would have to step up, and really kind of dig in and find my voice.
CS: Did you just happen to find the script or your agent?
Walker: You may not know, but Darnell directed the pilot and the first two episodes of “Oz” so that’s where we met. My first big meeting at HBO was with Darnell Martin and twenty seven HBO executives, and I had to come in and read, and I read with her and we clicked straight away. It was a really amazing reading, because she’s a pretty good actress herself although nobody knows that. That’s how that came about and then all these years later, when she said she had some quite specific ideas in her head. I guess what popped up was working with me ’cause I can do intense I guess and she wanted this character to have an intensity about him as regards to the specific subject matter between he and Muddy Waters. If you watch this movie, you could take away from it that their whole relationship was this slice that you get, but it wasn’t, they played together, they loved each other, they respected each other on one level. It was like they became really great friends, and Willie Dixon, they all played together, all of them.
CS: Oh yeah, of course. It’s funny because he toured in the U.K. a lot, and I don’t know how old you are, but were you aware of him being there and playing with Clapton and others?
Walker: I’m in my 40s and no, I wasn’t aware of him at all. I mean my – I call him my surrogate father, John, because I adopted him and said, “I like listening to you.” Anyway, he was a big fan of Howlin’ Wolf, and so, I told him I was doing this film and I’m still apprehensive as to his reaction, because that was a criteria that I held high in my mind’s eye. Any of the music that I listen to or the kind of broader eclectic kind of thing came from him. That’s why I’m saying I was working in the Hope & Anchor with punk and all of that stuff. It’s because of that band my music is quite wide that I listen to. So, me playing this role and him being a huge Howlin’ Wolf fan specifically, and he really spoke about it. I was like, “Oh my God, I really don’t know what to do,” because there’s one person I cannot let down, it’s John.
To read more of this interesting interview with Eamonn Walker, please click here.