March 31, 2020
In Conversation with Louis Gossett Jr. | Interview for BrainMatters Magazine.
Louis Gossett Jr., best known for his iconic performance in An Officer and a Gentleman, plays a musician with dementia in his new movie, The Cuban. Directed by Sergio Navarretta and executive produced by Ryan Kimel, The Cuban is a movie about the power of music and human connection to heal trauma and disease. Through Gossett’s performance, movie-goers have a chance to delve deep into the mind of a person living with dementia.
In an exclusive interview with BrainMatters, Louis Gossett Jr. shares what drew him to the role of “Luis” and how he takes care of his own brain health.
What was it like to play a man living with dementia in The Cuban?
I was always fascinated by what Robert De Niro did in the film Awakenings. I was interested in going into a character like that. It’s exciting to go there. It’s like [being] Christopher Columbus for an artist. As an actor, we safely go deep into the mind of the character, and it takes courage to investigate those seething limitations of reality. It is very difficult to explain what an artist goes through. We enter the twilight zone as an artist. We go past the line to lead our audience to the mind of the character in a safe way. It is an exciting discovery place.
What do you hope movie-goers come away with from watching your performance and from the movie in general?
Through my acting, I want to help audiences look further. I want the audience to go deep with me into Luis’s experience. By helping them look further, maybe people can understand what those with dementia are going through.
How do you feel knowing that this movie helped people form a new appreciation about those living with dementia, and the difficulties of being a caregiver as well?
It feels good to know you’re making headway in a positive area to help people understand what those with dementia are going through. We are raising awareness to make others understand a bit more.
Have you or anyone you know been impacted by dementia or cognitive impairments? If so, how have you been impacted?
I grew up around family members who had dementia. An uncle of mine who had dementia would often take care of us when we were young. While he could not move from his chair, he was very strong and intelligent. I grew up knowing that people with dementia and cognitive impairments can think and feel too, and are also smart. They will have their place in the sun. That’s what I tried to convey through Luis’s character.
Through music, food and social interaction, you can bring someone back. The Cuban was about a young woman finding her way to a man who is suffering deeply. The most exciting part of that movie was a scene of me getting on to the dance floor when Luis’s memory of hypnotizing the woman who he had loved for many years came back. Luis’s memories were brought back through the sound of music and the smell of food that reminded him of his earlier years.
Lastly, what do you do to take care of your brain health?
I meditate every single day. I explore my feelings and reasons for feelings and actions, and it feeds my talent as an actor. It feeds my ability as an elder to eliminate fear and to know that I am not in charge. When you know you’re not in charge of your life, you surrender the fear. You look at things outside of yourself as a lesson to learn something more. Through meditation, I have developed a constant beginner’s attitude. It’s very exciting, and I highly recommend it to all other actors.