Grammy award winning music producer, recording artist, philanthropist, and actor David Banner has made his way back onto the screen. In the new film, Never Heard, Banner plays the role of Aaron Davis who’s currently spending his life in prison after he was accused of murder and incarcerated for a crime he swears that he did not commit. Directed by Josh Webber, the film is based on the Tamera Hill book I Never Heard My Father Speak and was in November 2018. The film also stars Robin Givens, Karrueche Tran and Dijon Talton.
Q: How has your career impacted you over the years?
DB: Having access to more resources. Gives you and gives you the opportunity to be a more well- rounded person. I’ve been to almost every continent on this planet, and I’ve seen so many different types of people. I’m able to give perspective because there are a lot of things that I saw when I was in Tennessee that I could use to help my people in Mississippi. The way that i think and the way that i eat, has given the courage to be better overall person.
Q: You’ve had major hits over the years and you are highly respected in the music industry, how do you feel when someone meets you or says, “Wow you inspired me or you’re the reason why I started my music career or just want to have a better understanding of life.”
DB: It’s an honor, I was on set promoting a movie last night on a cooking show. One of the guys one set and I sat for almost an hour. He had all of these questions and he was surprised that I sat there for an hour to answer all of them. I told him that I was honored to be one of the few people, who young people really respect. One of my goals was to being an older rapper who didn’t mind growing into an elder, and being proud to be apart of the community. I hope to become someone, who can help the young people become better.
Q: You’ve also been seen in several movies, my favorite is This Christmas and I remember you being in Ride Along as well. How is your role in this new project “Never Heard” different from your previous roles?
DB: Well first, because I was the lead in this. I’ve been the lead other times, but it was cool to really be in most of the scenes, and to give people a real opportunity to see my range. That’s what a lot of people told me about this film and they enjoyed it. The character was vulnerable because he was trying to get his family back, and there was a moment where he didn’t care about nothing until he found God. I don’t want to be David Banner. I want to be the farthest away possible from David Banner and “Never Heard” gave me that opportunity. I was still able to be encapsulated in a situation where I could tell a message about Aaron actually being innocent. I was able to bring that up in several conversations because in America, black men especially, we’re guilty until proven innocent. Josh’s ability to trust me, there were some things that I thought when you’re looking at a film and the person who represents your section of people in society. When something isn’t right it turns you off. There was a part in the film where , Robin Given, was complaining about my character, Aaron not taking care of his son. I looked at Josh and was said, “ I don’t know what the hell he is going to do, he’s in jail!” Josh was like, SAY IT BANNER! SAY IT! (Laughs) and the movie actually. A bond that went on after that moment because Josh trusted me.
Q: When you receive the call from Josh about being apart of this film, what was your reaction?
DB: I was really excited! Normally around this time I would have had my phone off. We would cook, laugh, and read together. So they called me the next day because something had went wrong. I told my mom about it and she said, “You better get up off your butt and make that money. I’ll come back in a month!” In addition, I had some really close friends of mine, who were also working on the set. I was just happy and it was funny because I had just moved from L.A. 2 years ago so it was sorta a cool to be back in the area, and able to see some of my friends!
Q: Now you’re working with some heavy hitters in this film, what was it like on set with the other actors/actresses, productions, and everything?
DB: It’s always good! There were 2 people in general, Dijon Talton, he was the young man who acted in the television show Glee. I was floored by his range and really impressed. I have made it clear that the next film I direct, he will definitely be apart of it. I’m grateful to Josh because he opened my eyes to some actors, who were not on my radar. The other thing was Romeo as a person! A lot of times we don’t get to really see who we all are. We see who they portray themselves to be on T.V. or videos. Romeo Miller, Master P and Romeo’s mother, did a great job raising an awesome young man. He’s a very good young man and proud to see somebody from his age bracket, who lived his life in L.A. He still had that southern work ethic and I’m just really proud to know him!
Q: How does your role compare to real life issues?
DB: Oh well, how does it compare to me! Well I’m not going to jail! You’ll have to kill me before I go to jail (Laughs) Personally, so everybody needs to know that if they come in for me, they can come to up Canada I’ll be up there with Drake! it was very important to me because of the rate that there is an industrial complex is a business. So in a lot of cases it’s not about right or wrong it’s about filling up jails. America paints a picture and it’s funny because Josh and I had this conversation once. We were talking about the things that we really want out a life and i want to change people’s perspective of black people especially black men. One of the reasons why they make us look this way is so they can push more black people into jail. I’m not always the proponent of religious films because a lot of time they become preachy. Sometimes I believe they try to control their followers. This was more of a spiritual film, it’s about a person trying to get his life together, and they didn’t try to make it unrealistic. A lot of times we have spiritual films, it goes from having a hard time to getting better. Aaron isn’t becoming a millionaire at the end of the movie. He and Master P were still sweeping floors, but you were able to see somebody get better without it being fake. That’s what I appreciate about the film!
Q: Josh Webber, when did you start your journey as a film director?
JW: In late 2010, on a first feature film project that was titled, “Broken Code.”Q: What roadblocks did you face when you were starting out? A: Finances, that was probably the biggest roadblock that I think any artist faces. Just the ability to go out and pursue their dreams with financing behind them was always a challenge for me. Also, in general, it was a very ambitious project, it took place in 3 different cities. With the lack of finances and experience, it was a challenging experience.
Q: Let’s get into Never Heard the movie you filmed and produced, what was the process behind putting this film together?
JW: It was quite a long process of putting the film together. We got really lucky with collaborators that came to the table like David. He helped us through the process and it all kind of happened really quickly. It spun off of the original stage play out of San Diego titled “I Never Heard My Father Speak,” by Tamar Hill. We just felt It was a really incredible storyline and important topics. So we acquired the rights to it, and did some revisions on the script. Finally, we put our cast together and it came together fairly quickly!
Q: How did you go about selecting the right actor/actress for these particular roles?
JW: So we knew first and foremost for David’s character that we needed like a real anchor. That’s how we came with David as the lead role of Aaron in the film. We definitely needed that strength and that was one of the main selecting points. A lot of the other actors were a process of elimination and certain people we went after based on scheduling and availability. It was just kind of casting a film especially in the manner that we went about doing it within the time frame that we that we were looking to lock everyone. A very challenging aspect to making the film and thankfully we had an incredible casting director on board. Tasha Ward, really stepped up to the plate and helped facilitate a lot of connections within a short period of time.
Q: What was your drive behind making this film?
JW: The connection to the story, the idea of fatherless children in the world. In general, I think it’s a strong topic. Growing up I didn’t know my father at all and only met him at a later stage, when I was like 13. I grew up with a single mother with another brother in a really low income community, and I watched how that affected my life. The choices I was making and the life choices I was making. Immediately, after connecting with my father, certain opportunities he was able to provide was an overall guidance. I think it really impacted my life and the person I am today. Had I not had that in my life, I think I could very well be in much different circumstances and possibly not even be available for a phone call. So I think that was the biggest factor, I felt in an inner city storyline that I connected with personally.
Q: What advice could you give to young film makers out here?
JW: My advice would be to just go for it. Do not let anything hold you back! Fear can be a factor with a lot of people in regards to pursuing their dreams or perfectionism. You learn by falling forward and knowing that nothing is going to be perfect, especially when it comes to the first film. The most important piece of advice would be to take action on your dreams and work them into reality. Have a little faith in yourself and those around you to succeed.
Q: If you had the opportunity to remake a classic, which one would you go for?
JW: That’s an interesting question because I’m actually in the process of trying to put a pitch together to do a remake to Cliffhanger. I thought it was a really cool film and I think it’s a franchise, that’s just kind of sitting in the dust. It would make a really incredible movie in this day and age!