“No question. I’ve gotten in many arguments about the Pelicans and the Saints over the years, so I’m probably the biggest fan in and outside of New Orleans.”
I’m hoping that now that you’re a big movie star, you will start steering every interview on national television towards the Black and Gold. Can you do that?
“You better believe it. The year we did Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon and I had a bet that the Saints would make the Super Bowl and the Patriots wouldn’t. That year I think we beat the Patriots 44-3 or something crazy, and he had to go on David Letterman wearing a Saints jersey. That jersey is framed and in my house thanks to Matt Damon.”
Oh he didn’t want to wear it again?
“Oh no no no. It was definitely painful. I got two of them: I framed one for him and put the other one in my house.”
To be a New Orleanian and still call New Orleans home? We’ve had a lot of guys who have come from this city and have failed to come back home to live.
“The one good thing that came out of Katrina, it made us realize how important New Orleans is and how unique New Orleans is. I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never experienced a people, a culture, a style like down here in New Orleans. It’s truly something where people know how to enjoy life, and I don’t think you can find that anywhere else. I think a lot of people are just really excited. I was a really popular kid, so the idea of being popular was never something new to me. The only thing that excites me every year is when its sunny outside and I can go fishing and catch some football. As soon as my career got to a point where I didn’t need to be in New York or LA, I came straight back home.”
Tell me about your love for the Saints. When did this all start?
“I was a kid and my dad had season tickets. I was never able to go to the game because my mom wouldn’t let me and he would always go with his friend. One year after the game I was downtown and I met Dalton Hilliard. He was by far the nicest person I had ever – and by far the biggest person – I had ever met. My dad was a die-hard Saints fan. Every truck he bought was either a gold truck or a black truck. He always had a Saints helmet on the side of his truck and he could talk you down into the ground about the Saints. Every day after work, whether it was football season or not, people would sit outside his warehouse to talk about the Saints. People would drive up at 5:00 just so they could argue about the Saints. Growing up in that culture my entire life, it just kind of inherently came to me. I give Ben Affleck and Matt Damon…when we work together that’s why I give them the blues. Tom Brady is a star, not the New England Patriots. I feel like in New Orleans, the Saints are stars.”
If your father never took you to the Saints games, when you started buying your own season tickets, did you buy better season tickets to almost spite him a little bit?
“You know what I did, because I bought the tickets for him and I to be able to go to the games. I bought to two cheapest seats at the top of the dome. Over the past, I guess 12 years now, I’ve worked my way down to my optimum seats where my two brothers and I go for every single home game. We were sitting behind a row of nuns and the nuns complained that we were too jovial. I thought they were just women dressed up as nuns, I didn’t know real nuns went to football games. The second year into moving down they made us move. The Saints gave us seats a section over from the nuns, so now that’s the rowdy section of the dome on the lower bowl.”
Do you dress up to go to games?
“I have my paraphernalia. I have my ‘Mackie’ jersey. I think the Mackie boys are by far the 12th, 13th, and 14th man on the field. I always try to get (Thomas) Morstead to look at me or give me a ball when he’s practicing his kicks and he never acknowledges me. It’s pretty funny. So Morstead, if you’re listening, I’m the dude behind you yelling at you 11 rows up. So say what’s up to me.”
So you wear a personalized ‘Mackie’ jersey?
“Oh yeah. My two brothers and I, we all have ‘Mackie’ on our jerseys. The only other jersey I have is Deuce McAllister, and that’s because that jersey signified everything about the Saints coming back from Katrina: what the season was, what Deuce was to that team. He was our work horse. When the game is special for us, and for nostalgia’s sake if they’re away, I’ll sit on my couch in the McAllister jersey. Other than that, I cannot put another dude’s name on my back.”
Are we saying that maybe instead of wearing a
“Well you have to, because you’re the 12th man. You never know when Sean Payton is going to look up in the stands and call me into the game. I can’t have anybody else’s name on my back. I’m always ready for Sean to tap me in and let me know to go into the game. Whenever he’s ready for that…Mackie #11 is ready to go in. It was hard when we had (Mark) Brunell, but Brunell is gone. Everybody was like ‘Why do you have on a Mark Brunell jersey?’ I’m like ‘Nah, he took my number!’”
“You can’t do it. You have you wear your own number because you never know when Sean is going to pull you out of the stands.”
We have a couple of superheroes that come to the Saints games. Have you given any thought about wearing your Falcon outfit to the Saints games this fall?”
“I’ve been talking to a friend of mine who is a costume maker. I’m in the position now of finding a costume that my two brothers and I can wear to the games, just because it’s so important.”
Are you deeply affected on Monday by the result of a game on Sunday?
“The end of Sunday and all of Monday are by far the worst or best days of my week if the Saints win or lose. You can always tell. My friends, if the Saints lose, they just don’t talk to me. I just stay home and try to figure out what we did wrong and how we lost that game. I think if you look at the team, finally we sured up our defensive backfield and I think this is going to be a good season.”
Here you are part of the biggest movie out right now, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’m curious what it’s like to fly and be a part of such a big deal.
“It’s great man. From my time as a kid when I first got into acting at NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts), I wanted to do a western and I wanted to be a super hero. Lo and behold, it came to pass. I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity. It’s been a monumental experience, every aspect of it. I’ve literally gone into it blindly and tried to enjoy every part of it. It’s extremely painful. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again that the hardest working actors in Hollywood are flying super heroes because they tie you up to strings and push you around and yank you around and flip you for eight hours a day, all day every day until they have what they need. There’s nothing natural about the human anatomy that deals with flying. It’s extremely painful, and you’ve got to be in good shape to do it.”
You’ve done film, television, and theatre. Which one strikes you the most?
“Theatre. Going through NOCCA, I had this amazing teacher named Eliot Keener who was THE New Orleans actor. He was in all the movies and he was our teacher. He and Janet Shea and Ray Rozelle, they really introduced me to a world outside of New Orleans. They put me in a position where I read all these playwrights and all these different aspects of culture and style, and really just involved me in something larger than what I thought my world was. Doing my first Shakespeare play at NOCCA, doing my first Chekhov play at NOCCA, reading Ipson for the first time at NOCCA, it really informed me about who I wanted to be as a person growing up. That feeling has always stayed with me, and when I do theatre I still have that same emotional connect as I did when I was 14 going to NOCCA.”
Four years ago you worked on Broadway with Christopher Walken. You’ve got to have a good story or impersonation of him.
“That’s funny you bring that up. We were doing these rehearsal thingys, and Christopher Walken has these cats…they’re called Hemmingway cats. They are very rare and they have six toes on each foot. So one night I come out of the hallway and I think ‘Oh my god, Christopher Walken’s cat is in the hallway.’ So I chase the cat, the cat goes around, goes into the room, comes out on the balcony. So I think, ‘Chris Walken’s cat is going to jump off the balcony!’ So I go out on the balcony, I look, and Chris Walken is like, ‘Hey, what are you doing out here?!?!’ I was like ‘AH!’ and ran back in my room. I run back to the hallway and the cat is sitting there looking and me and I’m like, ‘This cat set me up.’ So I come out to the balcony a little while later and he has stacked his cat cages in between his room and my room so I can’t get past the cat cages and the cats can’t get to me. So for the next three months I had a very tumultuous relationship with one of his cats.”
Theatre is a love relationship with the audience. In pro sports, it’s the same way. Every player I talk to is either affected by the fans positively or negatively. Is that maybe the best correlation with what you do and what the guys down the hall do?
“Definitely. It confuses me when I go to a game and I see people sitting there watching it like it’s a spectator sport. It confuses me that Seattle’s stadium is louder than our stadium. It befuddles me. I feel like if you’re going to be quiet, a football game is not the place to be quiet. It’s not a place to get raucous and chaotic, but it’s definitely a place to go with your fellow man and make a lot of noise. It’s just one of those things that I pride myself on: our section being so loud. That’s why the players always come up to our section after the game and hand out footballs and gloves and stuff. When we’re making noise in the heat of it, you can’t really hear anything. I always plead with the people around us that get tickets from other people to make some noise because that feeds the players. They thrive on that, especially on defense. On offense, you can sit down, drink you soda, and eat your popcorn. But on defense, you should be doing backflips up there.”
For us to have you represent our city is stunning, it really is.
“I try to explain this to people all the time. New Orleans is the only city where you don’t have to worry about being cool. Everywhere you go, if you go to New York, if you go to Chicago, if you go to Los Angeles, people just try to be cool. New Orleans is the only place where you can be a billionaire or you can be a homeless person, you can sit at the same bar and have a drink with each one of those people on either side of you. You don’t have to worry about being cool. If you go somewhere and you tell somebody you’re from New Orleans, one thing I know for sure (is that) you are instantly cool.”
Speaking of cool, when you leave me here in Studio B I think they are going to take you to the Saints locker room, the facility, and show you the whole thing. You will be in a position where many Saints fans would like to be. Can I trust that you will be cool going through those facilities today?
“Absolutely not. Pictures will be taken, seats will be sat in, the whole thing. I’ve been waiting for this experience for a long time. Rita Benson better come get me out of here because something will be escorted out (laughter).”
Give us a quick plug on Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier is in theatres now. It has been number one for three weeks. It’s the best movie of the year. It’s basically the story of a New Orleans hometown boy making it good…with wings. So get some popcorn, get a date, and check it out.”