When you open your Netflix after a hard day of work you will likely see Peter Berg’s new film, Spenser Confidential, is now available for streaming. The film tells the story of an ex-cop Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) leaving prison and wanting to leave Boston but before leaving he will attempt to provide justice to two of his former colleagues who were murdered.
In order to solve the mystery, Spenser needs help. One of Spenser’s partners is a person throwing, cage fighting badass named Hawk, portrayed by Winston Duke. The Trinbagonian actor was recruited for the role of Berg and Wahlberg. For Duke, the role was unlike any that fans have seen him in before, but he did not want to be set into the role of muscle with no in-depth story to his character.
Speaking with The Source, Duke details how he expanded the character of Hawk, his preparation for the role and more.
The SOURCE: What originally drew you to this film?
Winston Duke: It was Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg. They called personally and said we’re working on this thing and we’re going to make a cool movie, which would be kind of a throwback to like the 70s, 80s, buddy cop dramas, and action thrillers. They said they loved my work and having a personal phone call from those guys meant so much cause they’re huge established dudes who know what they’re doing. Mark Wahlberg’s been doing this for a very long time. I was just wrapping up Us, which was a really good, meaningful project. So I was like, I want to do something different. I want to just have, go have some fun.
This movie, it’s vastly different. We saw you in Black Panther, we saw a good adventure in Us and Nine Days and now we’re here. Your roles have been more serious. Even though you made us laugh in Black Panther you were a serious leader of this tribe. How did you prepare for this character?
I had literally like two weeks of downtime between Us and this. So I was preparing as we shot, working out differently, trying to get my body back from that body to UFC fighter, something that feels like it would convey a threat in the ring. I was training super hard, working with the UFC fighter consults that we had on set, kind of building a fight language. It was learning against another trained fighter versus a guy that you’re trying to beat up on the street. Then just find the integrity inside a character that felt, at first, like he was just one kind of archetype. It felt to me like this like warrior archetype and I wanted to have this guy have some softness or a little bit of mystery while still being vulnerable. I fought for us to get the narrative of his family and his dad in there. I fought for him to have that particular hairstyle. I wanted him to have a different confidence in a space like Boston. He knows he’s black even though there’s no line in the movie where he’s like, you know, I’m a black man. I wanted him to have that language and communication and that’s a big part of all my work is like nonverbal communication.
You said you did the transformation of a dad bod to MMA but what was that like? I was reading where Mark Walberg said he dropped like 10 pounds doing like nothing but bone broth and like vegetables. What was that like for you?
For me, I was eating constantly. I’ll put probably 20 pounds on in three months. I was training six days a week. I was praying that there’d be some sort of delay so I can like have more time to prep. But I literally had probably less than two weeks. I went straight from Us to reshoots for Avengers where they added some scenes. So Us final day was a Friday. I flew from California to Atlanta, shot Saturday through Tuesday, hopped on a flight, went to New York Wednesday, did a speech then flew to Boston on that Thursday to start.
So we did like preproduction Thursday to Sunday. I started Monday on prepping and we started shooting that following Monday. And then for the next three months, just like every single day in the gym after we shot every single day shaping and changing. Shaping this character, like what does it mean for this guy to be in a space where he’s not from Boston? My whole thing was he’s coming to Boston to find a new beginning to get away from anything that could lead him back into where he came from. He found an outlet in fighting and he has a dream, you know what I mean? He has a focus direction and that was like a big thing for me.
You are talking about how you add in elements to your character, so it’s just not one dimensional. How hard was it to actually convince that to be part of the story?
It wasn’t very hard because they were also just trying to shape and build this character into it being the best that it could be. So they had me sit with the writers and literally shaping some of these scenes. What would he say? Who’s important to him? His dad’s important to him. Let’s, let’s add some more elements that feel meaningful in the sense of him looking for a family. I always believe that most of the characters are looking for the same thing. If one character is looking for it, the next character might just be executing it in a different way. You know what I mean? Even the bad characters, they’re all looking for the same thing. Spencer’s looking for family, he’s trying to shape a family. Like he’s just looking for family and trying to shape the landscape around him into being a good place that’s conducive to family. So when people are killing each other, when people are ripping families apart, that’s terrible. Same thing for Hawk.
This movie has guns, insane dogs, throwing people around. Did you have any of that adrenaline or action energy before this film?
I think we all have it. It’s just like how we go through the world is not always the safest way to be an ass-kicking black man all day. But that’s always been in there. I love action. I grew up watching these movies. I grew up watching all those John Claude van Damme movies, Steven Seagal movies. I’m from the Caribbean. Those are huge imports in the Caribbean for us. So to actually like jump into that genre just felt it felt cool. So getting to kick some ass, that scene where I put the guy through the wall, it was super fun that day. I grew up on the beach and in Tobago making my own stunt courses and running them. Literally me and my cousin would set up little stunt things like dive over them and like pretend to be all the people we were seeing on TV. And I grew up watching like Bollywood movies too, which is all like action theater.
We’ve seen you in action movies, horror films, what would your next role be?
Man, I just love storytelling, but I mean like a cool romcom would be good. I love just playing in different spaces and showing body types like mine can function in a lot of different ways. I mean, I’ve been in a fight before. I’ve been my own action hero and I’ve been the romantic funny guy for so many people in my life. I’ve been a serious intellect for so many friends and family members. I think sometimes Hollywood wants to put you in a box of where they see you and they don’t want us to see Black men as everything. But in my life, I’m everything. So I want to show that on-screen.
Who’s your onscreen girlfriend?
My onscreen girlfriend, man. So many. All of them [laughs]. You know, I dated around on the screen. Um no, there are just so many strong, incredible, beautiful actresses that are working right now. It’s just good to be around. I’m just happy to be part of that landscape right now.