Taylor Lautner's "Abduction" Pal Denzel Whitaker
A few years ago, we interviewed a sweet, intelligent, chubby young actor who was great in the touching film The Great Debaters. Now, 21-year-old Denzel Whitaker is thin, buff and getting into all facets of show biz. The actor is a director/producer as well as playing Gilly, best bud to Nathan (played by Twilight’s Taylor) in the new action/thriller Abduction.
Talking to us from New York while on his way to work on a new animation project, Denzel shared tales of fun on set with Taylor and the “Team Jacob” mobs watching the shoot on location in Pittsburgh, his own high school experiences, how he lost a ton of weight and what the cast did off set to chill. Check it out!
TeenHollywood: Let’s straighten people out. You are named after Denzel Washington and have acted with him and Forest Whitaker but you aren’t related to either of them. Are you tired of people thinking that you are?
Denzel: I’m not as much tired of people thinking I am related as much as people thinking it’s a fake name. People think it’s a stage name. I was born with it. I look up to both actors and they have a high caliber of work. It’s just the fact that some people think I intentionally created this name to get in the acting business and leach off of them.
TeenHollywood: We know you didn’t. In Abduction, Gilly is kind of living on the edge a bit. He makes fake IDs and sells a few drugs etc. but he’s a lifesaver to his friend Nathan (played by Taylor Lautner). Is that how you see him or…?
Denzel: The best way to describe him is that he’s a mischievous teenager who is very loyal to his friend. Some people say he’s a “bad guy” but I went to high school with people like that. He wasn’t doing anything more than other teens were doing in high school. He’s like that cool, party-lovin’ guy. He helps Nathan in his time of need. Nathan doesn’t have a lot of friends he can trust once the action starts. Gilly is his friend from the beginning so he trusts him.
TeenHollywood: From your experience working with him, what can you tell fans about Taylor that they might not know?
Denzel: Taylor is pretty up front about who he is. He’s one of the rare, few people in Hollywood that I’ve met who is really genuine. What you see on the surface is just a nice guy and that’s what you get. He’s into extreme sports and he loves his fans and will take time to sign autographs. I don’t think there is anything underneath that doesn’t come out with him. He’s a real straight shooter kind of guy.
TeenHollywood: Taylor told me that you all had a blast making the pool party scene and also riding on that truck. He’s on the hood and you are hanging dangerously out of the door. Any worries there or any close calls?
Denzel: No close calls but I got hit by some bushes when the truck was swerving. It was pretty fun and my first time doing any stunt work. I was literally holding on with my left hand to a handle. After a few takes I was having as much fun as Taylor was on the top of the hood.
TeenHollywood: These two guys seem to be living a charmed high school life before Nathan’s past catches up to him. What were you like in high school?
Denzel: I was a nerd in high school; well I liked math and science and wasn’t that big into sports but I was a popular dude. I was on a choreo team which was a hip hop team there which was quite funny. There were actually very few black people on the team doing hip hop. I never had any problems in school. I used to sell candy out of my bag.
TeenHollywood: What did you add to the Gilly character that might not have been in the script?
Denzel: We were doing the high school scene where Nathan was questioning whether he should go talk to Karen (Lily Collins’ character). I’m like “Dude, just go talk to her!” and (director) John (Singleton) was like “Yeah! Just keep egging him on. Just stay anything when he doesn’t go up to her”, so I said “Really? That’s the best you could do?” Taylor and I messed around with a lot of stuff and that was probably the cleanest take.
TeenHollywood: Favorite scene?
Denzel: I would say the car scene or the party scene. I had a lot of fun there. I’m surprised at how much they cut it down. We have tons of footage of us going crazy that night. It was like a real party. There were some hot extras. I would have invited them to my party! (we laugh).
TeenHollywood: What did you all do off set to have fun or get to know each other in the Pittsburgh area?
Denzel: I had brought my Playstation when we first started filming and Taylor used to come over to the hotel and jam on a couple of videogames. Once Lily came in, we started going out, going bowling and playing sports in between takes. He’s big into sports. I was just trying to keep up and hang. It was a young cast and we tried to have as much fun as possible and build the relationships.
TeenHollywood: Are you the kind of friend who always has your friend’s back? Always there for them like Gilly is for Nathan?
Denzel: I’m pretty loyal. I hate to see anyone I actually care about in pain. I try to do the best I can to support them. That’s my code. Too many people are out for their own.
TeenHollywood: When on location on the film did you see Taylor get mobbed by Team Jacob Twilight fans? Was that kinda weird to watch?
Denzel: Oh yeah, they were everywhere. We had to have barricades up and police come down. When we did the party and at the high school there were a lot of fans. They found out we were filming there. Even when we were on the back road they were sneaking on the train tracks and we had to stop filming. They were on the tracks and we don’t want fans killed while we’re filming!
TeenHollywood: How did Taylor react to them?
Denzel: He expected it. We kind of all knew going into this project but that’s the thing. Fans supported us from day one. We prepared for it but saw it as encouragement.
TeenHollywood: What kind of music are you into. Favorite groups or music artist?
Denzel: I’m big into hip hop. Lately, I’ve been branching out into alternative rock and a little techno. Favorite right now is an underground rapper Kendrick Lamar. Dr. Dre just signed him. I like Currency, J. Cole.
TeenHollywood: You’ve directed a music video. Are you thinking you’ll end up directing films some day or prefer to act?
Denzel: I’m still directing the music videos and I’m directing a feature next year called Killing Familiar. It’s about three young boys just out of high school trying to figure out where they are going in life. During a night of mischief when they are all going their own ways, they accidentally kill a guy in vehicular manslaughter so now they’re trying to figure out if they can get away with it. What do they do? It’s sort of like Goonies meets Boyz in the Hood. I’m just directing that, not acting in it. I want to put my full passion behind either directing or acting, not both at the same time.
TeenHollywood: Makes sense. There are a lot of teens struggling with a weight problem. You were very successful at losing a lot of weight. What is your secret?
Denzel: First of all, I didn’t play sports which was detrimental. I also lived in a house where my mom was a chef. I always wanted to be physically fit. It was a goal I always dreamed about. Every summer, I’d want to come back to school (in the Fall) being skinnier.
The turning point was in Middle School where I was tired of getting the (fat guy) roles in acting and being the slowest one in gym. I knew I could be better.
TeenHollywood: What did you do to lose the weight?
Denzel: I hired a personal trainer and started getting into the gym three times a week and still do that to this day. I cut out everything down to lean chicken and salmon and I trained myself to eat vegetables and just drink water and cut out all the soda. Just replacing those few things worked and now I don’t desire sweets or any “bad” stuff. If it’s sugary and fattening, it’s kind of repulsive now. I did it for health reasons too. I was getting high blood pressure and my family has a history of diabetes. I wanted to be fit.
TeenHollywood: What must a girl never do on a first date with you or she won’t get a second date? What is your dating pet peeve?
Denzel: Someone who is really self-absorbed. Let’s have good conversation and not just direct it all to her and don’t be all vain about who you are. If you are that vain, maybe you are really not confident with yourself and need reassurance 24/7. I’m not gonna be there to give that.
TeenHollywood: You are a big sci-fi, superhero and action picture fan. Are you dying to star in your own action picture?
Denzel: Can’t wait! Love to be a super-hero, powers like Spider-Man, love to teleport or be like the Night Crawler in X-Men or be able to move metal like Magneto. That would be amazing.
TeenHollywood: You are also in the current movie Warrior. Who do you play in that?
Denzel: I play one of Joel Edgerton’s students named Stephon. These are the kids he connected with so when he gets kicked out of school, we round up the troops to support him throughout his fight. It’s about the families and struggle of the two bothers and people they effected.
TeenHollywood: What will you be working on next?
Denzel: I took the rest of this year off to direct “Black Dynamite” which will be on Cartoon Network. I’m producing a couple of shorts and web content. By next year, directing Killing Familiar.