Fri Sep 16 09:44am EDT
Delvon Roe arrived at Michigan State with dreams of one day starring in the NBA. He'll leave four years later with a better chance of starring on the silver screen.
Although numerous knee injuries have robbed Roe of his former quickness and athleticism, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound former top recruit has stumbled onto a potentially lucrative backup career path. He received such glowing reviews after he began dabbling in acting that he became a theater major before his junior year, performed in several on-campus plays and much to his surprise began fielding offers from movie producers less than a year later.
The biggest opportunity for Roe came this summer when he received an invitation to audition for a significant role in the movie AWOL, a coming of age love story set in the Vietnam War era that filmed this summer in Ann Arbor. Roe spoke to me recently about landing the part, balancing acting and basketball and his goals for his senior season at Michigan State.
JE: Describe how you became interested in acting. Was it always a passion of yours?
DR: I had absolutely no interest in acting until I became a sophomore at Michigan State and we were required to take two theater classes. People told me how good I was and that I should really try to pursue acting. I wasn't too fond of that idea because basketball and acting really don't go hand in hand, but I decided to give it a go and one thing led to the next. The only thing I was worried about was having to wear tights. That was something I wouldn't be fond of wearing.
JE: When did you start to realize you had a knack for acting and that this was something you could actually pursue?
DR: "As You Like It" was the first one I did. It was in November of last year, and it went really well. I started figuring out that acting is something that's a lot of fun when you're performing in front of all those peoples. Acting allows you to step outside your boundaries and become a totally different person, to become someone whose more fortunate or less fortunate than you.
JE: Do you get the same adrenaline rush from performing on stage in front of an audience as you do from playing in front of a big crowd at the Breslin Center?
DR: It's still not the same thrill as basketball because you're not performing in front of as many people, but it does give you a rush. It gives you a different adrenaline boost because acting isn't something I'm confident in yet. I'm confident in my ability, but I'm not confident enough to think I'm actually good at it. It's like when you begin getting recruited for basketball. You're like, 'Oh Michigan State's recruiting me. Oh Carolina's recruiting me. Am I really that good?' That's how it is right now for me with acting. I didn't feel as if I was that good.
JE: Does basketball help prepare you in any way for acting? Are you less nervous just because you're used to having an audience?
DR: Absolutely. When you play basketball, you're playing in front of 30,000 people. In theaters it's 1,500 people. You have that confidence in yourself because of what you've done as a basketball player to be able to handle the same pressure in theater.
JE: Tell me the story of how the directors of AWOL contacted you. Were you surprised they would have interest in you for such a big role?
DR: I was very surprised. I thought it was nothing too big, like a student film or something. They had been trying to contact me for a couple days and couldn't find my information, so he contacted me on facebook and gave me the rundown on what was going on with this film. I was really excited. I went out to Ann Arbor the next day and read for them. They were really impressed with that. And a few days later, they decided I was the person for the role.
JE: When they told you that you had the part, what was your reaction?
DR: Very surprised and very excited. People in this profession wait years and years to get a movie role like that and I waited 8 or 9 months. I was most surprised because I was auditioning against was the guy from The Blind Side. I ended up beating him out for that role, so that was a great start for me.
JE: Describe your role in the movie.
DR: My character's name was Isaac. He was a former football player. The film took place in 1969 during the Vietnam War. I was a character who received his draft letter, but at the same time I'm anti-war. I got my draft letter and I'm contemplating if I'm going to go to war or leave and go to Canada. Ultimately, I end up running away.
JE: How did the directors of AWOL here about you?
From some of the stuff I'd done on campus. They had seen some of the shots of me they showed on ESPN and thought I'd be perfect for this character. That was great that they remembered me from something I did for MSU.
JE: How much preparation do you have to do for an important role like that?
DR: There's a ton of preparation. I read the script a few times. Then I get into my mode where I start walking around with a piece of paper in my hands talking to myself, looking kind of crazy. I just try to get myself in the mindset where I'm envisioning how would you feel if you just got a draft letter to go to war and you think about how would you feel leaving your parents and leaving your family. You've got to get yourself in that emotional state so you can show that on film.
JE: Were you at all worried about approaching Coach Izzo and asking his permission to take time away from basketball to be in the movie?
DR: I was a little concerned, but not too much because it was during the summer. I was also coming off the ankle sprain, so I couldn't do too much with basketball anyway. When I asked Coach Izzo, he was really excited for me and he encouraged me to do it.
JE: What other roles have you been offered? And will you do anything during basketball season?
DR: I had a role in Wizard of Oz that I declined to do because filming was going to take place from August to January. It's the prequel of Wizard of Oz. I have another opportunity coming up, a movie that I'm thinking about doing but I haven't decided yet.
JE: Is there a chance you'd pursue acting instead of basketball once you graduate from Michigan State?
DR: I haven't made that decision yet, but it's definitely something I'd do whenever basketball is over with, whenever that may be. These injuries have taught me that the basketball will stop bouncing soon and you have to have a backup plan. For me, acting seems to be that plan. Whenever I feel I can't play to the level I want to anymore, I'm going to take acting to that next gear.
JE: Is it hard to believe that something you had little interest in just a few years ago now could wind up being your passion and profession?
DR: Yeah, it's crazy. God does things in mysterious ways. At the time when I first got here on campus, I believed basketball was going to be the way I made a living. Injuries got in my way, but he put this in my life so that if basketball doesn't work out, I have this opportunity. I'm blessed to have different choices of what I want to do in my life.
JE: You guys are coming off a disappointing season as a team last year. What are your goals both individually and team-wise to make up for that?
DR: I think my goals this year are pretty simple. First win a Big Ten championship and then make a deep run in the NCAA tournament again. And then as far as individual goals, I'm about 20 or 25 blocked shots away from being the all-time leading shot blocker at Michigan State. I really want to get that. That's something that would mean a lot to me. I make my mark on defense, so something I'd love to get would be a defensive player of the year award in the Big Ten. Those two things are important to me as individual goals.
JE: It's almost strange to say for a program like Michigan State, but are people underestimating what you guys can do this year?
DR: Absolutely. My first and second year we made it to Final Fours and won Big Ten championships and this is another year similar to that because people are doubting us and not thinking we're capable of making a run in March. We know we have a lot of freshmen and a lot of work to do, but at the same time we have a great coach and a great staff that is going to put the work in. If we get the freshmen on board and put in the work, we should have a great opportunity to make another run.
JE: Tom Izzo recently said he thought it was refreshing that preseason expectations for the team are lower this year. Do you agree?
DR: I don't think so. Any player likes the pressure of being the big dog and not the underdog. I always prefer to be the team with all the media hype. This is the first year since I've been here that we're actually an underdog heading into the season and there isn't as high expectations, but hopefully if we put a couple things together, that will change.
JE: You suffered a pretty severe left ankle sprain in an open gym session in June. How close are you to 100 percent now?
DR: I'm still a couple weeks out from being cleared to play. I'm shooting and doing drills and working out, but nothing where I'm playing a lot of minutes without taking a break.
JE: Will you be good to go by the start of practice in mid-October?
DR: Yeah, that's a long ways off. I'll be fine.
JE: There were high expectations for you when you arrived at Michigan State, and all the injuries have made it difficult for you to live up to them. Evaluate your college career so far entering your senior season?
DR: My three years have been great. I've done a great job handling the cards I've been dealt and always keeping a smile on my face no matter the circumstances. You really can't be too frustrated when you go to two Final Fours, play in a national title game and win two Big Ten championships. You can't always be that selfish. You have to recognize that people would give their left arm and left leg to play in the types of games that I was fortunate enough to play in.
More conference previews from the Dagger:
ACC: Lessons from the pros keep North Carolina humble and hungry, ACC projections and storylines to watch, Ex-Wake Forest star Ish Smith scouts the league, Ranking the 15 best non-league ACC games, Q&A with Florida State junior Michael Snaer
Atlantic 10: Temple's Micheal Eric hopes to seize his chance, A-10 projections and storylines to watch, Ex-Xavier star Byron Larkin scouts the league, Ranking the 15 best non-league A-10 games, Q&A with St. Louis guard Kwamain Mitchell