‘Matrix’ Star Harry Lennix Explains How Studying to Become a Priest Improved His Acting Skills


Harry Lennix is ​​a veteran film, television and stage actor with a career spanning nearly four decades, but his path to the profession was far from traditional.

The 57-year-old told Fox News Digital he originally felt called to become a Catholic priest in the Dominican order. However, his plans took a turn when he began acting in plays while studying to join the clergy at Quigley Preparatory Seminary South in Chicago.

“It was during this time, when I was quite seriously interested in becoming a priest, that I was really exposed to the possibilities of an acting career,” he told Fox News Digital.

He continued: “I was told I was good at it and I was encouraged to pursue it, even by the priest at the time. Father Robert Bridge was the one who took me to my first professional acting and started to really encourage me to do it. I had a future in that.”

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Lennix also admitted that he was not initially motivated to participate in school plays due to an interest in acting.

“I must admit that my interest first peaked when I saw a group of pretty girls,” he recalled with a laugh. “I was in an all-boys high school.”

“So the girls would only come there when there were cheerleaders or something like that,” the ‘Justice League’ and ‘Man of Steel’ star added. “Then I started seeing these girls when it wasn’t cheerleading season. And it turned out they were there to audition for the part. So I thought, why not audition for the play?”

After graduating from Quigley South, Lennix majored in theater at Northwestern University and launched his acting career in the late 1980s.

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However, he credits his years of theological study as preparing him for his ultimate career, pointing out the similarities between exegesis of scripture and directing a dramatic script.

“I think the field of exegesis or hermeneutics or the examination of texts, sometimes of sacred texts in the case of the Bible, of course, is not so different from the way the Bible is Shakespeare, for example, has a lot in common, a lot of resonance, the ability to take a piece of literature and traumatize it, bring it to life, knock the word out of the page, so to speak.

He continued, “And that’s something that fabric people, fabric men and women, and actors are able to do. I think we’re trained for it. And yeah, I think there’s a lot of intersectionality about the exegesis of a dramatic text and the sacred.”

Harry Lennix originally planned to become a priest before pursuing an acting career. Lennix’s latest project sees him star as coach Russell Banks in Pure Flix’s new faith-based sports drama “Nothing Is Impossible.”
(Pure Flix)

During his career, Lennix has shown his versatility as an actor in projects across multiple genres. He first rose to prominence for his portrayal of bassist Terrence “Dresser” Williams in Robert Townsend’s 1991 musical drama “The Five Heartbeats.”

Some of his best known roles include Boyd Langton in the FOX sci-fi series “Dollhouse”, Commander Jason Lock in “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions”, and Harold Cooper in the crime thriller “The Blacklist”.

Lennix’s latest project sees him star as coach Russell Banks in Pure Flix’s new faith-based sports drama “Nothing Is Impossible.” The film follows middle-aged high school janitor Scott Beck (David. AR White) who gets a second chance to win the heart of an old flame and fulfill his dreams of playing in the NBA.

Lennix told Fox News Digital that he was grateful for the chance to participate in a film with an inspirational message about the transformative power of faith.

“It is important for me, as a man of faith, to contribute in this way.”

“My faith means the world to me,” he said. “It means more than the world, actually. And those opportunities don’t come along every day.”

He continued: “But it was an opportunity today to spread a beautiful message, a good message, words that are the lessons and the principles that we learn from the scriptures. It is important for me, as a man of faith, to contribute in this way.”

Lennix went on to say that he believes that many ills in society today are due to a decline in faith in God and the secularization of culture. “In today’s world people seem to run away from their faith. I can’t remember what the statistics are, but something like 20% fewer people believe or profess a belief in God than they said there even 20 years ago, a generation ago,” he said.

The film follows middle-aged high school janitor Scott Beck (David. AR White) who gets a second chance to fulfill his dreams in love and life.

The film follows middle-aged high school janitor Scott Beck (David. AR White) who gets a second chance to fulfill his dreams in love and life.
(Courtesy of Pure Flix)

“I think we’ve started to rely on what some philosophers, modern commentators call ‘scientism’, believing that we can understand, that the world is just a material place and that ‘there is no no real kind of supernatural power, no intent, no guiding hand.”

He continued: “And I think that’s played a pretty big part in the way things are around us now. A sense of chaos, desperation, cynicism, skepticism, I think, is reflected in this at what we pay attention to. I think we’ve become a scattered, inattentive, self-obsessed nation, sort of integrated into our whole world style, all of our personality ecosystems are now behind a screen.”

“And as that deteriorated, I think the quality of our lives also disappeared. And I think that’s what happened when you start relying on the secular and you stop believing that there is something up there, someone up there that has an intention and a purpose for us.”

Nadia Bjorlin, Steven Bauer, Harry Lennix in "Nothing is impossible."

Nadia Bjorlin, Steven Bauer, Harry Lennix in “Nothing is impossible”.
(Courtesy of Pure Flix)

In April, Lennix made waves when he penned an op-ed for Variety in which he weighed in on the infamous incident in which Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars.

As a fellow of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Lennix said Smith should return his Best Actor Oscar to restore some dignity to the awards. He also criticized Smith’s reference to a higher power in his acceptance speech, which he called “irritating.” Although he said he stood by his opinion, he told Fox News Digital he was “not surprised” that Smith did not return the award.

“My intent was that I wanted this to be helpful advice or constructive criticism. But that said, it may not have been received that way,” Lennix said.

“If they want me, I’m here.”

— Harry Lennix on reprising his role in a potential fifth episode of “The Matrix”

Earlier this month, Apple announced it had given Smith’s landmark action thriller “Emancipation” a December release date, which would qualify the film for the 2023 awards season. Smith generated early awards buzz the actor could be up for another Oscar statuette.

Lennix told Fox News Digital that he doesn’t blame Smith for another awards run and said it could give him an opportunity, echoing the theme of “Nothing is impossible.”

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“I wish him good luck. God bless him. I hope he gets the reward or reward that comes with it,” he said.

“And maybe he could use it to clarify this situation, to make it better,” Lennix added. “Maybe that will work to his advantage. That’s really what this ‘Nothing Is Impossible’ movie is about. We don’t always know what the long-term story is.”

In addition to starring in “Nothing Is Impossible,” the “The Blacklist” star has several other projects in the works.

Lennix stars in "blacklist," which recently filmed its 200th episode.

Lennix stars in “The Blacklist,” which recently filmed its 200th episode.
(Photo by: Scott Gries/NBC via Getty Images)

He recently received a $26 million grant from the state of Illinois to build the Lillian Marcie Center for the Performing Arts, a theater and museum on Chicago’s South Side.

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Lennix also has a number of scripts in development. One project he said he was particularly excited about is called “Godless.”

“It’s a fascinating story, a very current story following what happened recently with the whole Roe v. Wade decision, where the bishop of a diocese has a confrontation with a Catholic governor, the first female [Catholic] governor, and his faith rises,” he said.

“You often see people asking Catholic legislators, presidents, etc., what are they going to do about this issue?”

He continued, “Our faith in the Catholic Church strongly condemns abortion. It’s a moral issue. It’s a dogma issue. So it’s a very interesting piece about this encounter.”

Lennix told Fox News Digital he’ll also be on board to reprise his role in a potential fifth installment in “The Matrix” franchise.

“Absolutely,” he said, adding, “You know, my character didn’t die at the end of ‘The Matrix.’

He continued, “So there’s a chance, you know? If they want me, I’m all here.”

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