Good luck trying to keep up with Jacob Latimore, a one-time teen crooner and YouTuber who’s now — at the ripe age of 20 — hopping from film to film to film. And major films, at that.
Last December, he co-starred alongside Will Smith, Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley in “Collateral Beauty,” and this summer he appears in the hotly anticipated “Detroit,” a searing portrait of civil unrest from Oscar-winning “Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” director Kathryn Bigelow.
And then there’s his star turn in “Sleight,” which opens April 28, an indie drama about Bo (Latimore), an orphaned street magician whose “cardistry” (aka card tricks) seems almost supernatural . . . and you can bet he’s operating with more than a full deck. Besides his slick talent for prestidigitation, he must also juggle caring for his little sister (Storm Reid), romancing a new love interest (Seychelle Gabriel) and keeping just barely one step ahead of a sinister thug (Dulé Hill), for whom he does a little drug dealing on the side.
The Milwaukee native also released his debut R&B album, “Connection,” last fall. He spoke recently with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
Did you have any interest in magic before taking on this role?
I was fascinated by it. But I never wanted to pick up cards and show people how to make a card disappear. That wasn’t one of my hobbies. J.D. [Dillard, “Sleight’s” director and co-screenwriter] was into cardistry — he was doing magic since he was a teenager. It’s really interesting. You have to have a lot of patience. You can be in the living room trying out this new card trick, you mess up and all the cards just disperse all over the room.
Sounds like you know that from experience.
I was like . . . awwww.
Learn any card tricks?
I tried to learn as much as I could. But I never really mastered [he laughs]. My fingers . . . It’s difficult. Most of the card tricks are camera effects. The object for me was to feel comfortable with the cards in my hand. For a few weeks before [shooting], I always had a deck of cards in my pocket.
Bo goes to some pretty extreme lengths for his art, risking his health, his life, maybe. How far would you go as an actor?
Not many people would go as far as Bo. There’s that scene where he talks about being a kid and seeing a magician put a knife through his hand. And the magician later tells him that wasn’t a trick — it was real. So . . . yeah, he definitely wants to stand out in whatever he does. But I wouldn’t say I relate to going to extremes in that way . . . putting myself in harm’s way.
Well, that’s the beauty of movies. You just look like you’re in danger. Are you moving more into acting and leaving music behind?
I’m always in the recording studio. The tough part about film being more in the forefront of my career now is — look, I can release a [music] project online whenever I feel like it. And have access to the world. But it’s sort of useless if you can’t get out on the road and perform. If I’m working on a film set, I may be stuck in one city for two to three months. So it’s tough to balance both. But I’ll always love music. I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate my own music into a film or TV show I’m doing. I miss the performance aspect of music — the singing and dancing.
Before you go — a quick question about “Detroit,” out this summer. The trailer looks intense.
Yeah. It’s based on an incident that happened at the Algiers Hotel on the last day of the Detroit riots in 1967.
Just awful — 43 people died in those riots. With Kathryn Bigelow directing, it may well be an Oscar contender. Whom do you play?
I can’t . . . say — [he pauses]. Kathryn may call and say, “What are you doing?” [He laughs]. She’s very . . . she has her way of releasing things. But it’s centered around some teens in the Algiers Hotel and police brutality — or whatever you want to call it. It was an interesting experience. I got a chance to work with Will Poulter, who I worked with on “Maze Runner.” We’re good friends. We were excited, coming together as brothers of different colors — white, black. It was a really, really emotional set, I can say that. The most emotional set I’ve ever been on. We had everyone in tears. I’ve never seen anything like it. I mean, people were coming out of character crying — the director, producers, makeup artists, everybody got emotional about what we were doing. Kathryn really put her heart in this one. It’s gonna hit really deep.