Let’s get the big question out of the way first: Will West Side native Larenz Tate soon become a gladiator?
Well … yes and no. The award-winning actor, who now lives in Los Angeles, expertly deflects all “Scandal” talk back to his new USA network show “Rush,” which shines a light on doctors who quietly provide underground service to Hollywood’s elite.
“There’s been talk about me joining the cast of ‘Scandal’ and I think it’s an incredible show, but there’s nothing official. Just talk,” says the married father of three who frequents Home Run Inn Pizza on the West Side. “A lot of it is coming from the grassroots fans who felt like it would be nice for me to part of that cast. ‘Scandal’ fans like what they see on ‘Scandal,’ [so] I think they would enjoy what we are doing on ‘Rush.’ It’s the same spirit of fixing something, and it’s sexy and it’s edgy.”
Tate, perhaps best known for his heartbreaking role in 1993’s “Menace II Society,” is in Vancouver now, filming the remainder of “Rush,” which debuts at 8 p.m. Thursday. His character, Dr. Alex Burke, is best friends with the title character (Tom Ellis), the sort of doctor who helps stars on the level of, say, Michael Jackson avoid actual hospital stays. Much of what goes down is illegal, and the straitlaced Burke eventually gets caught up in his friend’s under-the-table lifestyle.
“[The situations] that Rush wants him to be a part of compromise his career and put his livelihood on the line, and he can get caught up, in a way, in some things that could be illegal,” says Tate. “Alex has a tough decision to make because it’s his friend. Does he do what’s morally right or does he stick to protocol and forget about the friendship?”
Tate, who is often seen palling with other superstars, says that such medical fixers really do exist. Not that he knows any, of course.
“I don’t personally have a medical fixer,” he says. “One hundred percent of them here are under the table. They live the lives of rock stars and they really are physicians. This show represents that. It goes into a world we really haven’t seen.”
Tate also appeared in the BET original movie “Gun Hill,” which premiered earlier this month to modest ratings. In that flick, he portrayed twin brothers — one an undercover cop, the other an ex-convict. He also plans to bring his organization, Bloom, to Chicago. It’s an initiative for boys up to age 17 who need to get back on track.
The initiative makes sense for Tate, who has family here and is keenly aware of the city’s issues with violence. Before he starred in “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” and Chicago’s own “Love Jones,” he played a gangbanger in “Menace.” At the time, news reporters wondered if art was imitating life, as the storyline of the gangbanger intersected with a rise in gun violence in the nation.
“I don’t know the genesis of it all, but I’m assuming when they started tearing down the projects and you start moving people … it creates a more hostile environment,” says Tate, who is also working on several independent film projects with his two brothers via their firm Tate Entertainment. He hopes to bring their films to Chicago — depending upon the tax credits, of course.
“I spend time in Chicago. I talk to my relatives all the time about what’s going on. I’m trying to lay the groundwork to come to Chicago to try and dispel that Chiraq notion and get back to being a Chicagoan.”