Award-nominated actor and writer Anthony Anderson would be lying to SoulTrain.com and the readers and fans who visit this site if he wasn’t completely honest during this exclusive interview. So there’s no confusion or evidence of a bit; the California native television and box office star delivers this straight-forward proclamation: “I will be the sexiest Soul Train Awards host ever!” Anderson suspends his Compton-raised edge to let loose his signature boisterous laugh. “Not only will I be the sexiest,” he begins with a chuckle, “but I will be the most-fit-huskiest sexiest host the Soul Train Awards has ever had!”
Throughout his career, Anderson has continued to attach himself to major marquee projects that garner tremendous critical and audience acclaim. From high-grossing mega-hit movie Transformers to Best Picture winner The Departed, and from laugh-out-loud comedic roles on The Bernie Mac Show and The Soul Man to jaw-dropping dramatic turns on The Shield and Law & Order, he gives legitimacy to characters without ever jeopardizing his character.
SoulTrain.com: Anthony, what are your expectations of how a host should behave?
Anthony Anderson: I don’t have any expectations; you should ask the general viewing public of their expectations of what they feel the host should be for the Soul Train Awards. I’m going to tell you this: As the host and master of ceremonies throughout the evening, they eat what I feed them. It’s my show for the night. You take me as I give myself to you in all of its pure, unadulterated whatever.
SoulTrain.com: Have you set any boundaries?
Anthony Anderson: There are no boundaries. There are no limits. I’m never afraid to fall, therefore I’m never afraid to take that leap. I’m fearless with that regard. As the host I’m going to be fearless. That’s a dangerous place for some!
SoulTrain.com: How receptive were you of being offered the role as the Soul Train Awards host?
Anthony Anderson: Honestly, I was a little ticked off that Soul Train was just now coming to me to host the show. I’ve got a little chip on my shoulder about that. Not to discredit anyone who has done it, especially the last four years since Centric has had the show. You had Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson host the first year. I got overlooked. I spoke with the powers that be, they told me I’d be considered for the next year. The second year it’s Terrence and Taraji again. Why tell me I’m considered if you were going back with who just did it? The third and fourth years they gave it to Ced. You can’t argue with Cedric The Entertainer!
SoulTrain.com: So you had no issue with them selecting Ced over you?
Anthony Anderson: No! He’s “The Entertainer!” That’s his name! He did a thorough job. And that’s my boy! That’s my man, 50 grand! I can’t be mad at them for making that choice. Not that I was mad at them for selecting Terrence and Taraji. But that’s why I have to be fearless as the host. This may be my one and only shot to host the show. If that’s the case I’m doing it on my terms. You’re either going to love me or hate me, but I’m doing it on my terms.
SoulTrain.com: Well, there will be plenty of viewers evaluating you. Okay Anthony, what did watching Soul Train do for you?
Anthony Anderson: It taught me the new dances. It gave me fantasies to think about as I closed my eyes laying in a dark room by myself. It allowed me to see new artists and to see the artists I probably would have never seen. I grew up poor. I didn’t have money to go to concerts. Those were my concerts every Saturday. Soul Train was and is an institution. That was the one time when everything you did came to a hault. It was family entertainment in my household.
SoulTrain.com: What were you Saturday activities like before Soul Train came on?
Anthony Anderson: The weekend was when we cleaned up our house. We’d wake up, the first thing out my mother’s mouth was “assembly line.” There were three boys and my sister is the youngest. I’m the oldest. My sister didn’t really have to do much because she was the baby of the bunch, but me and my brothers would line up oldest to youngest. My mother would delegate whatever it was she needed us to do. We got in our assembly line and did our work. But when Soul Train hit we all stopped for that hour. We all sat and watched television. When it was over, then it was back to the assembly line.
SoulTrain.com: Do you have a favorite Soul Train memory?
Anthony Anderson: Oh, wow! Well, I’m not going to say it’s my favorite, but the Fat Boys were on Soul Train, and this is when I realized the artists weren’t performing live. The Human Beat Box’s part came up and this dude didn’t do his part of the song! And he’s laughing on stage! And I’m like, “THIS AIN’T LIVE? Oh my god, THIS AIN’T LIVE!” That’s when I got a peek behind the curtain to see The Wiz! That’s the moment I remember the most.
SoulTrain.com: Who looks better in a suit–you or Don Cornelius?
Anthony Anderson: Ohhhhhhh, man…I wish I could pull off the lapels and ruffled shirts like Don Cornelius used to wear back in the day! You see some of this vintage stuff like the patches on the sleeves, ruffles at the wrist, the plaids; Don Cornelius, of course, rocked that.
SoulTrain.com: Why is it neccessary for a promient male figure to dress and act like a gentleman?
Anthony Anderson: Because they say chivalry is dead and men aren’t men anymore, compared to what we once were. Look at how men dressed during the era of the Harlem Renaissance. You never saw men without a suit and tie! We’ve kind of gotten away from that. Our culture, in spite of hip-hop, that’s who we are and what we’ve become. You look at the baggy clothes, pants hanging off the butt, and all of that; and these are multi-millionaires. I’m not coming down on them, this is just the generation in which we live. Not to say they can’t dress up and won’t dress, but these are images we’re portraying. I’ve always wanted to be…not really fashion forward, but to represent myself as the man my parents raised.
SoulTrain.com: That’s so important. You’re a reflection on others, especially family, whether you want to be or not. When did you realize the way you carry yourself is important?
Anthony Anderson: I was taught that as a young man. I don’t only represent myself. This is something I teach my son; you’re not only out there representing yourself, you represent your family. You represent our name! It’s much bigger than you. That was taught to me at an early age. My mother always said, “Don’t you [mess] up my name!” Those are her words, and still are to this day.
SoulTrain.com: Makes total sense. Because of your family name, you have a reputation long before you even realize it.
Anthony Anderson: Exactly. There’s two different tones people can have when they say, “There goes that Anderson boy.” They could say it with a smile, like, “There goes that Anderson boy!” Or, “There goes that Anderson boy…” Same words, two different connotations.
SoulTrain.com: Who would you say is your most influential role model?
Anthony Anderson: I’ll start with my mother and father first, for obvious reasons including the things we just spoke about. But then for some reason as a child I was fascinated by James Earl Jones. Because of him I pursued what I do. He’s one of the reasons and influences in my life.
SoulTrain.com: Have you gotten the chance to tell him this?
Anthony Anderson: I’ve never met him. I saw him in passing. I said “hello” to him once. We just happened to be in the same hotel lobby. I sat down next to him, picked up a newspaper and pretended to read it just so he’d think I was smarter than what I was. I didn’t even speak to him, I just wanted to be in his presence. I couldn’t bring myself to even speak to him. I didn’t even read the paper. I spent maybe a minute on the page, then I would turn it as if I was really reading. He got up to leave and I put the paper down.
SoulTrain.com: Anthony, how will you be honoring the people who helped groom and mold you when you hit the Soul Train Awards stage?
SoulTrain.com: By being professional at what I do, committing to whatever I decide to do that night. That’s the only way I can honor myself, honor those before me–be as prepared as I possibly can be. Be honest with myself, be honest with the audience as a performer, and that’s it.
–Mr. Joe walker
“The Word Heavyweight Champion” Mr. Joe Walker, a senior contributor for SoulTrain.com, staff writer and columnist for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and co-creator of TheGrooveSpot.com, is an award-winning entertainment and news journalist and columnist published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Former Editor In Chief of XPOZ Magazine, his work has graced the pages and covers of Notion Magazine, Kalamazoo Gazette Newspaper, Real Detroit Weekly, and MLive.com. He loves to create, loves that you read. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, connect with him on Facebook, and also visit ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.