Arian Foster is a rookie all over again. Sure he’s played for the Houston Texans since 2009, holding franchise records for rushing touchdowns and yards. But today, sitting in an empty Four Seasons Hotel suite in Los Angeles, sunglasses on, assistant and publicist in tow, Arian is fairly unknown to the acting world. With an audition tape made off a Reese Witherspoon YouTube video, Arian’s gotten a taste of Hollywood by first playing himself on Hawaii Five-0 last year. And now, his newest small role comes as college running back, Ray Jennings, in Draft Day.
Starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner, with appearances by a cast of all-stars including Frank Langella, Denis Leary, Ellyn Burstyn, Terry Crews, and even Sean “Diddy” Combs; Draft Day breaks down the NFL’s most hectic and nerve-racking 24 hours. The fast-moving drama is seen through the eyes of Costner’s character Sonny Weaver, Jr. GM of the Cleveland Browns, their losing track record has Weaver’s job on the line, personal life in limbo, and locker room in disarray. Arian plays son to Terry Crews’ role of Earl Jennings, a retired NFL legend pushing for his boy to be drafted to the Browns.
In this exclusive interview with The Shadow League, Arian Foster breaks down his new career as a thespian, and how being undrafted helped the art of imitating his real life NFL world.
Raqiyah Mays: How did you really get into this acting thing?
Arian Foster: I don’t know actually. (Laughing)
I had a unique opportunity. They were filming Hawaii Five-0. And somebody dropped out of the show and they called me and said, ‘Will you be interested?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And I did alright on that. And this [Draft Day] opportunity came the same way. They called me and said, ‘You wanna audition for a movie?’ I said, ‘Of course.’ So I sent them my audition tape, and they liked it.
RM: Ok, so what was your audition like? Set up the scene.
AR: I was Ray Jennings calling Sonny Weaver Jr. and explaining to him why I got into a fight. I didn’t know what an audition tape was or what it looked like or how to do it. So we YouTubed Reese Witherspoon, one of her audition tapes. And I did the best I could.
RM: (Laughing) Did you take acting classes?
AF: No (Laughing)
RM: So this is all natural?
AF: I guess…
RM: Organic. That’s what’s up. So what about this process was actually easy for you?
AF: I can’t say anything was easy because it was tough. It’s a whole new field for me. A whole new genre. Like, everywhere you go and events that are NFL, everybody knows who you are and you’re kinda regarded as this high profile, blah, blah. And here, it’s like, nobody knew who I was. And it was awesome. I enjoyed that feeling. Because it’s like a blank slate. Like you can start all over. And I remember when I wasn’t known in the NFL and just that hunger and that grind you had to go through is the same thing. So I approached it the exact same way. Like I’m gonna learn all my lines. I’m not gonna mess up. It was awesome.
RM: Wow, so more acting is coming?
AF: Right now, I’m solely focused on my athletic career. ‘Cause you have a short window in your life to perfect that craft. But as soon as it’s over, I don’t see why not. It’s fun. I enjoy it. From what I hear, people enjoyed my role in this movie. So let’s go get it, why not.
RM: I liked what Terry Crews said about you at the Draft Day press conference. That you have a career in Hollywood if you want it.
AF: Yeah, he was extremely complimentary. I don’t know if he was gassin me up. (Laughing)
RM: (Laughing) Being Hollywood?
AF: Yeah, gassin me. But everybody, Ivan [Reitman], Terry, Kevin [Costner], they all said the exact same things, man. Like ‘If you want to do this, you can do it. You have what it takes.’ And to get that stamp of approval from Kevin Costner, Ivan Reitman, Terry Crews? It’s like… I don’t know, I feel like I owe it to them to give it a try.
RM: What do your teammates say about the acting?
AF: Oh, they call me Hollywood. Like ‘Oh, you Hollywood now. You not focused on football.” I’m like, “I did it in my off season, man. You can’t play football in April.” (Laughing)
RM: My fellow Shadow League co-workers who specialize in sports gave me the rundown on you. They said you were a philosophy major. And you studied poetry. So that tells me there’s an artist in you. Have you always wanted to pursue acting? Maybe deep down?
AF: I think I was an artist before I was a football player. Because I fell in love with music as a young kid. My mother and father used to play vinyl every Saturday and Sunday morning. And they were from two different genres. My father listened to Parliament and Con Funk Shun and Earth, Wind and Fire. And my mother listened to Beach Boys and The Beatles. And they used to have this little battles on whose music was best. So I fell in love with music. I’ve been writing since I can remember. Everything, poetry, short stories, music. So I’ve always been in love with the arts. I actually took some improve classes in high school just for fun ‘cause I enjoyed it.
RM: Look at that...
AF: Yeah. So I think they coincide. Sports and art. To me sports is an art. It’s just your body. You’re using your body to make poetry. It’s the same thing.
RM: For this role, a lot of if related to some things you’d actually gone through in life. You’d actually gotten into fights and weren’t drafted. And a big part of acting is being in that moment so it’s real. When this film took you back to those moments, what were the feelings that came up?
AF: I think that’s the biggest thing I learned from this entire experience. Getting into character. Not just saying those lines. Actually feeling like that person. How would I act or react. I remember getting into that role. And even before my character gets drafted, it’s an extremely emotional moment. And I had to recall those emotions of not getting drafted. And how I felt there and how vindicating this is going to be. So it got really deep in the middle of all of it. And I think that’s why what scene came out so well. That’s why I enjoyed it. It was very fun. In the future, I look forward to taking on new roles and new characters. Maybe I can play a villain or something. Get some of this evil off my chest. (Laughing)