I caught up with Craig muMs Grant of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman and the new sci-fi dystopian pic Hover, out now on VOD and Digital HD. Craig is also an accomplished performance poet and playwright (going by “muMs”) and member of the Labyrinth Theater Company, catch muMs on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

The chat we had was exceptional – getting into current events, film, the perils of losing one's cellphone in our advanced technological world, what makes a great film, "adulting", technological dependency, racism, sci-fi, comic books, Sgt. Ron Stallworth and Spike Lee, Alzheimer's Disease, great art, and much, much more.

Most of these things are very related to his film Hover where he plays John, a mild-mannered mentorly fellow to Cleopatra Coleman's Claudia, as the two go about the near-future countryside helping very sick people end their lives with some dignity, until John gets snuffed out by sinister forces they thought were on their side, leaving one hell of a mystery for Claudia to unravel.

Coleman did a fine job as the writer of Hover too with Matt Osterman (400 Days) deftly bringing the entire vision to fruition in the director's chair. You see Hover is exceptional as far as sci-fi flicks go – it takes a lot for me as a movie goer to be engrossed in one because they usually strain my ability to suspend disbelief (a subject I've written and talked about here), something required of any film in any genre – because first it is near-future and more believable. The dystopian vision it paints is a world controlled by agricultural and police drones – a plot device Coleman uses to great effect to explore some social commentary too.

Yet, it isn't purely that either. Hover even takes upon itself an apocalyptic biblical allegory, particularly that of Revelation 9:11, which mentions "Apollyon the Destroyer" in Greek (“Abbadon" in Hebrew), one of God's avenging apocalyptic angels sent to wrought death and destruction on the world. This isn't just an aside, either. Coleman manages to weave it in as a pretty convincing motif because the story is tight enough, and well acted by particularly her and muMs Grant.

Hover is a picture I recommend for fans of a well-executed, well-acted story. Catch muMs Grant in it now via VOD and Digital HD and catch him in BlacKkKlansman in US theaters August 10, and UK cinemas August 24.

Trailer for HOVER.

Trailer for BLACKKKLANSMAN.

Enjoy the interview below.

Hello Craig.

Hello, how are you?

Wonderful. How are you?

I’m great. I’m great, thank you.

Getting right into it, with Hover, what initially attracted you to the project?

It's funny, I had just come back from L.A. from testing for the TV show The Chi, and I had just found out I didn't get The Chi. I don't know if you know about this industry, but you take a moment – because testing is something and it could be really close – so you take a moment or day, and you'll be like "Ok, I didn't get that, gotta keep movin'." And you get back up.

Absolutely.

But my girlfriend said, "Take a moment. I know it kinda stings not getting it." That moment was literally me on the couch… just watchin' TV [Laughs]

[Laughs]

…and doing nothing and just sulking.

In the midst of that sulking, I get a phone call from my agent, I think it was a Friday. She says, "So I've got this movie Hover, and they're interested in you, and you need to read the script this weekend because if you like it, they're flying you out on Monday."

Nice.

I said, "Woah! Ok."

[Laughs] think I would to in that situation.

So, I skimmed the script [Laughs]

[Laughs]

…because I had already made my decision. But I was really drawn to the… I love sci-fi period. Let's just put it that way. I love anything that has to do with sci-fi and I rarely get to be in anything with sci-fi, I'm not sure maybe there's not a lot of black people in the future, so that was a draw. But the near future aspect of it was even more of a draw.

I agree. I'm not usually a sci-fi guy but the near future aspect to me makes it more believable.

I like a project that makes a statement about the present. Where we're at today in regards to our dependency on technology, what could actually unravel to, even before we approach singularity. [Laughs]

[Laughs] absolutely.

I just think it was really interesting. There was one scene we shot with the police drone, I was like, "Wow! That's so scary. But it's obvious." Like it's obvious: why haven't they already done that?

Definitely.

That drew me in. All of those connections to our present and what could be.

Cleopatra Coleman as Claudia in the sci-fi film HOVER a Syfy Films release. Photo courtesy of Syfy Films.

That's what partially drew me in there as well. The social commentary too I found very interesting and effective: whether it was exploring some fears that are kinda big in the American consciousness right now (whether rightly or wrongly) like (in the drone commercial at the beginning) where it says the drone protects against "terrorists" and "illegals" or even getting into the fears of losing the homestead or home that the film probes. The film in that light was all the more powerful considering a woman of color wrote it *your co-star Cleopatra Coleman) and two of the leads (you very much included there) are African-American… what did the social commentary in the film say to you? Put another way, what do you hope audiences will take with them from the film?

What I hope people will take from the film is that we are in a very angst-driven place right now as Americans. I would tell people – and not to get too political – but I tell people I feel like we were at an eight year party, having fun, drinking champagne, relaxin', life was good – everything bad that was happenin', we didn't really see it. You know: they got bin Laden, Obama deported more people than any president ever, he had drone strikes, but none of that stuff really touched us…

Indeed. We were removed from it in a manner of speaking.

So, we're partyin' along and all of a sudden in 2016 Drumpf gets elected, and it felt like we came outta the party and the car got towed and my wallet got stolen…

[Laughs] that’s a great metaphor for the state we’re in.

…and all of a sudden, the world is in upheaval. Not just America, the entire world is in upheaval: wars get started, Syria has sent immigrants everywhere: through Europe and here. They're perfect fodder, they're he perfect blame, for insurgencies and terrorism.

It's these geopolitical maneuverings that pit people against people and we're all in the same economic boat.

Indeed.

With all of that said, I think people will look at this movie and say, "Wow, look at how bad it can unravel." At the say time, look at how fast technology is moving.

Certainly.

Yeah. And how dependent Apple makes us on their product. I mean, I love my iPhone but then I hate it at the same time because I only get to have it for two years before I have to buy a new one. So it's this weird co-dependency thing on this device.

A lot of people, I think, share those fears and because science doesn't know that much about the addicting potential of technology yet – hopefully they will in the near future.

Yeah. It does everything you know? I left my phone in a cab the other day, and I realized it as the cab was pulling away...

That sucks.

Yeah, it got further away and I just couldn't catch it and for that moment without a phone, I was helpless. I was headed to an audition, but I didn't know the number of the building, or the floor [Laughs]

[Laughs]

I didn't have my girlfriend's number and I literally was helpless until I went to AT&T store and got another phone.

Yeah.

Yeah that just goes to show like "Wow!".

I remember less than twenty years ago, every home number of my friends and family was in my head.

I was just thinking that same thing. It was second nature remembering those numbers. Survival.

Now I can't tell you my girlfriend's number {Laughs]

[Laughs] I know how it is.

Yeah. We kinda let it happen. You don't realize you're not in control until you're not in control.

Absolutely.

I think that's a big thing about John in this movie, he knows that dependency and he is not trying to be out of control. He needs control over his life: he has to drive his own car. Even over his illness, what that's slowly becoming, he's in control of when he goes.

Yeah. He really was.

As much as he wants to be.

Absolutely. That kind of touches on another question, what was it like getting in that head space for John?

[Laughs] you know I'm a control freak in regards to my own life. I deal with a lot of responsibility, I just put my mother in a nursing home a few years ago. Up until then I was just like willy nilly running around, and just like, "I wanna live in L.A. For a few years" , so live here live there.

I was never really responsible until I had to take care of my mother. I took care of her for three years with Alzheimer's Disease and then I put her in the nursing home and she's been in the nursing home for four years.

So, now I live with my girlfriend in the house that I grew up in that my mother and father left for me. So, I have to pay the taxes, I have to get the ceiling fixed, and do this and do that, get the roof fixed and new windows. This responsibility, this “adulting” [Laughs]...

I think I brought that to him, he's definitely a mentor for Cleopatra Coleman's character. But also, he works in this job where he assists suicide. He looks like a detective but I think what I brought to the character was that he treats this profession of his as a spiritual crossing for the individual. For somebody to make a decision about their mortality, it's gotta be a spiritual thing.

So, he approaches it like he's a priest. John's work is very soft and deliberate mannerisms, very soft-spoken and really an analysis of everything. That's how he notices that something is wrong, that something is amiss.

So, that's kind of what I did.

Absolutely. You nailed that too.

I'm sorry about your mother. I actually just lost my grandfather this January after his battle with Alzheimer's.

So you know.

I do. Horrible disease.

I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Nor would I.

Image from the sci-fi film HOVER a Syfy Films release. Photo courtesy of Syfy Films.

Jumping to a question I like to ask most everybody, what films and performances have really stuck with you over the years? Which have been the most pivotal influences over you as an actor?

Oh wow. Wow.

[Laughs]

You know, I'm a big Gary Oldman fan. I saw him in a movie, I think this might be my... Gary Oldman and my friend Annabella Sciorra, in a movie called... It was called Romeo is Bleeding.

Yeah.

That was the name of the movie, and the acting: I just love Gary Oldman in general. I think he is just starting, just getting his accolades after Darkest Hour.

I still need to catch that one.

I think he deserved awards from looong ago.

I agree.

So I really appreciate him as an actor.

Performances, I really appreciate The Wire. I mean, I know I was on Oz at that time, but I was watchin' The Wire [Laughs]

[Laughs] indeed.

...and like some of the thing that were goin' on on that show with some of my friends like Idris Elba, Andre Royo, their naturalness you know? Things that I see everyday, if I ran into Idris on the street, and we had a conversation, it'd be in the same kind of tone that it was on The Wire.

Nice.

...and that was rare, it was very rare. Beautiful to see. So I loved that.

I'm also a big comic book fan. The old "Avengers", I used to read “X-Men", but The Avengers movies are what got me. All of them, they were just all fantastic. I actually held back from even seeing the latest Avengers one so that I could really appreciate it by myself.

Definitely.

I'm gonna pick a day... I freed myself up from work, and just catch it by myself.

Nice. That's a way I like to treat myself too, with a good film.

Oh yeah.

I would be remiss if I didn't ask about it too, how was the experience doing BlacKkKlansman? What is your greatest hope for that film?

I think it's already been achieved with Spike even just making the film. It winning the award at Cannes.

Indeed.

I think my biggest hope now is just for people to see it and I think it's one of Spike's best films, if not the best film.

You know, Spike likes to jump all over the place. He has the linear story he likes to tell, but then he has the social commentary on top of the story, and some of the social commentary in that movie is right on point. I get Robert DeNiro speaking directly to Drumpf – as gauche as it was, it's probably exactly how Robert DeNiro feels, but Spike goes at it from an artistic standpoint and it's brilliant. Brilliant.

He goes at racism and nationalism and this idea that we have to be better. As Americans, we're better than these other people, there's this idea that that's a prevailing thing and that's where racism comes from.

Absolutely.

Yeah. We gotta keep those poor white people in line. Make them think that they're better than the poor black people. Boom.

And then we're all in the same economic boat, yellin' and screamin' at each other because of the color of our skin.

If you really think about it from a basic standpoint, it's really silly.

Absolutely. And toxic to boot.

Definitely. I love what Spike Lee has always done. Spike Lee is my Prince, he's my hero, he still inspires me to want to be a filmmaker.

So anytime Spike Lee calls, I answer the phone with a resounding "yes!" [Laughs]

[Laughs] Absolutely.

L-R Adam Driver and John David Washington in an image from BLACKKKLANSMAN.

I can't wait to see BlacKkKlansman after just reading Sgt Stallworth's story. The guy had to have brass balls to even attempt what he did. Just that real grit, guts and determination down deep, that makes true bravery. Amazing.

I think his bravery is something that can further get people of every race behind the movie. It's really a theme that transcends all kinds of differences, in addition to making a great story.

Exactly. I got to meet him actually at the read-through.

Wow.

Yeah. He's a great guy: smart, he wrote the book that Spike based the movie on.

Yeah, he had brass balls. He was a strong-willed dude yeah [Laughs]

[Laughs] yep.

Yeah.

Jumping to another question I like to ask most everybody – and that also kinda jumps off our chat thus far – what makes a great film?

You know, I'm a playwright. For me it was always about what the audience left with. They would ask me, "what do you want the audience to leave with?"

I want the audience to leave with questions. I want them to go to dinner after they see my play and discuss it, and then have differing opinions about it, and discover new things about it.

I think what makes a great movie is kind of similar, the same type of thing. Even like with that video "This is America" by Childish Gambino – the fact that two different people can watch the same video and get two different things from it, that's a marker of good quality art.

I couldn't agree more, that multi-faceted nature – alotta layers, presented compellingly.

Yeah. Where it's like, "Wait a minute! I gotta look at that again to see what I missed!".

I think a good movie has good dialogue – subtle dialogue – it's powerful. You never wanna beat somebody over the head or take your audience for granted or assume that they're dumb and over explain things.

Absolutely agree.

Yeah. It's a very fine line to walk on. But I gotta tell ya, it's so much fun tryin' to get it right [Laughs]...

[Laughs] yep. That's a fantastic answer. That challenge indeed is what attracts so many and keeps 'em interested.

The last question I had Craig: what's next for you?

What's next?

Yeah. What's next for you?

As far as movies and TV and films and acting, I can never figure that out, whatever's next is the next audition I go on. [Laughs]

For me as a writer – as muMs the performance poet – I did a solo show. I wrote and performed a solo show back in 2014-2015, and it did pretty well. I may be putting that back up.

But I'm also in the midst of writing a new one. It's a solo show/album and I'm gonna take some time this Fall to pen a memoir.

There ya go.

So, yeah. That's next for me.