Most partnerships start with a bold act of exertion on one end and a leap of faith on the ladder. Lakeith Stanfield and Colin Stark prove no exception. Changers: A Dance Story written and directed by Spike Jonze, which we put on in partnership with Amex Platinum during NYFW, demonstrated the many ways we navigate relationships and how they continue to change and evolve with us. Before the premiere, Alice Hines sat down with Changers lead, Lakeith Stanfield (most famous for his roles in Donald Glover’s original FX series Atlanta and the critically acclaimed blockbuster Get Out) and his manager, Colin Stark, to discuss not only how they’ve navigated through Europe on planes, trains and extremely fast automobiles, but also the ins-and-outs of an unconventional relationship.
COLIN STARK: So Lakeith and I met a little over four years ago at one of the very first screenings of Short Term 12. I was an intern at an agency and also dealing with some health things at the time, and I don’t know, was basically blown away by the film and Lakeith’s performance. But even more than that, at the Q&A, he seemed like a real dude that I wanted to get to know. He seemed like a true artist. I went up to him after and was proven correct. I initially didn’t think that I’d be managing him. I just said, ‘Listen, I’m this young dude trying to do this. I’m in this weird position where I’ve got a lot of time on my hands, and I know a little bit about the industry.’ And he mentioned he didn’t know much about the business and didn’t drive yet, so I said, ‘I’d love to be your assistant slash intern slash driver. I’ll do whatever you want, as long as I can be around and come to some meetings and start learning a thing or two. I know you are headed somewhere.’ And he thought it was weird as fuck and still thinks I’m weird as fuck. He was like, ‘No man, I don’t have anything going on, and I’m not really an actor. This is a one-time type situation.’ And I was like, ‘No problem. You’re going to have some meetings.’ And he was like no, no. And I was like, ‘Here’s my number, give me a buzz and let me know when you do.’ And then pretty soon he called and was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got some meetings.’
LAKEITH STANFIELD: He’s right. At first I thought it was weird, and I was a bit skeptical. And I was new to the game. I was like, what does this guy want from me. But as we started to hang out I realized he’s just like me. We’ve got a similar story and I really respected his hustle, his game, and how smart and creative he was.
Going back to that Q+A, what did you specifically say, Lakeith, that drew Colin to you?
COLIN: The thing is, it doesn’t fucking matter what he said. It’s how he said it.
LAKEITH: I think I’ve always been a little bit of a showman. And when I’m in front of a big audience and someone gives me an opportunity to speak, I’ll speak. I say what I feel is real. It’s easy for actors to give a stock answer: ‘Oh, we had a great time on set.’ But I’ll be like, ‘Oh, there was that time I tripped on a fucking rock.’ And those personality traits shine through. People tell me after Q+As, I appreciate you being real, and that’s probably what he picked up on. And I was probably a little buzzed…
COLIN: It’s the sort of thing you can only feel. And I actually disagree about the showmanship thing, I just saw Lakeith as a true artist. He’s the truest artist I’ve ever met in my life. That was very obvious to me from the beginning, and it was very natural.
What do you guys fight about?
COLIN: I was just trying to wake him up two hours ago…
LAKEITH: I think that’s definitely what makes the dynamic great; we have a lot of similarities but also a lot of differences. There’s conflict in every situation, not big shit, but like, conflict that causes us to understand another angle to navigate. I like the fact that he’ll always challenge me and present something in a different form. That’s good in this business, which is full of ‘Yes man’ shit. I’m glad he has his own vision.
What were your other managers like?
LAKEITH: Most relationships in this business are fear-based. I want to be in a situation where everything is cool, and you’re not dealing with paranoia. It’s a hard job. There are opportunities in front of your face that dissipate, ones you don’t see coming up, others that you have to make for yourself, and others that come up that look good at first but turn out bad. But you need a partnership that’s not shaken. The relationships I was in before were too shaky for that foundation. I needed something more solid.
COLIN: I felt my relationships before Lakeith, there wasn’t as much integrity and self-respect.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done together?
LAKEITH: Oh, we’ve ended up in some weird places with some weird people.
COLIN: When we were in Europe on a one-week hiatus on a film, we rented a super fast car and went to eight different countries. And we got, like, 18 or 19 speeding tickets including one where we thought we were on the Autobahn and we weren’t. And we went completely airborne once, when we hit a bump at 165 miles per hour in Poland.
LAKEITH: We’ve had some near-death experiences.
What did you learn from them?
COLIN: That we both get sick if we go to Europe.
LAKEITH: We were both sick as fuck.
A good lesson. Anything else?
LAKEITH: Yeah, can you officiate the wedding?