Delroy Lindo isn’t the type to lay out a five- or ten-year plan for his life. “Apparently I’m not built that way,” says the veteran actor. But when it comes to his career, the idea, as he explains it, was to always “keep quoting and quoting as best you can.”
At age 70, Lindo is currently the lead in Hulu’s half-hour comedy Uncaught next to Kerry Washington. He stars as Edwin, a formerly incarcerated father who strives to mend his relationship with his daughter Paige, played by Washington. Though he admits he didn’t necessarily know he’d still be acting nearly 50 years after his screen debut in the 1976 John Candy comedy. Find the ladyhe didn’t exactly think he wouldn’t be working now either.
“I’m thinking about a friend of mine — I think about him a lot these days,” Lindo tells me. “His name is Al Rodriguez and many, many years ago he said to me, ‘Man, I think you’re going to get more work as you get older.’ “Swear to God. That’s what he told me. And while I kept working – knock on wood – apparently he was right.”
Uncaughtcreated by Tracy McMillan, is based on the author and TV writer’s own relationship with her father, Willie Harold McMillan, who was in and out of prison over the course of her life, and the trauma that resulted from being placed in foster care as a child to her “picker” broken when it comes to her romantic relationships as an adult.
In the fall of 2021, Washington, an executive producer on the series, who is part of Disney Entertainment’s Onyx Collective brand, sent a letter to Lindo asking him to talk to him about the role. Soon after, the trio was chatting on Zoom about their aspirations for the show.
“Instead of them telling me, ‘We want to do this, and we want to do that,’ it quickly became a collaboration and an exchange of ideas,” says Lindo. “Out of that process, they agreed, I must say very kindly, that I would also be an executive producer on the show,” he adds, recalling that he was particularly struck by McMillan’s characterization of her father, who recently died on January 1. 21 at age 87, during that conversation.
“She said if people didn’t know he’d been in prison so many times in his life, you wouldn’t pick it up just sitting there talking to him or meeting him. That got me thinking about how people are categorized, labeled and boxed in based on what a given individual’s perceived reality is, without necessarily taking into account the reality of the human being in front of them,” he says. “And given that there’s such an inequity in the criminal justice system in this country with regard to people of color, it got me thinking that maybe I’d like to be a part of work that not only addresses that inequality, but also the reality of people who are incarcerated.”
Throughout the eight-episode series, Edwin’s pursuit of a fresh start is constantly at odds with others’ memories of his failed past, whether it’s Paige’s struggle to trust her father when he makes a plea to be with her after his release. and his grandson to live. or company policy that prohibits him from being hired. But to the point of McMillan’s own judgment of her father, it’s easy to forget that Edwin is a thug not just because he doesn’t fit preconceived stereotypes with his charming persona and polished looks – a testament to Lindo’s portrayal. But there’s a certain ease with which he takes on life’s misfortunes — or accepts the far-reaching consequences of his actions — which adds to the show’s overall comedic tone.
“That’s pretty brilliant,” Lindo says of the approach. “The project was always presented to me as a drama. Kerry and Tracy understood that it couldn’t be didactic or polemical. We couldn’t stand on a soap box and preach to people.”
In some ways there is a shared lens through which one can see Lindo’s real life experiences and those of his fictional character – he makes a point of saying that it was never his intention to emulate Tracy’s father, Harold, with whom he spent time with before his passing. , but rather capture the spirit of their relationship. For example, as with Edwin, family is a strong motivator in Lindo’s life, especially his pursuit of higher education. In 2004, he graduated with a bachelor of arts in cinema from San Francisco State University. Ten years later, he received his master’s degree in fine arts from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
“My mom always wanted me to get a degree,” he says. “I pursued acting, I never had a formal degree. So I did it for myself, I did it for my son, and I did it for my mother.
When it comes to his son Damiri, who is now in his senior year of college, Lindo says he wanted to be able to speak from experience when talking to him about getting a formal education, something that was of particular importance to him.
“I wanted credibility and he mentions it,” adds Lindo. “He tells me he saw me working on my dissertation, getting up at 5 am, getting up at 6 am and going to my office. My son saw that. It was a special achievement, aside from how proud I am of the work I’ve done as an actor. Getting those degrees was an added accomplishment that makes me feel a little more complete and a little more whole.
The son of Jamaican parents, Lindo grew up in Eltham, a district of south-east London, England, and was the only black child in his primary school and only one of two black children in his secondary school. Interestingly, through acting, he found acceptance and his ultimate career.
“In hindsight I think it had to do with how I was validated,” says Lindo, recalling his experience participating in a nativity scene when he was just five years old and how the teacher pointed out his ability to project his lines and to remember as an example to his classmate. “It was a confirmation for me where maybe I wasn’t confirmed in other aspects.”
Throughout his career, Lindo has had to maintain self-affirming beliefs about his abilities in an industry that has not always welcomed or recognized his talent. Idris Elba, Lindo’s co-star in Netflix’s Revisionist Western The harder they fallrecently received backlash when he stated in an interview with Esquire magazine, “I stopped describing myself as a black actor when I realized it put me in a box.” Lindo understands the sentiment.
“We’re actors. Many of us in this industry are labeled, pigeonholed and categorized, that is, ‘he or she only does this kind of work’. So I agree with him. Any actor worth anything will want the same thing. They want their talent to be acted upon and not labeled as one thing.
Given the limits that can be placed on black actors, Lindo finds it somewhat humorous when journalists, including this one, supposedly ask him how he chooses roles.
“It makes me smile on some level because it’s not like I have a pile of choices,” he admits. “It doesn’t work that way. That is certainly not the way it has worked for me.”
That, in a nutshell, is what Edwin also struggles with. It remains to be seen whether the former convict will indeed prevail against the outside influences that threaten his best intentions. Uncaught has yet to be renewed for a second season. However, Lindo already has two other projects in the pipeline. First, he will play the spider god Anansi in the upcoming six-part British fantasy miniseries Anansi guys scheduled for release on Prime Video. At the end of May, he will start production of the new one Sheetstarring Mahershala Ali, tentatively set to premiere Christmas 2024.
As Lindo continues to prove his old friend right with each new role, he notes that longevity in the entertainment business is far from guaranteed. What his decades-long career has underlined — aside from his innate stubbornness, as he puts it — is just holding on, he says.
“Sometimes you feel, as I have felt on countless occasions in the past, like you’re just holding on, barely holding on to your fingernails, that you’re barely keeping your mind. But the bottom line,’ he emphasises, ‘is that one perseveres. Never underestimate the value and power of enforcement however you can.