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American actor Derek Luke has starred in films including Antwone Fisher (2002) and Friday Night Lights (2004).
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Born in New Jersey in 1974, actor Derek Luke got his big break when cast by Denzel Washington to play the title role in the 2002 film Antwone Fisher. Luke went on to a successful movie career, including roles in Friday Night Lights (2004) and Notorious (2009).
Actor Derek Luke was born on April 24, 1974, in Jersey City, New Jersey. His father, Maurice Luke, is a native of Guyana who had previously worked as an actor in London, and his mother, Marjorie Dixon, is a pianist. Luke's parents divorced when he was only in the third grade, and Luke, along with his two brothers, were raised primarily by their mother. However, Dixon struggled to make ends meet on her musician's salary, and the family moved frequently among Jersey City's rough and impoverished neighborhoods.
Growing up in a largely hardscrabble environment, Luke was forced to learn to fight and act tough at a very young age. "I grew up and went to school with metal detectors," he explains. Still, he had strong role models in his mother and uncles, who inspired him to transcend his environment. "I think what influenced my life was the power of words," he says. "My mother always, my uncles always spoke powerful words. I think, even though I grew up in the hood, I always tell people I really grew up in a rich home, because I had good words."
Luke attended six different schools before finally settling at Henry Snyder High School, a performing arts school in Jersey City. He graduated from Snyder in 1992 and continued on to Jersey State College to study acting. However, he soon grew impatient and wanted to try his hand at a professional career in show business. In 1995 he packed his bags and moved across the country to Los Angeles with hopes of making it big in Hollywood.
Like many actors, Luke initially struggled to break into the acting world, resorting to a variety of odd jobs such as selling cologne, ushering and working in a Sony Pictures gift shop to pay the rent. Determined to make his own luck, Luke took acting classes at night and stuck to a relentless auditioning schedule. He recalls, "I auditioned for The Rookie, Finding Forrester, Touched by an Angel, and they didn't touch me, E.R. because my resume really needed surgery. Those are the [main ones] but…I think I was on an audition four times a week."
Luke had only two acting credits to his name -- bit parts in The King of Queens and Moesha -- when he managed to land the title role in the acclaimed 2002 film Antwone Fisher, an autobiographical film written by the real-life Antwone Fisher and directed by Denzel Washington. After four separate auditions, Washington personally informed Luke that he had landed the role in a scene that itself could have been lifted straight from a bad movie. By a miraculous coincidence, when Washington showed up at the gift shop where Luke worked to inform him he'd gotten the part, the real Antwone Fisher happened be at the store buying a t-shirt from Luke.
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