For many years, Don Cheadle has received massive praise for both his dramatic acting chops in works like Hotel Rwanda, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor, and his comedic ability in the series House of Lies, for which he received a Golden Globe. Not only is he a beast of an actor and artist, but he’s also someone who is much admired for his activism and advocacy.
On Thursday, Cheadle returns to the big screen as War Machine in the highly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War. In a recent interview with The Root, Cheadle got really candid about everything from crack to online trolls, and proves that not only does he have this social media game on lock, but he’s also not afraid to speak his mind.
In a day and age when people are held accountable for what they post on social media, Cheadle doesn’t mind being outspoken. Even when, nowadays, people can lose their jobs over a simple tweet. Cheadle realizes that you need to let people know where you stand and whose side you’re on, especially in the current political climate, and Twitter is a great place to start.
“I feel like it’s an important time; we’re seeing now, more than ever, that people need to participate in the processes that lead to more justice and lead to more equality and lead to more fairness and more representation. And to address it whenever and wherever it occurs and however it occurs,” Cheadle told The Root. “And I get a lot of people saying, ‘Aren’t you concerned that you’re potentially putting your career at risk?’ and ‘I wonder if Disney is like—have they ever said anything to you about saying what you’re saying?”
Luckily for Cheadle, neither Marvel nor Disney has ever approached him about his social media habits, and he has an idea as to why.
“I think they understand that they hire independent individuals, and they, I think, appreciate that’s who they are and that’s what they’re bringing to the movie, in fact. Their own identity, their own personality. That’s something that I can’t—I’m not gonna take that away from myself no matter what job I happen to be doing at the time,” Cheadle said.
And that is why Cheadle’s social media activity is a favorite for so many people. He’s someone who’s fighting for justice both on-screen and in real life. When it comes to advice on how to deal with trolls, Cheadle was kind enough to offer some. If you didn’t know, Cheadle is the king of clapbacks, but his intention is to really get to what’s beneath the insults and find out what’s really going on:
I find that most of the pushback against those issues—it rings rather hollow. Where is your real leg to stand on when it comes to questions of more justice and more equality and more representation? How, really, are you defending us not being a more inclusive society, us not being American in that way, in the highest ideal of what we’re supposed to be? You know, about what it says on that statue, Lady Liberty, and what symbolically we were supposed to represent?
He went on to emphasize how important it is for us to engage, but also how it’s equally important to know when not to and just block and get back to business:
Take breaks. It is a space where everyone can be anonymous and there is no real punishment or real consequence for coming at people in a certain way, and people tend to be very brave on that in a way that they would not be in person, so you have to always remember that as well. But look, it’s a complete elective! Nobody has to and/or needs to be on social media, really! I know people that become unglued on this stuff—and it’s like, just turn it off. Just don’t look at it. Delete your account. I’m gonna purge mine in a minute.
In talking about his War Machine character, to a man who’s an advocate for addressing issues of inequality, it would have been remiss not to mention how black media outlets usually receive the short end of the stick when it comes to Hollywood and access to celebrities, during press junkets and interviews. Such was the case with the Avengers: Infinity War press junket. When Cheadle found out that The Root was offered only Winston Duke, Anthony Mackie and himself, he was left baffled. He said:
I don’t know who set that up. That’s bananas. That’s a bad oversight, for sure, if that’s how that came down. The other side of that, though, is, I imagine, in their attempt to service and to be supportive and say, “We wanna make sure that you get to talk to the black media and the black people get to talk to you, and that you guys get to have some fellowship.”
But absolutely, you should be talking to everybody in the cast. You should walk out of this room right now and walk into Chris Hemsworth’s room and talk to him. I think when you look at that poster, it’s a pretty diverse representation of people, and it’s great that it does look like the world. It doesn’t just look like some homogeneous area. Yeah, I didn’t know that. That’s not cool.
Y’all hear that?! Cheadle was ready to go and walk me straight into his castmate’s room next door, too! He’s not playing around with nobody. And just as serious as he was with the sentiments of representation, he can turn on the comedy as fast as ever. Most people want to know what Cheadle enjoys doing besides making blockbuster action movies and clapping back at trolls, and of course he answered the question in the most Cheadle way possible:
Crack. Nah, I do a lot of stuff. I’m with my family. I like to ride my motorcycle. I golf. I was playing a lot of poker; I’m not doing that so much anymore, but these movies are actually a lot of fun. I think you can see it onstage—we all genuinely vibe. It’s hard to fake that. And when we spend this much time together, and these movies take so long to shoot, it’s nice to be able to be on set and feel like you’re a big family. But yeah, man, most of the time I’m home or I’m on set.
Avengers: Infinity War opens nationwide April 27.
Kristian “Krit” Schmidt is a New Zealand-born Samoan living in the U.S. He’s a real-life and scripted hustler and advocate for change. Follow him on Twitter.