STATELINE — Lucas Black never had any formal acting training yet he’s been in the business for more than 20 years.
That’s called being a natural.
Black, a current star of the CBS hit series NCIS: New Orleans, has appeared in 21 films, including a couple of “Fast and Furious” films, did two seasons on the TV series “American Gothic,” and did TV movies “The Miracle Worker” and “Flash.”
Black, who’s competing in the 27th annual American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course this week, started when he was 10 years old, winning a small part in the 1994 movie “The War” that starred Kevin Costner.
“My mom heard about an open audition (for it) on the radio for a movie with Kevin Costner (The War),” said Black.
A year later, he won the role of Caleb Temple on American Gothic, and it was in 1996 he got his big break, winning a role in the critically acclaimed hit “Sling Blade,” which starred Billy Bob Thornton.
“That was a career starter for me,” Black said following his pro-am round on Wednesday.
Black won three awards for his “Sling Blade” role of Frank Wheatley. He won for best performance by a younger actor from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, best performance in a feature film by a leading young actor from Young Artist Awards, and best performance by a young actor from Young Star Awards.
He has played in three sports movies — “Friday Night Lights” (2004), “Seven Days in Utopia” (2011) and “42” (2013). Those roles were right up Black’s alley. He played football, baseball and golf at Speake High School in Alabama.
Black played quarterback Mike Winchell in FNL, which was later turned into a hit TV series; Luke Chisholm, a budding golf pro, in “Seven Days of Utopia;” and he was shortstop Pee Wee Reese in “42,” the movie about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball.
“When you are in a sports movie, you feel like you are part of a team again with the actors and have that camaraderie,” Black said. “You get to reminisce about the days you used to play.
“On Friday Night Lights, I was with some ex-NFL players and Arena League players. We’d play games between takes.”
With his southern drawl, Black was a perfect fit for the role of Reese, who grew up in Kentucky. In the movie, Reese’s acceptance of Robinson went a long way toward the rest of the team accepting the black player.
It was in “Seven days in Utopia” he met one of his closest friends in the business, Robert Duvall. Black’s character had a rough debut on the pro tour, and he found himself stranded in Utopia, Texas, where he encountered Duvall, who helped him get his life together.
“I’ve worked with some great actors,” Black said, alluding to Thornton, Scott Bakula on his current series and Duvall. “Robert Duvall is phenomenal. We talk probably every month. He is one of the guys I always stay in touch with. He loves football, so we’re always talking football.”
In 2014, Black got another big break when he landed the role of Christopher Lasalle on NCIS: New Orleans. Lasalle plays a hard-working agent, who also likes to party a little bit.
“That part came at a good time in my life,” Black said. “I got married in 2010 (Maggie O’Brien), and we have two kids. When you are working on a movie there is travel involved, and my wife would come with me. Now, at the end of the day I get to go home. Being able to stay in one place is good.
“We love New Orleans. It’s hot, but we both like hot weather. There is always a lot going on. There is always some sort of festival every week. We don’t go to all of them, but we get out to some.”
And, he loves going to work every day.
“Our cast is great to work with,” said Black, who’s taking off a few days from filming for the new season to play in the event. “Scott Bakula is a great leader on a really good team. When you are doing TV it’s such a faster pace (than a movie), and things can slip through. Scott doesn’t let that happen. He has great attention to detail.
“Scott lets you do your own thing as an actor. He’s good about seeing better ways of doing things; doing something to make a scene better. We have a different director every week, and they all have different ways of doing things. Scott can see when things aren’t meshing, and he’ll say something.”
If you’ve seen NCIS: New Orleans, it’s a good ensemble, one that appears to work well together.
“We have such wonderful characters,” Black said. “Everybody gets along, and we’re all working toward the same thing, and that’s to make the best product possible. I’m looking forward to this season. I think it’s going to be better than last season.”
Black said there’s one change in the cast. Zoe McLellan, who played Meredith Brody on the show, has left. Vanessa Ferlito comes onto the show as a no-nonsense FBI agent, who’s actually investigating the NCIS group. Her first appearance will be on the third-season opener on Sept. 20. The show also has a new time slot, taking over the 10 p.m. local slot.
This is Black’s fifth appearance at the ACC. His best finish was in 2013 when he was eighth with 58 points. In 2014, he tied for 13th with 53 points. He missed last year with an injury.
“I had shoulder surgery,” Black said. “I had a labrum tear. It was from an old injury and a prior surgery (2010). I did a lot of hard work after surgery to get into shape so I could play. We’ve been on hiatus since April 27, so I’ve been able to play a lot during the week. I feel like I’m playing pretty well.”
After watching Black during his pro-am round on Wednesday, he’s a true Southern gentleman. He interacted well with his playing partners and the gallery, and he always had a smile on his face.
“He is a great guy,” said John Pravese, one of his amateur partners. “He signs every autograph and takes pictures with anybody who asks. He’s very fun to be around.”
Pravese is back for his fourth ACC event. He played with Brian Urlacher two times and Michael Waltrip once.