By Nadine Matthews, Special to the AFRO

It was a reunion of old friends for Laz Alonso and his co-stars in his new film “Traffik,” which opens April 20. “I’ve known Roselyn Sanchez for over 10 years,” Alonso tells the AFRO. “I know Paula from “Jumping The Broom.” That was 10 years ago so Paula Patton and I actually worked together before. I knew Omar Epps before then and I’ve always since “Juice,” looked up to Omar. I’ve always wanted to work with Roslyn one day and you know, it was just a perfect combination.”

Truly a perfect combination, the script called for them to act as if they were two couples who were also best friends with each other and the actors’ natural chemistry is palpable on-screen.

The Howard University grad was born and raised in Washington, D.C. Alonso was an only child who always dreamed of becoming an actor. “I impersonated family and friends a lot. So I think the beginning of my acting career was learning how to be other people. I wanted to make my family laugh, but I was learning how to also create characters. As an actor you never stop studying others.”

He regrets not taking acting at university, instead getting a degree in the more practical area of marketing.  He explains, “If I could do it all over again. I would’ve at least taken acting classes as my electives. At the time, I really didn’t have anybody to explain how to get into it. I just figured, you know, once I got out of school and I got out of debt, I’d be able to pursue my dreams.”

Many people have had that friend who makes them question their judgment, or maybe their backbone. The friend who doesn’t think before he speaks but is the life of the party and always has the hook-up. That friend who makes us have to ask ourselves if his or her great personality or the fact that we’ve known them for years is enough of a reason to continue the friendship.

Alonso’s character Darren, is that guy. A sports agent who wishes he represented only female athletes because, “When was the last time a Williams sister got arrested?” Well, he might have a point there. However, Darren puts his foot in his mouth so many times and shows his mean streak so often you have to wonder why the other characters put up with him. Alonso reveals he has had friends like this in real life. “Many of my friends are like that,” he laughs. “It wasn’t a stretch because I’ve known a bunch of Darrens in my life.”

Darren has an enviable life but is a character who is difficult to love. Alonso usually plays characters who are likeable precisely because they are realists who embrace themselves and everyone around them for both their strengths as well as their flaws. As an African-American (of Cuban extraction), he has also played his share of roles as law enforcement.

For all the fancy cars, homes, breathtaking Sacramento scenery, and glamorous careers of the characters in “Traffik,” it takes on the very heavy issue of human trafficking. Alonso’s character points out it is second only to drugs and practically ties with arms dealing in terms of the most lucrative black market industries. When the characters in Traffik threaten to get in the way of the ones who are doing the trafficking, things take a deadly serious turn.

Alonso is in one of the most suspenseful scenes in the film. He reveals some behind the scenes, real life logistics that helped get him into the right mindframe to carry it off. “Honestly, we had been shooting for almost 20 hours that day and I had to catch a 7 a.m. flight to go to Boston to shoot ‘Detroit,’ which was Kathryn Bigelow’s film, so I’m tripping. So it was a combination of real life exhaustion and real life tension of having to fight to get the shot before the sun came up. Sometimes though, that’s where you get your best filmmaking; when you’re really, truly under the gun.”

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