We talk to Blind Side star Quinton Aaron about portraying Michael Oher, losing his real-life mother, his American Idol dream, and the enduring criticism regarding his hit film. PLUS: Leave a comment below for a chance to win 1 of 5 FREE copies of The Blind Side on DVD.
Would you believe Quinton Aaron, the towering star of The Blind Side, originally hoped to achieve stardom by competing on American Idol?
Baptized into his grandparents’ church at the age of 9, the Bronx, N.Y., native grew up singing in church choirs, which is how he developed his passion for gospel and soul music. “Singing was my first love,” he says. “Probably one day I’ll record an album.”
The church is also where the young actor made his acting debut as a shepherd in the annual Christmas play. He went on to audition for various roles and experiencing some success with appearances in films like Be Kind Rewind and TV’s Law & Order. But snagging the plum role of future NFL star Michael Oher in The Blind Side, which became one of 2009’s surprise hits, is obviously the turning point in his burgeoning career.
His rise to fame was unlikely, to say the least. In November 2007, Aaron flew to Los Angeles for his first Blind Side audition, after his mom submitted his name. It was his first time on an airplane and his first trip to Hollywood. After an exhausting search for someone who could embody the massive physical presence of Oher as well as his gentle spirit, writer/director John Lee Hancock had a gut feeling Aaron was the perfect man to capture Oher’s essence the moment the 6-foot-8 actor walked through the door.
Aaron, now 25, was working as a security guard at a New York television studio, and struggling to make ends meet, when he received news that he’d won the part. Sadly, his mom, who had died of a heart attack a few months earlier, was not there to share the moment with him.
“The Blind Side has impacted me in so many ways,” Aaron told UrbanFaith. “I’m getting more work, more recognition … it’s just opened so many doors. Hopefully it continues to do so, getting me to the top where one day I’ll be at the Oscars, nominated for best actor.”
Having an Oscar-nominated film like The Blind Side on his résumé certainly can’t hurt those ambitions. By now, most people know the film is based on the true story of All-American football player, whose life was forever changed after what can only be described as a providential encounter with the feisty Memphis socialite and evangelical Christian Leigh Anne Tuohy (played in the film by the Oscar-winning Sandra Bullock). Having spotted a then-homeless, high school-aged Oher walking the streets of her neighborhood, Tuohy invites Oher into her family’s home where a momentary gesture of kindness evolves into a life-changing relationship for both Oher and the Tuohys.
However, the film has not gone without criticism. Since its release into theaters last fall, The Blind Side has been called out for what some view as a perpetuation of negative racial stereotypes with its portrayal of a white family rescuing a poor black child. In one of the more damning critiques, The Village Voice accused The Blind Side of peddling “the most insidious kind of racism” by depicting white people as “virtuous saviors, coming to the rescue of African Americans who become superfluous in narratives that are supposed to be about them.” Other reviewers have had , finding value and heart in a story that is after all … well, true.
“I don’t understand people having a problem about that,” Aaron says, refusing to let the negativity dim his bright outlook. “It’s a true story. And the family that the story’s about doesn’t have a problem with it, so why should they? You’ve got to think outside of the box.”
And with that, Quinton Aaron is content to count his blessings and the great opportunity he’s been given as a result of being a part of the film. “The story was a blessing for me because of where I was a year ago today as opposed to where I am now,” he says. “Had it not been for the story, I could be homeless right now. I thank Michael Oher for sharing his story and allowing me to portray him in this film.”
The Blind Side comes to DVD on Tuesday, March 23rd.
Win a FREE Copy of The Blind Side on DVD, compliments of UrbanFaith.com and Warner Home Video
To enter, leave a comment below and tell us what you like best about The Blind Side.
Post your responses until Wednesday, March 24. We’ll randomly select FIVE names from among those commenting and notify the winners the next day, Thursday, March 25. The odds of winning depend on the number of comments we receive. There’s a limit of one contest entry per commenter for the giveaway. Comments must be received by March 24 at 11:59 p.m. Central Time in order to qualify. (If you have trouble leaving a comment, please send a message to info[at]urbanfaith.com.)
The retail value of the DVD is $28.99. No purchase is necessary to enter or win, and the giveaway is void where prohibited.