N.O. native Walker joins The Butler cast

Actor and New Orleans native Colin Walker loves the fact that the Prytania Theatre in New Orleans is among the hundreds of theaters across the U.S. where his latest movie, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, opens Friday.

The Los Angeles-based Walker grew up within a few blocks of the historic Prytania in Uptown, the oldest operating movie theater in the city and the only remaining single-screen theater in the state.

“Every time I go home my parents and I walk over there to see movies,” he said this week from Cape Cod, Mass., where he’s vacationing between acting work on the East Coast.

The actor expects his parents to be the first in line to see The Butler.

“They grew up going to the Prytania,” he said. “My dad went to high school down the street from there, so I feel like it’s my theater.”

Filming The Butler in New Orleans was a treat, too. Walker plays John Ehrlichman, chief counsel to President Richard M. Nixon.

“It’s been really great to come home and work,” he said. “I get to see family and eat good food and call it work. Most of the time I just stay with my folks. My mom loves it.”

Forest Whitaker has the title role in The Butler as Cecil Gaines, a fictional character inspired by reporter Wil Haygood’s 2008 story about the late Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served eight presidential administrations.

In addition to Whitaker and Walker, the film’s expansive cast includes Oprah Winfrey, Clarence Williams III, Vanessa Redgrave, Mariah Carey, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber and Robin Williams.

“It’s a joy to be a part of an ensemble of that caliber,” Walker said. “Even though I have a smaller part, everybody at all levels pitched in to create this piece.”

Walker was working in New Orleans, playing FBI agent Collington in HBO’s Treme series, when he approached director Lee Daniels about appearing in The Butler. Daniels was in the city at the time, too, working on his 2012 film, The Paperboy, and preparing for The Bulter.

“I called anybody and everybody who would take my calls, so I could get in to see Lee Daniels,” Walker recalled. “I got to meet him and audition for him.”

Walker admired Daniels’ previous films, which include Precious, the 2009 drama that earned the director an Academy Award nomination and won Academy Awards for best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay.

“I could tell by watching Precious that he’s an actor’s director,” Walker said. “While working with him I learned that he’s very collaborative. He inspired me to trust my instincts. And I really enjoy that he took people who aren’t traditional actors, like Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey, and got strong performances from them.”

Walker will return as Collington in Treme for the final four episodes of the series’ concluding season, scheduled to begin Dec. 1. His Treme character shares most of his scenes with David Morse’s NOPD police officer, Terry Colson, and attorney Toni Bernette, played by Oscar winner Melissa Leo.

“The opportunity to work on the show with these great people and telling what I believe is an important story about the city was a dream come true,” the actor said.

Walker often portrays law enforcement officers such as Collington.

“I’ve played everything from a prison guard to a state trooper to DEA, FBI and CIA agents. Obviously, I look forward to doing more in-depth roles but, for now, I’m grateful that they keep hiring me to be the cop.”