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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2005
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Lucas Black of Speake, right, who has appeared in 'The War' with Kevin Costner and 'Sling Blade' with Billy Bob Thornton, will appear Saturday with Bob Waggoner, chef at Charleston Grill in Charleston, S.C., on Turner South's 'Off the Menu.' The program is an original series that pairs a guest celebrity with a world-class chef. The two hunt or fish for their fare then prepare a five-star meal.
Courtesy Photo
Lucas Black of Speake, right, who has appeared in "The War" with Kevin Costner and "Sling Blade" with Billy Bob Thornton, will appear Saturday with Bob Waggoner, chef at Charleston Grill in Charleston, S.C., on Turner South's "Off the Menu." The program is an original series that pairs a guest celebrity with a world-class chef. The two hunt or fish for their fare then prepare a five-star meal.

Talking turkey
Lucas Black to turkey hunt, eat like a king on Turner South

By Jay Wilson
DAILY Staff Writer

jwilson@decaturdaily.com 340-2449

Once heralded as a child actor, Lucas Black is no longer a child.

He is still an actor, though, and his next appearance will be as himself on Turner South's "Off the Menu" (Channel 73 for Charter subscribers; Channel 37 for PCLsubscribers) on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Born in Decatur, the Speake resident is best remembered for his portrayal of Frank Wheatley, the adolescent friend of Billy Bob Thornton's mentally impaired Karl Childers in "Sling Blade."

"I sure like the way you talk," Black says as "Sling Blade's" Wheatley.

"Mmm-hmm," Thornton's "Karl" replies in a gruff, growling drawl. "I like the way you talk."

The Black-Thornton combination, featuring Black's authentic Southern accent and Thornton's absurd guttural tone, launched both actors to mega-stardom.

Ironically, it was Black's voice that caught the attention of a Turner South producer, landing him the opportunity to turkey hunt and eat like a king.

"That voice of his, it's so incredibly distinctive," said Nicole Bentley, a six-year veteran producer with Turner South.

Black, a 2001 graduate of Speake High School, grew up hunting and fishing. He said he prefers fishing over acting.

"Off the Menu" is an original series that pairs a guest celebrity with a world- class chef. The two hunt or fish for their fare, then prepare a five-star meal.

Bentley said she immediately thought of Black because of his voice and his reputation as a genuine, authentic Southerner who loves to hunt and fish.

Black had recently wrapped production on his latest project, "Jarhead," a film about Desert Storm written by a Desert Storm veteran.

He took several weeks off to film with Turner Broadcasting's regional network, traveling to Troy, Mo., for a turkey hunt. Once on location, Black met his show's host, Bob Waggoner. Waggoner is executive chef at Charleston Grill in Charleston, S.C.

"I came out here with Turner South to turkey hunt and try to take down a big gobblin' tom," Black said. "We taped at the O'Brien Estate . . . maybe we'll get lucky."

As luck would have it, Black served as guide and hunter while taping the episode. Unfortunately, Bentley said, they did not manage to kill a turkey during their hunt. That is where Black's true passion for hunting and fishing presented itself.

"(Black) is actually our third cameraman," Bentley said. "He saved the day."

Bentley explained that turkey hunting is a definite challenge, especially with a camera crew in tow. Black had filmed his own turkey hunt weeks before. The viewers will see his personal hunt during Saturday's program.

"When he says he grew up hunting, that's what he did," Bentley said. "(And) he writes great e-mails!"

The show begins before dawn with Black and Waggoner in full camouflage, hunting turkey. Black later shares turkey calling tips. After the hunt it's Chef Waggoner's turn to show off for Black.

Waggoner gives the young actor a cooking lesson, showing viewers how to prepare seared turkey breast and grilled asparagus, among other high-quality dishes, in the wilderness.

"The cooking part was the best," Black told Turner South. "I love to eat, and I can eat all the time."

Waggoner takes the film crew into Charleston Grill, where he teaches viewers how to prepare a turkey breast salad. Bentley said the viewer learns a little about hunting and cooking, how to bag the game and prepare it for a meal.

Black said he grew up on Smith Lake near Cullman. His favorite hunting season is deer, which he hunts only with a bow.

"I don't even own a rifle," he said.

Black said hunting is about spending time with family for him. He said even if he didn't get anything, making memories with his family.

Bentley said that is the appeal of Turner South's "Off the Menu." Touted as the only network to celebrate and showcase the Southern experience, she said viewers are tuning in to family-oriented programs that allow them to return to their roots.

Black, 22, got his start in the movie industry through an open call for Kevin Costner's 1994 film "The War." He got the part then earned a spot on the short-lived series "American Gothic."

His personality caused production staff to remember him when they sought actors for "Sling Blade" in 1996. That year, Black, then 13, acted in Thornton's film and appeared in "Ghosts of Mississippi," the tale of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

His first lead role came in 1999 with "Crazy in Alabama" opposite Melanie Griffith. But Black turned down the lead in "The Horse Whisperer" when he was asked to change his accent.

"You should just pick the part where you can be yourself," he told interviews.

Bentley said Black is "very different" from Hollywood's "next big thing." He is not like the others in that he has remained true to his roots.

"I could see him hunting and fishing if he decided to stop making movies," the producer said.

It seems Lucas Black continues to pick the parts where he can just be himself.

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