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Catching up with Charles 'Roc' Dutton

Baltimore's own Charles S. Dutton, star of screens big ("Gothika") and small (Fox sitcom "Roc"), Emmy winner for directing HBO's "The Corner," returns to movie theaters this weekend with "Least Among Saints."

The film, from writer-director-star Martin Papazian, centers on an emotionally scarred war veteran suddenly having to play father-figure to an orphaned boy. Dutton, who said he remembers many friends who returned from Vietnam with emotional issues they never seemed able to stare down, plays a police officer sympathetic to the vet's plight.

We caught up with Dutton, 61, at his Howard County home as he prepared to head for New York, where he hopes to set in motion a return to his first love, the stage, next year.

'How did you become connected to 'Least Among Saints?'

[TV and film producer] Marty Papazian Sr., the father, I've known for many years, and I've always had a lot of respect for him. I didn't know the son. When the son said to his father, "Man, if I could get Charles Dutton in this movie, that would be great," the dad said, "Well, I know Charles, I'll ask him."

I got a call from the father, and with my respect for him, I said, "Let me see the script." Marty has always had great taste. ... I got the script, and I was quite impressed with it.

I sat down with Marty Jr., and this guy totally convinced me that he was ready and he could get the movie done. I just believed he was a good filmmaker and got on board that way.

Maybe you saw something of yourself, with the multiple hats he was going to be wearing as writer, director and actor?

I've had more than a couple of chances at that, and it is an exhausting, exhausting effort. You do it once, and you say you'll never do it again. But then you get a great idea, and you say, "Well, I want to write, direct and star in it." We're crazy, artists.

Of all the various hats you've worn, do you have a favorite? Maybe directing?

I guess I'm in a love-hate relationship with directing. My analogy of directing, it's like washing a battleship with a Q-Tip. I try to pick my shots ... directing is exhausting.

So there's pleasure to be found in playing a small part in somebody else's film?

Absolutely.

Do you have another project you're working on?

I directed a movie in Philadelphia that we finished a couple of months ago, so we're in post-production. It's an independent film I did called "Must be the Music." A music industry drama ... I came up with an interesting story that's both generations, old-school and hip-hop. It's an examination and look into the corruption, the treachery of the music business.

Why return to the stage?

I'm going to go back to the stage for a year. I think my soul needs it, in a way. I think my artistic essence needs it. It is where I started.

Do you still get called "Roc?" Does that ever get tired?

You know why it doesn't get tired? Roc is my real nickname. I had that nickname since I was 10 or 11 years old. The only reason the show got the name "Roc" is because for a week, we sat at HBO, trying to figure out a name for the show, and could not come up with a name. So Chris Albrecht, who basically got me to sign with HBO and developed the show, said, "Roc, why don't we just call the damn thing 'Roc,' so we can go home?"

'Least Among Saints' opens Friday at the AMC Owings Mills 17.

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