It’s a good time to remember the name Brian Tyree Henry. It’s not every day that you get the very last scene in a Brad Pitt film – and then another one like that. On a crash course, without an airbag. His contract killer Lemon, who engages in the driest exchange of words with his partner Tangerine, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (sometimes there is also shooting), is in the slightly super-cool “Bullet Train” but also the only character that stands out in the ensemble Growing fond of pulp archetypes. And not only to those who, in their childhood, also learned life lessons from the little engine Thomas.

When asked when he found out he owned the final scene on Bullet Train, Henry blurted out. “It’s crazy, I didn’t realize it until our director, David Leitch, came up to me and said, ‘We have to bring you back.’ It was incredible to realize how much my character means to people.”

For Henry, this has nothing to do with personal vanity, but with attitude. “I tried to explain to him what it means when the only black main character has to die so young in a movie that’s so big and that’s bringing a lot of young black fans to the theatres.”

Henry is earning respect in Hollywood – and with select roles. It is true that his more recent films also include nonsense like “Godzilla vs. Kong” or the comedy “Superintelligence”. But there are also memorable appearances as a traumatized ex-con in Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation “Beale Street” and his ruthless crime boss with political ambitions in Steve McQueen’s “Widows”.

And he just starred in The Eternals as the first gay superhero in the Marvel Universe. A tragic hero too, who despairs of humanity at Ground Zero in Hiroshima. Roles that Henry chooses very consciously. “I want to show the full range of black realities, especially black men.”

Read at Tagesspiegel Plus: This is how Brad Pitt performs in the action thriller “Bullet Train”

It was also a role that made Brian Tyree Henry famous overnight six years ago: the gangsta rapper Alfred Miles aka Paper Boi in “Atlanta”. The comedy series is just as difficult to categorize as Henry’s character: a local personality struggling with a stagnating career between hip-hop hubris and street-savvy THC wisdom. For Henry, who studied drama at Yale, it was the perfect start.

“What I like most about acting is working in groups. Acting is a collaborative process. When I was shooting ‘Atlanta’ I didn’t go to work; i was hanging out with friends That’s how it felt on ‘Bullet Train’.”

The press marathon comes to an end in Berlin. For Brian Tyree Henry it’s already the second blockbuster in a short time. He still has to get used to these dimensions, but he’s having fun. After prominent roles in novel adaptations and socially critical thrillers (not to mention a Tony nomination for a Broadway play), what interested him in such a CGI monster? Henry laughs: “I once wanted to run away from an explosion in the background in a film in slow motion.” He would like to see more action films, he has already played Killer anyway.

His schedule is tight this afternoon, but when he speaks he sounds cheerful, almost humble. Brian Tyree Henry was born in the Southern States in 1982 to a soldier father and an educator. A career in Hollywood was not preordained.

“My father never dreamed that he would own an action figure of his son. My mother might have thought I could do it, but she never thought it was possible. They’ve seen the Jim Crow era and Vietnam, they’ve seen the world change and they’ve seen how things stay the same.” Henry says he’s been a character since he was a kid. He read a lot and constantly imitated others. His parents gave him every freedom. “It’s weird how you spend your whole life getting to know your parents and then you realize they’ve had a lifetime before you. You gave me the moral integrity to believe in myself.”

That wasn’t always the case. “All my life I’ve been told what I can’t achieve and where my place is. I met so many people who sown doubts in me.” That was the worst thing for him, because at some point you accept these judgments. “Before we meet the people who believe in us.”

For Henry, his status as a black actor in the film industry cannot be taken for granted, which is why he continues to choose his films very carefully. “Every role, big or small, has its challenges. And if this voice has not yet been given space to articulate itself, I see it as my responsibility to make it audible.”

That’s why it was so important to Henry that Lemon survive on Bullet Train. “We see young black men dying every week on TV. You just have to turn on your cell phone. I didn’t want to see this reality reflected in the film.” This awareness is certainly one reason for the popularity of “Atlanta”, the third season of which is currently running in Germany. After the meeting, one thinks briefly, somewhat astonished, how much Paper Boi is in Brian Tyree Henry: the stoic humor, his sense of reality. You would like to hear this voice more often in the future.