Laurence Fishburne Stars In The HBO NYC Urban Fable Always Outnumbered

March 4, 1998

Debuting March 21

Directed By Michael Apted, Film Also Stars Bill Cobbs, Natalie Cole,Laurie Metcalf, Bill Nunn And Cicely Tyson;Drama Based On Walter Mosley's Book "Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned"
"Poverty makes morality a tough issue when every decision you make is based on day-to-day survival. Those moral decisions become even more difficult when you're hungry and a blind eye means a full belly. This is the motivation for much of Socrates' philosophy; it also motivates my stories concerning him."-- Walter Mosley

A story of hope and redemption, ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED introduces us to a new Walter Mosley character -- Socrates Fortlow, a black ex-con living in the heart of downtown L.A. A man who lives with a violent past and a difficult present, Socrates is determined to make peace with the world -- and himself.

Like his historical namesake, Socrates' inner strength profoundly affects those he touches. He shares with his neighbors the lessons of dignity and justice he has learned from a life of impossible choices.

Debuting SATURDAY, MARCH 21 at 9:00 p.m. (ET), the HBO NYC drama ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED stars Laurence Fishburne (Best Actor Oscar(r) nominee for 1993's "What's Love Got to Do With It?," recent Emmy(r) nominee and executive producer of HBO NYC's "Miss Evers' Boys"), Bill Cobbs ("The Bodyguard"), singer Natalie Cole ("Lily in Winter"), Laurie Metcalf ("Roseanne"), Bill Nunn ("The Last Seduction") and Cicely Tyson ("Fried Green Tomatoes"), and is directed by Michael Apted ("Coal Miner's Daughter") from a screenplay by Walter Mosley ("Devil in a Blue Dress"). The executive producers are Fishburne and Mosley. The producers are Anne-Marie McKay ("Junky's Christmas") and Jonathan Ker ("I Just Wasn't Made for These Times") for Palomar Pictures, and the co-producer is Jeff Downer. ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED is adapted from Mosley's book of short stories "Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned," published by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Other playdates: March 21 (4:10 a.m.), 24 (8:00 p.m.) and 29 (10:30 p.m.), and April 2 (11:50 p.m.), 6 (10:30 p.m.) and 15 (11:00 p.m.).


Socrates Fortlow begins his day collecting bottles and cans and redeeming them for five cents apiece at the Redemption Center. It is here that Socrates meets up with his best friend, Right Burke. Socrates tells Right he is going to look for a job at the Bounty Supermarket in Beverly Hills. He can't take much more of looking through garbage.

Socrates stops at Iula's Grill, a restaurant owned and operated by the sassy, no-nonsense Iula, who has her eye on Socrates. When Iula hears that Socrates is going for a job at Bounty, she says he is too good to be a box boy and should come work for her. Uncomfortable with the offer, Socrates leaves and makes the long trek to the Bounty. The manager of the store tries to dissuade him from submitting his application, telling him that he must have a phone to be considered for a job. Socrates earnestly asks her to send in the application anyway; she grudgingly agrees.

The next day, Socrates meets Darryl, a scared, 11-year-old boy who has killed a neighbor's rooster. Socrates insists Darryl clean the bird and stay to eat it. Over the meal, Socrates draws the young boy out of his shell, and Darryl confesses to having witnessed a local bully kill a retarded boy. Darryl is distraught over this murder, but out of fear for his own life, hasn't told anyone else about it. Socrates realizes that the only way for Darryl to overcome his fear is to do something about it.

Socrates takes Darryl down to the Community Center, where they locate the dead boy's picture on the missing persons wall. Socrates calls the boy's mother and lets her know where they can find the boy's body. Because the body is recovered, the bully realizes that Darryl has squealed. However, with Socrates' support, Darryl is able to stand up to the bully and begins to feel better about himself.

On another visit to Iula's diner, Socrates meets Wilfred, a slick hoodlum. Socrates confronts Wilfred, accusing him of being a dope fiend and a thief who is hurting the hard-working black community. Wilfred considers taking Socrates on, but Socrates, with his rock-breaking hands, and Iula, with her frying pan of hot grease, convince him otherwise.

One day a neighbor of Socrates comes in search of her husband Howard, who has left her. Socrates reminds Howard of the importance of family and helps reunite the couple.

After Howard's daughter witnesses a local thug, Pettis, rob and kill another young man, a group of locals hold a trial at Socrates' place. One man wants to call the police, while another wants to kill Pettis, but Socrates explains that you can't wash murder off your hands and convinces them to run him out of town.

Socrates realizes that Right is very sick and persuades him to have a check-up at a nearby clinic. Socrates anxiously awaits the results, and finally learns that Right has cancer, with little hope for recovery. Luvia, Right's landlord and friend, knows about Socrates' violent past but reluctantly allows him to visit because she also knows that he truly cares for Right.

Socrates learns from Bounty's headquarters that there is no record of his application. Armed with this information, Socrates returns to Bounty, where he is intercepted by security guards. After an interrogation, the guards realize that Socrates genuinely wants a job. They sympathize with Socrates and direct him to another supermarket, where he is hired. After getting the job, Socrates visits Iula's and asks her to dinner. Surprised but very pleased, she accepts.

Right is in terrible pain but explains to Socrates that for insurance reasons, he can't get any painkillers. Socrates decides to take matters into his own hands and buys his friend morphine pills. With the morphine kicking in, Right tells Socrates that he wants to go have a drink at the local bar and flirt with a pretty girl. Socrates takes him out, and they reminisce as only old friends can. As the bus approaches to take them home, Right tells Socrates to go on without him, and Socrates reluctantly agrees. As the bus pulls away, Socrates watches Right finish off the last of the morphine. Having helped his best friend die, he takes his seat at the back of the bus to get on with his life.


Walter Mosley initially received attention for his Easy Rawlins mystery novels, one of which, "Devil in a Blue Dress," was made into an acclaimed movie starring Denzel Washington. In his first book of short stories, "Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned," Mosley has created a new character, whom he describes as being "like his namesake, a philosopher. He's certainly different from the original Socrates," Mosley adds, "but in many ways he's the same -- he's involved in the happenings and the events of his time and seeks change. Socrates is not a rich man, but a man who believes in morality and ethics and is trying to discover what is right. I think Socrates is somewhat of a hero and in many ways a role model."

A long-time Mosley fan, Laurence Fishburne stars as Socrates Fortlow and also serves as executive producer along with the author. "When HBO approached me and I read the script, I thought it was wonderful," says Fishburne. "It is the best material that I've run into in a long time."

Appearing in his third HBO original movie, following "Miss Evers' Boys" and "The Tuskegee Airmen," Fishburne was drawn to ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED because it afforded him the opportunity to portray a unique character. "It is the kind of character you would make great sacrifices to play," he says. "You really get the chance to fully play the emotional scale of this man. The relationships Socrates is involved in are marvelous and real and textured and full and beautiful and human."

Director Michael Apted enthuses, "The material is so rich and so good. We can trust the words and trust the thoughts. I think that gives us a rock, a foundation on which we can do our work. We're dealing with a unique and powerful piece of material."

Bill Cobbs, who plays Socrates' friend Right Burke, hopes ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED will shed light on the plight of those less fortunate. "The project is very realistic and deals with the nobility of ordinary people with real problems in our community. These people are fighting and struggling every day to cope with the circumstances around them." Cobbs describes his character as someone familiar to him. "Right Burke is the kind of person that I knew in my own community. Even though he was of meager means and was very ill, his sense of humor enabled him to enjoy life to the fullest. The relationship between Right Burke and Socrates is one of unassuming mentorship and proved to be a steadfast and genuine friendship."

Singer and actress Natalie Cole plays Iula, owner of Iula's Grill. She and Socrates share a mutual admiration and respect that intensifies with the prospect of love. "Iula is an extraordinary woman, with a little edge," notes Cole. "She's got an undercurrent of savvy. She knows what's going on, she's independent, she started her own business, and she's doing ok. And she recognizes something very special in Socrates."

Apted was drawn to ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED because it brought the opportunity to explore other horizons. "I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get into another culture, to really dig into it, to respond to it and go to the places, meet the people, meet the actors, meet the writer of a culture which is different from mine," he says. "It allows me to bring a fresh perspective."

ALWAYS OUTNUMBERED was filmed entirely on location around Los Angeles. Scenes featuring Iula's Grill, the bus stop and the Redemption Center were shot in the Crenshaw District, Leimert Park and downtown Los Angeles. For Apted, in particular, "It was a discovery. It's shocking to think that I've lived in this city for so long and there are areas I haven't really been to or know. It really has been a great adventure."


A recent Emmy(r) nominee and NAACP Award winner for HBO NYC's "Miss Evers' Boys," Laurence Fishburne was nominated for a 1993 Best Actor Academy Award(r) for "What's Love Got to Do with It?" On TV, he starred in the HBO Pictures drama "The Tuskegee Airmen," and won an Emmy Award(r) for "Tribeca." Fishburne also starred in the features "Hoodlum," "Event Horizon," "Just Cause," "Fled," "Searching for Bobby Fischer," "Deep Cover," "Boyz N the Hood," "School Daze," "Othello," "Higher Learning" and "Apocalypse Now." Fishburne won Tony,(r) Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theater World awards for his performance on Broadway in "Two Trains Running."

Bill Cobbs has been seen in such films as "The Bodyguard," "Ed," "Air Bud," "First Kid," "Ghosts of Mississippi," "That Thing You Do!," "Nightjohn," "Decoration Day," "The Hudsucker Proxy" and "Dominick and Eugene."

Natalie Cole's hit records include "Unforgettable," "This Will Be" and "I've Got Love on My Mind." Her acting credits include the TV movie "Lily in Winter" and guest appearances on "Touched by an Angel" and "I'll Fly Away."

Laurie Metcalf starred in the popular sitcom "Roseanne." Among her feature film credits are "Internal Affairs," "Leaving Las Vegas," "JFK" and "Desperately Seeking Susan."

Bill Nunn counts "The Last Seduction," "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead," "School Daze" and "Sister Act" among his numerous credits.

Cicely Tyson has starred in "Fried Green Tomatoes," "The Women of Brewster Place," "Sounder," "Heat Wave," "Bustin' Loose" and "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman."

In addition to "Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned," Walter Mosley has authored six best-selling Easy Rawlins mysteries, including "Black Betty," "A Little Yellow Dog" and "Devil in a Blue Dress," which was adapted for the film of the same name starring Denzel Washington. His other fiction includes "Gone Fishin'," and "RL's Dream."

Director Michael Apted's features include "Nell," "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Gorillas in the Mist," "Gorky Park" and "Extreme Measures," as well as the acclaimed documentary "35 Up" and its predecessors. His TV series "The Lovers" and "Folly Foot" won British Academy Awards, while Apted won best dramatic director awards for "Another Sunday and Sweet F.A." and "Kisses at Fifty." He was executive producer of the HBO Showcase productions "Strapped" and "Criminal Justice."

HBO NYC films were nominated for an unprecedented 21 Emmys(r) last year, with "Miss Evers' Boys" winning five awards, including the President's Award, making it the most honored TV film of 1997. HBO NYC also captured seven CableACE Awards.

HBO NYC Productions, a movie division launched by HBO in 1996, draws on the energy and excitement of its New York base while tapping into the best of the talent pools in both Los Angeles and New York. It provides a forum for projects that others might consider too risky, giving a voice to filmmakers whose different views of the world might otherwise go unheard. Its first major production, "If These Walls Could Talk," which debuted in October 1996, was the most-watched original movie in HBO's history.

HBO NYC productions include:

"Miss Evers' Boys," starring Alfre Woodard and Laurence Fishburne, which debuted in February 1997. In addition to the 12 Emmy(r) nominations and five wins, which also included honors for Made for Television Movie and Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special (Woodard), "Miss Evers' Boys" tied for the most Emmys(r) among all programs. The film also received two CableACE Awards, in the categories of Movie and Actress in a Movie or Miniseries (Woodard), and three NAACP Awards, including Outstanding Television Movie, Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie (Fishburne) and Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie (Woodard).

"In the Gloaming," starring Glenn Close, Bridget Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Sean Leonard and David Strathairn in Christopher Reeve's directorial debut, which aired in April 1997 and received five Emmy(r) nominations. The film also received four 1997 CableACE Awards, the most of any show, including Dramatic or Theatrical Special and Guest Actress in a Dramatic Special or Series (Close).

"If These Walls Could Talk," starring Demi Moore (who also executive produced), Sissy Spacek, Cher (who also made her directorial debut with one part of the trilogy) and Anne Heche. Nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and four Emmys,(r) as well as winner of a CableACE Award, it debuted on HBO in October 1996.

Other previous HBO NYC productions include: "First Time Felon," starring Omar Epps, Delroy Lindo, Rachel Ticotin, Treach and William Forsythe in Charles S. Dutton's directorial debut; "Subway Stories," executive produced by Jonathan Demme, Rosie Perez and Edward Saxon; "Hostile Waters," starring Rutger Hauer, Martin Sheen and Max von Sydow; "Mistrial," starring Bill Pullman, Robert Loggia and Blair Underwood, and "Deadly Voyage," executive produced by Danny Glover.

Also upcoming in 1998 is "When Trumpets Fade," starring Ron Eldard, Frank Whaley and Zak Orth in a story set in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

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