Portraying Martin Luther King, Jr. on Film

Jan 20, 2014 | Updated Mar 22, 2014

Actor Robert Guillaume played the role of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1985 film "Prince Jack."

A man who only lived 39 years, but had such a profound impact on so many lives, is not someone one can easily portray. When I was asked to play Dr. King in Prince Jack, I knew I could not refuse, but I also knew he was so familiar and iconic to people all over the world, I was not going to try to "be" him, but do my best to "represent" him and what he stood for. The film covered the years 1960 to 1963, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s influence was steadily growing during that time, culminating in the March on Washington in August of 1963.

Albeit a daunting challenge I made my best attempt to capture a small bit of his essence in the film. I could not truly convey his charismatic personal power (he was a Baptist minister, after all), but I did want to participate to the best of my ability in such a worthy project.

Fortunately there were other times I was able to give a bit of acknowledgement and recognition to this historic man's legacy and I was grateful for those opportunities. In the mid-1980's I hosted a documentary produced for CBS (the local station at the time, KNXT) called Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Look Back, A Look Forward. We shot in Atlanta and also on location at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Dr. King was slain. Standing right on that spot on the balcony, where he died, was a moving experience I will never forget.

An even greater honor was extended to me subsequently by Mrs. Coretta Scott King. She once invited me to attend an MLK Jr. Birthday Celebration. I was asked to sing her husband's favorite hymn, "There is a Balm in Gilead." I went to Atlanta and sang for her, and for his memory. I was truly humbled and deeply honored.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Read all the posts in the series here.