Fifteen years ago, we were properly introduced to Lauren London via her memorable performance as New New in Chris Robinson’s ATL (which marked Robinson’s feature film directorial debut), which just celebrated its 15th anniversary in March. “Thanks for aging me, Khal,” London says via Zoom. Embarrassed, I mention to London that the film is an important milestone. ATL, a hood romance dripping in Atlanta swag and iconic for its place in the realm of hip-hop in the cinema, is a memorable film for those who know. (“I could not have asked for a better way to jump into film,” London admits.) That’s why, 15 years later, people were beyond excited to see London make her return to acting with Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, playing the wife of the film’s protagonist, Michael B. Jordan.
“It brought a tear to my eye,” London shares when asked if she’d seen the adoration for seeing London and Jordan together in a film, “because I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue on this path of art. To be well-received from my community was… That’s all we can ask for, right?” True indeed. London’s been good in any hood ever since ATL hit theaters, and over the last few years, the people have applauded her strength, especially after what she’s had to deal with when it comes to the death of her partner, Nipsey Hussle, two years ago.
Keep in mind, one doesn’t go into this kind of junket interview asking about that situation directly. My thoughts were solely square on London’s return to the world of acting and if she plans on coming back after this. Initially, I figured we could discuss how she got the role, which would help explain her motivation for coming back to Hollywood. At least, that was what I thought. London’s answer, which made so much sense in hindsight, shifted the course of our conversation entirely.
“Well, Mike reached out to me personally for this movie,” London explains. “It was definitely at a time in my life where I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue acting. If I was going to do it, I wanted to make sure that I was an authentic contributor.” In digging deeper, it was Jordan’s relationship with Nipsey that made him think of London for the role of Pam, the wife of John Clark (Jordan) in Without Remorse. Laid out in the trailer, we find out that Clark’s family was taken from him, setting the US Navy SEAL senior chief to exact revenge on those who have done him wrong before they destroy life as we know it. In a conversation with Jordan about his decision to reach out to London, it was their friendship that made him think of her. “I’ve known Mike for a while,” London says. “Mike was actually real cool with me and Nip. Mike was a friend of ours.”
“Lauren,” Jordan shares, “she’s [been] a good friend of mine for a minute. I was cool with Nip, and obviously it’s a sensitive time and situation. Especially with her, just out of pure respect, we were trying to think of who would be a good fit for the character. And we miss Lauren on screen.
“I woke up in the middle of the night,” Jordan continues, “and I was like, man, this is the craziest idea. She’s probably going to tell me, ‘Mike, get the hell off my phone.’ I was like, I’ve got to ask. As respectfully as possible, [I] asked if she would be into it. So she said, ‘Send me the script.’ She hit me back and she was into it.”
That was just the beginning. Having someone like London, who understands more than most where Jordan’s character is in the film, sounds like it was vital in not just delivering a realistic performance, but displaying what that kind of loss looks like on screen. “We just had real conversations on grief,” London shares. “What that feels like and what it looks like. Because he was so respectful of the space that I was in, and just being like a brother trying to extend his hand out to his fellow sister, it made it a safe environment for me to be able to go back into.” Jordan echoes London’s sentiments, noting that the relationship between Pam and John, and it being removed from John’s life, “was the driving force throughout the rest of the movie. It was really important, and she played a huge part in it.” He adds that London “helped me out tremendously” in establishing a framework for what Clark is dealing with in the film, adding that London’s “a really great scene partner. She’s really talented.”
That last accolade is important, as London reminds us that Without Remorse was shot back in 2019 (the film, which was produced by Paramount Pictures, had its theatrical release date moved repeatedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, later having Amazon Prime Video step in to distribute the film). “I was really in a fog,” London admits. “Life has changed for me in such a way that now I don’t want to just work to maintain a lifestyle. I want to work to have a true existence on Earth and to really be aligned with purpose.”
Without Remorse, on its face, is the most action of action films. It starts out massive, features Jordan going through all kinds of hell (the battle with the guards in his cell from the trailer—which featured Nip’s “Succa Proof” as its soundtrack—is just the tip of the iceberg), and could very well be the beginning of Jordan establishing himself as a proper franchise action star. The heart of the film is the journey John Clark is on, finding a way to refocus his path to honor loved ones while leaving the world in better shape than how he found it. That message is expressed wonderfully in the scenes where Pam and John interact, allowing us to truly feel what’s made him so determined to see his mission through. For London personally, that can take a number of forms at this point, be it supporting Puma’s International Women’s Day efforts or “stepping into producing content with an intention to inspire and encourage, about our community, for our community. It all has intention. It all is just trying to be honest, be authentic, keep it genuine,” she says. Which is exactly why London was the perfect choice for this role.
“I’m older now,” London explains, “so my outlook on life is a little different. I’m OK with being behind the scenes.” It’s a trait one notices when speaking with creatives who’ve sat at home for the last year due to the pandemic. I’ve spoken to a number of actors who are writing and/or looking to produce their own projects over the second half of the quarantine, and London attributes that to one key idea. “Ownership. Ownership’s very important. I was in a household that was about ownership, and I think it’s time that I get out of my way and put my best foot forward.”
Where Lauren London’s new path will take her is currently unknown, but it’s great to know that she’s focused, healing, and striving to make a better way. We’ll be watching, hoping that the next 15 years will be brighter than the last.