These days he's hitting red carpets, signing autographs and polishing his Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. He acted alongside Laurence Fishburne in "Biker Boyz," with Katie Holmes in "Pieces of April" and next, he'll be seen with Val Kilmer in a full-blown thriller.
And just think: Last year's "Antwone Fisher" was Derek Luke's first film.
"[My next] movie is called 'Spartan' and it'll be out in March," Luke enthusiastically reported at the premiere for "The Matrix Revolutions" (see "Keanu Reeves Says Goodbye To Neo At Premiere Of 'The Matrix Revolutions' "), where he turned up to watch Fishburne help lay the sci-fi trilogy to rest.
"I play the prodigy to Val Kilmer's character, who is [a] government official," he explained. "We are part of [an] agency that goes deep undercover. And we're out to discover this slave ring in this other country that I don't want to name."
Luke, who was waiting tables just four years ago, is understandably excited to have had the opportunity to appear in such a diverse range of films so soon in his career.
"It's a new experience," he said. "[Moving from] 'Antwone' and then 'Biker Boyz,' [where] you have fractional words and they yell, 'Stunts! Stunt guys!' and then you wait for maybe four or five hours until your stunt guys finish shooting your part. So it's a little different experience, but I enjoy it!"
"Spartan," the latest effort from "State and Main" writer/ director and "Glengarry Glen Ross" writer David Mamet, begins with Kilmer being called upon to rescue the U.S. President's kidnapped daughter. William H. Macy ("Seabiscuit," "Fargo"), a frequent Mamet collaborator, also stars.
"[The movie is] action-suspense-slash-David Mamet," Luke said, smiling. "The reason why I'm saying that is [because] I didn't know a lot about David Mamet, except some of the rumors I had heard — you know, [what] a great writer he is. [But] every time somebody told me to mention this film, [they said], 'Just say it's a David Mamet film! They'll understand it's intelligent [and there's] complexity in our characters.'"
Filmed in Boston and Los Angeles, "Spartan" wrapped shooting over the summer and hits theaters March 12.