Actor Derek Luke has been in the entertainment business for just over two decades, but he’s still figuring out how to use his voice onscreen and off. Luke — best known for his work on “13 Reasons Why,” “The Purge” and his breakout performance in “Antwone Fisher” — admits that it wasn’t always clear what roles to play to best represent Black men in America and combat Hollywood’s stereotypes.

“I said I would never play a slave,” Luke says during Variety’s “#Represent: Black Men in Hollywood” discussion. “My instinct was that it was traumatic enough being in my skin. It was traumatic enough coming to Hollywood and having to come through playing a thug or a gangster role and my spiritual lens was always like, ‘How do I navigate in a space that may reject my race?’”

It’s a complicated question and just one of the many subjects Luke discussed in an intimate conversation with fellow actors Aldis Hodge (“City on a Hill”), Chris Chalk (“Perry Mason”), Jay Pharoah (“Saturday Night Live,” “Bad Hair”) and Algee Smith (“Euphoria”), with the group sharing everything from their early experiences with racism in America and the personal toll of bringing stories of racial injustice to the screen to their persistent struggles in the hair and makeup trailers and why they once said they would (or would never) play a slave onscreen.

The virtual roundtable is the second installment of Variety’s “#Represent” series, dedicated to the intersection of race, culture and Hollywood. And in the conversation about racial injustice and ever-growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, Luke talks about deciding to use his voice to speak out on social issues more often, especially after his young son asked to join a recent Black Lives Matter protest.

“He called me out. I was driving by in the neighborhood and there was another protest happening and I rolled down the window to honk my horn, show support. And he was like, ‘Yo, dad, I want to protest.’ And I’m like, ‘You’re only four and a half years old,'” Luke explains. “And then I realized that any type of schisms, or fear, or apprehensions I had, I was projecting on him. So it was a great opportunity to teach him and show him how to use his voice.”

“I’ve never protested before, not in the street,” he continues. “It was good, because he asked a lot of questions. I didn’t think his perception was that heightened. And I think there was some fear related to it, before I took the streets, outside of COVID. I thought after the protest I was going to have to answer some questions and I got a couple of texts from team members asking me like, ‘Where’s your voice? What’s that about?’ I was trying to avoid it, but it was actually a real good thing. Because, right after that, back in the city where I’m from, they were asking me to participate on more social issues.”