BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Carl Lumbly has had starring roles in TV shows and movies since he made his on screen debut in 1979 with “Escape from Alcatraz.” He’s also had plenty of small roles over the years. The one thing that has remained the same no matter the size of the role has been Lumbly’s deep commitment to doing as much homework as possible to be able to play the character to the best of his ability.

Lumbly has a small role in “I’m Charlie Walker,” a feature film that opens in a limited number of theaters and will be available through Video on Demand starting June 10. It is based on the true story of trucking and construction entrepreneur Charlie Walker (Mike Colter) who leaps open a money-making opportunity in 1971 when two oil tankers collide off the San Francisco coast and spill millions of gallons of crude oil creating an environmental disaster.

Despite only having three trucks, Walker secures one of the most lucrative contracts to clean the coastline that threatens much of the San Francisco Bay. Lumbly portrays one of the drivers who helps with the cleanup operations.

Although Lumbly doesn’t have a major role in the film, he approached working on “I’m Charlie Walker” as if he was the star. Lumbly has always loved to do deep research for his role even if the script has all the information he needs to play the part.

“I love the research. I love the work. I love to find pockets of history that the character can fit themselves into,” Lumbly says. “No one else needs to know this information but it helps me in my development.”

This passion for research comes from Lumbly having studied English, Sociology and Anthropology while in college. Those interests help Lumbly write a cross between a backstory and a full biography of every character he has played.

There is plenty of information on Charlie Walker but nothing definitive Lumbly could use to play his role. It was only Walker’s dogged persistence that got him the big contract because no one wanted to hire him because of the color of his skin.

In the case of playing Willie in “I’m Charlie Walker,” Lumbly pieced together that he would be the kind of person who would have a very reasoned and inappropriate approach to surviving in tough times particularly when it came to race issues.

 “He would be a person who would not stick their head up and not buck the system,” Lumbly says. “He would accept that the same system that drove him out of the southern United States had followed him.

“The acceptance of a lack of opportunity and the acceptance of a certain reduced level of living were all a big part of Willie. I felt if those white individuals who held power were shocked by Charlie Walker, Willie had every right to be shocked by Charlie Walker.”

Actually, Lumbly was only a few years away from being in San Francisco when the events originally unfolded. He moved to San Francisco in 1976 to pursue his acting career.

“It was just after what had happened but the story was still alive,” Lumbly says. “At the time when I got there, I only knew about the tanker crash and the cleanup of the beaches that had been badly soiled. I did not know about Charlie Walker.”

Lumbly soon got an education regarding Walker as he got to see him as a very colorful person involved in the community, local business and politics. It wasn’t until he saw the script for the movie that Lumbly made the connection to him being involved with the cleanup.

The role in “I’m Charlie Walker” gave Lumbly the opportunity to work with Mike Colter. They are among only a handful of Black actors to have portrayed superheroes. Long before the world was made aware of the Marvel Universe of characters where Colter played the title role in “Luke Cage,” Lumbly starred in the short-lived FOX superhero series “M.A.N.T.I.S.” in 1994.

“I will forever be proud of being part of it,” Lumbly says.

““M.A.N.T.I.S.” earned high praise for the opening episode but the quality of following shows was not as high and FOX canceled the series after one year. Lumbly theorizes that the show was ahead of its time in casting and character design as the superhero explosion would not come until years later.

That has not stopped Lumbly from being a major part of the superhero world. He has provided the voice of J’onn J’onnz / Martian Manhunter in the animated series “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” along with the direct-to-DVD animated film “Justice League: Doom” and the video game “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” Lumbly took on the role of J’onn J’onnz’s father, M’yrnn, on “Supergirl.”

Lumbly has plenty of non-superhero credits that include “Alias,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Men of Honor,” “Cagney & Lacey” and “Doctor Sleep.”