A photo Cory Hardrict posted to his Facebook page a few weeks ago shows him standing in the street surrounded by a bevy of local children.
The street and children are Moroccan, and he's dressed as a Navy Seal for a role in a film set to be released later this year.
Judging by the faces of the kids surrounding him, Hardrict's smile is contagious. It's the same one he flashed many years ago, playing with friends outside the Crossroads Apartments in Sauk Village, or at the Sauk Village Community Center.
Hardrict, who most recently was selected by director Clint Eastwood for a supporting role opposite Bradley Cooper in the upcoming film "American Sniper," is starring in another top-marquis feature film which opened this weekend, "Transcendence," starring Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman.
"I play Joel Edmond, the mastermind behind the R.I.F.T. unit that doesn't want Johnny Depp's character to save mankind," he said of his role in the sci-fi thriller. "So we do everything in our power to destroy his plans."
It's not his first entry into the genre. He previously helped Aaron Eckhart fight invading aliens in the 2011 film "Battle Los Angeles." And his turn alongside Eastwood is his second as well, having appeared in the 2008 movie "Gran Torino."
He's come a long way from the south suburbs.
"People really don't know this, but I lived in Ford Heights until I was 8 years old," he said. "Then Sauk Village, then Chicago Heights. I take it all with me into my characters."
Along the way he had his share of ups and downs, including a low point, the loss of his mother.
"My mother's passing is the reason I'm so driven in life. I made her a promise to see it through," he said.
But Hardrict's had his share of supportive figures in his life as well. Early on, there was his Uncle Odell, "who believed I would make it and would tell me on his porch back then."
He's still friends with Rickover Junior High classmate Cortez Stewart. "He's like my brother to this day," he said. "His mother took me in, and I never will forget that."
And the seeds of a career in acting were firmly planted in place at Bloom Trail High School, where Hardrict was mentored by, as he calls her, "The Great Mrs. Emily Means-Willis."
"She really believed in me and encouraged me to give acting a shot, Hardrict said. "Once I got over those fears, I never looked back. I was so shy, but playing another person, it all goes out the window for me."
Hardrict now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actor Tia Mowry-Hardrict, and son, Cree Taylor Hardrict. But he hasn't forgotten his roots in the area. In fact, he's teaming up with fellow south suburban native Keke Palmer in another film out later this year, "Brotherly Love."
It's just one more step up in a career that seems continually on the rise.
"God has blessed me tremendously and I feel like I'm just getting started," he said.
"Transcendence" opened in area theaters Friday.