Anthony Mackie wants an open and honest dialogue between African Americans and police.
“To serve and protect”–that’s the motto of dozens upon dozens of police departments across America. Whether it’s settling a dispute or calming a neighborhood, the police are there to maintain order and civility. And yet, that motto has never meant anything for many individuals–particularly African Americans. From Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice to Alton Sterling and Jocques Clemmons and many more, African Americans have all too often felt the cold, hard oppressive boot of the local police department, leading to wrongful imprisonment or, even worse, death.
The conversation between African American communities and the police have continued to stay strained, echoing the strife-ridden racial relationships in America. It’s a sad state of affairs, one that will hopefully begin to erode sooner rather than later. And for revered actor Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), in order for that to happen, an open, honest, non-judgmental conversation has to happen–one that he hopes Kathryn Bigelow’s Detriot can spark. The Knockturnal’s Chasity Saunders had the opportunity to sit down with Anthony Mackie to discuss his reuniting with Kathryn Bigelow, contextualizing manhood and putting aside politically correct culture to have a real conversation about the relationship between African American communities and the police. Check out what Mackie had to say below.
In this film, I think that your character is one of the single most important roles that we see. Simply because it’s such a dark and dramatic film but with your character, we see an image of a strong black man, who’s not going to back down, and I think that was so important for us to see in a film where everything else was just so heavy. Can you speak to why you chose this film and what you did to prepare yourself for this film?
Anthony: Well, first of all, thank you. Second, what Kathryn [Bigelow] did with this movie and what Mark Boal did with the script was something that intrigued me in a great way because they really gave you every aspect of masculinity and how to utilize it correctly. As a man, if you respect me, I respect you, if you show me dignity, I’m going to show you dignity. But if you get out of box, we’re going to have a problem. I grew up with a great man in my house and my dad was very diligent about how we dealt with other men. And that was something that I wanted to portray in this character. You never let a lesser man justify your masculinity.
Yeah, it definitely comes across. And of course, this isn’t your first time working with Kathryn, so what was this experience like, collaborating with her this time around?
Anthony: It was fun. Kathryn is my safe place. Every time I talk to her, every time I see her we laugh, giggle and have fun. I love her to death and I know that when I step on set she’s going to get the best performance out of me and I know if I don’t give her the best performance, she’s going to cut it to make it look really good. You don’t get that from every director. If she called me and asked me to do the outgoing message on her phone, I’m going to do it.
Right, there seems to be a trend in Hollywood right now where we are having our stories told a bit more. Do you think that that’s a good thing and will you continue to sign onto projects like this?
Anthony: Yes, it’s a very good thing and I think it’s not just our stories, I think you’re seeing a lot of stories about women being told now, Hidden Figures was a monumental occasion last year. And you’re seeing a lot of stories about different ethnicities, there are a lot of Latino women and men that are out there, doing work and telling stories. So it’s great to see that Hollywood is learning that the racial understanding in America is that we want to see other people doing other sh*t.
Yeah, it’s so unfortunate, though, that this film brings up so many emotions. As I was leaving my press screening I was pulled over by the police and I immediately started praying. And I was like “Oh my God, I just came from seeing Detroit” and it’s kind of unfortunate because that is something that happens to us as African Americans when we are pulled over by the police. In your own words, what do you think is a solution with moving forward because this happened, what, nearly 50 years ago? But it’s still relevant today. So how do we deal with that and how do we take away the fear when it comes to dealing with the police?
Anthony: Well, I think it’s not so much the fear, it’s the frustration and anger. I think police need to understand why black men are so aggressive towards them and why black people are so afraid of them. And black people need to try and understand why the police are so afraid of us. Have that conversation and meet somewhere in the middle because you can’t be in a relationship without communication and with the verdict for that brother Castile being murdered, with that verdict coming out, I think-
One year anniversary of that right now.
Anthony: We should take his life and we should take that loss and use it for communication. And make his life mean something because it was lost. And give people and police the opportunity to just have the most ignorant, dragged-out conversation about race and police brutality and say what you think and don’t be PC.
And make it public so we can all hear it.
Anthony: And make it public and don’t be PC. If you’re a cop and you feel a certain way, you say it.
Absolutely. Well, I think Detroit definitely opens up that conversation so thank you so much, you did a phenomenal job and I can’t wait for people to see you in this film.
Anthony: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Check Detroit out when it hits theaters August 4.