Exclusive: ‘Crown Heights’ Cast Talks About The Film, Social Justice, And More

We got a chance to interview the cast, director, and real life inspiration for the film on the red carpet premiere.

With each passing day, the issues of Social Justice and equality become every more pressing. However, these issues are nothing new. They’ve persisted in America for decades and centuries. This film chronicles some of the issues facing the African American community through the case of Colin Warner, an 18 year old black male who was falsely convicted of murder in 1982. As a result, he spent two decades behind bars. If not for the painstaking loyalty of his friend Carl King, he might still be in bars today. King’s work helped to see Colin freed in 2001. The story is harrowing reality that was brought to life for a larger audience to see, hear, and know about through the work of filmmaker Matt Ruskin, who wrote and directed the film. The film, “Crown Heights”, comes out in theaters this Friday, August 18th. We got a chance to talk with the cast of the film, such as Lakeith Stanfield and Nnamdi Asomugha as well as director and writer Matt Ruskin and even the real life people behind the story, Carl King and Colin Warner. Check out our interviews with them below.

Ron Canada

What attracted you to this film?

Ron: Well any matter of human rights or social justice attracts me. I consider myself a person who supports human rights of any and every kind. I’m an African American Male. I’m 68 years old. The country has changed a great deal. I’m still a part of the group that is African American males who are identified as a societal problem, despite the fact that Barack Obama is president of the United States. We still have had young men, Trayvon, and Michael Brown, Mr. Castille, Walter Scott, being gunned down in this country in 2017, not on the whim, but on the impulse of police officers. So the matter of what is just and equal justice for all people despite their color or sexual orientation is very very real to me. Like a great number of African American families, I’ve had someone incarcerated in my family. We incarcerate more people than any other country in the world per capita. Why is it that the country that boasts of its freedom, we have the most people behind bars? This bothers me a great deal and I’d like to contribute in any way, artistically hopefully, in getting this addressed in my life time. Whether I live to see it or not, I want my country to live up to it’s promise. To live up to it’s ideals. Let’s have the bad people behind bars but let’s stop locking people up willy nilly as a solution to social problems.

Carl King

What’s it like having this incredible harrowing story told on film?

Carl: It’s wonderful, I can’t explain it. Most of all for Colin to see that the project came to this magnitude and other people will see it and hopefully they’ll learn from it. We want people to know that ordinary people can make big differences.

How was working with Matt Ruskin?

Carl: Matt was wonderful to work with. Actually we had a deal with Warner Brothers and we had two options and it didn’t work out and Matt, an independent filmmaker saw the story on This American Life and got in touch with us and told us he wants to do this story justice. This is the type of story he’s looking for. Independent filmmaker, ok, he doesn’t have a bunch of money but he has the passion. So we end up giving him the chance to get funding and finally we started shooting like two years ago.

Colin Warner

Did you ever imagine that your story would be turned into a movie?

Colin: No. I never even imagined coming out of prison. Much less making a movie. I’m very thankful and making the best of every minute.

Do you think Matt Ruskin did a good job bringing your story to life?

Colin: I think he did a good job bringing to life in a few amount of minutes it took to capture 21 years. I think he did a good job.

Matt Ruskin:

How was working with Colin and Carl in creating the script and filming? 

Matt: I spent a lot of time with them. They’re such great guys. They’ve become close friends. They’ve become really involved in the process. I just wanted to get as much as I could directly from them and incorporate that into the film. It was a great collaboration.

Was filming difficult with a low budget?

Matt: It’s always a challenge. I think at any level people want more time and money, but we had a really talented group of people who are really devoted to the film. It was demanding but it was a great experience.

Nnamdi Asomugha

Tell me about your character.

Nnamdi: My character is Carl King. He’s a Trinidadian kid that comes over to America in search of the American Dream just for him to get sort of rattled when his friend gets locked and wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. You sort of see Carl who’s this guy that has to finish everything that he starts. You see him take on this mission all by himself to try and free his friend.

Lakeith Stanfield

Tell me about your character.

Lakeith: I play Colin Warner, a man who spends twenty years in prison for a murder he did not commit who was an immigrant from Trinidad and he moved to Crown Heights in the 1980s at the height of the sort of drug issue between law enforcement and people of the inner city at the time.

This is a really intense character to bring to life. What are some of the difficulties of that?

Lakeith: Honestly, portraying a situation that I myself have not experienced, so I had to draw from some of my other experiences and sort of weaving that into the character was a difficult process. It proved to be difficult to come to do that while also keeping in mind to keep intact his original heritage.

The special screening at Metrograph was presented by IWC Schaffhausen.

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