Our very own Chasity Saunders sat down with “Loving” writer/director Jeff Nichols and star Terri Abney.
Watch our exclusive interview below:
Your character goes through many emotions watching her sister’s struggle. Can you just talk about what that was like for you and the different elements that you had to tackle in the film?
Terri Abney: Honestly, it was an honor and it was a privilege. The reason why it was because I was already aware of the case, and I have sisters so I know how it is to want to protect someone. To fight for someone. To care about someone. I lost my grandmother when I was sixteen. When that happened I had a sister who was younger than me, and I was in school in DC, and we were homeless. I had an individual who I was working for tell me at sixteen that, “You know what girl? You can emancipate yourself, and get a job, and take care of your siblings”. I was going through the process of emancipating myself so I could attempt to take my siblings and raise them. My brother, who’s in the Army, moved from Philadelphia to Virginia and he took me in for my last year of high school, which was how I learned about the case. I used a lot of that wanting to protect my siblings, and my grandmother, and her sister’s story to really delve into the character. Then learning the way of the world outside of that, the emotional part of it, learning the way of the world really helped me to understand the conflicts that was happening.
Talk about what it was like to work with Jeff. He’s so charming, and so amazing.
Terri Abney: Charming. Sweet. One of the best directors to work with. An actor’s director, because he understands the plight of actors, and he’s so compassionate, and caring. He wants you to get your best performance, so he takes his time with you. He makes sure that you understand the character. He gets what he wants in terms of the performance he wants also.
Can you talk about the importance of Mildred and Richard’s story today?
Terri Abney: It relates so much to so many aspects of our life because at the core the story’s about love. Individuals who love others of the same sex are still fighting the good fight even though we’ve been able to overcome the hurdle a little bit. They’re still being discriminated against. People of color are still being discriminated against. Our Presidential debate is showing us that many things haven’t changed. We’re like, “Woo, President Obama’s in office”. I remember I was in my freshman year of college, super excited. I’m like, “We got a black President. My President is black. My Lambo blue”. Exactly. We’re excited. We’re proud.Not that much has changed. Then, even thinking about maybe having a woman for President, we’re moving forward, but slowly.
Earlier this year you released another film, Midnight Special, which was so different from this film. How did you transition from doing something so science fiction based to a film like Loving?
Jeff Nichols: This is the fifth film I’ve made, and there is continuity there. The continuity is in the emotional core of each film. That’s the one unifying thing, I think, that I try to do. I don’t always accomplish it to everyone’s satisfaction. What I try to do is make a film, and make a point in the film, that emotionally reaches out, and touches the audience. Makes them feel something that I felt when I was inspired to start telling the story. When you’re approaching things from that perspective, it’s not so much a calculation of genre, or not genre, it’s really a calculation of emotion. The same mechanics that went in to the emotional gut-punch that I find in Midnight Special are very similar to the mechanics that take you all the way to Richard Loving at the end of the bed saying, “I can take care of you. I can take care of you”. That for me, that was the fulcrum point. Really it’s the same tools. It’s the same result that you’re going for. The genre is just the fun part around the edges.
Now, you bring me to my next question. You said this is your fifth project. This is also the fifth time you’ve worked with Michael Shannon, who seems to be a little bit of a gem at this point. Can you talk a little bit about working with him? He has a smaller role in this film. Has that affected the way that you direct? Or that you approached directing this film?
Jeff Nichols: Michael Shannon taught me how to be a director. He was the lead in my first film, Shotgun Stories. I knew nothing. I very much took my lead from him. He was very instrumental in making me the director I am today.
Now, you made a very interesting choice to introduce us to the Loving’s when they’re already in love, and they’re already expecting their first child. What was it that made you want to do that? Introduce us to them at that moment instead of showing their love story? What was that approach for you and why you made that decision?
Jeff Nichols: I think as a storyteller, you’re looking for representational scenes. You’re looking for scenes that in the moment the behavior plays totally logically. That’s what they would have said. That’s how they would have reacted. At the same time it’s telling you more; it’s a compound statement. It’s showing you where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going. Those scenes are hard to come by. That’s what that opening scene feels like to me. You’re automatically caught up to the fact that they’ve had a relationship. They’ve been intimate with one another. That’s all the foreground conclusion, but even a more important conclusion is that they love one another. You can just feel it in that particular moment, because what a special moment when your wife tells you that she’s pregnant.
The film hits theaters on November 4, 2016.