Paramount Pictures upcoming George Clooney-directed crime-comedy, SUBURBICON, hits theaters wide on October 27, 2017.
The film is based on a true story in the 1950s about a peaceful, suburban community that experiences a disturbing reality and must navigate the town’s darkest issues. Karimah Westbrook, who stars alongside Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, plays Daisy Myers who moves her family to an ‘idyllic community’ and sets off a violent racial conflict within the neighborhood.
Your character is based off a real-life figure who was known as Rosa Parks of the north (Levittown, Pennsylvania), how did you prepare to emulate such a character?
Karimah Westbrook: Well to portray Daisy Myers in the film I read her book. She had actually wrote a book called Sticks and Stones: The Myers Family in Levittown and that was very helpful to me in regards to understanding their actual account there. I researched everything that I could online and researching our history in this country, Black people’s history in this country up until that time, things that were going on that year. So one of the fun parts about being an actor and working on rolls is the researching. So I did a lot of researching: online, her book and some documentaries. There were several things that played a part in helping me prepare.
What drew you to the role originally?
Karimah Westbrook: What drew me to the role was just the story. Initially when I first auditioned for the film, I didn’t know that it was based off an actual person, but the scenes that I read, it was, you know, with my son, and I was very intrigued by it. As an actor I am always looking for things that inspire me or just draw me in and that role of Daisy Myers was one of them.
How was working with Mr. George Clooney?
Karimah Westbrook: Working with George Clooney was fantastic. I mean he’s an actor’s actor. You know, because he’s an actor he knows how to communicate, he knows, you know, what you need before you even say what you need in regards to being on set and stuff like that and that was very nice. You know, I worked with lots of great directors I have to say and I’m happy that George is another one to add to the list of great directors that I’ve worked with.
Were the Coen brothers on set at all? Did you get to interact with them?
Karimah Westbrook: I’m not so sure as if they were ever on set at all. I, unfortunately, did not have the opportunity to meet them while working on Suburbicon.
You had some other veterans on set like Julianne and Matt. Did you take anything away from working with them?
Karimah Westbrook: They just reminded me of how great actors could be. You know just watching – I went to the set a couple of times when I didn’t have to work just to watch them. You know, I was a big fan before I was hired onto the project and having the opportunity to actually work with them, it was really great! So a couple of times I went to set just to watch them … and they’re so great, that’s what I was thinking, they’re just so good at what they do so that was one of the things — it was great company you know and it was an honor to work with them overall.
What was your most difficult scene to shoot?
Karimah Westbrook: I would say the entire process was difficult in a sense that I knew it was based off of a true story and I knew that Daisy Myers had actually experienced all these things and more! In real life Daisy had four children not one and a newborn, so can you imagine, you know, one person experiencing that and under those circumstances with more children and their lives at stake as well. So it was just very hurtful, it was very disheartening. I always had a lot of empathy for her so that made the process for me, you know I wasn’t really outside of myself I was trying to live as truthfully as possible so it was tough.
Do you think the film is saying something about American society in the 1950s or something about American society today? And what would that message be?
Karimah Westbrook: I think that this film is saying something about American society in the 1950s. The movie takes place in the 1950s but what’s so fascinating and what’s so great about life I feel is that life is always communicating with us through media, through people, through things and situations. And I feel like Suburbicon sheds a bright light on how much things have not changed. Back when George and everyone decided to do this film, situations like Charlottesville hadn’t taken place and other things hadn’t taken place, the situation was different in the White House so no one really knew but I think it’s almost “the cycle of life” where yeah this film takes place in the 1950s and look what happened, and those things really happened but wow look at us now, we’re in 2017 and look at what’s happening. What is actually different? How much have we progressed? So I think this film is very thought-provoking in that way and that’s what actually makes it exciting on a lot of levels that none of that was planned but wow look how much it reflects the reality of what we’re living in today. And we’re in completely different times. So hopefully it gives a lot of people things to think about. It’s very thought-provoking in that way.
And lastly, any interesting stories from behind the scenes on set?
Karimah Westbrook: Yes! There is an interesting story I’d like to share. Every day on set George would come to work wearing a t-shirt that had the name of his tequila company at the time [Casamigos]. George used to own this tequila company and he would wear these t-shirts with the name of the tequila company and he would wear a baseball cap with the name of the tequila company on it. So when I wrapped, I was done filming the film … I always like to give the director, the people thank you cards, certain departments and the director a present I said “I want to get George something! You know what, I think he really likes that tequila because he’s always wearing those shirts with that tequila brand on it, so he must really like that tequila!” So I went around to all these liquor stores and I bought a bottle for him and I just knew it was going to be the perfect gift I was like “Yeah I got him his favorite tequila!” and I got a little thank you card and I show up on set and I’m like “here I got this for you, I just want to thank you,” there were a couple of people around and they were kind of looking at it and I had given it to him and the make-up artist whispers in my ear “That’s his company … he owns the company” and I said “Ooooh I didn’t know!”. But a couple of minutes later George comes back, he autographs it and he was like “You can keep it!” and I told him “Oooh I didn’t know that it was your company!!” and we had a small little laugh.