‘The First Purge’ is the fourth installment in the Purge franchise and will hit theaters on July 4th. The film is a prequel to the other films, as it follows the rise of the very first Purge, a 12-hour period of lawlessness. We had the chance to sit down with actors Lex Scott Davis and Y’lan Noel to discuss their work in the film.
The Knockturnal: The First Purge seems to be inspired by our current political climate and tackles more social issues compared to the previous films in the series. How important was it for you guys to play a part in bringing the reality of these issues to life on the big screen?
Lex Scott Davis: It’s definitely important to be able to share these stories with people, and also for them to see us overcome what is in this film. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s obviously dealing with some political issues that we are dealing with today as Americans in the fictional realm of the Purge. And for the both of us, I do believe that it was our first experience like this one and also our director’s first experience with a studio feature, so there’s a lot of responsibility in taking on the weight of these issues and also to be able to shed light on them and create a healthy dialogue about them while still being entertaining and while still being able to be heroic and for us to overcome.
Y’Lan Noel: Ultimately, like everything Lex said. It’s good to be grounded and true, that’s what great storytelling is about. But I think ultimately through all the things that the Purge brings up, it kind of symbolizes how people come together in a time of crisis to protect themselves and their loved ones. And like Lex is iterating, it’s resilience that’s the biggest takeaway from the film in my opinion.
The Knockturnal: Lex, you play a very headstrong and resilient character in the film. Was there anything about your character that you could personally relate to? Was there anything about your character that was just completely off base from who you are in real life?
Lex Scott Davis: I think a lot of Nya is relatable to most women just because she is a caregiver and a provider, and that is just a nurturing quality that we all as women have. You see her taking care of her brother, but then you also see her wanting to take care of the community, and gather as many people as she can and get them to safety. That to me is relatable, as I care heavily about my family and friends, and just when you know people are in need and wanting to help them and do whatever you can to help them, and just put yourself secondary to the others in need. That for me is what was easy to pull from my reality. Of course, she is from New York and I am from Baltimore, so the only difference would be the New Yorker accent and her nuances that I had to put on to make sure that when someone from New York watches this, they feel that she grew up with them and grew up around the same neighborhood, and experience the same things that New York kids got to experience. I wanted to completely remove Lex out of the equation and only focus on embodying Nya.
The Knockturnal: Y’lan, this is your first major role on the big screen. Was there anything you specifically needed to do to prepare for this role? Did you experience any challenges?
Y’Lan Noel: Things I did to prepare, I watched a lot of Purge in my hotel room. There was an element of Black Panther to Dmitri, so I watched that. I just tried to prepare myself for battle and an ideological way as much as I could.
The Knockturnal: Y’lan, your character seems to deal with an internal battle throughout the film when it comes to doing what he believes is right for him and what is right for the people around him. Have you ever been in a similar predicament? Would you have handled this the same way your character did in the film?
Y’Lan Noel: His character is brought out in times of crisis, when his back is against the wall. I’ve definitely been in situations where I’ve had to maintain an open mind. The cool thing about Dmitri’s arc is that he starts one way and he ends up in a completely different way and I think that’s really cool to watch. Because ultimately you can relate to someone who is open-minded enough to pay attention to people who offer different perspectives on life.
The Knockturnal: What did you guys enjoy the most about working together?
Lex Scott Davis: I enjoy watching his process because I still feel extremely new to this art form, which is acting, so when I’m on set I make sure to treat everything like it is a classroom and make sure I am learning from my surroundings. Even though our stories run parallel, when you see the film you realize there’s not too much time being on together but what I liked doing, which is rare, is showing up to set when I’m not working because again I feel I can learn. So I was able to watch him more from the outside point of view, and just observe the process and observe the moment before, and also listen to the type of questions he had for the director because it made me also internalize how I was approaching my character and what I could be thinking about to better the performance.
Y’Lan Noel: As far as I’m concerned, Lex is so relaxed and being cheerful and cool around the crew, but she’ll snap into it when it came to action. I think I can learn from that because sometimes I like to hold onto the character. Maybe I’m psychotic but there’s also a point where I don’t want to lose the character. But with Lex, it was going to be there when it was time to act. And on top of that, there was one time when we had to do like 100 push-ups in a row, I didn’t think she was able to finish it, but she made it to like 97 or something like that, so I have to give her a little bit of credit for that. It was a really strong community of all of us because we’re all in the same part of our careers right now, so a lot of solidarity.
Lex Scott Davis: Y’lan held my braids while I did the push-ups, by the way. So it was helpful.
Y’Lan Noel: Well I thought she would have made it to 80 or 82.
The Knockturnal: What scene did you guys enjoy filming the most?
Y’Lan Noel: There’s a lot of the things I enjoyed, but a lot of it came from the camaraderie of the group that I am close to. Those moments when I expressed my fondness for them, in particular the men of the group. Because of the seriousness of the characters, there’s not many characters showing love to other characters in a heartfelt way. So I had a good time in those moments, I enjoyed those moments.
Lex Scott Davis: I think the ending for me was really exciting because, well I can’t tell you why. But I guess the grand finale of the film was definitely a highlight for me to film.
Y’Lan Noel: Yeah, a lot of action.
The Knockturnal: Many fans of The Purge series have said that there are some similarities between the NFFA and our government. Do you guys believe the purge could happen in real life? Or is that idea too far-fetched?
Lex Scott Davis: I think that I definitely wouldn’t want to continue to imagine a world where this is reality, but I think what we can take away from this film is the parts about camaraderie because if we think about coming together and there being unity and surviving and helping others, then the people would never allow for a day like this to occur. We wouldn’t fall into it, we wouldn’t participate, and I’d like to think we’d be smarter and rise above the occasion.
Y’Lan Noel: I’d definitely like to have faith in humanity.
‘The First Purge’ hits theaters July 4th.
Chantell Pennie contributed reporting.