Do you guys feel a personal connection to Randy’s story?
Patrik: Sure, I mean I felt a personal connection before I read the book when I was a freshman in college and it was the first book that I read, the first story that I read that was told from the point of view of a black, gay character so it spoke to me in that way. Yeah, I would say that was the main thing for me.
Julian: And I could relate to the character definitely from, you know, being from a small town in Mississippi and, you know, growing up, going through different things and trying to figure out who I was, personally, as an individual. And, you know, the group of friends that I do have, they definitely reminded me of my character’s friends so I could definitely relate to the character.
Patrik, what helped inspire the film for you? Or what helped motivate your take on the project besides it being a book?
Patrik: Well the film is set in the early 70s and I wanted to do a story in the present day and I knew I also wanted to shoot a film in my hometown in Mississippi, Hattiesburg, and I felt like the story in the Blackbird book, I thought would lend itself to a small-town Mississippi setting so I was inspired a lot by my hometown in terms of what the film would look like and the racial makeup of the characters and all of that. Yeah I definitely wanted to personalize it and make it a Hattiesburg story.
How was casting?
Patrik: Isaiah and Mo’Nique came on pretty quickly. I mean Isaiah was my first choice to play the father and I called up a friend of mine, another filmmaker friend of mine, Ava DuVernay, who directed Selma and I asked her, her casting suggestions and she said ‘who’s your first choice?’ and I said, ‘Isaiah.’ And so she helped put me in touch with Isaiah who read the script and pretty quickly said yes and then he sent the script to Mo’Nique who he knew and then she quickly said yes so that part was pretty easy. It was casting the lead that probably provided the most difficulty. I always have a little bit of a hard time casting these gay, black characters. A lot of the Hollywood actors, you know, are nervous or reluctant to play gay so there’s usually some pushback there. But luckily, you know, I think we found who we were supposed to have. A complete unknown into the game so everything worked out.
The cast featured some new faces.
Patrik: A lot of them were experienced, had acted before. So Julian, still in college and Torrey is still in college finishing his theater degree as well. You know, everybody was great; I can’t think of any major problems. It was a huge independent film so the shoot was really quick; we shot the film in about three and a half weeks. There’s not a lot of time for problems, really. You kind of get on with it and get it done. But everyone was professional and wonderful to work with, supportive of each other. Yeah we had a good time.
You co-wrote the movie with Rikki Beadle Blair? What was the writing process like?
Patrik: I did. Well I had read the book a long time ago and kind of living with the script adaptation for a while and I felt like I had brought it as far as I could bring it so I asked Rikki to take a stab at it and he wasn’t as familiar with the book so I thought it would be a good idea to bring someone on who wasn’t so married to or such a fan of the book. So he was able to come in and sort of look at it from a fresh perspective and help to sort of finalize everything and, you know, we made some key changes from the book to make it a little more dramatic for film, but, you know. On the whole I think the essence of the novel was still there.
What was one of your favorite scenes?
Patrik: My favorite scene is the scene after he’s gone for the first time and hung out with Marshall and Marshall drops him off at home and they have a conversation about religion and then Marshall asks Randy to sing and Randy sings for him in the bar. That’s my favorite scene; very romantic.
What did you feel to accomplish in this movie?
Patrik: I mean I just hope that if someone watching the film is LGBT or questioning or confused or trying to reconcile their religious beliefs with their sexuality then I just hope that the film helps them to get to that place of self acceptance and love and if other people see the film and their struggling to try and come to acceptance of a gay family member or friend then I hope that the film helps to open their hearts and minds and helps them get to a place of tolerance and love.
What was it like working with Kevin Allesee and Mo’Nique because you had some really great scenes with those two characters.
Julian: Well I’ll start with Kevin. He was really, really good, along with everybody but we would work one-on-one. I guess now I understand why. I guess I could feel the chemistry or whatever. And so he was really, really good. If I had any questions he was willing to, you know, help me out. Also with Mo’Nique, from day one she reached out to me and was just like ‘hey if you have any questions’…and, you know, I definitely jumped on that because I was really curious about a lot of stuff, you know. She had a lot of knowledge about the industry and I definitely wanted to find out as much information as I could. Also with Isaiah as well.
Do you guys have any projects coming up?
Julian: As of now I just signed with a talent agency which is Jay Price Talent Agency so I’m definitely on the ball. I’ve definitely jumped out and I’m doing more auditions and stuff now.
Patrik: Yeah I just finished directing an episode of a new series called “We Are Lovers.” It’s coming next year. And I’m shooting an independent film in Atlanta this fall.