After watching “Mudbound,” Netflix’s new Jim-Crow era film, it was very clear that Netflix has another winner on their hands.
The film was by far one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, and I got the privilege to sit down for a chat with Jason Mitchell, one of the stars of the film, to discuss his new movie.
First of all of the movie was fantastic so congratulations on that.
Jason Mitchell: Thank you.
This is very different from Straight Outta Compton, your big break. Did you approach these differently?
Jason Mitchell: It’s really cool for me because I think by me being in my early stages of my career, even though my performance [in that film] was decent, it still could’ve been labeled as beginner’s luck or the person I actually was. It could’ve been labeled a bunch of different things. It could’ve ultimately led to me being pigeonholed or typecast. [This film] was a really big difference and a real turn. It took me from being Easy E to Jason Mitchell and I was like, you know, this is actually really cool and it was the first time I’ve been offered a role too so it was good to be able to wear different hats just in general. I took a really outgoing approach towards it. I was going to commit totally. I was going to be my grandfather. I think it worked out well. (laughs)
What was the process you went through to get the role?
Jason Mitchell: I was actually the first one cast and I was super super flattered because Dee [Rees] said I was at the top of her WishList. She was like “No, soon as I saw him, I knew Jason Mitchell had to be Ronzell. It doesn’t matter how old he looks, we can put a fake mustache on him and make him look older. Whatever we need to do.” Just her having that sort of faith in me and thinking about me with such heavy content was just a privilege, a super privilege. So I was on maybe seven months before the project even got started.
Did you get a chance to read the book before you were cast?
Jason Mitchell: No I got the chance to read the book afterwards. Virgil did such a good job with that script. It hit home. Watching the film was exactly like reading the script and you don’t get that all the time. Sometimes you got to razzle dazzle it a little bit, you know, add a little extra sauce (laughs) but Virgil did a really good job. Hillary Jordan wrote a great book but Virgil he followed it up really really well with something that was really special. It was just a privilege to work on.
Were you able to talk with Hillary about the character?
Jason Mitchell: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah Hillary was all about it. She was like “you know I wrote this book – I didn’t have intentions on it being this great film.” You know, when you’re a writer you have so much life in you your mind. Most readers, they like to read books because they like to sort of create their own vision of it in their mind. But when you get the writer who’s ultimately super excited about the movie you made, that means you did a pretty good job.
There are a lot of emotional scenes in this movie. What was the vibe like on set? Did you do anything specific to keep it from weighing on you?
Jason Mitchell: We did these acting workshops at the beginning of everything and the whole point of it was to make each other uncomfortable and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Through that we sort of created this beautiful family. No matter how it looks onscreen, we definitely love each other. (laughs) . Every time we said cut, if it was odd, we would go and hug each other or give each other some sort of words of encouragement. Jonathan Banks was one of the guys who was really on that everyday. Even though he seems like a super villain by the end of the movie, that guy had a really really big heart. I’ll never forget when we finished the [spoiler] scene we got back to the hotel – and he had wrapped before Garrett [Hedlund] and I – when you got back to the hotel he was just at the bar by himself and he was like “that was heavy, but we just did something special. I really admire you for what we just did ” and I was like “well, you know, you guys made me feel safe” and Dee sort of created this safe lock box for us to really do our things on set. Even though it got really weird and in between action and cut, it was definitely good. It was definitely all love.
You have a lot of scenes with Mary J. Blige and Garrett Hedlund, what was it like working with them?
Jason Mitchell: Working with Mary J. was really, really, really dope and her and I just had a sort of mutual respect for the craft at the time. Because even with us respecting each other and with us being very happy to work with each other, we realized that it was a movie that was really going to take us digging into our craft for it to be right. I personally challenged myself when we did the acting workshop together to not to acknowledge her as a singer. ‘Cause Dee would ask me questions [like] ‘what did you remember most about your mother when you were gone to the war?’ Just all sorts of random questions and we just had to riff and go with it. I was thinking to myself ‘I’m not going to say that I remember her in the kitchen singing’ you know what I mean? (laughs) I was just trying not to refer to that. The things that I was giving her sort of helped her get into a different groove too.
She had to be the very un-vein Mary J Blige to make Florence. I thought it was really dope. I got to the point, with her and I, that things were so fluid that Dee actually wrote in a couple of scenes for us. And Garrett – Garrett is me trapped in a white body (laughs). When I met him I [thought] this guy is really dope. The only thing that I really requested at the very beginning was that whoever plays this guy, Jamie, has to be dope. He has to have a raw edge. I didn’t know what to expect but as soon as I walked into the room, he stood out in a way that I thought was really cool. He isn’t all married to the lines, to all these situations; he’s very present in everything. He takes the craft very seriously which is really cool. He is like not just the guy you want to work with, but the guy you want to go drink with after work. It was cool working with him. He’s my brother now, for sure.
In the film both you and Garrett play people with PTSD, is there anything specific you did to prepare for that?
Jason Mitchell: First of all, being a man and having PTSD, it’s something that you really don’t want to acknowledge. It’s something that you sort of just want to find refuge in somebody else. Find something else to make you happy. [Garrett] and I sort of made this choice to only up-play that between us, through our laughs together or through our looks. They were very small things that we did but seem very real. Dee kind of steered the ship for us and let as know what looked good and what felt right. It turned into this sort of backdrop. I think it’s really cool.
Mudbound is available to stream on Netflix beginning November 17th.