The breakout star of Crown Heights takes the time out of his day to discuss his work on the upcoming biographical film.
To be wrongfully convicted should be a crime in and of itself. And yet it often isn’t. People that range from citizens to immigrants are frequently detained due to asinine reasoning, one that is often grounded in a perverse sense of self-esteem and/or power hunger. False imprisonment is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the worst offenses one can commit onto another human being. It is almost unfathomable to imagine an individual be forcefully imprisoned due to a crime that they may or may not have committed. And yet it occurs on a daily basis in the United States.
There is no way to fight back against the overt oppression, save for a lengthy and financially burdensome battle in court. Emma Lazarus once wrote, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It’s a sentiment that signals to many that America is a land of understanding, compassion, freedom, integrity, and so much more. It is–without sounding cliche–the land of liberty. And yet, it seems that Lazarus’ words of liberty and open-mindedness have fallen on deaf ears of late.
From mass incarceration to police brutality, America has turned into a quasi-police state. It’s led to bogus arrests, heavy persecution, and–as is the case in Crown Heights–false imprisonment. Whether it is the Innocence Project or the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, dozens of organizations have fought tirelessly to demonstrate that mass false incarceration is real. The Knockturnal had the opportunity to discuss false imprisonment, the emotions associated with filming it, and how hindsight is 20/20 with star Nnamdi Asomugha. Check out what he had to say below.
A lot of people leaving the theater, they were very emotional, so I’m sure for you it felt ten times more intense when filming it. What was that like?
Nnamdi Asomugha: Yeah, there were emotional moments. But there was also just moments where it just felt like work. I think the through line was just always feeling like there was a responsibility to tell their story the right way, but there were some very emotional beats that were within them. It’s like any other thing, a lot of it was just servicing the story. We didn’t really get sort of wrapped up in it as a whole, because we were doing it in segments. And we’re doing it out of order so you’re just trying to connect to whatever emotion you can find on that particular day.
What was the hardest thing for you to film?
Nnamdi: That’s a great question. Interestingly enough, I say the hardest scene to film was this scene where my wife [Kerry Washington] and I, we had just had a baby. I don’t know if you understand shooting with a baby. It’s very difficult.
I have not shot with a baby [laughs].
Nnamdi: They’re only allowed to be on for like 30 minutes, then you got to bring in the twin [laughs].
Oh my God [laughs].
Nnamdi: Then the triplet, and then they go to sleep.
Is there always a twin with a baby?
Nnamdi: Yeah, usually. Usually there’s always a twin. Anyway, that was the craziest because it’s such a low budget film and we’re trying to make all of our days. That stuff gets difficult. Then it’s funny because it was such a long scene, and then at the end of the day you watch it, it’s like half a second and there’s no dialogue. It’s like me handing her the baby.
But here goes a full day of filming.
Nnamdi: Yeah, that’s right. That was probably the most difficult scene.
You are attached to so many different projects right now, so talk about how you pick a project to attach your name to.
Nnamdi: It’s simple for me–if it resonates with me, I like it. Maybe the hairs just start to come up where you get goosebumps. If I like it then I want to be a part of it. It doesn’t have to have this grand message or this grand theme. It could be a sci-fi film. It could be like Patti Cake$. I helped finance that movie.
I love Patti Cake$.
Nnamdi Asomugha: Patti Cake$ is such a fun story but also rooted in some really human truth and human aspects. It can be all over the place. If I love the script, then likely I want to be involved.
What’s the biggest takeaway you want for people to take when they see this film?
Nnamdi: The takeaway for me, I can tell you what happened for me. Initially, it was all about Colin. My heart was sort of open to Colin and broken for everything that he went through. In filming and going then through the process and then seeing it, I think what I came away with was the hope aspect, and the friendship aspect, and the love aspect–which isn’t really focused on a lot. I think that was the big takeaway for me, the power of the human spirit, that someone could really put their life on the line to get their friend out of prison for 21 years. I mean, if you think back 21 years ago–I don’t even know if you’re 21 years old–but if you think back to 21, it’s a tough age. Think between then and now, spending all that time trying to get your friend out of prison. It’s a big deal and it’s not to be underestimated.
Be sure to check out Crown Heights once it hits theaters August 18.