Directed by Deon Taylor – “Black and Blue” is an action thriller in which through powerful storytelling and compelling cinema, sparks a conversation and challenges the realities of a corrupt system.
On Monday night, a special screening of “Black and Blue” was held in New York City. Present were some of the cast and crew members including Oscar nominated for her outstanding role in Moonlight – Naomie Harris, the multitalented Tyrese Gibson, Director Deon Taylor and many more.
It was a celebration of black excellence on the carpet. Celebrating the hard-work of all the artists and collaborators that united in hope for a future that calls for unity and fights division.
In speaking to some of the cast and crew – one thing was clear – that the necessity of stories that spark important conversation was a huge gravitational force towards this project. This is a story that explores, race, injustice, betrayal and all the idiosyncrasies in between.
The Knockturnal spoke with Naomie Harris, Deon Taylor and Roxanne Avent.
“I live and breathe doing this.”
The Knockturnal: What intrigued you about this script and why do you think it was so important to tell this story?
Harris: I was drawn in because the script was so phenomenal and I read it and I thought it was so socially relevant. So often you have these action movies that are almost divorced from reality and not speaking about social issues that we’re going through. Here was a movie that is actually talking about things that are really timely, really important, drawing and shedding light on them.
The Knockturnal: I feel like the character you played is a complexly nuanced character. She’s Black, she’s a female and she’s a cop. How was it combining and tackling all these different complexities into one character?
Harris: It was a challenge but that’s the greatest gift when you get given a role that’s multifaceted and multidimensional like that. I loved playing her. I loved diving in deep into all the complexities and the difficulty of her situation – being a Black, female police officer in a corrupt police force where they’re encouraging her to give up her Black identity and just see herself as Blue – which basically means, anything goes, because you identify therefore with the corrupt police officers. All of that complexity, I loved playing with all that. That’s why I live and breathe doing this.
Director – Deon Taylor
“We have to be creative and we have to slip messages into the bottle, so when people finish drinking they get the message and read it. That’s what Black and Blue is.”
The Knockturnal: Wanted to ask you about the casting process, what made you pick Naomie Harris as the lead and what gravitated you towards her?
Taylor: Well, picking Naomie that was easy. When I was given the script, they were telling me about all these different actresses and I had just finished doing The Intruder and working with Meagan and I thought Meagan was phenomenal and I had just finished casting Hillary Swank in a movie that’s coming out next year. I’m always trying to think whose different, who hasn’t been used a lot and who can be a new face. I was a giant fan of Moonlight, I was a giant fan of 28 Days Later. And just so happily, her name was brought to me by someone else and that was it. A light bulb went off and I was hooked. Naomie had quit acting, and they set a phone call because she read the screenplay and said this is interesting let me speak to the director. I remember calling her with a dinosaur mask on to make her laugh and she was like ‘what the hell is going on’ we laughed for like 15 mins. After that, I fell in love with her and I explained to her, it might not be all the things that you want in this script, that you understand – but what you will understand is how passionate I am about the movie and that I truly believe we can do something different and unconventional with this movie. And she said ‘I believe it’. Here we are 10 months later with this incredible film and I’m so excited about it.
The Knockturnal: As a successful director yourself, what’s a piece of advice that you would give a young director who is trying to make films?
Taylor: Figure out creative ways. Figure out creative ways to get your message across. The biggest thing that we have going for us is that we have so many different things that are happening to us. We have such a loud voice, we want to say so much. But it scares a lot of people when you start rattling the cage if you know what I mean. We have to be creative and we have to slip messages into the bottle, so when people finish drinking they get the message and read it. That’s what Black and Blue is. I knocked you out your socks with all the action and the thrill and the car chases and the badass woman. But in the middle of this movie, there are 3 or 4 moments where you go ‘damn that’s crazy, I want to talk about that’ and that’s me being creative with the message.
Producer – Roxanne Avent
“It’s so important to make sure that you don’t follow other people but you believe in who you are and what you represent, and the change starts with you…”
The Knockturnal: What gravitated you towards the script and why did you want to bring this story to life?
Avent: “You know over our lifespan of filmmaking, you know we, being an independent film company – Hidden Empire is a hundred percent independent. This is the first time we kind’ve stepped up and did a work for higher project. Every film that we do, we really try to speak to the humanity of the world and what’s going on. Being able to identify with everyone that’s watching the movie. We make movies for the audience and this film is just so important in the climate, without getting too political and everything that’s going on. We’re always struggling with different things. It’s so important to make sure that you don’t follow other people but you believe in who you are and what you represent, and the change starts with you. That’s kind of what the end of the movie is about, is being the.;’ change – and willing to sacrifice everything in life that it takes for people to make that change and step up. Unfortunately, we’re in a world of I feel like followers, everybody is monkey see, monkey do. I think it’s a great strength in her (the protagonist) to show that you can stand alone and believe in your own values and your own strengths and you can be the change and people will support you, even if it’s not what they believe in.”
The Knockturnal: Were you involved with the casting process at all?
Avent: Yeah, I mean you know as a producer, you’re always involved in every element. I’m a physical producer, from the development to the delivery of the film. So I do have the honor of being in every step by step process of the way. It helps you learn, it helps you grow, I’m always a student. You know what you know, you know what you don’t know. I’m happy to always lean on people like Naomie. She’s so talented, Oscar nominated, Black female woman. You walk into the set with someone like her, it’s almost intimidating a little bit. I’m an independent producer and I don’t always get the opportunity to work with talent of this nature.
The Knockturnal: That on its own is rare, to be an independent producer doing this. As a female independent producer in this industry – what’s some advice that you would give a younger girl who is trying to do this as well?
Avent: I’m so humbled, I’m so blessed. Here’s the thing, life is hard, everything about life is hard these days. I’m a self-taught producer. I didn’t have the normal cookie-cutter route that most people do, in film school – and I think all of that is amazing, and it’s great. But there’s something about starting from the bottom and working your way to the top and learning each and every position and each and every room and how to work it through. You just got to believe in yourself, you have to have a lot of strength, you have to have a lot of courage and you have to have thick skin. But you really just have to not – you can’t give up. I’ve been told ‘no’ my whole entire life and I’m just like ‘Ok well I’ll follow up with them in a couple of weeks’ – you know what I mean. It’s a very hard business to be in, especially as a woman, but it’s just a very hard business in general. Because even though you make these movies, you still gotta get people to get out their seats at the house with all these digital platforms and go to the theatre. Just believe in yourself and never give up on what you represent and what you believe in. Because the culture changes, the universe changes and people will detour you and make you think that you’re supposed to feel a certain way and do a certain thing. Go with what you believe in, go with your gut, go with your heart and God will lead the way.