DeRon Horton & Tosin Cole Talk Netflix’s Burning Sands

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DeRon Horton & Tosin Cole Talk Netflix’s Burning Sands
Posted by Wilson Morales

March 20, 2017

Currently playing on Netflix is the dramatic frat film ‘Burning Sands,’  which is directed by Gerard McMurray from a script written by Christine Berg & Gerard McMurray. The film stars Trevor Jackson, Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Tosin Cole, DeRon Horton, Trevante Rhodes, Christian Robinson, Rotimi, Octavius Johnson, Malik Bazille, Mitchell Edwards, Imani A. Hakim, Serayah, and Nafessa Williams. The film had its World Premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

A student enduring harsh hazing while he pledges a fraternity at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) is torn by the physical and emotional mistreatment he receives from his peers, the hazing’s historical implications, and its questionable place in the modern world.

In his freshman year of college, it seems Zurich has everything going for him; he has the respect of his teachers and university administration, the love and devotion of a wonderful girlfriend, and he’s been selected for admission to a prestigious Black fraternity on campus. But as Zurich embarks on the Hell Week of pledging his fraternity, the harsh trials of entry into brotherhood begin to test the limits of his self-worth.

As the intensifying abuse begins to become untenable, Zurich struggles to honor the fraternity’s code of silence, and the scaffolding of his life outside the frat begins to dismantle.  Burning Sands constructs a deeply complex cross section of the fabled fraternity hazing culture and the vicious power of the desire for acceptance. spoke with DeRon Horton and Tosin Cole, who play frat pledges Square and Frank respectively in the film.

What attracted you to the film?

Tosin Cole: I found it to be a compelling story and wanted to immersed myself into the character. I just wanted to make a good film, more or less.

DeRon Horton: I was attracted to the camaraderie in the film when I read it. I also thought it was a well done story. It was a nice ensemble piece and I wanted to be a part of it.

Are any of you part of a fraternity?

Tosin Cole: No, we are not

Did you do any research for the film?

DeRon Horton: I did a lot of research but Gerard McMurray the director is a member of Omega Psi Phi and he gave us a good amount of information. He also was there to assist us in anything we needed help with. That was a good catalyst to making the film good.

Did he make you guys go through any fraternity boot camp?

Tosin Cole: Filming was boot camp. Together, we learned the physical aspects of filming. We only had 18 days so everything was a quick turnover.

Tosin, how would you describe your character Frank?

Tosin Cole: Frank is joining the fraternity because his dad and granddad had pledged the same frat as well and he wants to carry on the same legacy. Frank grew up in an environment where he had to carry himself in a certain way and he can be a bit aggressive at times and a bit overbearing. I also think he has some trust issues because he’s been on his own in this environment.

For you DeRon, is Square a lonely child looking for a family?

DeRon Horton: You’re absolutely correct, but I don’t think he was fitting in high school either. From what he sees in fraternities and how they affect the communities, he’s envious. There’s brotherhood. They throw parties and do a lot of good things but I feel that Square thought it would come naturally as soon as he was ordained into the fraternity. He just wanted to be part of something big so he can be known and people would know his name.

Why do you think anyone pledges a fraternity or sorority goes through Hell Week that may be similar to what the film depicts?

Tosin Cole: You know, everyone wants to be part of something and belong to something. People want to be part of the benefits it comes with and it depends on what the intentions are as far as why they are joining. Over the years, the culture of joining a fraternity has been glamorized but back in the day, it was different. In the end, you’re joining a group that will help you in life and in your career.

What did you learn from Gerard McMurray?

Tosin Cole: Gerard just lets you find the truth in the story. With him being the director and screenwriter, he’s very attached to the script but he also gives you the freedom to find the truth within your character. He’s very collaborative. He just wants us to find the truth in any way we can. He’s a very cool director and very laid back.

How was working with Trevor:

DeRon Horton: It never felt like anyone was working with someone singularly. It was all five of us whenever we were in a scene. It was so great that we were humble to be in this film and a part of this project and create a beautiful story. Working with these guys was good. It was inspiring but we were invested in making this film as beautiful as we could.

What sort of work are you looking for?

Tosin Cole: I’m always open to trying different things. The story needs to have a great team behind it. I’m open to different things where I can push myself and test myself. I want to develop myself as an actor and as a storyteller.

For you DeRon, are you a series regular on Dear White People?

DeRon Horton: I’m a series regular. I’m also looking to be a better artist. I’m about the process and the challenge. I find beauty in things that are out of ordinary.

Having gone to college, between Dear White People and Burning Sands, did you witness any similar incidents?

DeRon Horton: With Burning Sands, no because I went to an Arts school and there were no fraternities or sororities. In terms of the character that I play in Dear White People, yes, there are millions of people like that in my school who are afraid to embrace their personalities or reality in what they know they really are and are afraid to share as people. They are also struggling to fit in what society has made for them. That’s why I choose characters like this. I want to help someone to find themselves.

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