Jacob Latimore, Algee Smith, Joseph David-Jones Talk Detroit

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Jacob Latimore, Algee Smith, Joseph David-Jones Talk Detroit
Posted by Wilson Morales

August 7, 2017

Currently in theaters from Annapurna Pictures is Detroit, which is directed by Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty).

Detroit offers a crime drama set against the backdrop of Detroit’s 1967 riots, a gripping story of one of the darkest moments during the civil unrest that rocked Detroit during that summer. The release date will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the riots.

The film stars an ensemble cast comprised of John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever, Jack Reynor, Ben O’Toole, Joseph David-Jones, Ephraim Sykes, Leon Thomas III, Nathan Davis Jr., Peyton Alex Smith, Malcolm David Kelley, Gbenga Akinnabve, Chris Chalk, Jeremy Strong, Laz Alonzo, Austin Hebert, Miguel Pimentel, Kris Davis, with John Krasinski and Anthony Mackie.

Blackfilm.com recently spoke with Latimore, Smith and David-Jones about their experiences working on the film. Latimore plays Fred Temple, Smith is Larry Reed, and David-Jones plays Morris.

How did the project come to you?

Jacob Latimore: I was in New York. I had put my first audition on tape and then had a second audition when I flew out to LA. By the 3rd audition is when everyone had met each other. I had seen some familiar faces and some of us knew each other. The audition process was probably the most unique process we each had ever gone through. Leon (Thomas III) had a guitar with him and he was asked if he could start a song. He always has a guitar with him. Then Ben (O’Toole) comes into the room in character and was like, “Everyone against the wall.” We’re like, “What is going on?” There were like 12 of us lined up against the wall and he started patting us and he turned us around one by one. That was our real audition process.

Fred saw how it was, and during the audition process, no one had a gun in the room. You’re the police officer. You’re the only one with a gun. You’re hearing these gun shots but I don’t know where you are hearing them from. He sees what he sees and not afraid to tell it. I saw that parallel from the audition into the script.

Did you do any research once you knew the character you were playing?

Algee Smith: I tried to, but couldn’t find anything. Cleveland Larry Reed, who I play, left The Dramatics before they really took off and all I kept seeing was stuff in L.J. Reynolds, who’s the face of The Dramatics. “Where’s Larry at?” is what I kept asking myself. I couldn’t find any information on him. That was a blessing for me. I don’t think I could have it if I had a lot of info on him.

Joseph David-Jones: I didn’t know before the audition that we were not supposed to do any research. I had all the books on me. I had every book that I could on the riots. One the events that happened seemed very similar like the audition that we did, so I was like, “This has to be it.” I got the Algiers Hotel incident book and read it and came to the camera test with the book in my hand and Kathryn was like, “Oh, no, no, no!” She wanted our reactions to be real when Ben comes in the room.

With Larry still alive, did you talk to him to get an insight on the incident?

Algee Smith: I didn’t talk to Larry until the last week of shooting the movie. I didn’t even talk to him on the phone or see him in person. I had no one to reach out to for help. Julie Ann a little bit but she couldn’t tell how he felt at the time or how he felt about music or what his dream was and how he really felt when he had to go find redemption or he felt if there was a God or not. She couldn’t give me all the answers. When I finally spoke to him, we sat down and had a three hour conversation. He showed me the crack in his skull where it still is. He got on the piano and we played some songs. There was a moment when he first met me and saw me and said, “You’re going to play me really good.” Kathryn knew what she was doing the whole time. If I get inside a character, I will go in.

How do you think it has affected him all these years later?

Algee Smith: From what I could see and all do respect to him because he’s extremely an amazing man to this day and still standing strong, but as far as I can see, there’s still brokeness. This happened to him when he was 18 years old. Fred was a little brother to him and always felt Fred had more money than him, and he felt he had to look after him in a sense. I don’t know how you can really recover from that and you can tell that he hasn’t all the way. I hope I could watch the film with him. When I was with him, they had showed him the end credits and when he saw it, he just broke down. If he lost it seeing that, I’m not sure he can watch the whole film. You can tell that there is some peace from him to walk and talk about the incident. It’s something bigger than I can imagine.

What do you think folks will get out of this after they see the film?

Jacob Latimore: Even though it’s such a raw story where it’s uncomfortable to look at and hear and see, I think we want to grow from it. We want to unite and open dialog and create empathy towards what it’s like to be black in the community and at the same time, embrace all communities in this film. We may not have the answers but we need to create that spark. We’re still fighting a system that our parents and grandparents fought.

Joseph David-Jones: I’ve been hearing a lot on “where are the black women in this film?” and when you watch the film, you will see how strong the grandmother was. They were never weak. They were represented as string black women in the film. Even the father when he didn’t cry. That made me bust out in tears. When he was in denial. Every person represented in this film is strong, so one can’t judge by looking at the trailer and asking where are the black women.

How was working with Will Poulter?

Algee Smith: I was disgusted at Will when I watched the film. That just showed me how amazing he is as an actor. By meeting him and sitting down with him at lunch, he’s completely the opposite. So, when you watch him on the screen, you’re like, “Who is this guy?”

Jacob Latimore: I met Will during Maze Runner and we have this brother/brother relationship. In the beginning, he came on set and did his lines, but when it came down to certain scenes, he just broke down. He couldn’t take it no more. He ran out the building. He got emotional. He kept asking Kathryn how many more time does he have to do the scene. He didn’t want to do it anymore. I’m sitting there crying because he’s crying. It was a very emotional set and when they said cut, I just embraced him.

Can you talk about the music in the film?

Joseph David-Jones: I think we bonded a lot over the music and learning those songs because on any particular day, we didn’t know what scenes we were shooting or what songs we would be singing. We learned the whole catalog and constantly working on the harmonies in the hotel room. I think that got us out of the heavy stuff that we would have to do on set.

Algee Smith: Someone mentioned earlier that the music helped them get through the film. They were watching something horrific but when you see the group start to sing, in the beginning or later on stage, they start to remember the music. Music is an important piece.

How do you think this film will affect the younger audiences?

Algee Smith: I think it will affect them in a major way. There will be some angry people but I think they will want to channel that anger and grow from it. They will be frustrated by the story and hopefully they can take that next step and have a conversation to unite with people. A lot of these stories are swept under the carpet.

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