Tribeca 2016: Keith Stanfield Talks ‘Live Cargo’Posted by Wilson Morales
April 19, 2016
Written and directed by Logan Sandler, the film also stars Leonard Earl Howze, Sam Dillon, and Robert Wisdom.
Nadine (Dree Hemingway) and Lewis (Keith Stanfield) move to a small Bahamian island hoping to restore their relationship in the wake of a tragedy, only to find the picturesque island torn in two: on one side a dangerous human trafficker and on the other an aging patriarch, struggling to maintain order.
For Stanfield, who is currently featured in the Miles Davis film, Miles Ahead and played rapper Snoop Dogg in last year’s critically acclaimed film, Straight Outta Compton, this was a new experience for him. It was his time in the Bahamas, where the film was shot, and he learned a lot about the people and culture. While it’s a lead role, Stanfield will juggling between lead and supporting in a number of upcoming films, including Snowden with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and War Machine with Brad Pitt.
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Stanfield talked about his character, making this film and his upcoming roles.
How would you best describe your character?
Keith Stanfield: Lewis is attempting to reinstate his relationship, which now is sort of on the brink of being compromised because of a still born child that an event that occurred back in the States so we go to the Bahamas to try and just get away and then do an environment switch and sort of come back to good terms with each other. Lewis is just a normal young guy trying to figure things out with his to-be-wife and just like most people I know, can’t swim.
This is a different departure from what people last saw you in. Obviously if they’re looking at independent films, Short Term 12 or Dope or if they’re looking at a big film they recognize you as Snoop Dogg. What was the attraction to doing this movie?
Keith Stanfield: The script. The script just really just blew me away. I was really intrigued by the many turns it took and how many elements were involved. The relationship is one element. There’s also an element of human trafficking and I found that interesting these two things were juxtaposed in this interesting place in the Bahamas and so the environment of the film and also Logan Sandler who I’d done a couple films with before, worked with before, who I love. An opportunity to work with him is already great, but the script just propelled me into it so it was like, “I’ve got to do this.”
You’re working opposite Dree and the audience has to recognize that there is a relationship and the good thing about this movie is it has nothing to do with race. It’s not like we’re looking at a black person and a white person because race has nothing to do with it. I guess when you read the script and you were working with Dree and Logan, was there any talks about how this relationship is established so that way color is not a factor?
Keith Stanfield: No. No and I think because Logan sort of understands the kind of person I am I think he knew that I wouldn’t be going into it with a sort of racial component, but that component is there whether or not we wanted to sort of portray it so it’s already there. It’s really up to the audience to interpret whether or not the racial issue makes a difference and that’s what we really wanted to do, put it back into the seat of the audience and say, “You know, well look at this. Does it matter if it was a black girl or a white dude or a black man and a white woman?” and hopefully by illustrating that love is there we just illustrated that has no color and that’s what we want to continue to push forward.
In the back of my mind I knew that would be something that would come up, but I never went into it with sort of any kind of bias. I kind of just left it all out. When we stepped up on that set, we were in love and that’s all we knew and we were trying to make it work.
How was shooting in the Bahamas?
Keith Stanfield: It was beautiful man. It was a crazy environment. A lot of the stuff that happened off set definitely influenced what happened on set. There were a lot of weird, interesting things. First of all, it’s a different world. You know they got like old flip phones and there’s some dudes called Bush Men who like jump out of the bushes and they live, they run around that place with no shoes on and that’s how they live so it was really tribal and made me feel like … It’s a tight knit community and so it made us feel like automatically going there stepping into a new life style and new territory so it was interesting to live there for the amount of time we were shooting. It was a trip.
How long did you stay there? How long was the shoot?
Keith Stanfield: A little over a month.
Had you visited the Bahamas before like Atlantis and all the popular tourist areas before that?
Keith Stanfield: No. I’d never been to the Bahamas until this film so my character going there, the freshness that he experienced was the same for me when I went there. It was like … and I damn sure wasn’t trying to jump off no boats into the water. Neither was my character. There was a lot of parallels in that.
You said that you worked with Logan before. What did you learn from him on this film?
Keith Stanfield: Everything was accelerated. The experience was … We did a short together and that was sort of kind of a smaller, little nit thing and this was way bigger. It was way more going on, way more subject matter. My character had a lot more going on and so I had to dig a little deeper and approach it in a different way. I just started everyday tried to take it and let it unravel and reveal itself to me which I had the luxury of doing in a larger piece so yeah.
What is it you’re looking for as an actor? What makes you say yes?
Keith Stanfield: Real stuff. Real stuff. If it’s real, it speaks to me and I think it’s true then that’s what I want to roll with as an actor because it’s my primary profession you don’t always get the luxury to be like, “I’m going to do this and I’m not choose this and do this like this,” You know what I’m saying, but when you get an opportunity where you have a choice, you always want to choose the things that speak to you that are real, that have a real message so that way you feel good about your work.
At the end of the day, I don’t want to do anything I don’t feel good about and I don’t want to represent anything I don’t feel represents my little personal truth. You know I want to kind of … For me it’s a form of communication with the audience through the character and through the story, but more importantly than characters is stories. If the story is good and the story is right, I don’t care if my character only got one word it just come through. I loved to just be a part of that and love to tell that bigger story.
You’ve got a series coming up on FX Atlanta. What can you say about that?
Keith Stanfield: It’s the future.
Keith Stanfield: Yeah. That’s it.
You’ve got Snowden coming up down the road? What role are you playing there?
Keith Stanfield: I play a dude named Peter who is NSA top security worker and works at the NSA when Snowden gets there and so that was an interesting role. We got a lot of information about cyber security, surveillance and just sort of the proceedings and how it goes down at the NSA and we talked to this guy who is a brilliant hacker who gave us the run down on all that’s going on with Snowden at the time and that’s a role that I’m anticipating. It was fun to do.
What can you say about War Machine?
Keith Stanfield: War Machine coming soon man. I play a Marine in the 2001 war where we post 9/11 and that was, it was a labor of love for real. We got trained by US Navy Seals. Had to break down myself physically, mentally and any other ly you can think of and rebirth myself to do that movie and I’m just real, I’m excited for that one. It’s really a parody of sort of the way that government works and people in the larger vicinities of military, how they operate. It can be funny because you’ve got these guys making these big decisions but a lot of times they are incompetent and a lot of times they put the shoes on the wrong feet and shit like that, but when it gets down to my character it gets into the third platoon, it’s get to the real, the people who put their lives on the line everyday for whatever reason and that’s what my character is. He is a corporal in the third platoon of the Marine’s sector.
What about the Colin Warner project?
Keith Stanfield: Yeah. Untitled still. We need to find a title for the damn thing. It’s about a real guy named Colin Warner who I had the opportunity to meet, spend some time with him. He’s a strong great guy who spent thirty years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit and I play him in the movie.
As an actor, are you ready for leading roles?
Keith Stanfield: Yeah. I think it doesn’t really matter to me. The main thing that I’m preoccupied with is telling the story and whoever I need to be in that story, whatever needs to be then I’m committed to making sure we tell that story the right way and that’s what I go into it with. I don’t really like, I don’t know, I don’t really look at roles as sort of being primary or secondary necessarily. It’s just more about what drives the story.
I love telling great stories so if it’s a good story I want to be a part of it. If it’s something that speaks to me and I feel like will speak to people, then I want to be a part of it especially when it’s speaking to black people and the black issues we go through, I want to be able to communicate that. This man got locked up for thirty years in prison for the same thing that so many black dudes be getting locked up for. They just take you and lock you up. Don’t ask no questions and throw away the key so I wanted to be that voice of that. I wanted to be his voice when he couldn’t speak and I feel like we accomplished that.
With the FX series, what’s it like doing a TV series? How different is it from films?
Keith Stanfield: Definitely different, more sporadic. Very, very fun. All the things we were shooting on location in Atlanta. I love Atlanta. We just got to jump around and I’m working with Gambino who’s real, real brilliant, brilliant and funny and Brian Henry, just brilliant people. We have a blast on that damn show and it’s very hard to even sort of put into words what the show is. It’s better just to be like, “you’ve got to just see it” because I don’t think there’s nothing that could do it justice because it covers so many different things. Like I wouldn’t call it a comedy. I wouldn’t call it a drama. I wouldn’t even be able to put it into a … because it has all those elements. I’m having a lot of fun working on it. It’s been a treat.
You’ve done ‘Compton.’ You’re recently in ‘Miles Ahead.’ When you’re playing these roles in historical films with the exception of Miles Ahead, what does that do for you when you’re playing these characters? Do you have to do a lot of research?
Keith Stanfield: Miles Ahead, I really wanted to be Miles after I dove into the research on that because my character was sort of foil to his character, a younger fictionalized person who was put into the film to sort of have him question his self. I’m sure he came across a lot of young dudes who had a lot of talent but made decisions that compromised their talent and that’s what this character was and so I walked around with that trumpet every day. I had to earn all the little notes. I did it every day religiously until we got, all the way up until we got to perform it. I still got that trumpet in my backseat of our car right now.
Down the road can we see you playing a musician?
Keith Stanfield: Yeah. I would love to. I would love to play somebody like Al Green or something like that. Somebody who just really like, their music just really speaks to … I love music so I mean I came into it with music and I still do music myself so I’m always up for any opportunity like that.