TIFF 2016 Exclusive: Andre Holland Talks ‘Moonlight’Posted by Wilson Morales
September 17, 2016
Playing at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival is Barry Jenkins’ latest film Moonlight, which stars Naomie Harris, André Holland, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Alex R. Hibbert, Jaden Piner, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, and Jharrel Jerome.
Based on the play by Tarell McCraney “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” Jenkins wrote and directed the film.
MOONLIGHT is the tender, heartbreaking story of a young black man’s struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love, while grappling with his own sexuality.
Coming in for the third chapter of the film and playing the role of Kevin is André Holland, who has worked on stage, television and in feature films such as 42 (The Jackie Robinson film), Black or White with Octavia Spencer, Ava DuVernay’s Selma, and more recently a starring role opposite Clive Owen in Steven Soderbergh’s Cinemax drama The Knick. Holland is currently on FX’s American Horror Story: Roanoke.
Blackfilm.com recently spoke with Holland on his role in ‘Moonlight’ and working with Barry and the cast.
How would you describe Kevin by the time you enter the scene?
Andre Holland: By the time I come in the third act, Kevin has gone from being this man who is performing this hyper masculine idea of manhood, and lets go of this mask and comes into the third part living this authentic life and at a vulnerable place. A more open place. He wants to deal with the shame and guilt that he’s felt as a result of having hurt Chirrone in the middle story. He’s also there to try to help Chirrone out of the hole that he dug and buried himself into.
What was the attraction to doing this film?
AH: The fact that the story was written by Barry (Jenkins) and Tarell (Alvin McCraney). I had seen a bunch of Tarell’s plays over the years and I just love his writing. I think he’s one of the best writers out there. That was one of the things that attracted me to it. Also, with Barry, I’m a big fan of his from “Medicine From Melancholy” and I know I wanted to work with him on something. The two of them together made it the easiest decision I ever had to make.
Had you read the entire script before you came on to the scene?
AH: I read the entire thing and I didn’t realize that the film was broken up into different chapters and I remember reading through it and asking myself at what point do I come in. At first I wondered, “The part can’t be good if I don’t come in until the end,” and then it really surprised me. It’s a tall order to sit there until the end and then try to bring it on home. But it was great. I really enjoyed it.
What did you pick up from Barry, who hadn’t done a film in eight years?
AH: Barry is a lot like Steven Soderbergh in a way. They’re good in giving an actor space to work out their own process. He has strong ideas of what he was trying to execute, but at the same time he understands that the actor has to go through their process to arrive at the place. I started to think about this because maybe I want to direct a project one day and one of the things I learned is that you have to really take care of your actors and Barry does a wonderful job at that. Also, his knowledge of cinema is almost endless. To me, as an actor, preparation is something I’m really proud of. I think I’m prepared for things and working with Barry made me work really harder. He comes in with so many different references that when we are on set, he’s able to improvise. Some of the shots in the film where shots that he discovered on the day. The shot where I’m outside smoking a cigarette and smoke is blowing right into the camera, that was something that wasn’t in the script. Because it was captured on the set, it triggered a thought in his head and he said that we can use it.
How was working with Trevante? As a newcomer, did you give him any advice as far as being in this business?
AH: I didn’t give him a whole lot of direct advice. He’s very eager to learn things and pick up things and he’s also very smart and learns very fast. We have a great relationship and if there’s ever anything he needed, I’m certainly there to help in any way I can but I think he’s going to be just fine. The press tour is very new to him and there were a couple of times where he would ask me questions on how to handle certain things but he’s athlete and learns quickly. He’s the type of guy where you only have to show him one time and he’s got it.
Although the film has received a tremendous amount of love from those who saw it recently, do you think it’s a film for everyone?
AH: I really do. At first I thought this movie is strong and would appeal to the Black Gay community and have a cult following but having gone to Telluride, Toronto, London and New York Film Festivals, so many people have come up to me and older white people have come up to me and said that they really connected with the bullying. They remember going through similar things when they were growing up. Young people have come up and talked about the film and its identity, which is something that they are going through. There are so many different access points. People from the 80s talk about the crack epidemic ravaged their community. There are many ways in which one connects with the movie. I have never seen a response that is all-encompassing as this one is. It seems to be touching everybody.
Whatever happened with The Knick? No news has been given regarding a third season.
AH: I think that the plan is that they will bring it back next year. I don’t know when that will be or if that will involve me. They are still working out the details, but it was a great part. I really loved playing it. I learned so much from Soderbergh and Clive (Owen) and it’s a show that I would love to come back to. Maybe there will be a way for me to come back to.
Any theater work coming up?
AH: I’m doing August Wilson’s “Jitney” on Broadway this coming Spring. We start in January and hopefully more movies. I’m also trying to produce and write.
In going back to Moonlight, how’s working with this cast?
AH: In the movie, I’m only working with Trevante directly but getting to know the younger kids, they are incredible. Jaden Piner and Jharrel Jerome and all those guys, the talent that they have is off the charts and we really have become like a family. We really love each other and have enjoyed every minute of it. We still have a ways to go but I hate to see it come to an end.