Exclusive: Trevante Rhodes Talks 12 Strong, Life After Moonlight & Being In Ava DuVernay’s Family FeudPosted by Wilson Morales
January 18, 2018
Coming out this week from Warner Bros. Pictures is the action drama 12 Strong, starring Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers films), Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Michael Peña (The Martian, Ant-Man) and Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight)
The new war drama, from Alcon Entertainment, Black Label Media and Jerry Bruckheimer Films, is based on Doug Stanton’s best-selling book Horse Soldiers and is the story of heroism based on true events that unfolded a world away in the aftermath of 9/11.
Award-winning director Nicolai Fuglsig directed the film, which is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Black Hawk Down), together with Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill (La La Land, Sicario) under their Black Label Media banner.
The main cast also includes Navid Negahban (American Sniper, Homeland). Joining Hemsworth, Shannon and Peña as the “12 Strong” U.S. Special Forces team are Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, Austin Stowell, Ben O’Toole, Austin Hebert, Kenneth Miller, Kenny Sheard and Jack Kesy. Actors portraying soldiers of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance include Laith Nakli, Fahim Fazli and Yousuf Azami, and Said Taghmaoui as a Taliban military leader. Also seen in the film are Elsa Pataky, as Nelson’s wife, and William Fichtner and Rob Riggle as U.S. Army officers.
12 Strong is set in the harrowing days following 9/11 when a U.S. Special Forces team, led by their new Captain, Mitch Nelson (Hemsworth), is chosen to be the first U.S. troops sent into Afghanistan for an extremely dangerous mission. There, in the rugged mountains, they must convince Northern Alliance General Dostum (Negahban) to join forces with them to fight their common adversary: the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies. In addition to overcoming mutual distrust and a vast cultural divide, the Americans—accustomed to state-of-the-art warfare—must adopt the rudimentary tactics of the Afghani horse soldiers. But despite their uneasy bond, the new allies face overwhelming odds: outnumbered and outgunned by a ruthless enemy that does not take prisoners.
For Rhodes, this is his first film after being in the cast of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, which won last year’s Academy Award for Best Picture. Since then, the Texas native has filmed Shane Black’s The Predator opposite Sterling K. Brown and Keegan Michael Key. This past December, Rhodes also appeared with Michael B. Jordan and Thandie Newton in Ava DuVernay’s directed Family Feud video for Jay-Z.
In speaking exclusively with Blackfilm.com, Rhodes talks about his experience on 12 Strong, life after Moonlight’s Oscar win and being featured in Ava DuVernay’s Family Feud video.
How did the role come to you?
Trevante Rhodes: It came about during the start of Moonlight’s trajectory. I was given the opportunity to work with Jerry Bruckheimer and we spoke about the project and me being a part of it. Reading the book, reading the script and understanding the story was something I’m glad a part of.
None of the 12 men were African American, so did they give you an option of you wanted to play or did they give you a role?
TR: I had the option to choose from the couple of guys and I chose the one who had a relationship with one of the indigenous kids.
Did you get a chance to talk to the person who you are portraying?
TR: No. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to the person whose character I’m playing. The only two guys who showed up on set were the guys whose characters were played by Michael Shannon and Chris Hemsworth in the film. But I was told that some of the guys would be at the premiere so hopefully I get a chance to meet him and he’s happy with the performance and the movie.
What was it like on the set working with this big ensemble?
TR: When you are in a space, you are the person that you are. Outside the space, it’s different. For this film, we were lucky. There is nothing to do in Alberque so we worked out together, we ate together and obviously worked together. It was really a cool experience to share all that space with these guys and build that comraderie and hope that it translate on the film.
Did you do any research on the character you are playing?
TR: The research portion of the process was speaking to as many guys as I could who served and were very honest about their experiences prior to going to war and post-war, good or bad. I had the opportunity to talk to some of these guys and have two weeks of the knowledge that puts us into the physicality of what a soldier would be. Doing that with the guys in the cast simultaneously developed that relationship among us and that was evident in the film.
How much physical training did you do for this film?
TR: I work out every day so physically I was already there but I had to learn mannerisms and how to move around a gun. We had two weeks of training for that.
What was new for you, working with guns or riding horses?
TR: The newer of the two was definitely riding horses because…I live in LA. It was fun though. Once you get used to it, it’s really fun.
It’s nearly a year since Moonlight was historically on Oscar night. How has life been for you since?
TR: Honestly, life had been the same. I go to work and hopefully I do my best on that day and just keep it moving. I want to keep working.
How’s the audition process? Are you getting ahead of the list or are you still grinding it out?
TR: In all honesty, I haven’t audition since Moonlight came out. I feel weird about this question..
How different is the training you did for 12 Strong than the one for The Predator?
TR: This film had massive training. Doing this film and the training prepared me for the other.
In regards to 12 Strong, do you remember where you were when 9/11 happen?
TR: Yes, I was in school and in class and we were learning. The next second it was frantic and running around and no one knew anything about anything. My mother showed up a few hours later and I gave her a hug and we go home. We didn’t leave the house for a few days.
What’s a good reason to see 12 Strong?
TR: I think it’s a perspective that we haven’t seen. It’s a story that we think we are familiar with. You get the truth about the story. You get a wonderful depiction, in my opinion, of the guys who were given this task and we’re strong enough to go and handle the situation. It’sa war and it’s still going on. The initial Battle has value if you care to understand the sacrifice that some people made.
How was working on Ava DuVernay’s Family Feud?
TR: It was awesome. Ava gave me a call and asked if I would be interested in being in this video she was doing with Jay-Z. She told me who else was involved in the video and it was an honor to be part of that legacy. Sharing the space with Michael B. Jordan and Thandie Newton and everyone else involved was cool.
TR: Right now I’m working with Netflix on a film called Bird Box. Hopefully it will just as good and resonate with people like the other projects I’ve done has.
12 Strong is slated for release on January 19, 2018.
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