ABFF 2018: Talking The First Purge With Director Gerard McMurray, Lex Scott Davis, & Y’lan NoelPosted by Wilson Morales
July 2, 2018
During the 2018 American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in Miami, Blackfilm.com had a chance to speak with director Gerard McMurray, Lex Scott Davis, & Y’lan Noel on the upcoming Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions, The First Purge, the fourth installment in the franchise.
Directed by Gerard McMurray (Burning Sands), the film stars Y’lan Noel (“Insecure”) and Lex Scott Davis ,Mo McRae (“Pitch”), Joivan Wade (“Doctor Who”), Luna Lauren Velez (“How To Get Away With Murder”), Steve Harris (“The Practice”), Patch Darragh (“Boardwalk Empire”) and Mugga (“Orange is the New Black”).
The previous films were The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year.
Behind every tradition lies a revolution. Next Independence Day, witness the rise of our country’s 12 hours of annual lawlessness. Welcome to the movement that began as a simple experiment: The First Purge. To push the crime rate below one percent for the rest of the year, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) test a sociological theory that vents aggression for one night in one isolated community. But when the violence of oppressors meets the rage of the marginalized, the contagion will explode from the trial-city borders and spread across the nation.
For McMurray, this is his second directorial film following the fraternity film Burning Sands, which starred Trevor Jackson and played on Netflix. For Noel, who is best known for his role as Daniel in Issa Rae’s HBO series Insecure, this is his big screen role and should propel him to stardom. As for Lex Scott Davis, this is her second film to hit theaters within a month. She’s also appearing opposite Trevor Jackson in the remake of Superfly.
The First Purge opens in theaters on July 4.
What did you want to do that’s different from the previous Purge films?
Gerard McMurray: I wanted to make it chocolate. I wanted to see people of color, Asian, Latino and everyone on how I see the world.
What was the attraction to doing this movie?
Y’lan Noel: I’m originally from New York so the idea that I could represent a native New Yorker is a dream come true for me.
Lex Scott Davis: I just liked seeing black heroes and that’s what this film represents. You see us navigate our ways through the obstacles society puts us in and to overcome the man (in the case the NFFA) in the story. I believe that this story should be told and it should be heard.
What makes your characters appealing?
Lex Scott Davis: I think the coolest opportunitycha with this story is the Purge never existed before this story. It’s grounded in its reality. The other Purge films jump straight into the national holiday. You don’t get a chance to get into character development and with our film you definitely get to know each character and what they were like before this whole thing was their reality.
Y’lan Noel: You either respect him or you fear him, but what holds him together is that he’s a principle person and he values the community, regardless of what he does. He definitely feels that he’s the protector of the community.
As you worked with the producers of the film, did they want you to add anything to keep some sort of connection from all of the films?
Gerard McMurray: For me, it was about having the scary, horror moment, from the mask to the purging that’s going on, and just the idea of the real violence that goes on within 12 hours. The jump scares is important for the audience. People love those things. So in working with the producers (Jason Blum, Sébastien K. Lemercier, & creator James DeMonaco), they helped me navigate those waters but they let me have my voice, vision and style.
How have you grown from Burning Sands to this film?
Gerard McMurray: I grew a lot tremendously. I had a bigger budgets and a bigger crew and I had a lot of toys in terms of filmmaking. We had cranes. We got to do explosions, car crashes and everything, so for me, it was a learning process but also fun. I got a chance to make my movie and work with a talented group of actors.
Can you talk about working this big ensemble?
Y’lan Noel: For Demetri, the people that I rode with throughout the film, it was important that we had an organic off-screen chemistry. We went to Dave & Buster’s and I had won games in basketball free throws. I got the personal record and you can ask them about that. Those were things we did off-set that really informed our chemistry on-screen.
Lex Scott Davis: I loved hanging out with the cast actually. We definitely had fun outside of being on-set, but also just being able to work with different actors with different backgrounds. Joivan Wade, who plays my brother, is British, and learning from him and watching his process become a New Yorker was fascinating to me. Also, working with Luna and even Mugga, who is the comedic of the film. She lit up every scene that she was in. It was fun to have all these different dynamics of people in one scene when the stakes are still life or death.
Y’lan Noel: This is my biggest project as of yet and I think it is for a lot of us in the film.
Gerard McMurray: It was a big opportunity for all of us. We tried to make the best we could as a whole. They helped me make the film I wanted to make. I couldn’t have done it without these guys.