TUD: When you got the film made and saw it for the first time, how did that make you feel?
RC: It was the first time that I had ever finished a feature-length script with the intention of making it and finishing it on a deadline. It was just an accomplishment within itself just to finish the first draft. Writing the last words to the script and realizing what [we were] about to do was incredibly rewarding. It was an amazing feeling. Since the script was dealing with very emotional subject matter, it was very emotional journey from doing the research to putting the words on the page.
I was moved and thankful after seeing the final product. I was thankful to Oscar’s family for allowing us to make the film. I was just thankful for everybody who collaborated and supported us while we made this film. A lot of people and organizations rallied around me and the project so I have to say that I was struck with an overwhelming sense of good fortune. I felt like that as we completed the film, but with every step there was a sense of nervousness because there was always something else that needed to get done. You know, once we wrapped filming, we had to present it to an audience. Then, we had to get ready for the audience at Cannes and now we’re gearing up for the wide release. So each time there was a milestone, there’s always that next step.
TUD: How did you wind up getting Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer in the film since both of them have really seen their stars rise in the last past few years?
RC: I wrote the script with Michael in mind for the lead role. I met with him at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and talked to his reps. The meeting Michael and I had was, more than anything, just to see if I could work with him because I had seen his previous work and knew he was the right guy for the role. I wanted to make sure he and I could be around each other and work together, you know. [laughs] We hit it off pretty quickly and I knew he was the guy and after meeting, I was a hundred percent sure. I asked him if he would want to do it and thankfully he did. What’s interesting is that as much work as Mike had done, he had never been in a lead role before. So it was a great opportunity for me as a filmmaker to give him something new as an actor.
With Octavia, my agent read the script and asked who I was thinking about casting for the mom. When I told him I wasn’t sure, he suggested Octavia Spencer. I told him he was crazy because there was no way she was going to do my film after she just won an Oscar. He told me that there was a chance she might be willing to do it. Since we were both represented by the same agency, my agent passed the script along to her agent. She read it and ended up saying she wanted to come onboard. Having them, along with Melonie Diaz, is amazing!
TUD: As a black man growing up in this day and age, did you have to have that conversation with your parents about how to conduct yourself around the police? What was that conversation like in your house?
RC: Absolutely! My parents would tell me that I couldn’t make sudden movements and other things like that. That is a reality that we have to deal with.When dealing with the police, there’s a good chance that you could be shot. That’s just a harsh reality that we have to face growing up in urban areas. When you get pulled over, a cop might approach your car in a different way than he would if it were somebody else. The relations between young black men and the police is something we all are aware of and all are concerned about. Parents want their children to come home and because of that there are certain things you need to be aware of. Everyday there’s a strong possibility our lives could be taken away from us for doing nothing but trying to live.
TUD: Would you say that other ethnicities are at a disadvantage because they don’t have to discuss the rules of engagement with law enforcement?
RC: I don’t know if having that conversation is an advantage or disadvantage, you know. I can only speak from my perspective and say I’ve been in situations where I was glad my parents talked to me about that kind of stuff. I think people’s upbringings prepare them for what their parents feel what’s necessary for them to learn. If you’re brought up in an area where there aren’t issues of police shooting people like Oscar Grant, there’s really no need for that type of conversation.
Flip to the next page to find out how Michael B. Jordan feels about always dying onscreen.