Directed by Matt Haley and co-written by Simon Oré, “Blackstar Warrior” is a blaxploitation-meets-“Star Wars” mashup starring Leonard Roberts (“Drumline,” “Love Jones”), that’s set in a 1970s version of the future. The tongue-in-cheek film follows space detective Tyson Roderick (Roberts) who, in his quest to discover the truth behind his origins, stumbles into — and must defeat — a cult hellbent on taking over the galaxy.
“Lando Calrissian was the star of Star Wars, and it made us think, “Well, this character, this bravado, this confident man who is overcompensating, what if you took the Star Wars out of it and just got a wonderful, well-developed character that you could then just brand as a detective and then take them into every avenue of bad television and movie tropes that we’ve come to love?” said Simon of the show’s concept.
“There’s something about that kind of execution that we were like, “How can we replicate it without it falling into parody?” he added.
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“We really made it clear as we moved forward with the writing that the characters within the story are taking it completely serious because these are real events that are happening to them,” said Matt. “They’re funny because they’re so outrageous and the characters are taking everything that happens with sort of a life or death attitude, and that, to me, is hilarious, as opposed to trying a cheap joke.”
Many directors would agree that most of directing is actually casting; that some actors have “IT” and you need that IT-factor to make it pop. How did you know you found “IT” in Leonard?
“The IT really came, Leonard, when you were on set with Michael, our bad guy, ‘The Man.’ A lot of our actors were actor’s equity, they’d done a lot of stage, maybe hadn’t done a lot of screen time and Leonard has been a theater and screen actor for many years and his training and his charm put everybody else at ease,” Matt explained. “And what we try to do on set is just make the actors comfortable so they can play. So when Leonard would come on set, he made everybody comfortable and put everybody at ease. So at least from my point, as the director, I think it’s important to create a safe bubble where the actors feel comfortable and they’re not going to be judged. I think that allowed Leonard to embody Tyson, and once he walked around in character, everything fell into place.”
In the series, when space detective Tyson Roderick struggles to uncover the truth about his origins, he discovers his adoptive parents’ secret genetics lab – and finds it led by a cult of Space Nuns bent on taking over the galaxy. In a race against time, Tyson — along with the help of his trusty Japanese-speaking robot and freedom fighter Lava Moonblaster (Ire Wardlaw) — must defeat their leader, The Man, and free the captive acolytes while uncovering the truth about his real mother.
“What I like about Lava, especially the way Simon writes her, is she’s almost the serious hero of the story,” Simon said. “Tyson is sort of living in his universe and Lava is sort of the Princess Leia character whose very committed to fighting for rights in the galaxy but she’s not really thinking about herself. I think she makes such a good foil for Tyson and I can’t wait to bring her back.”
“I think it’s such a fun relationship and it’s almost like Lava kinda felt like my Dean Martin,” Leonard added. “I was able to do whatever because she’s so grounded and straight and authentic with her portrayal. I think back to the scene where I’m trying to convince her that I need answers to figure out why I’m so amazing and I know she’s completely going public theater with it. So it gives you the freedom to go where ever you need to go, which is always fun.”
“She definitely adds a lot to the story,” said Simon, noting that the creative team is “excited to flesh out” her character.
“Blackstar Warrior” debuts on Brown Sugar June 24.
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