*From his critically-acclaimed breakout performance in the award-winning “Moonlight” to co-starring opposite Oscar winner Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer 2,” actor Ashton Sanders is definitely one-to-watch among the talented young stars on the rise.
Washington returns to one of his signature roles in the first sequel of his career. Robert McCall serves an unflinching justice for the exploited and oppressed in “The Equalizer 2” but how far will he go when that is someone he loves?
Denzel explores new territory this time around, in the form of his relationship with a troubled young man from the hood, Miles, played by Sanders.
Ashton tells EUR/Electronic Urban Report that both on screen and off, he and Denzel have a fantastic mentorship-like relationship. And one way this is expressed in the film is when McCall suggests that Miles reads Ta-nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me.”
“I had been familiar with the book but I just haven’t had the time to read it. I do know that Denzel had met with Ta-Nehisi Coates for a dinner before actually reading the book and that’s a part of the reason why the book was referenced in the movie. It directly relates to what Miles and McCall represent” Sanders explains in our EXCLUSIVE conversation with the actor.
“I did start reading the book onset. There would be moments in between filming where we would have 30 minutes of downtime and I would pick it up and start reading it because I think it’s important. It’s a book that a lot of young black men should read. I think a lot of people are going to pick up the book after seeing this film.”
OTHER NEWS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Stevie J/Faith Evans Marriage Rocks Both Families and Friends – Don’t Expect Wedding Gifts
It must have been a huge thrill for a young actor like yourself to star opposite a legend like Mr. Washington. Talk about the type of creative energy he fosters on set.
Ashton: He has this essence that’s so natural (and) so giving and I love that you used the word “energy” ‘cause that’s exactly the way we would play off of each other. Denzel kinda has a familiar spirit. We definitely clicked immediately. What you see onscreen, that relationship is kind of an extension of who we are actually when we’re around each other. So it was great. It was familiar and something to learn from.
This film has a strong message about male bonding and how vital it is that young black men especially have someone positive to look up to for guidance. Did that theme compel you to sign on to this film?
Ashton: That’s exactly why I signed on to this film. The representation of Miles. Miles represents hope in the hood. That’s what this relationship is. It’s hope and having positive male influence in these situations that aren’t unfamiliar to our culture. Having a positive male influence to uplift you, I think it was really important to showcase through cinema. That’s a big reason why I signed on to this project.
You’re from Caron, California, which you describe as a “hood-suburb.” How much of the city and your background helped to inform Miles?
Ashton: Carson is the next city over from Compton, so the hood is around us but it’s not as affecting. I feel like I’m representing what I was raised around. I took influence from what was around me growing up and what I’m around now. I have friends and family that live in South L.A. and in the hood still. Miles was a collective of my personal experiences and what was around me. That’s how I think I was able to embody him the way that I did. I think it’s important to stay as authentic to personality as possible when acting. Acting is recreating life so it was important to pull from that in order to make sure that I was being as real as I possibly could.
Everybody from the hood knows a Miles, and if you don’t know about that life you a least understand the basic human need for survival by any means necessary.
Ashton: And how much nurture can play into the way you see the world and see yourself.
And McCall is like this dark angel of justice that a lot of us need personally. But on the flip side, if McCall is considered a hero for the times, it truly says a lot of our current social climate. Do you think his character represents a much needed social change we need in our country at the moment?
Ashton: You hit the nail right on the head. McCall definitely is a representation of what we need in our world and you’re completely right, to be able to reflect back and be like, ‘Wow, we’re living in that type of world?’ Yes, we definitely are and we need people like McCall. We need leaders, positive influence. Whether it’s on a major platform or in a community, it has to start somewhere. We need more light and guidance in our world and specifically in the communities.
“The Equalizer 2” hits theaters nationwide July 20.