*Jamie Foxx plays wrongly-convicted Death Row prisoner Walter McMillian in Destin Daniel Cretton’s “Just Mercy,” set to arrive in theaters on January 10, 2020.
The emotional drama centers on world-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson as he recounts his experiences as a young lawyer and details the case of condemned death row prisoner Walter McMillian.
In 1987, McMillian was “sentenced to death for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the only testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie,” per IMDB.com.
As noted by Deadline, “having experienced the incarceration of his own father, Foxx brought a deeply heartfelt perspective to the role,” the outlet writes in its exclusive Q&A with the actor about the film.
Below are excerpts from the conversation.
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DEADLINE: How did you first get on board the film?
JAMIE FOXX: Michael B. Jordan called me. I’ve known Michael B. Jordan since he was tiny. If he ever needed anything I was always there, which is just a thing that I do. And in this situation, he called and said, “Listen, I would really love for you to take on this role.” He was so eloquent. I mean, whatever he was going to ask me I was going to say yes anyway. But when he told me about what it was… if you look at his body of work, when he did Fruitvale Station, I thought that was amazing because it allowed a narrative that he could always go back to, talking about what’s going on with us, some Black folk. Those stories that are so important. And then what he did in Black Panther was still that narrative of us feeling good about ourselves. And now, along comes Just Mercy with Bryan Stevenson. I said, “It’s beautiful that you have this that you can go to and let us feel good about something.” And I said, “I want to be a part of it.” And I was humbled by it. And then we started working.
DEADLINE: How was the experience of visiting Death Row in the past and of being in those cells for this film?
FOXX: The Death Row that I went to, San Quentin. You remember in Silence of the Lambs? When he looks at Jodie Foster and he goes, “You’ll do fine,” and you see that the minute that door closes, it’s a different world. The people that are behind those bars, not everybody’s innocent. This is the people that have done bad crimes.
The people that they hire to deal with those people are different. It’s not just an average correctional officer. These guys have backgrounds in psychotherapy, so you definitely feel the difference because you know it’s death. It’s people that are there for a reason. When I met the guy I was supposed to be playing at that time, he came in with shackles, two shotguns flanked him, it’s a lot different. That being said, the Death Row back then where these guys were [in Just Mercy], it was even more diabolical because the cells were right next to where they are being executed. So they can smell the smell of the burn. It was a torturous thing.
DEADLINE: Sadly, Walter has passed away, so how did you build a clear picture of him? Through Bryan? Through the family?
FOXX: I call it a blessing to be able to look at someone or hear a few things about them and start to wrap the skin around them. And if you look at Walter, we are from the same tribe. We have the same cheekbones, the diamond-shaped head, the haircut that he had, I had the haircut in the ’80s. There are pictures. I can show you we looked exactly the same. I know this sounds weird, but J.T. From Kool & The Gang has the same kind of head. That and then talking to Bryan and him explaining that Walter was just any Black man from the South that just wanted to do right. Then once he got into the prison, he was still trying to be a light for some of these guys. He had a great spirit. Then it was just finding the way he talked. Me being from Texas, man, when we talk it’s something different. And that was Destin, myself and Michael sitting in the room, finding out what’s the best way to approach that so it doesn’t come off caricature-like. And then finally, anybody will tell you the spirit of that person has to come visit you. So, you sit with your fingers crossed that Walter will step in at some point. And then once we started, Walter was there, Bryan was there, everything was there. And you just feel like, “Oh, here he is.”
DEADLINE: Did making this film change your politics around the death penalty at all?
FOXX: Well, I’ve never been for the death penalty because my father went to jail for seven years. They gave him a seven-year sentence for $25-worth of illegal substance. He got a chance to view the movie. Living in the South of Texas it’s common, so you don’t know how to really grasp it sometimes. But it’s interesting to see people going, “Oh.” Also too, I talked to a judge. He was a judge in Alabama and he quit. I said, “Why’d you quit?” He says, “I couldn’t take it anymore because we will pick up kids off the street, Black kids, 15 or 16 for nothing. Put them in the system.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, so we could have a lineup. So, if anything goes wrong in Pleasantville, go grab them kids, put them up.” And then when the jail is privatized, you go pick them kids up. You put them in the system. Because for every kid you have in there, if you meet your quota, you get a check.
So when you see people getting hauled off to jail, hey man, it’s about design, you know? The one thing that I hope out of this is that we don’t become fatigued. Because a lot of times people say, “Oh this, they’re at all the world’s against them again.” One government official said, “Hey, we gave you a Black president. What else do you need?” And you go, “Hey man, that’s great. That means we are walking in the right direction.”
I’ve always said this about America, our natural resource is freedom. And the great thing about America is the evolution of it. We got this wrong at one point in American history, we’re righting those things, and we continue to do it. Hopefully we understand that this is an ongoing thing and accept that this is a problem and then try to fix it because like Bryan Stevenson would say, “If we don’t acknowledge that these things are happening, then we can’t take steps in trying to correct it.”
Read the full interview here.
Is Pres. Elect Biden Obama’s 3rd Term? & What 44 Said About Black America’s Progress Under His Watch on ‘Breakfast Club’ (VIDEO)
*Attorney Antonio Moore discusses the recent Obama Breakfast Club interview during his Book tour.
Moore harshly critiques the interview of Pres. Obama performed by Charlamagne, DJ Envy and Angela Yee.
He also looks closer at President Elect Joe Biden’s cabinet picks and measures them again Barack Obama & Bill Clinton’s prior administrations.
The Virtual United Negro College Fund Tour Heads to NY, DC & NJ on Fri & Sat-Nov. 20 & 21 (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)
*African American students interested in going to college can attend the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Fall 2020 virtual Empower Me Tour. Set for this Friday and Saturday (November 20 & 21, 2020), New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey will be repped. (This year’s tour kicked off earlier this month in Wisconsin and Illinois). To register, go here.
The Empower Me Tour is an extension of the goals of the UNCF. Founded in 1944, the UNCF, a non-profit, has raised more than $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students attend 37 private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The EUR caught up with Stacey Lee, the tour’s director for four years, who discussed the importance of the event.
“The UNCF is the nation’s largest provider of education support to minority students,” said Lee. “The Empowerment Tour has been executed for the past 12 years and last year along we offered over $12 million dollars in scholarships.”
Lee continued, “I think the great thing is that during these times, even with COVID-19, is that a number of corporations (Wells Fargo/P&/FedEx/Disney/Goldman Sachs) and donors have really been providing opportunity and financial access to our schools and students.”
The tour is packed with information and resources so that students and parents have the right tools to make informed decisions.
“It’s a free event that provides educational support, scholarships, interviews with colleges, empowerment, and information on how to get to and through college. We also provide this information for parents as well. We have a parent section that focuses on financial aid and the things you need to get your students to college.”
Lee continued, “Sometimes we have students that don’t realize that they can attend college. They can receive scholarships. Some of them don’t even know what an HBCU is. So, it’s inspirational for me to see these students receive this information and the excitement that’s around this tour.”
In addition to college information, panel sessions on issues affecting the community will also take place. Legendary rapper Bun B will be part of a special My Black Is Beautiful panel. The panel will have discussions with girls and boys and the MC will lead the male portion.
“It’s about empowerment,” Bun B told the EUR. “It’s vital for us to lift each other up and amplify each other’s voices. We just talk about now what that role is in this COVID world. And with everything that we are seeing with young Black men on television, we want to keep them motivated and centered. We want to make sure that they are not discouraged in this moment.”
Ever since Kamala Harris threw her hat into the presidential race and elected vice president of the United States, a spotlight has shined on the fact that she’s an HBCU grad (Howard University) and member of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. These facts are not lost on the UNCF.
“Kamala has really boosted people’s awareness about HBCUs and (African American sororities) and the type of people that come out of HBCUs. HBCUS have also provided so many people from science, mathematics, and engineering programs (STEM).”
Bun B added, “We have more than enough examples to show you how beneficial an education from an HBCU can be. So, there is no reason to not be a part of an HBCU because the world is just as available to you as it is for anyone else attending any other type of university.”
New Music Buzz: Jazzy Rita Shelby’s ‘Goodbye 2020’
*SB Music presents “Goodbye 2020” a new single for the times we are in.
“Goodbye 2020” is performed by Jazzy Rita Shelby and written by Miss Shelby (ASCAP) and Eddie Lawrence Miller (BMI).
It’s the perfect anthem to end a year that has impacted the globe.
EURweb’s Jazzy Rita is also a prolific lyricist who has teamed up with Eddie Miller for “Goodbye 2020” because it was timely and convenient for the birth of a song such as this.
Eddie Miller is a coveted keyboardist & vocalist who performs regularly with Brian Culbertson and he’s the Rhodes Festival musical director. Jazzy Rita rose to notoriety as host & performer at The Starlight Jazz Serenade, an annual benefit concert in North Hollywood with an A list of stars. As a teen Miss Shelby was inspired to write songs by the legendary David Porter.
This year has been a year like no other. “Goodbye 2020” is an ode to the world for the year that we have seen and the hope that lies ahead. Radio Programmers click here for adds.
“Goodbye 2020” is released on the SB Music label and was recorded at Wishing Wells Studio in Canoga Park, CA. Willie Daniels and Mildred Black perform background vocals along with Jazzy Rita. The video is produced & directed by Jazzy Rita (LaRita Shelby), filmed & edited by Reggie Simon of Simon Vision Media, with wardrobe styling by Jazzy Rita and Poet Roni Girl’s Army Couture. “Goodbye 2020” is available on most digital platforms. Click here to listen on Spotify.
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