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Jon Bernthal On What It’s Like Discussing Race in New Film ‘Origin’ | Watch

Origin, written and directed by Ava DuVernay, tells the story of journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson – as she navigates her personal and work life. As a writer Wilkerson’s goal is to answer questions about the world we live in. Her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns was an intricate look into the great migration of African Americans around the country.  

Jon Bernthal & Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor in 'Origin' (NEON/2023)
Jon Bernthal & Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor in ‘Origin’ (NEON/2023)

For Wilkerson, the Trayvon Martin case wasn’t just Black and white. She realized there was something deeper. How could this only be about race…when this happened between two people of color? The topic of Black men being viewed as a threat comes up in Origin in a conversation between Isabel (played by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor), her mother, and her husband Bret, played by Jon Bernthal in the film. Bret is a white man and during this conversation, Isabel’s mom had a strong reaction to her feelings about white men claiming to be intimidated or threatened by Black men. In that moment Bret acknowledges her feelings while also addressing he can’t speak for or represent a whole race. This scene in Origin was very powerful because it showcased three different perspectives on one issue with everyone respecting the other’s views.

“We can’t invalidate anybody’s experiences,” said Bernthal about the scene. “Our perception of the world and the way that we go through the world is personal. There’s no arguing it’s not about did this actually happen, did this not actually happen. It’s ‘how did this make you feel?’”  

Emily Yancy and Jon Bernthal in ORIGIN (photo cred: Atsushi Nishijima/Courtesy NEON)
Emily Yancy and Jon Bernthal in ORIGIN (photo cred: Atsushi Nishijima/Courtesy NEON)

Origin covers a lot of heavy subject matter. Even though it may seem as if racism and the mistreatment of lower-class societies are at the forefront. The story of love is what truly makes this film powerful. Their love and respect for one another opened the door for compassion.

Origin hits theaters on January 19th.  

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