Every now and then a film comes along that makes you pause, reflect, and then thank God for the ability to do or be something you could not have done a mere fifty to sixty years ago. As an African-American that can be something as simple as sitting down in a restaurant for a meal, sitting in the front of the bus, voting in any election, and let’s not forget drinking from certain water fountains. Segregation was the law of the land and miscegenenation, the mixing of race and/or ethnic groups through cohabitation, marriage, and sexual intercourse was forbidden! Who you loved, or was legally, allowed to marry in most places was limited to your skin color until one brave couple dared to fight for their love. The Lovings, Mildred and Richard, fought for their right to be marriage to be recognized and legal, simply so they could be with their extended family members in Virginia. The case went all the way to The Supreme Court, who in a landmark ruling decided it was unlawful to stop people of different races from marrying and procreating. The film, Loving, eloquently and beautifully retells their ordeal with lead actors, Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, as the Mildred and Richard Loving, respectively.
Thankfully, HeyMikeyATL/Kontrol Magazine was privileged to not only meet Ruth and Joel, but talk with them about their amazing film! Ruth and Joel were both really sweet and amazing people, and much to our surprise boasted Scottish and Australian accents. The interview began with Richard explaining why he decided to be a part of the film. “There was an incredible feeling that we had something important, the story was very important, precious, even though it wasn’t as widely known as it should be. But maybe in the aftermath it would be. But leading up to that something was kind of safe In knowing we weren’t telling one of those stories. We were striving to work across the board with everyone to try and make this movie accurate and to know them [Richard and Mildred Loving] so well we were like how are we gonna play them. Thankfully at the time we had access to this great footage…”
The timeliness of Loving seems to be on point. As we are all aware that current race relations in this country are tense at best. Both stars agree the concurrence of the film with current events truly emphasizes the importance and power of love, as well of being informed. “If just one person leaves this film having learned some then it was all worth it…there’s something gentle about this story and nonviolent which is probably why it’s gone so under the radar, and yet there’s something so violently oppressive about denying them their freedom. But there’s something so gentle about it that you can give it to an audience and cause a conversation or open an eye or two.” Joel states. The stars then discussed their time shooting on location in Virginia in some of the locations where key events in the film took place, and how it shaped their view of their characters. “For Mildred that’s where she wanted to raise a family and be with Richard, so I felt it was important we see that…” Ruth explained. Joel, however, seemed to feel more of a personal connection to their grave site, “When Jeff took us to the grave sites and even though we weren’t shooting there, there’s an undeniable power that comes from it. Just going there that day did something for me. I kind of did bring it very much in to reality for us, for me…”
Both Joel and Ruth stressed the importance of properly portraying their characters, with the latter stating how powerful Mildred Loving was “I poured over her sort of unsubtly. I tried to take her physicality. She had such a spirit, an awesome spirit, I just felt it was important to do and not an imitation…” She then goes on to defend Mildred’s soft spoken nature in the film. “I feel we must be careful not to mistake shyness for submissive…I think these days confidence is seen as sort of being loud and bullying your way into space…you know I think, wow, that’s not the confidence I want to have or around me…She may have been shy but there was still a backbone to this woman, and that’s kind of undeniable. Because I don’t think you can spend nine years of life doing this without strength…”
Richard and Mildred’s sacrifice and nearly decade long fight for their love changed the lives of millions. Although they are no longer with us, this film serves as an enduring testament to their love. Please be sure you support Loving in theaters everywhere this Friday, November 4th!
Written By: Michael “Hey Mikey” Fanning