2016 has definitely delivered some amazing films—mostly super-heroic or biopics, in our opinion. However, one film truly takes the proverbial “cake” with beauty, storytelling, and perspective in Moonlight. Told from the point of view Chiron in three phases of his life—childhood, his teen years, and adulthood—we watch a coming of age story where he grapples with isolation, persecution, a drug addicted mother, and his sexuality. On Friday, we were privileged to attend an advanced screening of the film and fell in love with it. It is definitely worth the buzz surrounding it and outdoes any expectations or assumptions you might have had going before going to view it. You can read our review of Moonlight by clicking here.
Besides the beauty and relatability of the film, we found ourselves sold on the cast as well. Needless to say it is star-studded with Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Naomie Harris, and relative newcomer to the movie biz, Trevante Rhodes, known best for his role of “Ramsey” in Tyler Perry’s If Loving You Is Wrong. Yesterday, we were able to sit with Trevante and Naomie who portray “Black/Adult Chiron,” and his mother, “Paula,” respectively. Both stars were instantly welcoming, warm, and fun; and ready to discuss the art at hand. We began by asking them what was it like watching Chiron’s character in three phases of his life. Trevante interjected as Naomie tried to find the correct reply stating, “I think it was a unique thing man watching it.. I legitimately felt like Alex [Hibbert, “Little” Chiron], more so than Ashton [Sanders, Teen Chiron], with just a little change to the nose legitimately looked how I looked so it was just so freaky and jarring to watch the film for the first time; and to meet him was just freakishly strange to watch, and then I had the tall kind of gangly stage, I’ve been the same height since I was like twelve years old [he laughs] so I can relate to the second chapter as well. It was just the most unique and surreal experience.”
The cast of the film really put a lot of hard work into their performances. Naomie’s portrayal of Paula definitely stands out, especially when you hear her British accent. She reveals how she was able to mask her accent and truly step into Paula and her melancholy. “So I work with an accent coach and I did this coaching by Skype because I was traveling a lot and I was promoting another movie at the time [she laughs]…Barry [Jenkins] would send me voice recordings of the kind of accent and so I would just mimic it until it became second nature to me.” Surprisingly, she had just three days to shoot her role in the film! “I knew I had only those three days so I knew I had to hit the ground running, and I knew I had to know this character inside out, know their journey inside out, and their various stages, rehab, etc. So it just meant I did a phenomenal amount of research…I’m really on an emotional journey to learn about a character and what makes them tick, and to know what makes them unique as well…that’s also a process of knowing you. You have to understand under what certain circumstances are you going to be triggered to put you in an emotional state. That’s just a life thing, being able to call back memories of things that happened in your childhood, things that make you happy, or make you sad…” Trevante, however, likened the acting process in general to a continuous top notch athletic performance. As you recall he was a former track and field star!
The stars did not just talk about the film. Issue of race also came up, especially when Naomie was asked about racial stigma in The United Kingdom as opposed to the United States. “In the U.S. race issues are more prevalent and I don’t know if that’s just because they are more visible or whether in the U.K., geographically, it has to be a melting pot because we’re all living side by side and it becomes less of an issue. I don’t know. I guess the U.K. has as many issues as the U. S. I would guess I don’t know the stats on it…I think we’re influenced by the U.S. to be honest…I think the changes here like the Black Lives Matter movement started here in the U.S. and now it’s been appropriated in the U.K. as well and its become a real issue. So I think we look to you guys over here for guidance about that; I don’t think we’re as connected, nor as powerful a group. I think you look at our recent Black Lives Matter demonstration and we don’t have the ability to mobilize…”
Moonlight has truly touched the masses, with fans everywhere finding characters and events in the film that mirror actual events and experiences in their own lives. “Everyone! No matter race, sex, age, sexual orientation,” Trevante states, “Everyone can find something that relates to them. On the day the trailer, a two minute trailer, dropped, I was in the gym that morning and a guy walked up to me in the gym, eyes red, coming up to me shaking ‘like that’s my story,’ like an hour after it dropped! He was like this is my story, this is my friend’s story and that was the most important moment for me…you do the work and you know it has the power to touch people and when it actually does and someone verbalizes that to you…”
We could tell you ten thousand times just how amazing this film is, but why take our word for it when you can see it in theaters Friday, October 21st. It is a new day and it is time for new stories. “Black boys look blue in moonlight” and love can be found in the most unlikely of places.
Written By: Michael “Hey Mikey” Fanning